Johann Fichte was the first German philosopher to make an attempt at a presuppositionless theory of knowledge, wherein nothing outside of thought is assumed to exist apart from the primordial analysis of the Ego. So that his philosophy could be solely grounded in itself, he assumed nothing without his Fichtean deductions from first principles, and elaborated what he called a Wissenschaftslehre. Fichte denied Kant's noumenon and held that consciousness constitutes its own foundation, that the mental life of the Ego, of pure selfhood, relies upon nothing wholly external to itself and that the hypothesis of an outer world of any kind is the same thing as admitting a Kantian realm.
Schelling (1775–1854) claimed that the Fichte's "I" needs the Not-I, because there is no subject without object, and vice versa. So there is no difference between the subjective and the objective, that is, the ideal and the real. This is Schelling's "absolute identity": the ideas or mental images in the mind are identical to the extended objects which are external to the mind.
Absolute idealism is G. W. F. Hegel's account of how existence is comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole. Hegel called his philosophy "absolute" idealism in contrast to the "subjective idealism" of Berkeley and the "transcendental idealism" of Kant and Fichte, which were not based on a critique of the finite and a dialectical philosophy of history as Hegel's idealism was. The exercise of reason and intellect enables the philosopher to know ultimate historical reality, the phenomenological constitution of self-determination, the dialectical development of self-awareness and personality in the realm of History.
In his Science of Logic (1812–1814) Hegel argues that finite qualities are not fully "real" because they depend on other finite qualities to determine them. Qualitative infinity, on the other hand, would be more self-determining and hence more fully real. Similarly finite natural things are less "real"—because they are less self-determining—than spiritual things like morally responsible people, ethical communities and God. So any doctrine, such as materialism, that asserts that finite qualities or natural objects are fully real is mistaken.
Hegel certainly intends to preserve what he takes to be true of German idealism, in particular Kant's insistence that ethical reason can and does go beyond finite inclinations. For Hegel there must be some identity of thought and being for the subject (human reason or consciousness) to be able to know an object (the world) at all.
Kierkegaard criticised Hegel's idealist philosophy in several of his works, particularly his claim to a comprehensive system that could explain the whole of reality. Where Hegel argues that an ultimate understanding of the logical structure of the world is an understanding of the logical structure of God's mind, Kierkegaard asserting that for God reality can be a system but it cannot be so for any human individual because both reality and humans are incomplete and all philosophical systems imply completeness. A logical system is possible but an existential system is not. "What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational". Hegel's absolute idealism blurs the distinction between existence and thought: our mortal nature places limits on our understanding of reality;
So-called systems have often been characterized and challenged in the assertion that they abrogate the distinction between good and evil, and destroy freedom. Perhaps one would express oneself quite as definitely, if one said that every such system fantastically dissipates the concept existence. ... Being an individual man is a thing that has been abolished, and every speculative philosopher confuses himself with humanity at large; whereby he becomes something infinitely great, and at the same time nothing at all.
A major concern of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and of the philosophy of Spirit that he lays out in his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1817–1830) is the interrelation between individual humans, which he conceives in terms of "mutual recognition." However, what Climacus means by the aforementioned statement, is that Hegel, in the Philosophy of Right, believed the best solution was to surrender one's individuality to the customs of the State, identifying right and wrong in view of the prevailing bourgeois morality. Individual human will ought, at the State's highest level of development, to properly coincide with the will of the State. Climacus rejects Hegel's suppression of individuality by pointing out it is impossible to create a valid set of rules or system in any society which can adequately describe existence for any one individual. Submitting one's will to the State denies personal freedom, choice, and responsibility.
In addition, Hegel does believe we can know the structure of God's mind, or ultimate reality. Hegel agrees with Kierkegaard that both reality and humans are incomplete, inasmuch as we are in time, and reality develops through time. But the relation between time and eternity is outside time and this is the "logical structure" that Hegel thinks we can know. Kierkegaard disputes this assertion, because it eliminates the clear distinction between ontology and epistemology. Existence and thought are not identical and one cannot possibly think existence. Thought is always a form of abstraction, and thus not only is pure existence impossible to think, but all forms in existence are unthinkable; thought depends on language, which merely abstracts from experience, thus separating us from lived experience and the living essence of all beings. In addition, because we are finite beings, we cannot possibly know or understand anything that is universal or infinite such as God, so we cannot know God exists, since that which transcends time simultaneously transcends human understanding.
Bradley saw reality as a monistic whole apprehended through "feeling", a state in which there is no distinction between the perception and the thing perceived. Like Berkeley Bradley thought that nothing can be known to exist unless it is known by a mind.
We perceive, on reflection, that to be real, or even barely to exist, must be to fall within sentience ... . Find any piece of existence, take up anything that any one could possibly call a fact, or could in any sense assert to have being, and then judge if it does not consist in sentient experience. Try to discover any sense in which you can still continue to speak of it, when all perception and feeling have been removed; or point out any fragment of its matter, any aspect of its being, which is not derived from and is not still relative to this source. When the experiment is made strictly, I can myself conceive of nothing else than the experienced.
— F.H. Bradley, 'Appearance and Reality', Chapter 14
Bradley was the apparent target of G. E. Moore's radical rejection of idealism. Moore claimed that Bradley did not understand the statement that something is real. We know for certain, through common sense and prephilosophical beliefs, that some things are real, whether they are objects of thought or not, according to Moore. The 1903 article The Refutation of Idealism is one of the first demonstrations of Moore's commitment to analysis. He examines each of the three terms in the Berkeleian aphorism esse est percipi, "to be is to be perceived", finding that it must mean that the object and the subject are necessarily connected so that "yellow" and "the sensation of yellow" are identical - "to be yellow" is "to be experienced as yellow". But it also seems there is a difference between "yellow" and "the sensation of yellow" and "that esse is held to be percipi, solely because what is experienced is held to be identical with the experience of it". Though far from a complete refutation, this was the first strong statement by analytic philosophy against its idealist predecessors, or at any rate against the type of idealism represented by Berkeley. This argument did not show that the GEM (in post–Stove vernacular, see below) is logically invalid.
Other articles related to "absolute idealism":
... founding members of pragmatism, made lifelong assaults on Absolute Idealism ... James was particularly concerned with the monism that Absolute Idealism engenders, and the consequences this has for the problem of evil, free will, and moral action ... Schiller, on the other hand, attacked Absolute Idealism for being too disconnected with our practical lives, and argued that its proponents failed to realize that ...
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