We explain what idealism is and the types of idealistic currents. In addition, its characteristics, some examples and representatives.

Idealism motivated thinkers to distrust the perception of their senses.

What is Idealism?

Idealism is a set of philosophical currents that is opposed to materialism. He states that in order to understand the reality It is not enough with the object itself that is perceived by the senses but it is necessary to take into account the ideas, the thinking subjects and the own thought.

Idealism was of great influence on philosophical thought throughout the history. It motivated thinkers to distrust the perception of your own senses to expand your ability to understand reality.

Types of idealistic currents

Plato held that ideas constitute a supersensible world outside of being.

Five types of idealistic currents are distinguished:

  • Platonic idealism. Plato was one of the first philosophers to speak of idealism. He argued that ideas constitute a supersensible world outside of being, that is, a world that is intellectually intuited and not only through the senses. It is through the intellect and reason that one gets to know the real world.
  • Objective idealism. For this philosophical variant, ideas exist on their own and can only be discovered through experience. Some representatives of idealism objective they were Plato, Leibniz, Hegel, Bolzano and Dilthey.
  • Subjective idealism. Some philosophers of this current were Descartes, Berkeley, Kant and Fichte. They argued that ideas exist in the mind of the subject and not in an independent external world. According to this current, ideas depend on the subjectivity of the being that perceives them.
  • German idealism. It developed in Germany and the main thinkers of this current were Kant, Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. It contemplates that the true essence of the object exists due to the subjective activity of thought, which recognizes it as something real and not as something abstract. It was characterized by prioritizing thought over sensation, by raising the relationship between the finite and infinite and by inspiring a creative force in man (even poets were influenced by the philosophers of this current).
  • Transcendental idealism. The philosopher Kant was its main representative and argued that, for the knowledge, the presence of two variables is necessary:
    • Phenomenon. Direct manifestation of the senses, that is, the object of a observation empirical.
    • Noumenon. It is what is thought, which does not correspond to a perception of the senses. It can be known by means of the intuition intellectual.

Kant maintains that knowledge is conditioned by phenomena, while noumena are the limits of what can be known. The conditions of all knowledge are given by the subject and all phenomena derived from his perception are considered as representations of reality. Things in themselves do not constitute the real.

Characteristics of idealism

According to idealism, reality is known through the intellect and experience.
  • It requires the intellect that allows it to form a certain idea of ​​the things that it perceives through the senses.
  • Reason is not identified with the finite or material but reaches the infinite, such as the conception of the existence of God.
  • The way to know reality, that is, the objects themselves, is through the intellect and through experience.
  • It is not satisfied with what the senses apparently perceive but is linked to a higher reality of the consciousness of being.

Examples of idealism

We detail the main examples that reflect part of the idealist philosophy:

  • Human rights. A universal idea that arose in France is assimilated by the supervening leaders of the WWII.
  • The french revolution. Its premises of Liberty, equality and human rights, are based on concepts of social and political idealism.
  • Don Quijote of La Mancha. It is characterized by a character that he dreamed and got lost in his own world of ideas.
  • "I think, therefore I am." It is the phrase of the philosopher René Descartes that best identifies the idealist current.
  • "They are true philosophers, who enjoy contemplating the truth." This phrase by Plato alludes to the fact that philosophy consists of rising towards the truth or reality.
  • The works of Karl Marx. Based on his ideas, Marx explains the characteristics and functioning of an ideal society, where the means of production belong to the working class.

Representatives of idealism

René Descartes was looking for the method to reach the knowledge and the truth.

Among the main representatives are:

Plato. Greek philosopher (Athens, 427 - 347 BC). Socrates was his teacher and later, Aristotle his disciple. He was a prominent thinker whose work had a great influence on Western philosophy and religious practices. In the year 387 a. Founded the Academy, the first institute superior of idealistic philosophy of the old Greece. Some of the most outstanding contributions of Plato were:

  • The theory of ideas. It is the axis of Platonic philosophy. It is not formulated as such in any of his works but was approached from different aspects in his works The Republic, Phaedo and Phaedrus.
  • The dialectic. It is part of the logic what he studies reasoning probable, but not of the demonstration. It is related to the art of debating, persuading and reasoning different ideas.
  • The anamnesis. It is a term used by Plato to refer to the methodical search for the knowledge. It has to do with a memory of the soul about an experience that it has had in a previous incarnation.

Rene Descartes. (La Haye en Touraine, 1596-1650). Also called Renatus Cartesius in Latin, he was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist. The contribution of his works is considered a revolution in science and modern philosophy. He differentiated himself from other thinkers because his purpose was to know the way or method to arrive at knowledge and truth, while other philosophers were based on pre-established currents that defined what is the world, the soul, the human being, etc., which conditioned the ideas they could achieve. Descartes exposes the discourse of the method by means of four rules:

  • Evidence. Admit a thing as true only if it is known clearly and does not raise doubts. This contradicts Aristotle's principle of identity, where reason is sufficient to make an idea concrete.
  • Analysis. Separate the possible difficulties or unknowns to think about them until reaching their final components.
  • Synthesis. Order your thoughts according to the degree of complexity.
  • Enumeration. Review more than once and thoroughly each instance of the methodology to make sure nothing is omitted.

Through methodical doubt, Descartes questions all knowledge and tries to free himself from all kinds of prejudices. It does not seek not to believe in anything but rather asks if there are other reasons to question knowledge. It is called methodical because it does not doubt each individual knowledge, idea or beliefOn the contrary, it aims to analyze the reasons on which an idea was founded in order to consider it valid and, in this way, trace the path to find the truth.

Descartes concludes that there is something he cannot doubt and that is precisely the ability to doubt. “Knowing how to doubt is a way of thinking. Therefore, if I doubt, it means that I exist. That truth resists any doubt, no matter how radical it may be, and the mere fact of doubting is proof of its truth. " Thus he arrived at the truth, from which modern thought is born: "I think, therefore I am."

Immanuel Kant. (Königsberg, 1724-1804). Prussian philosopher and relevant figure of the cultural and intellectual movement called Enlightenment, Kant establishes that the trouble of philosophy is "to know if reason is capable of knowing." It then derives the variant of idealism called "criticism" or "transcendental idealism":
Kant considers that man is an autonomous being who expresses his freedom through reason and does not know things in themselves but sees a projection of himself in the knowledge of things. The main concepts of his work are:

  • Transcendental idealism. In the process of knowledge, the experience of knowing the object influences reality and this experience is conditioned by time and place.
  • The human being at the center of universe. The subject who knows, does so actively and modifies the reality that he is knowing.
  • Beyond being. There are universal and necessary conditions, prior to the experience of being.

Georg Wihelm Friedrich Hegel. (Stuttgart, 1770-1931). German philosopher who argued that "the absolute" or idea, manifests itself in an evolutionary way under the norms of the nature and of the spirit. It states that knowledge has a structure dialectic: on the one hand, the existing world and, on the other, there is the need to overcome the limits of the known.

Each thing is what it is and only becomes so in relation to other things. This dialectical reality is constantly process of transformation and change. He conceives a totality where each thing becomes what it is as the sum of all moments, overcoming the vagueness of abstraction. There is no difference between being and thinking or between subject and object: everything dissolves into totality. Dialectical knowledge process:

  • Knowledge consists of the subject-object relationship and, in turn, each one denies or contradicts itself, which imposes a process of transformation that leads to equality between them.
  • The transformation process to overcome the difference between object and subject tends to reduce one to the other. Only in identity is it possible to achieve total and absolute knowledge.
  • In reduction to the identity absolute real dialectical knowledge is reached that the dissolution of object in the subject takes place.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. (Leipzig, 1646-1716). He was a learned German philosopher who knew in depth about math, logic, theology Y politics. His work makes important contributions to the metaphysics, epistemology, logic and philosophy of religion. Leibniz seeks to unite religion with science, explains the misfortunes of man based on truths of the divine will. This doctrine is associated with religious teaching on the omnipotence of God.

According to Leibniz, universe It is composed of independent spiritual substances that are the souls, which Leibniz called "monads": constitutive elements of all things of the life. This is the most significant contribution to metaphysics and is a solution to the problems of the interaction between mind and body. In addition, it evidences the identity of the being and demolishes the lack of individualization. Leibniz stands out for an optimal look at the universe, which he considers the best that God could have created. In his day he was ridiculed several times for holding this idea.

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