Thursday, September 29, 2011

348: The Idealist Mind

Typical for the philosophy of mind is, that its theory is contrary to our common sense believes. Most people assume some kind of dualism. Life has a mental part and a physical part.

Yet, despite this common sense psychology, dualism is widely rejected as a plausible theory to explain consciousness or the mind. Of course there still are one or two philosophers who still stick to dualism. We'll come to that later.

The dualist view is not a typical product of Western philosophy. A lot of Asian philosophies use the dualist vocabulary like most of our discussions are still about body and mind.

Although we are locked in in the dualistic vocabulary, we have to look for plausible alternatives for dualism.

Descartes claimed that there were two substances. A weaker claim is that there are not two different substances, mind and matter,but at least two different properties, mental and physical properties.

The later, however, still keeps a lot of the problems, which we had with substance dualism. So, what is the alternative? The answer is 'monism'.

There do not exist two, but only ONE ('monos' -greek) substance in our universe. Thus, somehow we have to explain the existence of the mind from that one substance.

The next step in the philosophy of mind was to say: ok, then we pick one of the two. Our universe, as we know it, is either made of mental stuff or of material stuff. The Cartesian way of thinking.

In this choice you see maybe the oldest controversy in the theory of knowledge, epistemology: is what we really know constituted by the ratio, the mind or by the senses?

So one group of philosophers chose for the idea that eventually everything you experience, what you call reality, is mental. This is called idealism.

Metaphysical idealism is an ontology that holds that reality itself is essentially spirit or consciousness or, at least, that abstractions and laws are more basic to reality than the things we perceive.

Epistemological idealism is the view that reality can only be known through ideas, that only psychological experience can be apprehended by the mind.

Notable modern western idealist philosophical movements include; early idealists such as George Berkeley and Gottfried Leibniz, the late 18th-19th century German idealists, including Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Arthur Schopenhauer.

and mid 19th-early 20th century British idealism, a species of absolute idealism whose leading figures were T.H. Green, F. H. Bradley and Bernard Bosanquet, succeeded by J. M. E. McTaggart, H. H. Joachim, J. H. Muirhead and G. R. G. Mure.

The 20th century British scientist Sir James Jeans wrote that "the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine". A typical example of idealist metaphysics.

This philosophical assumption, that the MIND is really the place to be for us, has deep roots. Plato's theory of forms is already one of the first examples.

Immanuel Kant, of course, with his transcendental idealism is a textbook example. Only because the mind contains these a prior categories, like causality, extension, space and time, we can perceive a reality.

"… if I remove the thinking subject, the whole material world must at once vanish because it is nothing but a phenomenal appearance in the sensibility of ourselves as a subject, and a manner or species of representation." — Critique of Pure Reason A383. This quote illustrates this kind of metaphysical and epistemological thinking perfectly.

When mentioning Kant, you can believe that this Idealism has been very influential, especially in the 19th century.

However, at this moment idealism has no real philosophical significance anymore due to the immense developments in science, which makes it preposterous to suggest that reality is all spiritual.

Or to finish with a one-liner: Is it the mind that shapes what we call reality or is it reality, that shapes the mind?

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: Thank you... ㋡
[13:24] herman Bergson: I can understand that I have left you speachles now...:-)
[13:25] herman Bergson: But if you have a question or so..plz feel free :-)
[13:25] Qwark Allen: ehhehe indeed
[13:25] Sybyle Perdide: there is these example with a dream of a sound similar
[13:26] herman Bergson: you mean that butterfly that causes a hurricane on the other side of the earth?
[13:26] Sybyle Perdide: no
[13:26] Ciska Riverstone: maybe the bug from kafka?
[13:26] Sybyle Perdide: am I a woman dreaming to be a butterly, or a butterfly dreaming to be a woman rembering to eb a butterfly
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: I never found the solution
[13:27] druth Vlodovic: continuity seems to be the best indicator
[13:27] herman Bergson: That is a typical example, Sybyle
[13:28] herman Bergson: of what this option for the mental leads to...
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): So, idealism is an antiquated philosophy.
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): effectively disproved
[13:28] herman Bergson: In my opinion , yes Velvet....
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): or am I oversimplifying?
[13:28] druth Vlodovic: lots pf people in sl like to believe it, but it can be hard to explore the idea with them
[13:29] Velvet (velvet.braham): I think you're right, druth!
[13:29] herman Bergson: Well today I picked some books from my bookshelves...
[13:29] herman Bergson: the ones which I read when I was 18...
[13:29] herman Bergson: I loved german idealism then....
[13:30] herman Bergson: Kant, Fichte , Hegel...
[13:30] herman Bergson: That language....
[13:30] herman Bergson: So abstract....
[13:30] herman Bergson: Now I regard it as a kind of poetry...
[13:30] herman Bergson: Take Fichte....
[13:31] herman Bergson: He states that the "I" poses itself and thus creates reality...
[13:31] herman Bergson: But that is too static...
[13:32] herman Bergson: so he also introduces a non - I...
[13:32] druth Vlodovic: it would be pretty lonely otherwise
[13:32] herman Bergson: and the dynamics of reality generated from the clash between the I and th enon-I in a synthesis...
[13:33] herman Bergson: brilliant words ..real poetry... but in my eyes a waste of intellectual energy
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: it sounds a bit like a mind game
[13:33] herman Bergson: Hegel adopted Fichte's dialectics...
[13:34] herman Bergson: Well already in his days, Syblye people thought that something wasn't right with this line of thinking...
[13:34] herman Bergson: There is an anecdote about Hegel...
[13:35] herman Bergson: His thesis - antithesis - syntheses didn't fit physical insights at that moment...
[13:35] herman Bergson: scientific insights in physics...
[13:36] herman Bergson: Hegel was asked about that....that reality didn't fit his model..
[13:36] herman Bergson: his answer : "To bad for reality then.."
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): I kind of like Hegel a little more now.
[13:37] Velvet (velvet.braham): heh
[13:37] herman Bergson: The idealists , well some, looked down on emperical evidence...
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: : )
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: but.. mustn't there become a discrepancy, if doing so?
[13:37] herman Bergson: In the philosophy of science idealism is a dead corps
[13:38] herman Bergson: not a plausible philosophy at all..
[13:38] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:38] herman Bergson: But in a way it is a legacy of descartes....and rationalism...
[13:39] herman Bergson: the belief that the RATIO is the ultimate determining factor
[13:40] herman Bergson: I think that we are past that station...that the paradigma has changed considerably
[13:41] herman Bergson: I am pleased to see that you are all content with this :-)
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: well ;)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well?
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: not really
[13:41] herman Bergson: smiles at Ciska
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: but for the moment i just wait for the "how it should be" then
[13:42] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: i do not think idealism is dead
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: we will see ㋡
[13:42] druth Vlodovic: let's hear your view ciska
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well....indeed..we'll see
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: well- right now there is nothing which convinces me of materialism
[13:43] herman Bergson: Ok...then we'll see next class what alternative we have...
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: i just want to see how herman develops that further on ㋡
[13:44] herman Bergson: Very true Ciska...
[13:44] Velvet (velvet.braham): cliffhanger!
[13:44] druth Vlodovic: aww, I want a fight
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: yes
[13:44] herman Bergson: Next lecture will offer you the first arguments
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: ㋡
[13:44] Sybyle Perdide: it will stay interesting
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: as long as we do not have those they are hard to attack druth ;)
[13:45] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:45] Mick Nerido: Thanks, I read this later...
[13:45] Velvet (velvet.braham): first arguments opposing idealism?
[13:45] Qwark Allen: very nice to follow the all discussion
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes Velvet....
[13:45] Velvet (velvet.braham): thank you
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman thanks folks
[13:45] Velvet (velvet.braham): now we're talkin'
[13:45] herman Bergson: tho there hardly are arguments needed to oppose idealism...
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: thank you Herman
[13:46] Ladyy Haven (ladyy.haven) is Offline
[13:46] herman Bergson: science does....
[13:46] Velvet (velvet.braham): right
[13:46] herman Bergson: So thank you all for your participation..
[13:47] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...
[13:47] Velvet (velvet.braham): Thank you very much!
[13:47] herman Bergson: Now I gonna fight with Druth...^_^
[13:47] druth Vlodovic: yayy!
[13:47] druth Vlodovic: waitasec...
[13:47] herman Bergson: grins at Druth
[13:47] druth Vlodovic: eek!

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