The English word ‘immaterial’ has an interesting couple of meanings, based on two different meanings of their root word, matter. One meaning of matter, that of physical substance, has it’s root in the latin word materia, ‘substance, timber’. The other, that of the subject or problem under discussion comes from the word mater, ‘mother’, i.e. what gave rise to this discussion. These two roots give rise to the two meanings that at first glance may seem highly related, especially given the materilistic slant of much of Western popular philosophy, that
1. Something immaterial is something that cannot be physically interacted with, which has no resting mass,
2. Something immaterial is something that is irrelevant, something that makes no difference to the discussion at hand.
Some people seem to act as though one meaning is the same as the other, that whatever cannot be physically interacted with is irrelevant and makes no difference, effectively (or literally) not existing at all.
Let’s look at that for a moment. Think of your favourite story. What is it, materially? Continue reading