Idealism (new definition)

Andrew Wayne Austin aaustin at
Thu Aug 19 10:21:49 MDT 1999

On Fri, 20 Aug 1999, Xxxzx Xyyxyz wrote:

>The methods of neither Idealism nor Materialism are able to prove
>that they are certainly correct.

I have a longer post in response to Xxxzx's earlier post back to me. I am
crushed beneath the weight of responsibility right now so that post will
have to wait. Three quick points here:

1. Materialism is not only or even for the most part based on a
physicalist ontology of nature. Marx's materialism, for instance, is based
on a relational ontology, one somewhat captured by Roy Bhaskar's critical
realism. Something of this view was also advanced by Whitehead. In this
view what is objectively real are the relations that determine the
behavior of subjects and objects and constitute the structure of whatever
universe one happens to be discussing. For Marx, this was the social
universe. For Whitehead, this was the physical universe. For either
scholar, those who focus on empirical points commit the fallacy of
misplaced concreteness (another reason why empiricism is idealism).

2. Thoughts and feelings are not "nonreal." They are very real. That
people think and have feelings--in short, that people express
subjectivity, is a material reality, even a physical fact! One should not
equate subjectivity with idealism. What is not material is the *content*
of thought, at least until that content is materialized in behavior or
structure. Contrary to idealism, consciousness is a very small part of the

3. I am living proof that the world is not only a world of ideas. I exist.
Nature and history have formed me. The very fact that the real world
empirically outstrips our collective ideas about it smashes the idealist
premise. It is as ridiculous to say that a materialist is not certain of
the existence of a physical world independent of her/his existence as it
is to say that cancer is only a figment of our collective imagination. A
materialist cannot know the world totality, but grasps the essential
reality that there is a totality which can be known even if only in part.

Idealism is demonstrably wrong. Materialism is not a matter of faith.


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