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nicholas rescher

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

Key-Topics idealism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


The term ‘idealist’ was first used in the early eighteenth century by Christian Wolff (1679–1754) who wrote: ‘Those thinkers are called “idealists” who acknowledge only ideal objects existing in our minds, denying the independent reality of the world and the existence of material bodies’ ( Psychologia rationalis sect. 36). But as now understood, the doctrine is broader. Metaphysical idealism is the philosophical position that reality is somehow mind-correlative or mind-coordinated – that the real objects comprising the ‘external world’ are not independent of cognizing minds, but have an existence correlative to mental operations. The doctrine centers around the conception that reality as such reflects the workings of mind. And it construes this as meaning that the inquiring mind itself makes a formative contribution not merely to our understanding of the nature of the real but even to the resulting character we attribute to it. The ontological idealism that is at issue in metaphysics takes one of two principal alternative forms: (1) causal idealism: everything there is, apart from minds themselves, arises causally from the operations of minds; and (2) supervenience idealism : everything there is, apart from minds themselves, is supervenient upon the operations of minds (i.e. somehow inheres in them in ways that are not necessarily causal but involve some other mode of existential ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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