To be able to predicate “truths” about the external world requires a lot of structure and metaphysical commitments. For one, to say “that object is purely material,” presumes the ability to make sounds out of the vocal cords that stand for conceptual entities that also stand for the object. Notice the complexity we have already given rise to, which the average “materialist” has not even considered. Let’s illustrate it this way:
1. To say “That thing” requires that the use of vocal cords in that instance in time in some way matches up to, or connects to the object in the immediate environment. It must pick out a certain thing among other objects, and stand for, or “mean” that thing. So we have this level, so to speak.
2. There must be some sense in which the “thing” in question, say a glass, corresponds to that vocal sound. Often, the response by skeptics is that the sounds are merely tokens and any sound can be used. While it may be true that the sounds could be altered and varied, it is also the case that in this context where our hypothetical materialist is trying to communicate with me is using English symbols and language. So there is then a lexical limitation on the usage of symbols that can be utilized for this even to have “meaning.” Thus, certain rules and restrictions apply to the usage of the terms in question, and it is not the case that any sound in this context can be used in place of “glass.” There must be a common understanding of English between us, and linguistic systems are not arbitrary concoctions that spontaneously occur and change from second to second. Granted, languages evolve and change, but it is quite obvious that there is a conceptual scheme back of the symbols used in spoken word or in print that is being represented. But what this means is that the materialist’s usage of “that thing” presupposes a meaning to the English language, and not just any english alphabetical symbols, but the usage of those symbols in precisely that order. It is “THAT GLASS” and not “GLTHT ASSA,” which, in this context would be meaningless. What this shows is that already, to say something as simple as “that glass” presumes meaning and coherence within a given lexical system, namely in this case, English.
3. As mentioned above, not only is a larger reality of the language known as “English” presupposed, but the notions of meaning and invariance of meaning over time are also presupposed. The symbols “t h a t g l a s s,” whether spoken or written, must retain that meaning over time, and thus their meaning must be applicable in this instance within spacetime. But this poses a problem for the materialist. While the vocal cord usage of “glass” might be done with material tools like the human esophagus, the meaning is certainly not material. First, it would be impossible to demonstrate that meaning was material. Second, if that were the case, meaning would be in constant and utter flux, as matter is in constant flux. No meaning would actually inhere and as soon as the statements were uttered, they would pass out of existence as no longer corresponding to the present meaning. Which group of molecules or atoms connects up to the word “That”? If the materialist responds that “that” is only a connector or token indicator in a sentence, he has begged the question – what molecules correspond precisely to “token”? Is it only a certain set of billion? This is such an absurd question, that we have now begun to see how the process of transcendental argumentation looks at systems as a whole, at least provisionally, and thus seeks to flesh out whether the many axioms and starting points of a given view comport with one another.
4. Another level of consideration would be the notion of meaning, insofar as we “possess” the concepts mentally. For the materialist to identify a certain glass in our experience, it is required not just that meaning inhere over time, that it match up to certain objects in our field of vision, and that a given set of symbols sensibly connect up to that thing, but also that what he is picking out can be understood by me as well. The same conception of a certain glass must in some sense match up to the conception in my mind. If it doesn’t, then there is no way I can ever understand his words. Certainly the gray matter in my brain is not the same cells in his. If not, then how is this event purely material? Cleary it is not. Thus, even the most mundane instance of attempt at linguistic communication is immediately wrought with numerous preconditional necessities and structured metaphysical and epistemic frameworks that run completely contrary to his most foundational assumptions which govern the rest of his interpretive scheme or worldview. Had the materialist considered what sort of world would actually be necessary for uttering meaningful speech within spacetime that matches up to external objects and also communicates meaning to another “person,” he would not adopt such an absurd, impossible worldview.
We see then, by this linguistic example laying out transcendental preconditions how such an analysis would go considering the approach to a reductive materialist. Many more things could be said and instances could be given, but this is a good starting point. What this shows for the analyst is that the web of beliefs the person has must match up. Indeed, for the materialist to try to “argue” shows that he believes in such things as logical consistency and coherence. Thus his assumptions about materialism must cohere with his views about the world and objects, language, communication, meaning, symbology and so on. As it turns out, the deeper we dig, they do not. It also turns out that what he thinks is likely his most foundational metaphysical and epistemic assumption isn’t the most foundational. Indeed, any attempt by this person to explain his view itself assumes all kinds of categories and realities that his view must simultaneously reject.
It is this approach to analysis that is so revolutionary and functions like a polemic bulwark. It is also useful, as I said, in analyzing any system. One could use this approach to studying, say, a nation or a religious group. Once the group in question’s views are known, the usage and modus operandi of that group are observed and interacted with, one can quickly gain predictable results analysis. For example, I have debated so many atheists and Thomists, that I can often respond with their on objections faster and in a more articulate fashion that they can. I am not touting myself, but familiarization with transcendental analysis done long enough, revolutionizing one’s views of paradigms themselves, proves very beneficial, just from a pragmatic standpoint, though, of course it is not mere pragmatics that are the goal.