The satisfactions of subjectivity: a defense of idealism.
Osborne, Robert Carry.
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What is the nature of reality? What makes something “real”? This is one of the fundamental questions of philosophy, and realism and idealism have long stood as two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive answers to one species of that question. Realism takes reality to be ultimately self-existent and independent of our minds, experience, and beliefs. Idealism, on the other hand, sees reality as intimately related to and dependent on the mental, such that it is not separate from our experience or cognition. Yet realism has always had the advantage of seeming to accord with our everyday experience and our practical orientation toward the world, which is most often one of naïve realism. And so it has often been the case that idealism has had to defend itself against and justify itself to realism, which has regularly been taken to be the “common sense” worldview. In this thesis, I challenge this entrenched realism, and provide a defense of idealism. I examine, critique, and defend, in turn, the idealisms of Berkeley, Kant, and Peirce, finding in each an important step on the road to my own account of idealism. I do so in the context of the aforementioned question, what makes something “real”? What is “the real”? Realism says that “the real” is that which exists independently of us and our cognition. However, I argue that the concepts of the “mindindependent” and the “thing-in-itself” upon which realism depends are either logically incoherent or empty of meaningful content. Ultimately, I contend that the caricature of idealism as the view that tells us that “all is within the mind” must be overcome, and suggest that a form of neo-Hegelian idealism can both account for the ideality of reality while leaving room for a world that is, in a important sense, independent of us.
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