Fri, Feb 29, 2008 at 12:49 PM

“Idealism” is a technical term in philosophy with a very narrow and specific meaning (see #3). It is very different from the general usage of the word (see #1 & 2). Worth checking out the full Wikipedia articles if you have the time.

1. belief in perfection: belief in and pursuit of perfection as an attainable goal
youthful idealism
2. living by high ideals: aspiring to or living in accordance with high standards or principles
3. belief that material things are imaginary: the philosophical belief that material things do not exist independently but only as constructions in the mind

1. impractical person: a perfectionist who rejects practical considerations
too much of an idealist to compromise with her opponents
2. somebody with high ideals: somebody who aspires to or abides by high standards or principles
3. philosophy believer in idealism: a believer in a philosophy holding that material objects do not exist independently of the mind

Idealism is the doctrine that ideas, or thought, make up either the whole or an indispensable aspect of any full reality, so that a world of material objects containing no thought either could not exist as it is experienced, or would not be fully “real.” Idealism is often contrasted with materialism, both belonging to the class of monist as opposed to dualist or pluralist ontologies. (Note that this contrast between idealism and materialism has to do with the question of the nature of reality as such — it has nothing to do with advocating high moral standards, or the like.)

German idealism
German idealism was a philosophical movement in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. The most well-known thinkers in the movement were Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.

Meaning of idealism
The word “idealism” has more than one meaning. The philosophical meaning of idealism here is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess “in themselves”, apart from our experience of them. The very notion of a “thing in itself” should be understood as a sort of shorthand for an operation of the mind, such that we consider something that appears without respect to the specific manner in which it appears. The question of what properties a thing might have “independently of the mind” is thus incoherent for Idealism.


~ by severalfourmany on February 29, 2008.

One Response to “Idealism”

  1. Reblogged this on Miriamspia's Blog and commented:
    I don’t entirely agree. Plato was an idealist in that he thought there was the world of the mind. Kant’s big contribution was making an effort to clarify and to distinguish: what is the mind, what is the world, how does a thing exist? I believe that Hegel’s idealism was not Platonic but was modified by Kant. My person belief is that the world exists and the mind does as well. Perception is the relationship between a thing in the world and a consciousness…This also effects the mind. In our Western cultures, and especially for science, a level of objectivity is good. Now, in the 21st century we realize that the perceiver has a bias…Just as what is seen with the naked eye and the view through a microscope are different but in general neither is more real than the other. Humans and our genders, nationalities etc. influence our perception of reality but that does not mean that the world does not actually exist except in our mind.

    Some of you have seen my paper at Scribd, that starts out with a short section on German Idealism. Someone posted the re-blogged segment to my blog today, so here is my comment on it, with other info.

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