What Is Idealism?

What the things-in-themselves may be I do not know, nor do I need to know, since a thing can never come before me except in appearance.

- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

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Is the ultimate nature of reality non-physical? Keith Ward, who believes that it is, discusses the idealist traditions in Eastern and Western philosophy in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast.

Listen to Keith Ward on Idealism in Eastern and Western Philosophy

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We often take it for granted that we have some knowledge about the way reality is. For instance, it seems clear to me that I know there is a computer screen directly in front of my face, and I believe it is clearly true that I know how to get to the refrigerator from where I currently sit. But what is the nature of the computer screen and the refrigerator? Common sense tells us that they are bundles of physical stuff and that our minds have become adapted, perhaps through a process like evolution, to knowing about and acting with respect to them.

Idealism, on the contrary, is the view that what reality is like depends upon the way the mind works. There are many distinct versions of idealism in the history of philosophy, and we will consider three of the most important versions over three distinct installments: Berkeley’s subjective idealism, Kant’s transcendental idealism, and Hegel’s absolute idealism...

Continue reading Addison Ellis' article: Idealism Pt. 1: Berkeley's Subjective Idealism

Further Reading

The terms “idealism” and “idealist” are by no means used only within philosophy; they are used in many everyday contexts as well. Optimists who believe that, in the long run, good will prevail are often called “idealists”. This is not because such people are thought to be devoted to a philosophical doctrine but because of their outlook on life generally; indeed, they may even be pitied, or perhaps envied, for displaying a naïve worldview and not being philosophically critical at all. Even within philosophy, the terms “idealism” and “idealist” are used in different ways, which often makes their meaning dependent on the context....

It nevertheless seems safe to say that within modern philosophy there have been two fundamental conceptions of idealism:

  1. something mental (the mind, spirit, reason, will) is the ultimate foundation of all reality, or even exhaustive of reality, and
  2. although the existence of something independent of the mind is conceded, everything that we can know about this mind-independent “reality” is held to be so permeated by the creative, formative, or constructive activities of the mind (of some kind or other) that all claims to knowledge must be considered, in some sense, to be a form of self-knowledge.

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Idealism by Guyer & Horstmann

Related Topics

 ExistenceHegelKant | Metaphysics

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