What is idealism?

It is known as idealism or philosophical idealism to a family of philosophical theories according to which the realm of ideas constitutes a separate existence, often more important than the tangible world.

That is why they are also known as immaterialism and assume the position exactly opposite to the schools of materialism, for which there exists only the material, tangible world.

Idealism is a long-standing philosophical school, encompassing, in its respective forms, the studies of philosophers as distant in time as Plato and Immanuel Kant.

In general, they embrace the idea that objects have no existence if there is not also someone who perceives them, that is, a mind that is aware of their respective existences.

Therefore, to be able to reach the truth of things and know things properly, you must take into account the ideas, the thinking subjects and your own thinking, and not just the objects as an immutable reality and external to those who perceive them.

  1. Conceptual bases

Idealism distinguishes between two basic concepts: the phenomenon , that is, the object as it appears or appears in front of the intelligence that perceives it, and the noumenon , the object as it is for itself.

For the idealists, the reality is not the set of existing noumena, as well as the perceived phenomena of them. This means that the nature of reality remains veiled, hidden to the conscience and makes us wonder if the world is only what the senses perceive.

  1. Platonic idealism

Called also “Platonic realism”, comes from the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (427 BC – 347 BC), disciple of Socrates and teacher of the famous Aristotle , who in his Republic and other Platonic dialogues raises the existence of universals : objects that exist in a broader and more abstract sense than physical objects, since they are metaphysical or ultraphysical in nature.

A human being does not have access to these universals through any of his senses, but he can conceive them, he can intellectively know them. In that they differ from the particular , perfectly tangible, which are the objects around us and which are a copy of the original universal form, that is, a copy of the ideas.

  1. Objective idealism

This variant of idealism, much later than Plato, states that ideas exist by themselves and that we can only access them through experience.

Its name comes from its proximity to the scientific logic, which initially was based on that same conception of the real as something that can be discovered through experimentation.

  1. Subjective idealism

This idealism holds that ideas exist within the mind of the subject.

Opposed to the previous one, this idealism maintains that the ideas exist inside the mind of the subject, reason why an independent world does not exist outside of her. This school is divided in turn into two variants:

  • Radicals . They claim that subjectivity is the one that builds the world, so there is no independent nature of those who perceive it, but it exists “for us”.
  • Moderates . They argue that the perception of the real varies according to the content of the mind, so that its existence varies according to the subject, despite having a certain existence of its own.
  1. German idealism

With this name is known objective philosophical idealist school from the Germany of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and sustained in the work of Immanuel Kant and the influences of Romanticism, the Enlightenment and the historical context of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars .

According to Kant, the outer world exists, but it is not knowable for man as a whole, so it is often said that Kant was both materialistic and idealistic.

  1. Transcendental idealism

Also called “transcendental subjectivism” is the name that Immanuel Kant gave to his specific doctrine of thought. Broadly speaking, it consisted of the contemplation of two elements in all knowledge:

  • The given . External to the subject, it is an object of knowledge.
  • The put . Own of the subject, which is nothing other than the subject himself who is willing to know something.

This is summarized in that “Thoughts without contents are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind “, that is, that both concepts are interdependent for the knowledge of anything.

  1. Representatives of idealism

Idealism in its various variants counted on the contributions of the aforementioned Plato and Immanuel Kant, but also of Descartes, Leibnitz, Hegel, Bolzano, Berkeley, Fichte, Mach, Cassirer and Schelling. It is one of the most central philosophical doctrines of the history of thought.

  1. Importance

It constituted a fundamental variant in the evolution of philosophical thought throughout history, basing the investigative attitude of the philosopher who distrusts his senses and the perceptible and asks himself what is “there”.

  1. critics

The positions opposed to idealism have criticized his commitment to a higher immaterial world, present in religions such as Christianity, which promises an unearthly life more important than the perceptible one.

This position would downplay the perceptible world and allow the relativization of many arguments and debates.

  1. Antagonist schools

The antagonistic schools of idealism are materialism , for which there exists only that which is perceptible and experienceable and nothing else; or realism in general, which defends the existence of a reality-real, whose existence is alien to the human mind that perceives it and can only be known if it is sought and experienced, but deep down it is alien to that same process of knowledge.




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