What is idealism?

We explain what idealism is and the types of idealist currents. In addition, its characteristics, some examples and representatives.

  1. What is idealism?

Idealism is a set of philosophical currents that opposes materialism . He affirms that in order to understand reality, it is not enough with the object itself that is perceived by the senses but that it is necessary to take into account the ideas, the thinking subjects and the thought itself.

Idealism was of great influence on philosophical thinking throughout history . It motivated thinkers to distrust the perception of their own senses to expand their ability to understand reality.

  1. Types of idealist currents

Plato argued that ideas constitute a suprasensible world outside of being.

There are five types of idealist currents:

  • Platonic idealism. Plato was one of the first philosophers to speak of idealism. He argued that ideas constitute a suprasensible world outside of being, that is, a world that is intuited in an intellectual way and not only through the senses. It is through intellect and reason that the real world is known.
  • Objective idealism. For this philosophical variant, ideas exist by themselves and can only be discovered through experience. Some representatives of objective idealism were Plato, Leibniz, Hegel, Bolzano and Dilthey.
  • Subjective idealism. Some philosophers of this current were Descartes, Berkeley, Kant and Fichte. They argued that ideas exist in the mind of the subject and not in an independent outside world. According to this current, ideas depend on the subjectivity of the being that perceives them.
  • German idealism It was developed in Germany and the main thinkers of this current were Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. Contemplate that the true essence of the object exists due to the subjective activity of thought, which recognizes it as something real and not as something abstract. It was characterized by prioritizing thought over sensation, by raising the relationship between the finite and infinite and by inspiring a creative force in man (even poets were influenced by the philosophers of this current).
  • Transcendental idealism. The philosopher Kant was his main representative and maintained that, for knowledge to take place , the presence of two variables is necessary:
    • Phenomenon. Direct manifestation of the senses, that is, the object of an empirical observation .
    • Numno It is the thought, which does not correspond to a perception of the senses. It can be known through intellectual intuition .

Kant argues that knowledge is conditioned by phenomena, while noumen are the limits of what can be known . The conditions of all knowledge are given by the subject and all the phenomena derived from their perception are considered as representations of reality. Things in themselves do not constitute the real.

  1. Characteristics of idealism

According to idealism, reality is known through intellect and experience.
  • It requires the intellect that allows you to form a certain idea of ​​the things you perceive through the senses.
  • Reason is not identified with the finite or material but reaches the infinite, as can be the conception of the existence of God.
  • The way to know reality, that is, to the objects themselves, is through the intellect and through experience.
  • It does not conform to what the senses perceive in appearance but is linked to a higher reality of the consciousness of being.
  1. Examples of idealism

We detail the main examples that reflect part of the idealist philosophy:

  • Human rights . A universal idea emerged in France is assimilated by the leaders of the Second World War .
  • The French Revolution . Its premises of freedom , equality and human rights, are based on concepts of social and political idealism.
  • Don Quijote of La Mancha. It is characterized by a character who dreamed and lost himself in his own world of ideas.
  • “I think, then I exist.” It is the phrase of the philosopher René Descartes that best identifies the idealist current.
  • “They are true philosophers, who enjoy contemplating the truth.” This phrase of Plato refers to the fact that philosophy consists in rising towards truth or reality.
  • The works of Carlos Marx. From his ideas, Marx explains the characteristics and functioning of an ideal society, where the means of production belong to the working class .
  1. Representatives of idealism

René Descartes was looking for the method to reach knowledge and truth.

Among the main representatives are:

Plato. Greek philosopher (Athens, 427-347 BC). Socrates was his teacher and then, Aristotle his disciple. He was an outstanding thinker whose work had great influence on Western philosophy and religious practices. In the year 387 a. C. founded the Academy, the first higher institute of idealist philosophy of ancient Greece. Some of Plato’s most prominent contributions were:

  • The theory of ideas. It is the axis of Platonic philosophy. It is not formulated as such in any of his works but was approached from different aspects in his works La República, Fedón and Fedro.
  • The dialectic It is part of the logic that studies the probable reasoning, but not the demonstration. It relates to the art of debating, persuading and reasoning different ideas.
  • The history. It is a term used by Plato to refer to the methodical search for knowledge. It has to do with a memory of the soul about an experience he has had in a previous incarnation.

Rene Descartes. (The Hague in Touraine, 1596-1650). Also called Renatus Cartesius in Latin, he was a French philosopher, mathematician and physicist. The contribution of his works is considered a revolution in the scientific field and modern philosophy. It differed from other thinkers because it was intended to know the way or method to reach knowledge and truth, while other philosophers were based on pre-established currents that defined what is the world, the soul, the human being , etc., what it conditioned the ideas that they could reach. Descartes exposes the discourse of the method by means of four rules:

  • Evidence. Admit one thing as true only if it is clearly known and does not raise doubts. This contradicts the principle of identity of Aristotle, where the reason is sufficient to specify an idea.
  • Analysis. Separate the possible difficulties or unknowns to think about them until they reach their final components.
  • Synthesis. Sort the thoughts according to the degree of complexity.
  • Enumeration. Review each instance of the methodology more than once and carefully to ensure that you do not omit anything.

Through methodical doubt, Descartes questions all knowledge and tries to free himself from all kinds of prejudices . It does not seek not to believe in anything but rather it raises whether there are other reasons to question knowledge . It is called methodical because it does not doubt each individual knowledge, idea or belief, on the contrary, it aims to analyze the reasons on which an idea was founded to give it as valid and, thus, trace the path to find the truth.

Descartes concludes that there is something he cannot doubt and it is precisely the ability to doubt . “Knowing how to doubt is a way of thinking. Therefore, if I doubt, it means that I exist. That truth resists any doubt, however radical it may be, and just doubting is proof of its truth. ” Thus he came to the truth, from which modern thought is born: “I think, then I exist.”

Immanuel Kant. (Königsberg, 1724-1804). Prussian philosopher and relevant figure of the cultural and intellectual movement called Illuminism, Kant states that the problem of philosophy is “to know if reason is capable of knowing.” He then derives the variant of idealism called “criticism” or “transcendental idealism”:
Kant considers that man is an autonomous being who expresses his freedom through reason and does not know things in themselves but sees a projection of himself Same in the knowledge of things. The main concepts of his work are:

  • Transcendental idealism. In the process of knowledge, the experience of knowing the object influences reality and this experience is conditioned by time and place.
  • The human being in the center of the universe. The subject who knows, does it actively and modifies the reality he is knowing.
  • Beyond being. There are universal and necessary conditions, prior to the experience of being.

Georg Wihelm Friedrich Hegel. (Stuttgart, 1770-1931). German philosopher who argued that “the absolute” or idea manifests itself evolutionarily under the norms of nature and spirit. It states that knowledge has a dialectical structure : on the one hand, the existing world and, on the other, there is the need to overcome the limits of the known.

Everything is what it is and only becomes so in relation to other things. This dialectical reality is in constant process of transformation and change. It conceives a totality where everything becomes what it is as the sum of all moments, overcoming the vagueness of abstraction. There is no difference between being and thinking or between subject and object: everything is diluted in totality. Dialectic knowledge process:

  • Knowledge consists of the subject-object relationship and, in turn, each one refuses or contradicts, which imposes a transformation process that leads to equality between them.
  • The transformation process to overcome the difference between object and subject tends to reduce each other. Only in identity is it possible to achieve total and absolute knowledge.
  • In the reduction to the absolute identity the true dialectical knowledge is reached that the dissolution of object takes place in the subject.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. (Leipzig, 1646-1716). He was a German scholar philosopher who learned in depth about mathematics , logic, theology and politics . His work contributes important contributions to the metaphysics, epistemology, logic and philosophy of religion . Leibniz seeks to unite religion with science , explains the misfortunes of man based on truths of the divine will. This doctrine is associated with religious teaching about the omnipotence of God.

According to Leibniz, the universe is composed of independent spiritual substances that are souls, which Leibniz called “monads”: constitutive elements of all things in life . This is the most significant contribution to metaphysics and is a solution to the problems of the interaction between mind and body. In addition, it evidences the identity of the being and demolishes the lack of individualization. Leibniz stands out for an optimal view of the universe, which he considers the best that God could have created. In his time he was ridiculed several times for holding this idea.

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