Idealism (check definition)

Andrew Wayne Austin aaustin at
Tue Aug 17 09:10:07 MDT 1999

On Tue, 17 Aug 1999, Xxxzx Xyyxyz wrote:

>Idealism is the philosophical tradition that fundamentally believes
>that some non-real force (eg. thoughts, feelings), that exists beyond
>our knowledge (beyond our ability to prove rationally), is the basis
>for all things: matter is built upon the reality of the ideal world.

Rationalism is a form of idealism that believes that truth can be
discovered through logic. There is no "non-real force...that exists beyond
our knowledge" especially "beyond our ability to prove rationally," for
the rationalists.

>This is in contrast to Materialism, the tradition that fundamentally
>believes that some real force (eg. physics, events) that exists
>beyond our knowledge (beyond our ability to prove empirically) is the
>basis for all things: ideas are built upon the reality of the
>material world.

If materialism held that the world is built upon a "force...that exists
beyond our knowledge" especially "beyond our ability to prove empirically"
then materialism would be idealism, specifically, materialism would be

When Marx argues that despite what we think of it the world continues its
existence as before he is not saying that we cannot identify the dynamic
that guides the development of the world. The fact that our theories are
empirically underdetermined only means that logic is required to augment
the process of knowledge production not that the world cannot be known.

>We can see the fundamental difference between the two in the familiar
>riddle: What came first: the chicken or the egg? The difficulty is
>that one presupposes the other: a chicken is not possible without
>having been borne from an egg! An egg is not possible without having
>been laid by a chicken!

Actually, the egg that hatched the animal that more closely approximated a
chicken came from an animal that was less of a chicken, therefore the egg
came first.

>To save us from this problem that cannot be solved rationally nor
>empirically comes that one thing we are certain: we do not know!

The chicken and the egg thing is solved both rationally (evolutionary
theory) and empirically (the evidence of macromutations).

>The 'truth' in either path is beyond our ability to rationally or
>empirically prove, and so neither can be right nor wrong. But choose
>one path they must and so be philosophers or choose the other path
>and be revolutionaries.

In other words, you are telling the reader that whether we choose
materialism or idealism is itself an act of idealism since there is no
material basis for making a choice either way.

Your entry sounds like a subjectivist publishing an completely noncritical
mini-essay on idealism in a dictionary about materialism.


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