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Idealism in its philosophical sense, is the view that mind and spiritual values are fundamental in the world as a whole. Idealism came to be used as a philosophical term in Germany during the eighteenth century. This type of philosophy opposed the Empirisistic views of such philosopher s as David Hume, by stating that there are no such things as structural simples, atomism's or external relationships. Idealists argued that the world and our reality is a complex network of smaller parts interconnected to form the whole or totality. As such, for the idealist philosopher Art and Biology were emphasized as structural comparative models of the world for their philosophy. For example, a painting, being a work of art, as seen by the idealist point of view, is a complex structure composed of smaller parts where the whole wouldn t be what it is if not for the individual parts.
The same for biology, where an organism, such as a human being, wouldn t be a whole or totality without the smaller microscopic singles that form the whole, that we perceive as a human. Thus for what Hume had referred to as simple structures standing in external relations to other external objects, the idealists would argue. They would point out that all objects and people are internally related in view of a larger, broader reality. They are prepared to argue that even if an object may not appear to be related to another or one which may not seem significant to the human eye, does indeed in the scheme of things affect us.
The idealists also maintain that all substance is complex, rather then simple in the whole of reality, and our reality is actually a system of relationships, where external relations don t exist and all relations are part of a network or whole. The idealists disagree and argue on various points with empiricist and rationalist philosophers. On one such issue, is the idea of truth. The truth theory found in Hume is referred to as the correspondence theory of truth, by which a statement such as the door is closed is tested against the senses, and if the statement corresponds to what the senses perceive in the external world then the statement the door is closed is taken to be true. However the idealists argue this theory and support there own theory known as the coherence theory of truth, by which statements and claims are said to be more true if they cohere or fit together to equal the truth. This idea of coherence will be discussed at detail further in this essay.
First, we must understand how the idealists reached this point of view. And at looking at the idealist coherence theory of truth we will see the historical implications of such a philosophy, by stating that there is no absolute certainty. For, the idealists deny that metaphysically there are true or false statements. They also attempt to undo the work of the rationalist Descartes and state that there is no separation between the mind and world, they are simply two interconnecting features in a bigger scheme. In understanding the idealist s coherence theory of truth, it is first important to understand the metaphysical background involved. We will begin first, by looking at Hume s idea of immediate experience.
The term immediate is originally a negative term meaning unmediated or direct, not needing a middle through which to operate. For Hume, through our senses, experience is direct and our impressions become our ideas. Hume s position on experience also involves a second element, that of direct knowledge. For Hume, direct knowledge is an immediate experience, meaning that one could see the color red on a wall and without any cognitive activity, understand that the color was red.
However, the idealists challenge this idea, more specifically, the notion of direct knowledge. The idealists are prepared to agree with the Empirisistic philosophy of Hume and say there is immediate experience or direct sensation, such as pain, as it is possible to feel the bite of a mosquito without having sensed the presence of the insect. What the idealists are to argue is that there is can not be direct knowledge, they maintain that to know what red is on a wall, is to think about what the color is not, before distinguishing it as red, in other word to know what red is, is to employ cognitive activity. Thus for the idealists negation is positive, for to say what something isn t is to add to the identity of the subject.
To say a chair isn t a rock, constitutes what the chair is. According to the idealists the color red, is not as Hume would argue, a simple idea, but a complex array of thought and reflection distinguishing the color red from other colors and concepts as blue, texture, width and depth. For the idealists to gain knowledge or education of a subject, one must learn an ever increasingly diverse set of contexts or concepts by which to define what anything is, such as an idea. To know anything is to know concepts and differences, thus to know anything is to employ cognitive activity.
The mind is a principal that puts in order our reality through the contrasts of differences. The system of concepts we use organizes our world of experience, thus our world is rationally ordered and our experiences are systematic in nature. The world or our reality as we know it, is not chaotic, but through the reasoning and cognitive activity of our minds, falls into an order. For the idealists anything that lies outside of our experience is unimportant and meaningless to discuss. For we can only refer to what we know in our reality, thus reality must be systematic, like our concepts, reality must also have a contrastive nature. Reality as we know it is organized by concepts, it is a structure.
For the idealists this means that we can t possible know anything outside of our reality, for there is no other reality other then what we conceptualize. To the idealists mind and world are two parts of the whole of our reality; we can t step outside of our cognitive thought, for everything belongs to a larger scale system or whole, the absolute. For the idealists there are no atomistic's, no simples and no split between the mind and world. There is also no hard line drawn between what is considered true and what is considered false. To the idealists there are degrees of truth, or every statement is partially false and partially true. For example, the idealists do not deny that for all practical purposes there can be absolutely truth or falsity.
However, in the metaphysical concept, theory of reality, these statements are partially true, not entirely. Such that in practicality it is true to say that an individual is walking, but metaphysically it is only partially true because the statement does not exhaust the concept of walking and the muscles involved in the motion, where the individual is going or why he is walking. To the idealists to say the door is closed is to give a limited and narrow statement, for it doesn t offer an explanation of the totality. The idealists have what they consider an expanded view of reality, just as a painter would have an expanded concept of various shades of color then the average individual. They would argue with Hume s atomistic views stating that his philosophy is to narrow in it s view of reality. To say what is meaningful, to the idealists, would depend on the context of the statement or subject.
For the idealists, all statements belong somewhere in the real, fictional writing, for example, shows for the idealist an expanded view of reality. For them the realm of reality is much larger, then found in the practical world of reality and science. In the theory of comparative degrees of truth it is to the idealists thought that those statements which are more complete in respect to a given subject are truer. When Hume refers to truth and falsehood, he refers to them as being opposites, as having no middle ground, immediate. To the idealists, every subject need not be either true or false, allowing for possibilities to exist somewhere in the middle depending on context. Thus, brings us to the idealist coherence theory of truth.
For the idealist, to make a statement, required are two criteria (on). First, the test of coherence or consistency. Every statement must be meaningful and follow the law of logic; meaning one should not accept as true a statement full of inconsistency. Second, the test of comprehensiveness or covering subject matter adequately.
For we compare the subject matter of a book or paragraph, not just in logical consistence, for this doesn t tell us anything about the reality, but the statement must also be adequate to the subject matter. What the idealists do is in explaining their concepts, hope to expand the realities of people. In the process they challenge a lot of the traditional thinking put forth by Hume and Descartes. Such as Hume s concept of matters of fact. To which the idealists reply, all matters of fact are just small aspects of the real and totality. Another concept of Hume that the idealists challenge is Hume s theory that belief lies outside of reason.
For the idealists, belief is a matter of reasoning, it s just that our idea of reasoning is limited. To say belief is not rational is not to have a comprehensive view of rationality. The idealists defend that the same form of reasoning used in the sciences is used in the arts, that being a systematic structure intended to view the facts. Such that the truth is the whole, and the whole is the truth. To test whether a statement is true is to test it for coherence and Comprehensiveness with a system of statements. The system with which all true statements must cohere is said by its logical positivist supporters to be that accepted by the scientists of the contemporary culture.
The metaphysical supporters of coherence, on the other hand insist that a statement cannot properly be called true unless it fits into the one comprehensive account of the universe or reality, which itself forms a coherent system. In either case, no statement can be known to be true until it is known to cohere with every other statement of the system; where the system consists of all true statements, such knowledge is unattainable. Truth said Bradley, must exhibit the mark of expansion and all inclusiveness.
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