What exactly is wrong with Idealism?

Are Idealist or Materialist?

  • Idealist
  • Materialist
  • Other (please specify)
0 voters

Surely once you realise that everything that you sense is actually just a projection in your head of your mind’s interpretation of whatever the source of everything is, then you realise that everything is subjective and objectivity is impossible? No matter how many other apparent subjective minds seem to agree with you…

Surely materialism just assumes that there is this noumenal natural real existence outside the mind that is the source of all their phenomenal interpretations of it? This is just as much ‘belief’ as believing God is the source of the mind’s contents.

As far as I can tell, the only thing I can know is that existence is in my mind and not necessarily anywhere else - that is just belief. The source of what I sense doesn’t even necessarily have to be from outside my mind - in ways suggested in the last paragraph. My consciousness may just be going over the contents of my mind progressively: giving the impression that I’m alive and living. Why assume there is any causal link at all like Hume?

I can’t see any reason to think that anyone can ‘know’ anything other than what Solipsism implies. Why assume that the minds of the people I’m posting this post to actually exist independent of my mind? Perhaps you might reply that if your minds are in my mind then I should be able to read your mind? Well it seems that my mind works in a certain way and I can read your mind if I go about it in the right way, ie. ask you what you are thinking. That works right? Unless you lie to me of course in which case I haven’t gone about reading your mind in the right way - in the same way that not asking you what you think isn’t going about reading your mind in the right way, eg. maybe trying to do it ‘supernaturally’.

I think the same thing applies to any ‘law’ of nature - how everything works. They may as well just be laws of how my mind works since everything I perceive is just my mind’s subjective interpretation of the source of everything. In which case science is just the study of trying to reason how your own mind works.

So anyway, I see no reason to believe in materialism when I can ‘know’ idealism, or more specifically solipsism (if knowledge is existence that is consistent with the mind’s senses and its own reason). Why does everyone else? Is there something wrong with what I’ve just posted?

theres no reason to think anything except “the thing thats here follows rules which can be learned and taken advantage of to produce the nerve signal known as ‘happy’”

i think idealism is good in doses… it’s not good to be entirely materialistic, but it’s not good to be entirely idealistic either. if you’re materialistic then you care about things more than people, which is never good, and if you’re idealistic then you are WAY too optimistic and you’re always disappointed.

Future Man:-

How pragmatic. Yes it does seem as though that’s all that really matters in practice.

On a side note, personally I object to the term ‘happy’ being used to describe that which makes people enjoy life. I personally enjoy feeling sad sometimes, not depressed mind you… I prefer to use the term ‘feeling good’. I think thats what pragmatists really mean when they refer to doing whatever makes your life and others’ better. That which makes you want to live most is feeling good, and that which makes you want to live least is feeling bad. So if living is the objective, then feeling good is the most mportant fundamental necessity.

But back on track, whilst I live my life according to pragmaticism, I just object to the common belief system of materialism and I want to challenge it.

Perhaps I should have specified, I’m not referring to those definitions of idealism or materialism, rather the definitions used in philosophical contexts. Idealism meaning something like there is no existence external to/independent on the mind, and materialism meaning there is existence external to/independent on the mind.

But curiously enough, perhaps your point is still valid. Like in Hegel’s dialectic, perhaps some sort of synthesis is best?

Nothing is wrong with idealism. It is a human right to believe what one wants.

Should those beliefs turn out to be incorrect, what would be the consequence?

The same consequence that would occur had one not believed in it.

It is one thing to say “you are terribly wrong and that matters,” and another to say “you are terribly wrong and that makes things worse.”

The entire struggle between materialism and idealism is a waste of time. For neither make a difference in an end where the consequence is the same for both.

I think it is fair, and worthwhile, to make a distinction between what can be known and what can be assumed. It may very well be that all we ‘know’ is perception of things, of the world. But this does not preclude us from assuming there is an external, actual world outside our mind. We may not have a solid proof or evidence that this external world exists, but I think it is safe to say that we could start from where we are—i.e. our mind (which is a very solid start)—and build from there.

What, I think, the idealists (or solipsists) demand is that we step outside this structure and provide a proof from there. I would say, we cannot do this. This is I think their biggest mistake. But we can refine our explanation and provide links of inferences such that it leads us to something worth saying.

Idealism is logical nonsense like all theorys that propone Sense Data.

There are no Interneral Representations of the Extrernal World.

These are the specific reasons:

[The argument that justifies Sense-Data additionally same logic works for illusioon etc]

  1. What I am seeing is a square table
  2. What I am seeing appears to be rhomboid
  3. It can’t be both rhomboid and square simultaniously therefore what I am seeing is not the square table but a rhomboid-Sense-Data.

[Seems logical?, lets run a parellel argument]

  1. What I am seeing is a stick insect
  2. What I am seeing appears to be a stick
  3. Therefore what I am seeing is not a stick-insect but a stick

[Clearly logical nonsense and for this reason:]
Natural Language (i.e. Logic) has built in safeguards against changing what we perceive to what is. I.e. that man appears to have three legs =/> That man has three legs.

Next - Wittgenstein quite rightly pointed out that no object or artefact sets it’s own interepration. Therefore before knowing you are perceiving Sense-Data of say a Cat, you must know you are pereceiving a Cat.

Thus you have just interoduced an entirely new level of Perception which is compleltey unecessary. Ocams razor says to dismiss this, and I say so too - it’s stupid and entirely pointless.

This entire process is best exmplefied by example -

That cat produces the appearence-of-that-cat in my mind.

How does the apparence-of-that-cat appear?

It appears to be that cat.

Why not simply say (as logic would make us) that the cat appears to be a cat. Not that it is the appearnce-of-the-cat that appears to be a cat.

p.s. Sense-Data is dead among almost all professional/academic philosophers at least in part for the reasons I stated.

to answer the title question, ideally nothing.

  If we were just observers in the world, that would be the case. However, we are active participants in how things are.  This is crucial because it means that we get feedback based on how we interpret our perceptions. All of us are aware of having been [i]wrong[/i] about something- we expected something to happen, and it didn't. If everything were truly subjective, what would 'wrong' mean?  If humans can be wrong, then there must be something out there, something objective that we are wrong about. Now, it may be that there is no objectivity [i]in us[/i], that is, we cannot form completely objective beliefs, but we have every reason to believe there is objectivity [i]out there[/i].


There is more. You assume that reason holds. But why does it. Do you really know that your mind exists? Your argument, like all reasonable arguments, uses reason. But reason itself is not backed by reason, therefore even “My mind exists” is a belief in the way you are using “belief.”

All knowlege is based on irrational assumptions. I assume that what my senses show me is a material world, just like I assume that logic holds, just like I assume that human life is valuable. There is no self-evident knowlege.

On the contrary, pure idealism - particularly solipsism only requires one level of perception and one level of reality thus relieving the complications of duality and generally simplifying everything. If idealism is believed, one can realise that understanding the world is not as complex as understanding this huge incomprehensible material universe and what relation it has to all the individual subjective interpretations of it. Simplifies epistemology quite substantially.

So in fact Occam’s razor would imply rejecting materialism and accepting idealism.

Oh well if thats the case then its obviously not even worth considering :unamused:

In accordance with idealism, I equate the mind with existence, so by definition my mind exists. This is my fundamental assumption which I build on with sensory information and reasoning.

Reason is a process and therefore means nothing without inputs. The validity of the inputs you inject determine the validity of the conclusions you get out. These inputs can only be either previously reasoned conclusions or direct sensory interpretation. This is what understanding is. And I equate correct understanding with knowledge, and all sensory inputs come from the mind so they therefore exist, so by definition reasoning does hold.

With idealism and particular definitions, you avoid all these unanswerable materialistic paradoxes and complications. Knowledge can be self-evident depending on how you define it because the true ‘noumenal’ world can’t be misinterpreted if only the ‘phenomenal’ world needs to be considered.

Pragmatically, life and its questions can still be dealt with but a lot more simply.

Sorry, I’d just like to point out that that’s really not a parallel argument, is it? It should have read like this:

  1. What I am seeing is a stick insect
  2. What I am seeing appears to resemble a stick (c.f. the adjective ‘rhomboid’, not ‘is a rhombus’)
  3. Therefore what i am seeing is not the stick-insect but a sense-datum that resembles a stick.

With which there is no problem, surely?



Solipsism means, “The theory or view that the self is the only reality.” It cannot be a possibility because the self will always exist in relation to another or what would the self be and how would you say it’s the self? And because, “Change is the law of nature” in our world, therefore, idealism would be a wrong thing to go for because what’s ideal today would be not ideal tomorrow or conversely, what’s not ideal today could be ideal tomorrow and so on. Whatever…

Do you mean Epistelology or Ethics?

That everyone agrees basically on the external world might give a clue that you are actually knowing it. This is Realism. The senses are knowing powers. The mind is a knowing power. If you have been reading much Idealism (Kant?) I recommend one of the Transcendental Thomists…I was just reading Marechal, and he might be worth reading for you if you can find him in your local library. If not, try Aristotle.

a real person

Exactly, I knew something was wrong with it and that is it.

Yep I know what solipsism is. The self is only part of the mind within the mind along with everything else. Being a concept: that means it is something relative to everything else - the sum of both equals the whole of existence which according to solipsism is my mind.

Change being a ‘law of nature’, in solipsist terms means it is a law of the perceptive self as part of the mind. You do realise I’m talking about idealism according to the philosophical definition right? As in: the mind is dependent on reality, objects are all merely ideas. But even so, how you’re talking about an ‘ideal’ is as though it is a constant static idea as opposed to a dynamic changing one in a constantly changing existence. A static ideal has little relevance such an environment unless you’re taking a snapshot of what it is at the time to explain to someone.

I was referring to epistemology, but I believe this is all applicable to ethics too.

In my opinion, consistency is highly correlative to what the real nature of existence is. And so that would indicate that the best indication of what is knowledge might be that other apparent selves all agree with it. But this has a couple of flaws, such as: consistency implies staticity which is not the nature of existence and is only useful for convenience, but is fundamentally unrepresentative. Also what was collectively agreed on in the time of “Homer’s Gods” doesn’t necessarily mean that Homer’s Gods control nature. According to Hegel, ideas evolve over time according to dialectic, and so ‘everyone agreeing on something’ does not necessarily imply knowledge.

But yes, realistically it is the best way we have available right now to assess reality so it is widely used. The sense’s are the only knowing power, but they are merely designed pragmatically as the best way so far in evolution to assess our environment for living, not as an all knowing tool for existence. So they’ll have to do although they appear to be woefully insufficient. Science only really expands when either the current bubble of sensory interpretation is linked together logically or our bubble is expanded for example with inventions such as telescopes/microscopes or radiation detectors converting one stimulus that we can’t sense into one that we can sense.

I’ll look into the things you suggested, thanks.

Some additional criticisms:

Idealism is totatally counter-intuitive, i.e. it is not intuitive to accept that when we stop perceiving things they dissapear. Where do they go? How comes they come back the same? etc etc.

Additionally strict idealism says that Physical objects =>Def Internal Representations.

But yet we perceive different objects in different ways: touch, taste, sight, sound, etc. Each one of these is clearly a different sensation and thus a different object. If this is so how can you know they correlate to the same object?

You’ve just fufilled my point if it resembles a stick then it may as well be the stick insect not the sense-data-of-the-stick which resembles a stick.

Mine is truly a parellel argument but simply replaces abstract properties with that of being a stick.

let me run it again just in case i typed it wrong :

  1. What I am seeing is a stick-insect
  2. What I am seeing appaers to be a stick.
    C) What I am seeing cannot be both a stick-insect and a stick therefore it must be a something else i.e. a stick-shaped-sense data.

Problem is in Premise 2 because what I am seeing appears to be a stick does not mean it is a stick. Just as what I am seeing appears to be a rhomboid does not mean it is.

This is exactly the reason sense-data is wrong it confuses appearence with being. I appear to be human, but really I am a shape-shifting mutant from the planet Zepton. But I still appear to be human. The table appears to be an antique, its a fake, but it still appears to be an antique. You would not in that instance say it is the sense-data-of-an-antique. It’s just a fake. I’m just a mutant. And sense data is just plain wrong. They just appear not to be.

Silhouette, it doesn’t matter which perspective you look from, an ideal will always be static ‘like a snapshot’ and not dynamic otherwise how would you define or represent that ideal if it wasn’t fixed? And so in a changing universe like ours, I meant to say that to have such an ideal would be futile.