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The Nature of the Person
Idealism is...
 The theory that everything we know is in
the mind
 The theory that reality is mental not
 The idea that it is the ‘inner’ not the ‘outer’
world which is real, and from which
everything else derives.
In other words:
The only thing we actually perceive is our senseimpressions; we ASSUME that there are material
objects causing those impressions, but we can
never check that they are really there, or really
like our perceptions of them. It might be more
rational to admit that it is sense-impressions that
we know, and that we have no proof that anything
‘behind’ the impressions exists.
Mel Thompson’s Example
“I may think that I am typing this book into a
real, actual computer. I may feel my fingers
on the keyboard. But does it really exist?
What do I actually know? I know the feeling
in my fingers and the visual experiences of
shapes on a screen - in other words, what I
know are the ideas, the interpretations of
experience that my mind puts together and
calls ‘my computer.’”
The Matrix
The film explores the
idealist belief that the
world we experience
is entirely a creation
of our minds…
(however, it also
suggests that there IS
a reality beyond the
Idealist Philosophers 1: Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm
Leibniz, 1646-1716
 Everything can be
reduced to monads,
which are so small
that they cannot be
considered as having
a material existence
at all; they are mental
Idealist Philosophers 2: Berkeley
Bishop George
Berkeley 1685-1753
A Treatise Concerning
the Principles of
 ‘Esse est percipi’
All things exist in the
mind of God
Berkeley’s Argument
 Just like thoughts and imaginings,
sensations too cannot exist without a mind
which perceives them.
 We have no reason to believe things exist
outside the mind. We can only be sure they
exist when we are perceiving them.
 Things do really exist, but as ideas, not as
 Our own identity, therefore, is as minds with
ideas, not as physical material realities.
Why do things exist when I’m not
There was a young man who said ‘God
Must think it exceedingly odd,
If he finds that this tree
Continues to be
When there’s no one around in the Quad.
(Ronald Knox)
Dear Sir:
Your astonishment’s odd.
I am always about in the Quad.
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,
Idealist Philosophers 3: Hegel
Georg Wilhelm
Friedrich Hegel, 17701831
 founder of dialectical
logic, by which any
idea generates its
opposite, and the two
ideas then struggle
until a higher
synthesis is achieved.
Idealist Philosophers 3: Hegel
We never experience the world directly through
the senses: the mind creates patterns from
sensations whose source we cannot know;
 We cannot know that material objects actually
 The universe has a rational soul, the Absolute
Spirit, from which we and all else come;
 History is a process of the gradual selfdevelopment of the Absolute Spirit.
Is idealism convincing?
Dr Johnson on
idea: ‘I refute it