Critique of Idealism

In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

(Wikipedia entry for Idealism)

The problem begins with metaphysics. Is it possible to answer objectively the question of the nature of reality? Of course, knowledge of reality must necessarily begin with the mind perceiving. But this does not logically lead to the idea that only mind is necessary. A sensed reality is the only reality we have. The mind of a person is seen not directly, but always through her or his material. Idealism is correct in that knowing is a mental process, and that knowing does not mean access to the thing. But this does not mean primacy of the mind. The mind cannot exist without the body. Material determines the consciousness, not vice versa. Our knowledge of the science of neurology and the brain should be enough evidence for us to dismiss Idealism as a viable philosophical stance.

9 thoughts on “Critique of Idealism”

  1. I get that. I think there is a fundamental “blind spot” going on.

    Harman speaks of relations between objects (but I’m not sure if he really understands his own position. Lol). Where it seems most everyone else is speaking of subjects of meaning.

    These are irreconcilable positions. because each will assume the other is playing each other’s game. And then one will just think the other is being obstinate, and then the other will just dismiss its other out of hand. It’s two sides of the same centralized-thinking. Two “Gods” globing lightning boots at each other. 🌩

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  2. The stance that we cannot make a decision about anything brings the conversation to a standstill.

    I’d hated to be tennis with an ooo philosopher because nothing could be decided ever (perhaps ooo-ps don’t play tennis for that reason haha).

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  3. I think we have enough words to describe everything. So I try to talk my talk. 😄. I try not to just invent terms to fit my idea. Over-mining. Is a term Harman invented I think.

    And I think he had to invest that word Becuase he is invested in the “academic philosophical game” of coming up with new things. Otherwise. I think he might have just used what words we already have.

    But on an interesting note: sometimes objects come into existence which do require a new term. But I don’t think overmine is one of them. Lol.

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  4. Yes, you are right. I always forget that.

    I like overdetermine and underdetermine. Though. But your right. Harman uses undermine.

    Harmans terms appear to me to imply that there is a sort of “plan” or agenda to misinterpret or something, which I tend to agree with in a certain manner , but really the only issue I have with Harman is that he is indeed involved in making an argument. That’s how he makes a living, so no shame there.

    I’m more involved in showing what is true. So, “overdetermined” and “underdetermined”, to me, says something more about how one is actually coming upon things, rather than just being merely a philosophically argumentative point.

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  5. The point I’m making though, is that even the notion that material as something outside comes before the idea is it sale still an idea. So anything anyone wants to say about the truth of the situation necessarily falls into a contradiction. So it is no more sound to say that the idea comes before the material then it is to say that the material comes before the idea. But neither can we say they are One in the same because then we fall back into the perpetuation of mistake that Graham Harmon neatly classifies as overdetermined or under determined

    So I think the solution is that the whole manner of coming upon these logical truths as if one is more true than the other true, is To see that this manner of trying to discern what is more true through any sort of logical means that we know of right at this moment is it self incorrect.

    I think this significant issue is to be able to really absorb what this is meaning. Because then we have to admit that whatever logical conclusions we are coming to our ultimately tentative and merely argue what has already been argued for at least the past 200 years if not longer.

    Something else must be going on then.

    And this something else must accept the fact that this manner of asserting what is more true or more real, for example that materialial Comes first or the idea comes first, cannot be falsified even while is it it is incorrect. And this is to say that the whole logical manner of relying upon an either or condition defined out what is true and real of the situation we have before us must be at once valid and invalid.

    And due to the fact that I can understand that it is both of them and that that necessary condition no longer reduces to another unit of truth, which is to say, that these two apparently contradictory conclusions must stay suspended in order for both to be true at the same time.

    What this indicates, I think, is that reason is not a ubiquitous aspect or ability of being human. But at the same time that where the meaning of that statement might give a certain anxiety or rebuttal, there we do not have a negation as if we need to battle over what is more true; as the one side is Nikki eating the other side or telling the other side that they are invalid or our reasoning incorrectly, again as the reason is giving us something that is more true than something else, given the context that I just put forth.

    I think what we find is that there are different types of human beings that are able to think in various ways, and that all these various ways are useful and can be put to use. But the problem that seems to get in the way of using these unique and individual essential qualities of different types of human beings is exactly that everyone wants to think they’re the same in ability and capacity as a common thing called a human being.


  6. Actually, Wikipedia just was convenient. I could have or should gone to, say, Stanford or even IEP.

    I was too lazy to type from my book references as well.

    I fully understand the difficulty of definitions. And I understand the common sense definition on Wikipedia isn’t quite right either.

    I understand Idealism was not saying that the world doesn’t exist unless there is a mind, but rather without perception the world and its content has no meaning. That is a fair point.

    However, the question then is what takes primacy. The only conclusion I can come to is that the mind must is secondary to the body which produces it. Any other conclusion would lead to dualism, of which I do not accept.

    Given the lack of advances in science at the time it is understandable that they had no access to the terminology (and therefore the verbal technology) to discuss and investigate the mind with any sophistication. Today, we have a better understanding of what is mind and body.

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  7. I think wiki gives a false impression. I imagine that you “wiki because you feel that it gives a good definition of what you understand as these philosophical components.

    But I think some of the miscommunication that comes through reference to establish definition arises with the issues that the postmodernists, but particularly Lyotard, talked about.

    I think it is a mistake and understanding to describe materialism as something that needs to fall either into my mind or into something that exists outside my mind. Because the main issue that these philosophers are dealing with is the assumption of that fact; I would say that the main issue with many of the great philosophers is indeed the assumption that there is this polemic this dual reality. How do even go so far to say that many of them are not attempting to discern or distinguish or better define what this Jewel reality is, but indeed our problem enticing the very assumption that comes out of the notion that idealism means that the idea rest within my mind and not somewhere else. I think many of the original conceptions of idealism are using these terms in a way that is supposed to upset us away from this falling back into this either or mentality, this either or philosophy. For example, dialectical materialism really puts everything into the context of materialism before we even come to any sort of notion that it must be part of the individual brain self or some sort of existence that is occurring separate from it and that involved with it.

    For example to say “the idea“ is not necessarily saying that there is this individual human self that has ideas and then there’s everything else. This is the problem that the post modernist early riders tried to deal with in fact all of the big writers of the 20th century really. The mistake is that we hear the word idea and then we think inherently, automatically, that the term it self is something that exists or arises outside of me that then I must refer to in order to come to a meaning of what that term is. One might even go so far to say that the statement I just made, the sentence before this sentence, outlines the problem of philosophy itself. And if we can even go to Lacan, Who actually tried to approach it from psychoanalysis to talk about this fundamental mistake.

    Anyways you may want to reconsider the foundation of your proposals.

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