What is Idealism?

Pissed_Ontologist
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What is Idealism?

What is Idealism?

 

By ‘Idealism’ I mean in contrast to materialism (particularly eliminative materialism).

 

Any thoughts?

 

Idealist thinkers have included Plato, Plotinus, Leibniz, Kant, Fichte, Shelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer.

 

In other threads, I have made the mistake of saying what I understand idealism to be. I realize it would be better if I asked you all what you understand it to be. So what do you understand it to be?

 


cj
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idealism

 

wiki wrote:

Idealism is the philosophical theory which maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on the mind or ideas. In the philosophy of perception, idealism is contrasted with realism in which the external world is said to have an apparent absolute existence. Epistemological idealists (such as Kant) claim that the only things which can be directly known for certain are just ideas (abstraction).

 

Is this what you wanted?  Sounds like what you were saying the other thread.  If you go further down the page, however,

 

wiki says David Stove wrote:

The Australian philosopher David Stove argued in typical acerbic style that idealism rested on what he called "the worst argument in the world". From a logical point of view his critique is no different from Russell or Nietzsche's—but Stove has been more widely cited and most clearly highlighted the mistake of proponents (like Berkeley) of subjective idealism. He named the form of this argument - invented by Berkeley -- "the GEM". Berkeley claimed that "[the mind] is deluded to think it can and does conceive of bodies existing unthought of, or without the mind, though at the same time they are apprehended by, or exist in, itself". Stove argued that this claim proceeds from the tautology that nothing can be thought of without its being thought of, to the conclusion that nothing can exist without its being thought of. Alan Musgrave recently extended this argument to attack Conceptual Idealism.

 

wiki says Alan Musgrove wrote:

Alan Musgrave argues in addition to Stove's GEM, Conceptual Idealists compound their mistakes with use/mention confusions and proliferation of unnecessary hyphenated entities.

stock examples of use/mention confusions:

Santa Claus (the person) does not exist.
'Santa Claus' (the name/concept/fairy tale) does exist; because adults tell children this every Christmas season.

The distinction in philosophical circles is highlighted by putting quotations around the word when we want to refer only to the name and not the object.

<........>

Hyphenated entities are "warning signs" for conceptual idealism according to Musgrave because they over emphasise the epistemic (ways in which people come to learn about the world) activities and will more likely commit errors in use/mention. These entities do not exist (strictly speaking and are ersatz entities) but highlight the numerous ways in which people come to know the world.

 

So my philosophical authorities say your philosophical authorities suck. 

So the discussion is a waste of time from my view.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Well that just seems

Well that just seems perfect..I mean ideal, doesn't it.


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Idealism is a word humans use to describe a way

 

In which they subjectively think of aspects of reality relating directly to and comprehensible to them. Before humans existed, there was no idealism. When we wipe ourselves out, there will be no idealism. 

Idealism is a human concept, not a universal constant, or force.

A mere five million years or so ago, there was no idealism as we know it. But behold, our future home planet and all of it's particulars nevertheless existed, and harboured the ancestors from which we sprang.

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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Pissed_Ontologist wrote:What

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

What is Idealism?

Any thoughts?

Whatever idea one has that it is, then that idea is what it is.

 

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Idealism

Thanks to all for your responses

 

cj wrote:
“So my philosophical authorities say your philosophical authorities suck. 

 

So the discussion is a waste of time from my view.”

 

CJ, it helps if you put information in your own words rather than quote from Wikipedia.

 

Mathematics is idealism. Mathematics is idealism because mathematical ideas do not exist in the physical universe. They only exist in human thought.

 

If mathematics is the ultimate arbiter of reality, then idealism is true. However, if biology is the ultimate arbiter of reality (i.e. if the mind is in the brain, rather than vice versa), then idealism is false.

 

So it’s mathematics vs. biology.

Idealist


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Math vs. Biology

When I was in college, the saying was that "Biologists count - one... two... many" 

When you got into modeling biological systems (say food webs) the mathematics got so hairy so quickly as you added in species that most models stopped at two species.  Not to say that it was/is impossible to do the math, just that number of computations involved made it totally impractical.  Modeling the movement of raindrops in a thunderstorm is a piece of cake compared to modeling the predator/prey interactions in a small pond with four trophic levels and a few hundred species.

Sort of reminds me of Douglas Adams describing the earth as a huge supercomputer.


cj
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Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

CJ, it helps if you put information in your own words rather than quote from Wikipedia.

 

Mathematics is idealism. Mathematics is idealism because mathematical ideas do not exist in the physical universe. They only exist in human thought.

 

If mathematics is the ultimate arbiter of reality, then idealism is true. However, if biology is the ultimate arbiter of reality (i.e. if the mind is in the brain, rather than vice versa), then idealism is false.

 

So it’s mathematics vs. biology.

 

Since I'm not into philosophy and can't keep the different definitions straight in my head, if I comment on them, I go refresh and make sure I know what I'm talking about.

Actually, my view is the brain=mind=brain.  That is, they are co-equal.  As for math, even your dog can count.  A dog has the same reaction as 5 month old human babies to an apparently incorrect addition or subtraction problem. 

The methodology is to have an opaque screen and show the subject nothing is behind it.  Set the screen on the floor and show one item being put behind the screen.  Sneak a second item behind the screen so when you raise the screen, there are two items.  The subject will act startled and intensely stare.  Repeat using other simple math problems.  Conclusion:  dogs can do simple math as well as human infants.

So math is not solely a construct of human minds.  Some of the more complex math is most likely dreamed up by humans only - at least we haven't thought of a way to see if dogs understand polar calculus.  1+1=2 appears to be a universal concept based in reality.  And while the summation of function(x) from -infinity to +infinity is a complex idea, it is modeling the reality of a subset of the universe.  Humans would not have bothered to dream up the math without some useful application.  It is only recently in our history that we have had the leisure to dream up stuff with no immediate usefulness in the manipulation of our reality.  Which might include string theory and philosophical discussions.

I still can't see how you can put a line in the sand like that - math here, biology there.  Math is a tool used to model reality, biology is one subset of reality which can be modeled using various tools including math.  (After all, rocks are real too, and they aren't biological.)  So to me, you are working on some definition of math that is not math.  And I really don't care who says math is idealism, it doesn't make sense to me as math is a tool to be utilized and manipulated like any other tool.

One orange + one orange = 2 oranges, one orange + one banana = fruit salad.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Idealism

 Thanks to all for your responses.

 

cj wrote:
“Actually, my view is the brain=mind=brain.  That is, they are co-equal.”

 

Thank you. My view is the brain = knowledge within the mind i.e. the brain is an idea, with no physical reality.

 

cj wrote:
“As for math, even your dog can count.  A dog has the same reaction as 5 month old human babies to an apparently incorrect addition or subtraction problem.”

 

I’m happy to extend the concept of ‘mind’ to that of dogs.

 

cj wrote:
“Humans would not have bothered to dream up the math without some useful application.  It is only recently in our history that we have had the leisure to dream up stuff with no immediate usefulness in the manipulation of our reality.  Which might include string theory and philosophical discussions.”

 

The problem is that from the perspective of naturalism and physicalism, all mathematics (numbers) is idealism.

 

It is actually both physics and mathematics that raises the issue of idealism. Mathematics, including physics, can be applied to our environment. However, applying mathematics is not the same as . . .

 

environment = mathematics

 

Is our environment mathematics?

 

As far as I am aware, physicalism and naturalism maintain that our environment is not mathematics i.e. numbers do not exist in nature.

 

If numbers do not exist in nature, then all mathematics, and all numbers, exist only in thought (including dogs’ thought).

 

That being true, if mathematics defines reality, it means that the universe and the brain only exist in human thought i.e. idealism is true (and physicalism/naturalism are false). But if mathematics describes rather than defines reality, it means that physicalism and naturalism are true, because the universe and the brain exist independently of human thought.

 

I take the position that mathematics and logic define reality, which means that the brain and universe exist only in human thought i.e. idealism is true.

 

cj wrote:
“I still can't see how you can put a line in the sand like that - math here, biology there.”

 

I mean in terms of naturalism and physicalism. Biology embraces the axiom of naturalism, but mathematics does not. Naturalism is the view that the brain and the universe exist independently of human thought. Mathematics does not hold that view, therefore mathematics is idealism, because idealism is the opposite of naturalism.

Idealist


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Your answers make no sense.

Your answers make no sense.

 

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

 Thanks to all for your responses.

cj wrote:
“Actually, my view is the brain=mind=brain.  That is, they are co-equal.”

Thank you. My view is the brain = knowledge within the mind i.e. the brain is an idea, with no physical reality.

 

I'll bet if some surgeon sawed open your skull, you would have a real physical brain in there.

 

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

cj wrote:
“Humans would not have bothered to dream up the math without some useful application.  It is only recently in our history that we have had the leisure to dream up stuff with no immediate usefulness in the manipulation of our reality.  Which might include string theory and philosophical discussions.”

The problem is that from the perspective of naturalism and physicalism, all mathematics (numbers) is idealism.

It is actually both physics and mathematics that raises the issue of idealism. Mathematics, including physics, can be applied to our environment. However, applying mathematics is not the same as . . .

environment = mathematics

Is our environment mathematics?

As far as I am aware, physicalism and naturalism maintain that our environment is not mathematics i.e. numbers do not exist in nature.

If numbers do not exist in nature, then all mathematics, and all numbers, exist only in thought (including dogs’ thought).

That being true, if mathematics defines reality, it means that the universe and the brain only exist in human thought i.e. idealism is true (and physicalism/naturalism are false). But if mathematics describes rather than defines reality, it means that physicalism and naturalism are true, because the universe and the brain exist independently of human thought.

I take the position that mathematics and logic define reality, which means that the brain and universe exist only in human thought i.e. idealism is true.

 

 

This makes no sense.  There is reality and there are models of reality.  Mathematics is a model of reality. 

wiki wrote:

A mathematical model is a description of a system using mathematical language. The process of developing a mathematical model is termed mathematical modelling (also written modeling). Mathematical models are used not only in the natural sciences (such as physics, biology, earth science, meteorology) and engineering disciplines, but also in the social sciences (such as economics, psychology, sociology and political science); physicists, engineers, statisticians, operations research analysts and economists use mathematical models most extensively.

 

I have quoted Wiki as it is a more complete definition than I could come up with off the top of my head.  I'm saying - mathematics is not idealism, it is not naturalism, it is a tool to examine reality and use what we learn from the model to manipulate reality.  Saying mathematics defines reality is like saying a hammer defines reality.  It makes no sense.

The concepts of math are in nature - many plant and animal structures follow a Fibonacci series for example.  (flower structures, seed heads, seashell structures)  It's how Senior Fibonacci came up with his series - he counted.  I once worked with a ecology professor who determined bumble bee work can be modeled using a Fourier transform (which has been extensively used in signal processing).  Newton came up with calculus to try to explain the movement of the planets.  Differential equations were developed to explain and manipulate electrical and magnetic fields.  Nature - reality - existed first, then humans made up the math to explain and model reality.  Why you think mathematics defines reality is beyond me.  I really don't see how that can be as math was invented by people to model reality so they could manipulate reality. 

The mathematical model doesn't explicate reality exactly, it is just close enough to work well enough to allow people to manipulate reality.  Nature - reality - is messy.  Math is not.  And so math is not reality.

I think you want idealism to be true so that you can justify your concept of god/s/dess.  You might look up the history of the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry.

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


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Idealism

 

cj wrote:
Your answers make no sense.

 

That’s probably because you have not encountered these ideas before.

 

cj wrote:
“I'll bet if some surgeon sawed open your skull, you would have a real physical brain in there.”

 

I know I would. However, that does not mean that reality and abstraction are not the opposite way around to what they appear to be.

 

cj wrote:
“This makes no sense.  There is reality and there are models of reality.  Mathematics is a model of reality.”

 

Your claim is controversial. If mathematics is discovered rather than created, then it is not a model of reality, but is a reality itself: “One statement of this philosophy is the thesis that mathematics is not created but discovered. A lucid statement of this is found in an essay written by the British mathematician G. H. Hardy in defense of pure mathematics.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_idealism

 

cj wrote:
“Saying mathematics defines reality is like saying a hammer defines reality.  It makes no sense.”

 

It does make sense in terms of Plato’s theory of forms, and the analogy of the divided line. In Plato’s theory of forms, a hammer does define reality. There is a universal concept of ‘hammerness’ which defines particular manifestations of hammers in the physical environment.

 

Plato’s theory of forms holds that only universals are ultimately real, and particulars are not. For example, this can apply to trees, as well as mathematical ideas. There is one ideal tree, which exists in the realm of thought. That is the real tree. All other trees that we experience through our senses are imperfect abstractions.

 

So Platonic idealism puts reality and abstraction the opposite way around to how they are usually considered to be. Platonic idealism also considers matter a particular, rather than a universal

 

Forms (universals) are singular, and particulars are plural. Forms are the essences of objects. They exist outside time and space.

 

The world of forms is known by reason rather than by observation through the physical senses.

 

The highest form is the form of the good, and includes justice, truth, equality and beauty. On the divided line, the form of the good is segment DE. Mathematical forms come just below the form of the good, in segment CD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_divided_line_of_Plato

 

I notice you banding about the word ‘reality’, as if it is not controversial. In Platonic idealism, reality is that which we know by reason (including mathematics and logic), rather than by observation through the physical senses i.e. what we observe through our senses is not reality, but only a reflection of reality. It is only the forms that are real (including mathematical and logical forms).

 

cj wrote:
“I think you want idealism to be true so that you can justify your concept of god/s/dess.”

 

Yes, that’s right, although I am more inclined to a Zen Buddhist interpretation of spirituality, in which there is the soul, but no god/s/dess. And idealism is true. 

Idealist


cj
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Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

 

cj wrote:
Your answers make no sense.

That’s probably because you have not encountered these ideas before.

 

I have encountered them before and they made no sense then.  And the rest of your post about Plato - I've encountered his ideas before, too.  And they make no sense.  Reality is ---- reality.  If I can measure it in some fashion, it is reality.  That goes for love, thoughts, OBE, etc.  They can all be measured using hormone tests or MRI or PET (positron emission tomography) or .....

There just isn't a perfect tree form somewhere.  Or a perfect example of whatever somewhere else.  Saying there is doesn't make it so.  Plato's theory of forms is bullshit.  It was BS then, it is BS now.

 

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

cj wrote:
“This makes no sense.  There is reality and there are models of reality.  Mathematics is a model of reality.”

Your claim is controversial. If mathematics is discovered rather than created, then it is not a model of reality, but is a reality itself: “One statement of this philosophy is the thesis that mathematics is not created but discovered. A lucid statement of this is found in an essay written by the British mathematician G. H. Hardy in defense of pure mathematics.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_idealism

 

The term "discovered" is incorrect - try "invented".  Just like the hammer was invented.  And the computer and the internet...... People kept trying different formulas and definitions until they got the pieces that modeled reality well enough to be able to manipulate their environment.  This isn't controversial to anyone but a bunch of philosophers who have nothing better to do than make up theories that are pretty useless to anyone else.

 

Pissed_Ontologist wrote:

cj wrote:
“I think you want idealism to be true so that you can justify your concept of god/s/dess.”

Yes, that’s right, although I am more inclined to a Zen Buddhist interpretation of spirituality, in which there is the soul, but no god/s/dess. And idealism is true. 

 

To me, Zen is so obvious why does anyone get excited about it?  I do confess I haven't studied it in detail, but just skimmed a few articles and looked at some koans.  I didn't see where Zen said mathematics was reality or there was a super duper special perfect tree in the universe.  Actually, I had the impression Zen was into reality big time.  I could be wrong.  "The moon is not the finger pointing at the moon."

Soul=mind=brain=mind=soul.  No mystery there and no need to claim one is transcendent over the others.  Though the physical reality of your brain drives the rest of the system - no brain implies no mind and no soul.

I rather like the Tao te Ching, but it isn't spiritual, it is fun.  "The Tao would not be the Tao without the laughter."  I'm fine with taking the role of the fool and laughing at it.  Again, it is so obvious.....

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.