Idealism in Philosophy Explained in 12 Brief Points

Idealism is a philosophical theory or school of thought that holds that reality is inherently mental in nature rather than physical or separate from the mind (ideal from ‘idea’).

[1] The major types of idealism include subjective idealism, transcendental idealism, and absolute idealism.

[2] Idealism holds that the best reflection of the world is not found in physical categories but in terms of a self-conscious mind.

[3] Idealists hold that a person’s intuitive self can directly grasp spiritual reality, which they believe is the ultimate reality, in his or her subjective awareness, or in the moment.

[4] Metaphysically, idealism challenges materialism’s claim that matter is the fundamental component of the universe. The reductionist viewpoint, which reduces reality to protons and electrons, is opposed by this viewpoint. Additionally, idealists contend that matter is unable to account for mind. On an epistemological level, idealism disagrees with the claim of objective realism that things in the world may be understood as they truly are, such as in their existence outside of and independent of the mind.

[5] Idealists generally embrace a broad conception of history. The rationalist philosopher Benedict de Spinoza’s (1632-1677) approach was to perceive history “under the aspect of eternity”. This broad perspective allows idealists to be inclusive of various historical cultures, which enables them to extend beyond the narrow confines of their own. Idealist ideas are apparent in all the major cultures of the world.

[6] Transcendental idealism is the label applied to the idealist thought of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a German philosopher. Kant’s view is that the world known to the individual, whose knowledge depends on perceptual experience and conceptual understanding, is not the world of “things-in-themselves”, which are things as they are independent of cognition, but instead the world of “appearances”. The individual has knowledge of phenomena (things in the sensible realm) but not of noumena (the thing-in-itself). Noumena are only knowable by God who is capable of non-sensory intuition.

[7] Subjective idealism refers to the idealist philosophy of George Berkley (1685-1753), an Irish cleric and philosopher. According to Berkley, there is no existence independent of subjective perception (esse est percipi). Berkley denies the reality of any external world beyond an individual’s mind. The “world” one perceives is a world of ideas that exists within the mind of God. 

[8] Absolute idealism is largely the product of G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), a German philosopher. Hegel’s idealism was influenced by a conception of nature as an organic unity tending towards perfection. Romanticism influenced idealist thought because the Romantic movement contained notions of a Spirit sweeping through all things.

[9] Absolute idealism differs from subjective idealism. Subjective idealism holds that the only reality is ideas in the human mind whereas absolute idealism says there is significant reality outside the human mind.

[10] According to absolute idealism, mental and material reality are equated with a universal mind or spirit/Absolute Spirit. The finite world is a reflection of the mind or Absolute Spirit that unfolds itself through the historical process. Hegel believed that knowledge of the Absolute Spirit is possible.

[11] According to the dialectical method, absolute idealism aims to overcome contradictions in human knowledge to access a coherent system of truth. Removing contradictions produces new knowledge that is integrated with previous discoveries. Idealists apply this approach to the sciences, philosophy, and religion.

[12] The most influential proponent of absolute idealism in Britain was F. H.Bradley (1846-1924). Bradley viewed mind as a more fundamental feature of the universe than matter. His ideas of Appearance and Reality submitted that contradictions permeated natural science, ethics, religion, and ordinary appearances. The contradictions must be transcended because this will facilitate access to a superiorlevelofreality where harmony, freedom, truth, and knowledge are all characteristics of the one Absolute.


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