Chapter 4 : Metaphysics
(NOTE: You must read only
those linked materials that are preceded by the capitalized word READ.)
This is the view that the only reality is the ideal world. A well known exponent of this view was Plato, a philosopher in ancient Greece (428-347 B.C.). Plato believed that the physical world around us is not real; it is constantly changing and thus you can never say what it really is. There is a world of ideas which is a world of unchanging and absolute truth. This is reality for Plato. Does such a world exist independent of human minds? Plato thought it did, and whenever we grasp an idea, or see something with our mind's eye, we are using our mind to conceive of something in the ideal world. There are a number of proofs of this ideal world. The concepts of geometry, such as the concept of a circle, which is a line equidistant from a point, is something which does not exist in the physical world. All physical circles, such as wheels, drawings, etc. are not perfectly round. Yet our mind has the concept of a perfect circle. Since this concept could not come from the physical world, it must come from an ideal world. Another proof is that from moral perfection. We can conceive of a morally perfect person, even though the people we know around us are not morally perfect. So where does someone get this idea of moral perfection? Since it could not have been obtained from the world around us, it must have come from an ideal world. Platonism has been an extremely influential philosophy down through the centuries.
Idealism is the metaphysical view that associates reality to ideas in the mind rather than to material objects. It lays emphasis on the mental or spiritual components of experience, and renounces the notion of material existence. Idealists regard the mind and spirit as the most essential, permanent aspects of one’s being. The philosophical views of Berkeley, Christian Science, and Hinduism embrace idealist thought as they relate it to the existence of a supreme, divine reality that transcends basic human understanding and inherent sensory awareness.- Omonia Vinieris (2002)
The ideas of Bishop Berkeley
George Berkeley was an Anglican bishop from Scotland who challenged the irrationality of the notion that matter exists autonomously outside the mind as Locke and other contemporaneous empiricists speculated. Berkeley’s immaterialist ontology maintained material substance cannot be real beyond the confines of the mind because inanimate objects do not have the ability to operate as causal agents. It is nonsensical and foolish to designate the causal qualities of humans, or spirits, to inert matter. Only life forces, such as spirits or souls, are able to function causally through perception and are the only substances that really exist. Knowledge springs from perceptions, and because material objects are not causal agents, they unquestionably do not arouse perceptual activity. Berkeley says that only an infinite being may produce and direct causally the perceptions that humans (spirits) have of physical matter.
“But whatever power I may have over my own thoughts, I find the ideas actually perceived by sense have not a like dependence on my will. When in broad daylight I open my eyes, ‘tis not in my power to choose whether I see or no, or to determine what particular objects shall represent themselves to my view; and so likewise to the hearing and other senses, the ideas imprinted on them are not creatures of my will. There is therefore some other will or spirit that produces them,” (Principles).
Berkeley asserted that man’s ideas are emitted from the Divine, and thus all humans are merely ideas in the mind of God. When he thinks of us, we are begotten and our existence activated. Yet, God still remains ineffable as he is beyond our comprehension. It is ultimately God who causes us to sense the physicality of objects by means of his direct volition. First He will conceive the idea that we humans sense or perceive an object and then we actually do as He thought. Hence, the effect of God’s mind on the mind of humans is required for sensation to occur. Berkeley explicates that all physical objects are perceived via sensation. Material objects are merely ideas obtained through perceptual activity and their attributes are sensible rather than being physical properties. Sensation is therefore impossible without the presence of ideas or else anything sensed would be unperceived or unthought. In conclusion, Berkeley asserts that all physical things in this world are ideas of the Divine and specifies this concept as esse est percipi, Latin for “to be is to be perceived.” Omonia Vinieris (2002)
Christian Science view of idealism
Christian Scientists generally believe that God is a disembodied spirit who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. They set all being in His mind. He is and encompasses all aspects of existence as he is referred to as “God is All-in-all.” Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, states that due to God’s spiritual nature, humanity (the product of His creation) must also appropriately be spiritual and not material. The concept of additional spiritual deities is excluded because of His “All-in-all” totality. The true universe in its entirety, according to divine metaphysics, or Christian Science, is comprised of ideas that are completely spiritual and fashioned by divine thought, just as Berkeley espouses in his immaterialist views. Therefore, Christian Scientists specify that we as humans are in truth spirits produced by divinity, and in consequence are all incarnations of God. If we ignorantly deny the truth of God’s spiritual existence, it is then that we will mistakenly envision the world in the form of material, as it will be an illusion. All ideas hostile to God’s infiniteness, permanence, and goodness, such as conceptions of death, hell, and evil, are flawed and wicked hallucinations and are NOT real. God envelops all that is real, and therefore, everything he is (eternal, omni beneficent, etc.) is justifiably real. Everything else is just mortal error.
“Wipe out or eliminate all that can be called a material universe or a material man, and the true man, the true expression of God, still remains, and will forever remain, no more subject to change or annihilation than is God, the infinite Principle, in whom man lives, and upon whom he depends, and whom he represents,” (Christian Science: Pure Metaphysics, Dr. Fluno). - Omonia Vinieris (2002)
Advaita Vendantin tradition in Hinduism
The concept that all experience emanates from the mind of Brahman (God) is incredibly important in Hindu epistemology, as it is predominant in most religious works, such as the Upanishads, ancient philosophical texts, and the Bhagavadgita. In accordance with idealist thought, Hindus counter material existence outside the mind. The mind itself is even held to be unreal and is epitomized as the nemesis and interruption of the liberation of the soul as it amalgamates with Brahman (moksha). “Matter exists only as it is perceived” is the central premise recounted in a legendary myth of Brahman and one of his multiple manifestations, Vishnu. The Upanishads further explicate that Brahman as totality of all existence “permeates the universe.” His very essence transcends all our comprehension, yet we are partially capable of obtaining merely a nominal understanding unless we submit to self-enquiry (Atmavichara) and self-realization. These processes allow one to negate the obstacles of the mind and the concept of the ego because the Self is really and truly a manifestation of Brahman that yearns for union with its divine source. Of course, once we comprehend the Self and unite it with Brahman, we may then come to comprehend his true being. The Self, however, can willingly choose to disjoin itself from Brahman. Mortality and suffering are illusions that obstruct the reality of the Self, instigated by the fabrications of the Mind that is artificial. King Janaka says,
“The mind is the thief stealing my natural bliss,”
The mind is the demarcation of the Self and of one’s total consciousness. By means of self-realization, one may achieve union with the infinite reality of Brahman and merge with his perpetual intransience. The real is always existent, unlike the physical body that is finite. It is said that Brahman is the real source of all physical (tactile, auditory, gustatory, auditory, and visible) sensation and perception, although he remains transcendent of these senses. Thus man does not perceive because he opts to, but more accurately because Brahman promptly instructs him to as He is the ontological origin of all that is potentially sensed in this universe. This is why the Self must look to desist the mind of its deceptive conduct and encase itself in the authenticity of Brahman.
“…all natures are from Me, but I am not in them, they are in Me,” (Brahman in the Bhagavadgita).
- Omonia Vinieris (2002)
FORMS OF IDEALISM
Skeptic Idealism- starts with the thought that there is no proof that there are material objects outside of thought.
Problematic idealism- is the belief held by Descartes where we can only hold one empirical truth, which is that I exist.
Dogmatic- starts with the assumption that there are no material objects outside of thought and the belief that space is an inseparable condition to all objects and that this space is can't exist in itself. Thus it also says that all things in this space also can't exist and are merely images.
This is Berkeley's position.
Since all that we think we perceive through our senses that gives us evidence of a universe beyond our own mindis evidence which exists in our mind there is a problem with verifying anything outside of the realm of thought.
We could all be merely sets of thoughts in the universal set that is GOD. God thinks of everything and God’s thought are those things. God thinks of us and of us sitting at our computers and in a room with other people at the same time that God thinks of those rooms and people and computers and that is all that we are: thoughts in God’s mind.
For an overview of IDEALISM READ Dallas Roark http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/roark-textbook/Chapter-10.htm
Proceed to the next mini lecture by clicking here> next section.
© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2000. All Rights reserved.
Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.
|Return to: Table of Contents for the Online Textbook|