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philosophy

Theistic Idealism

I’ve written about Idealism (which I’ve also referred to specifically as Immaterialism) before. I’ve also written about what I call the paucity of objections to Berkeley’s Immaterialism. Now I would like to return to the subject of my first post (the first link above) and discuss briefly (my definition of briefly is likely different than that of others’) what the philosophy known as Idealism can do in interactions with Theism. I am certainly both an Idealist by philosophy and a theist by religion, so these naturally combine for me.

I do not, however, think that Berkeley’s Immaterialism is correct. Rather, I see it as a step along the way to a kind of Idealism that I’ve been developing by piecing together Berkeley’s Immaterialism, some parts of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism, Husserl’s Phenomenology, and my own ideas. Berkeley has a great point, in my opinion, when he starts out by pointing to the idea that “to be is to be perceived (or to perceive).” But one of the things that Berkeley leaves out (at least in the writings of his that I’ve read–currently reading through Three Dialogues) is the demand for the ego or the “I” to be the view of reality. Berkeley makes no claims of exclusivity of mind for interpretation in the sense of demanding that the mind is where all perception must start. He assumes that people should know this, but, as with anything in philosophy, that’s not fair to the audience, no matter how studied. I believe that the ego must first be established in order to maintain an idealist philosophy. Further, I believe that there is literally no way to escape the inevitable conclusion that it is indeed “I” who ultimately interpret reality for myself (note that I’m not saying I determine reality or create it or sustain it, only that I am the ultimate arbiter for interpreting). Because “I” cannot escape myself (such an attempt would indeed be ludicrous) I must start off with glancing from myself to others. But it is the ego that ultimately interprets reality, this is a crucial point that cannot be stressed enough. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself and into issues I’m not planning to address here.

The problem, I believe, is that people tend to simply grant that objects in themselves are not only possible, but actual. I don’t see any grounds for granting that objects can or do exist of themselves, as mind-independent things, for there is no way for us to give something any kind of properties, modally or otherwise, that are not dependent, ultimately, on the mind. Assuming a priori that objects-in-themselves are actual is unfounded because, as our ego is the interpreter of reality, we cannot actually demonstrate that objects are mind independent, for there is no way for us to escape our ego in order to do so. We cannot become some being outside of mind that can objectively view such things.

Husserl, in a work with an extremely long title that I’m not going to type out here despite the fact that I will type it below and have now used more space than I would have just typing it out to begin with (and it is usually just referred to as Ideas anyway, which means I’ve spent a whole lot of extra time typing that I really did not have to), states, “…all real unities are ‘unities of sense.’ Unities of sense presuppose… a sense-bestowing consciousness which, for its part, exists absolutely and not by virtue of another sense-bestowal” (Ideas… 107, emphasis his). This is where theism comes into play. While Husserl was not here referring specifically to God, one can find the roots of immaterialism and idealism throughout his Ideas (something which apparently alienated him from his earlier followers). Husserl rightly notes that the thing which the physicist explores is necessarily the thing that is perceived, it is not something outside of perception (Ideas, 99). He states earlier that “…one must not let oneself be deceived by speaking of the physical thing as transcending consciousness or as ‘existing in itself'” (Ideas, 89). Husserl’s goal in Ideas was to found phenomenology as a science that explored essences (I’m heavily summing up), but I think he clearly has some very insightful thoughts on idealism in these and other passages. Husserl, mind you, does believe in a world external to our minds. I agree.

Here again theism permeates my philosophy, for I see the physical, external world as the ideas of God, who views them objectively (in the sense of absolutely, not in the sense of “as objects”) whereas we view them subjectively (here in the sense of not absolute, perhaps flawed, not complete, etc.). So without this absolute sense bestower (to use Husserl’s terms), there can be no perception, no sense. For in Him we move and have our being (Acts 17:28). So within our ego we have a kind of inescapable interpretation, we view reality from this perspective that we cannot escape. But we can clearly show that for any two people A and B, A and B’s perceptions of the world are going to be different on a number of points. But there must be some kind of objective (absolute) world from which we derive sensations and perceptions. However, because we cannot discuss any object as mind independent, this objective world is not mind-independent either, or if it is, then it is such in a way that we cannot access or understand, and in either case it is dependent on something else. So, in either case we have a metaphysics, not a physics, for physics deals with that which is perceived. If we want to establish how that which is perceived came to be, we must move into the realm of metaphysics, beyond the clutches of naturalism, beyond the access of science and firmly into the realm of philosophy, which governs both naturalism and science to begin with.

Sources:

Berkeley, George. The Works of George Berkeley, Volume I. Bibliobazaar.

Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: First Book. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 1982.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

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