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Idealism: The History of a Philosophy

Jeremy Dunham
Iain Hamilton Grant
Sean Watson
Copyright Date: 2011
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130h9wx
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  • Book Info
    Idealism
    Book Description:

    The rediscovery of Idealism is an unmistakable feature of contemporary philosophy. Heavily criticised by the dominant philosophies of the twentieth century, it is being reconsidered in the twenty-first as a rich and untapped resource for contemporary philosophical arguments and concepts. Idealism is philosophy on a grand scale, combining micro and macroscopic problems into systematic accounts of everything from the nature of the universe to the particulars of human feeling. In consequence, it offers perspectives on everything from the natural to the social sciences, from ecology to critical theory. Since Idealism is sometimes considered antiscience, however, this book places particular emphasis on its naturalism. Written for a broad readership, the book provides the fullest possible introduction to this most philosophical of philosophical movements.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9475-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. NOTE ON THE TEXT
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-9)

    The idealist tradition in philosophy stretches from the earliest beginnings of the subject, and extends to the present. There has never been a moment in the history of philosophy when there has not existed an idealist current: for every Locke and Hume there is a Berkeley, just as for every Russell and Moore there is a Whitehead and for every contemporary philosophical naturalist there is a John Leslie and a T. L. S. Sprigge. While this very ubiquity makes a survey of the entire range of idealist philosophy a difficult and obscure undertaking, the present philosophical situation affords good reasons...

  7. I Ancient idealism
    • 1. PARMENIDES AND THE BIRTH OF ANCIENT IDEALISM
      (pp. 10-18)

      At the end of the nineteenth century, Benjamin Jowett, Plato’s translator and the teacher of many of British idealism’s earlier leading lights, had no qualms about asserting, in the introduction to his translation of theRepublic, that Plato “is the father of idealism in philosophy, in politics, in literature”(1902: 105). In contemporary philosophy, however, the claim that there is such a thing as “ancient idealism” is controversial. This is because for many philosophers, G. E. Moore’s claim that “modern idealism, if it asserts any general conclusion about the universe at all, asserts that it isspiritual” (1903: 433), for all...

    • 2. PLATO AND NEOPLATONISM
      (pp. 19-33)

      While Parmenides presented his philosophy in poetic metre, Plato’s prefered medium is the display of dialectic in dramatic form. This presents certain problems when we set out to identify what does and does not count as Plato’s own philosophy: positions are given as characters, or characters as positions, and their implications are worked out in live discussion, with all its digressions, illustrations and false starts. A degree of caution must therefore be exercised when we attribute a theory to Plato, in the sense “Plato held that …”. That said, the problems addressed in his dialogues form the corpus of Platonic...

  8. II Idealism and early modern philosophy
    • 3. PHENOMENALISM AND IDEALISM I: DESCARTES AND MALEBRANCHE
      (pp. 34-58)

      Descartes’ move towards an egocentric philosophy of thecogitois one of the most important, radical and often discussed moments in the history of philosophy. Whitehead wrote in 1929 that:

      [Descartes] laid down the principle, that those substances which are the subjects enjoying conscious experiences, provide the primary data for philosophy, namely, themselves as in the enjoyment of such experience. This is the famous subjectivist bias which entered into modern philosophy through Descartes. In this doctrine Descartes undoubtedly made the greatest philosophical discovery since the age of Plato and Aristotle.

      (PR 159)

      In a seminal paper, Burnyeat fleshed out this...

    • 4. PHENOMENALISM AND IDEALISM II: LEIBNIZ AND BERKELEY
      (pp. 59-88)

      Leibniz, like Malebranche, constructed a philosophical system that is both a Platonic and a phenomenalist idealism. For both Leibniz and Malebranche, God is the ground of Ideas, forms or, as Leibniz often calls them, possibles,¹ and, at the same time, he is the only immediate object of perception. Leibniz claimed that his system could be seen as a development of Malebranche’s and that it is to him that he owed his basic metaphysical principles (GM11.294; WFNS 56). However, Leibniz’s system differs greatly from Malebranche’s owing to his novel conception of substance. There is only one kind of substance in...

  9. III German idealism
    • 5. IMMANUEL KANT: COGNITION, FREEDOM AND TELEOLOGY
      (pp. 89-115)

      If we ask what use Kant had for the Idea in the firstCritiquethen we can provide at least two answers. One of these would assert that in fact the Idea plays a very restricted role. It arises primarily in the Transcendental Dialectic, which itself appears to be a text aimed at demarcating clearly where the limits of reason lie, criticizing those who have stepped beyond these limits, and pointing out why they are wrong to do so (CPR A293–704/B349–732).

      In this context, Kant states that there are, in fact, only three true Ideas of reason. These...

    • 6. FICHTE AND THE SYSTEM OF FREEDOM
      (pp. 116-128)

      Kant’sCritique of Judgementconvinced his successors that the integration of nature and freedom under a single, consistent system was the most urgent task facing modern philosophy. The manifesto “The First System-Programme of German Idealism” (1796), probably co-authored by Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling, sets this out. It begins with:

      [A]n Ethics. Since the whole of metaphysics falls for the future withinmoral theory[which] will be nothing less than a complete system of all ideas or of all practical postulates (which is the same thing). The first idea is of course the presentation ofmyselfas an absolutely free entity....

    • 7. IDEALIST PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE: F. W. J. SCHELLING
      (pp. 129-143)

      Despite monographs on him by philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers and Jürgen Habermas, and more recently by Manfred Frank and Slavoj Žižek, F. W. J. Schelling’s work remains largely unknown. Part of the reason for this stems from Hegel’s criticism that Schelling “conducted his philosophical education in public” (1970a: vol. 20, 421), that is, developed no fixed or final system. In consequence, philosophers tend to follow Nicolai Hartmann’s (1923–29) account of Schelling, and Fichte before him, as incomplete Hegels (Kroner 1921–24), and not therefore as presenting a philosophy worth studying on its own terms. Even the...

    • 8. HEGEL AND HEGELIANISM: MIND, NATURE AND LOGIC
      (pp. 144-158)

      G. W. F. Hegel’s philosophical achievement is staggering to all who encounter it. Much of his current renown is premised on a normative, non-metaphysical account of Hegel pioneered in the mid-1970s by Klaus Hartmann (1976) and Charles Taylor (1975), and extended by Terry Pinkard (1994), Robert Pippin (1989) and the Pittsburgh neo-Hegelians. Since the normative account of Hegel has recently become predominant, we shall discuss it as an important aspect of contemporary idealism (see ch. 15). The complexity of Hegel’s philosophy supports many accounts that dispute the normative consensus, particularly as regards the philosophy of nature and the logic. Since...

  10. IV British idealism
    • 9. BRITISH ABSOLUTE IDEALISM: FROM GREEN TO BRADLEY
      (pp. 159-174)

      In this chapter and the following two we shall investigate the importance of the “neo-Hegelian” movement in British philosophy, which flourished from the late nineteenth century before dying down significantly¹ by the mid-twentieth century. After briefly summarizing the journey of Hegelian philosophy from Germany to England, we shall provide a discussion of six of the most important theorists of this period. This discussion will attempt to present the core metaphysical ideas of each philosopher for two reasons. First, this material is less well known than, for example, their ethical and political philosophy (see Boucher & Vincent 2000); second, this material will...

    • 10. PERSONAL IDEALISM: FROM WARD TO MCTAGGART
      (pp. 175-189)

      Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison¹ was the co-editor, with R. B. Haldane, ofEssays in Philosophical Criticism(Seth & Haldane 1883)) one of the foundational texts for Hegelian absolute idealism in British philosophy. Yet, four years later he would publishHegelianism and Personality, an objection to absolutism on the grounds that it presents an insufficient treatment of the personal, thus giving birth to personal idealism. Pringle-Pattison claimed that the unification of consciousness in a single self was the radical error of both Hegelianism and the allied English doctrine of absolute idealism: “I have a centre of my own – a will of my...

    • 11. NATURALIST IDEALISM: BERNARD BOSANQUET
      (pp. 190-200)

      The philosophy of Bernard Bosanquet suffers from the assumption that his is merely a pale imitation of the Bradleyan metaphysics of which he was an acknowledged disciple. Even on those rare occasions when this assumption is challenged, and Bosanquet’s differences from Bradley are pursued,¹ the differences in question emphasize Bosanquet’s ethical and political concerns, and thus falsely elevate the self to the summit of his metaphysics. In part, it is this ethicist interpretation of Bosanquet’s contribution to philosophy – a perspective he condemns as “one sided” (1921: 100–101) – that is responsible for the continuing renown of hisThe...

    • 12. CRITICISMS AND PERSISTENT MISCONCEPTIONS OF IDEALISM
      (pp. 201-209)

      In a 1994 review of Nicholas Rescher’sSystem of Pragmatic Idealismentitled “IdealismcontraIdealism”, the late T. L. S. Sprigge criticizes his author for insufficiently differentiating between realism and idealism. In so doing, Sprigge is continuing a debate that reached a peak of intensity in the 1930s) but which began in response to Moore’s “Refutation of Idealism” (1903). Moore had sharply distinguished between a general or “ordinary” realism (ibid.: 434)¹ and the “spiritualist” or “theological” Berkeleyan account he identified with idealism. The equation “idealism = Berkeleyanism” remained strong enough throughout the twentieth century for Burnyeat (1982) to use it...

    • 13. ACTUAL OCCASIONS AND ETERNAL OBJECTS: THE PROCESS METAPHYSICS OF ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD
      (pp. 210-222)

      For Alfred North Whitehead, the idea (or “eternal object”, as he would have it) finds its place within a “process philosophy” that he calls “the philosophy of organism” (inProcess and Reality). His emphasis on systemic unity, on final causation and on the reality of the idea can all be compared directly to the inheritance of German speculative idealism. In his assertion of the fundamental indeterminacy of the event (or “actual occasion”, as he terms it), and of the ontological generality of “decision” in that context, he revives, also, the broader German idealist (and Romantic) concern with the relation between...

  11. V Contemporary idealisms
    • 14. SELF-ORGANIZATION: THE IDEA IN LATE-TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCIENCE
      (pp. 223-255)

      In this chapter we intend to demonstrate the importance of metaphysical idealism to contemporary science. The point of this chapter is not that the scientists we discuss are unusual in their adoption of an idealist metaphysics. On the contrary, our point is that, far from being antithetical to scientific thinking and discovery, philosophical idealism is essential to science.

      In the opening chapters we saw ancient idealism emerge in response to the identity of thought and being set out by Parmenides. We set out the possibility of a “one-world” interpretation of Plato’s Ideas in which the Idea is understood in terms...

    • 15. CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHICAL IDEALISM
      (pp. 256-298)

      Our discussion of idealism thus far has terminated in a survey of biology, which is only one of the sciences of nature we might have examined. The purpose of this focus on the natural sciences was twofold. First, we wanted to counter the more commonly accepted accounts of idealism – those we find in our standard reference works on philosophy – which present it as having little or nothing to say with regard to the natural sciences in particular or to problems in the philosophy of nature in general. Second, of the two themes emerging from the idealism that dominates...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 299-311)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 312-326)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 327-334)