As I argued in an earlier post, all my materialism commits me to is the thesis that if something exists, it is material. That’s it. It doesn’t commit me to the thesis of reductionism or that the smallest units of matter are the really real things of the world. H2O is a real entity in the world and while it cannot exist without hydrogen and oxygen, we have to observe H2O itself to discover what it’s powers are. Signifying systems are, for me, real material beings in the world that have to be studied in their own terms. While signifying systems can’t exist without electro-neural-chemical systems, we would learn next to nothing about a particular signifying system by studying neurology. At most, we would learn about certain constraints on signifying systems by studying neurology, not how a particular signifying system is itself structured. This is because neurological systems exist at a different level of scale and are composed of different types of elements. Someone will say “but signifying systems are not like rocks!”, and they would be right. But hurricanes aren’t like rocks either and no one doubts that they’re material phenomena. Or maybe they do. It would be peculiar if they did.
This is basically what I always considered materialism to be as well. Regardless, awesome post.