In philosophy, idealism is the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas — especially beliefs and values — shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind. An extreme version of this idealism can exist in the philosophical notion of solipsism.
The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek Neoplatonists gave pantheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its "mind-only" idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism.
Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as G. W. F. Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or "ideal" character of all phenomena, birthed idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism. The historical influence of this branch of idealism remains central even to the schools that rejected its metaphysical assumptions, such as Marxism, pragmatism, and positivism.
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Famous quotes containing the word idealist:
“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.”
—Henry Ford (18631947)
“Stevenson had noble ideasas did the young Franklin for that matter. But Stevenson felt that the way to implement them was to present himself as a thoughtful idealist and wait for the world to flock to him. He considered it below him, or wrong, to scramble out among the people and ask them what they wanted. Roosevelt grappled voters to him. Stevenson shied off from them. Some thought him too pure to desire power, though he showed ambition when it mattered.”
—Garry Wills, U.S. historian. Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders, ch. 9, Simon & Schuster (1994)
“The idealist is incorrigible: if he is expelled from his heaven, he makes an ideal out of hell.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900)