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The Mind in Idealism


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Philosophy of mind is widely considered a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind–body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as one key issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body, such as how consciousness is possible and the nature of particular mental states. One of these issues that do not presume a relationship of a mind and body is the conception of mind in Idealism. Philosophically, idealism is the view that fundamental reality is the make-up of mind and ideas only. This essay will discuss at length what the mind generally means to the idealist especially in the classical sense as espoused by George Berkeley and then proceed to analyse the concept of mind or self in the radical transcendentalism of Joseph von Schelling and conclude with Edmund Husserl, a 20th century philosopher and reputed founder of Phenomenology
Idealism is the form of monism that sees the world as consisting of minds, mental contents and or consciousness, according to Stoljar (2005). Idealists are not faced with explaining how minds arise from bodies: rather, the world, bodies and objects are regarded as mere appearances held by minds. According to Stoljar, accounting for the mind–body problem is not usually the main motivation for idealism; rather, idealists tend to be motivated by the following: a. SKEPTICISM
In order to understand the concerns for scepticism in Idealism, it is worthy to note that this is as a result epistemological concerns. Contrasted with epistemological realism, epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind (Rosenthal, 2005) To explain further, we can construe that everything we experience and know is of a mental nature, sense-data in philosophical jargon. Although it is sometimes employed to argue in favour of metaphysical idealism, in principle epistemological idealism makes no claim about whether or not sense data are grounded in reality. As such, it is a container for both indirect realism and idealism (Agassi, 1975). This is where the skepticism comes in. Critics like Howard (2003) have opined that idealism, so far as its epistemology and metaphysics are viewed as intertwined, suffers the classical problem of other minds and the distinction of true knowledge from fantasy and hallucinations since our ideas are said to not represent anything outside our minds. Consequently, one is skeptical as to whether we know anything at all.
Since the idealist denies all bodily/physical potentialities, the concepts of external realism and functionalism are not among his options in solving the problems of true knowledge and the problem of other minds respectively. However, a number of other responses have been offered. One of them is Berkeley’s objective idealism which we would look at later in this work. b. INTENTIONALITY
According to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy “intentionality is the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs”. The puzzles of intentionality lie at the interface between the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. The word itself, which is of medieval Scholastic origin, was rehabilitated by the philosopher Franz Brentano towards the end of the nineteenth century. ‘Intentionality’ is a philosopher's word. It derives from the Latin word intentio, which in turn derives from the verb intendere, which means being directed towards some goal or thing
Contemporary discussions of the nature of intentionality are an integral part of discussions of the nature of minds: what are minds and what is it to have a mind? They arise in the context of ontological and metaphysical questions about the fundamental nature of mental states: states such as perceiving, remembering, believing, desiring, hoping, knowing, intending, feeling, experiencing, and so on. What is it to have such mental states? How does the mental relate to the physical, i.e., how are mental states related to an individual's body, to states of his or her brain, to his or her behaviour and to states of affairs in the world?
George Berkeley deliberated on what our minds can do and in effect what they are about in his Principles of Human Knowledge. He was not particularly dealing with intentionality as we see it today but the idea is clear. In addition to perceived things (ideas), he posits perceivers, i.e., minds or spirits, as he often terms them. Spirits, he emphasizes, are totally different in kind from ideas, for they are active whereby ideas are passive. He goes on to say:
“A spirit is one simple, undivided, active being: as it perceives ideas, it is called the understanding, and as it produces or otherwise operates about them, it is called the will. Hence there can be no idea formed of a soul or spirit: for all ideas whatever, being passive and inert, vide Sect. 25, they cannot represent unto us, by way of image or likeness, that which acts. A little attention will make it plain to any one, that to have an idea which shall be like that active principle of motion and change of ideas, is absolutely impossible. Such is the nature of spirit or that which acts, that it cannot be of itself perceived, but only by the effects which it produceth”- (Principles of Human Knowledge, 27).
Indeed, we can infer that Berkeley’s mind is an intentional state-of-affairs since he denies that it is a knowable substance (we can have no idea of it). It is just that which acts and perceives. c. THE UNIQUE NATURE OF IDEAS
The preceding paragraph suggests that Berkeley has replaced one kind of dualism, of mind and matter, with another kind of dualism, of mind and idea. There is something to this point, given Berkeley's refusal to elaborate upon the relation between active minds and passive ideas. At Principles 49, he dismisses quibbling about how ideas inhere in the mind with the declaration that “those qualities are in the mind only as they are perceived by it, that is, not by way of mode or attribute, but only by way of idea”.
However, the basics of Berkeley's metaphysics are apparent from the first section of the main body of the Principles:
“It is evident to anyone who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses, or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination, either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. By sight I have the ideas of light and colours with their several degrees and variations. By touch I perceive, for example, hard and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, and of all these more and less either as to quantity or degree. Smelling furnishes me with odours; the palate with tastes, and hearing conveys sounds to the mind in all their variety of tone and composition”- Principles of Human Knowledge
Thus, although there is no material world for Berkeley, there is a physical world, a world of ordinary objects. This world is mind-dependent, for it is composed of ideas, whose existence consists in being perceived. For ideas, and so for the physical world, esse est percipi.
Joseph von Schelling, our next concern, shares most of Berkeley’s views. He equates the mind to the self and takes a very subject view on the structure of this reality. Ultimately though, he believes what basically exists is our mind or “I” or self. From a subjective viewpoint, there is nothing in things other than what we attribute to them. Objective qualities or attributes of things would not exist unless the self or mind could perceive them. Thus, the task of transcendental philosophy for Schelling, is to determine how subjective perceptions correspond to objects that are independent of them.
Acceptance of the premise that reality is subjective makes it difficult to assert that events are unalterably determined. If subjective perceptions may change, then so may the reality of the external world. Thus, an important question that must be answered is whether our perceptions conform to the phenomenal world or whether the phenomenal world conforms to our perceptions.
If the conscious activity that is expressed by the will is identical to the unconscious activity that produces the phenomenal world, then the problem of whether our perceptions conform to the world or whether the world conforms to our perceptions is resolved. Transcendental philosophy affirms the unity of the conscious and unconscious activity of the self. The conscious and the unconscious are unified by the creative activity of the self. Nature arises from the self, and the self arises from nature.
In Schelling’s transcendental philosophy, the self is the primary reality, and the natural world may be changed by an act of will. Thus, an object of art may be an expression of both conscious and unconscious will. Aesthetic activity may unify the self and nature, the subjective and the objective, the conscious and the unconscious. Aesthetic activity may unite the ideal world of art and the real world of objects.
Idealism, according to Schelling, affirms that the boundary of the self is posited only by the self, but realism affirms that the boundary of the self is established by something other than the self. Idealism and realism may mutually depend on each other. Just as natural science leads from realism to idealism because it discovers laws of mind by investigating laws of nature, so transcendental philosophy leads from idealism to realism, because it discovers laws of nature by investigating laws of mind.
Just as idealism and realism may mutually depend on each other, theoretical and practical philosophy may mutually depend on each other. Theoretical philosophy may explain how the ideal nature of the self’s boundary may become a limitation for knowledge, while practical philosophy may explain how the real nature of the self’s boundary may become a limitation for knowledge. Theoretical and practical philosophy together may form a complete system of transcendental idealism.
In the act of self-consciousness, the thinking subject may become the object of thought. However, the self is not merely a thing or object. The self is the same as the act of self-consciousness, which is both ideal and real. The self is ideal, because it is eternal and timeless, but it is real, because it may become an object for itself. The self is not only the source of all ideas but is the underlying principle of all reality.
Self-consciousness may affirm a self that is both ideal and real, and it may establish a boundary between the self and the phenomenal world that is both dependent on, and independent of, the self. Self-consciousness may unify a subjective ideal with an objective reality
Schelling distinguishes between the limiting activity and the limited activity of the self. The limiting (i.e. ideal or subjective) activity of the self does not enter consciousness. The limiting activity of the self is also the activity of the pure subject. However, the limited (i.e. real or objective) activity of the self is the activity of the self as an object in consciousness. Neither the pure subject nor the pure object is the self of self-consciousness, says Schelling. The actual self of self-consciousness is both subject and object simultaneously.
The self may be both active and passive, because it may actively perceive and passively be perceived. Insofar as the self perceives, it is ideal, but insofar as the self is perceived, it is real.
In order for the self to perceive an object, the inner sense of the self must be intuited as time, and the outer sense of the self must be intuited as space. Both inner and outer sense are involved in the perception of an object. Outer sense is objectified to inner sense when an object appears as having extensity. Inner sense is objectified to outer sense when an object appears as having intensity. Extensity and intensity may have a reciprocal relationship and may depend on each other.
Just as an object may have both extensity and intensity, so it may also have the properties of both a substance and an accident. A substance is that which only exists in space, while an accident is that which only exists in time. The properties of substance and accident are inseparable in any object of perception, just as outer and inner sense are inseparable in any act of perception.
The activity whereby the self is objectively limited is different from the activity whereby the self subjectively limits itself. The self subjectively has infinite freedom, but objectively is limited. The self begins subjectively and ends objectively.
The self in its freedom begins consciously and ends unconsciously. Conversely, nature begins unconsciously and ends consciously. The unconscious operates through the conscious, so that the unconscious may become conscious. The identity of conscious and unconscious activity in the self is the poetry of the spirit, which may be expressed as art.
By creating works of art, the self may become fully conscious of itself. Works of art may have an unconscious infinity in their synthesis of nature and freedom. Works of art may also unify subjectivity and objectivity, the transcendent and the immanent, the ideal and the real.
Schelling's theory of the self is influenced by the idealism of Kant and Fichte, but the System of Transcendental Idealism develops a new philosophy of knowledge and a new interpretation of the self's relation to the world of nature. For Schelling, the objective world is not merely established by the self but is the self that is objectified by itself. The self and nature are a transcendental unity.
One may see the extent to which Berkeley and Schelling both see the mind (or self) as a creative force by and for itself.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this work, we will analyse concisely Husserl’s Phenomenology. It is important to see phenomenology not as a radically different thesis but rather a complementing work on classical idealist conception of mind. We will see why in the next few paragraphs.
Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions. In recent philosophy of mind, the term “phenomenology” is often restricted to the characterization of sensory qualities of seeing, hearing, etc.: what it is like to have sensations of various kinds. However, our experience is normally much richer in content than mere sensation. Accordingly, in the phenomenological tradition, phenomenology is given a much wider range, addressing the meaning things have in our experience, notably, the significance of objects, events, tools, the flow of time, the self, and others, as these things arise and are experienced in our “life-world”.
It ought to be obvious that phenomenology has a lot to say in philosophy of mind, yet the traditions of phenomenology and analytic philosophy of mind have not been closely joined, despite overlapping areas of interest. The analysis of consciousness and intentionality is central to phenomenology as appraised above, and it is interesting to note that John Searle's theory of intentionality reads like a modernized version of Husserl's. However, there is an important difference in background theory. For Searle explicitly assumes the basic worldview of natural science, holding that consciousness is part of nature. But Husserl explicitly brackets that assumption, and later phenomenologists to seek a certain sanctuary for phenomenology beyond the natural sciences. And yet phenomenology itself should be largely neutral about further theories of how experience arises, notably from brain activity.
What is clear from the foregoing is that the mind or consciousness plays a very critical role in phenomenology. It is the reference point of experience and thus, invariably play into Berkeley’s esse est percipi. The mind is the containment of ideas, arbitrarily adjudicating between reality and otherwise. This also complements Berkeley’s conception of spirits. Finally, we can infer from treatment of phenomenology in contemporary philosophy of mind that there is presumed premise that the mind is ontologically real. This is no different from what Berkeley sought to portray although he believed firmly in monism.
Conclusively, it seems the idealist thesis; despite the differences one might have realised in this work has a very strong input in contemporary philosophy of mind. The logic inherent in the arguments seem water-tight and the fact that a metaphysical idealist does not have to answer for bodies only strengthen their case.

Agassi, Joseph (1975). “Science in Flux”, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Dordrecht, Reidel, 28.
Berkeley, George (1957). The Works of George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne. ed. by A. A. Luce and T. E. Jessop, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons.
Berman, D. (1994). George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Husserl, Edmund (1999). Essential Husserl, ed. by D. Welton, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Rosenthal, David (2005), Consciousness and Mind, Clarendon Publications
Schelling, v. J. (1978). System of Transcendental Idealism, trans. by P. Heath with an introduction by M. Vater, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
Stoljar, Daniel (2005). “Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts” in Mind and Language. 20: 469–494.
Wilson, M. D. (1999). Ideas and mechanism: essays on early modern philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press

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...and the Mind/Body Problem The Synopsis: Star Trek Episode “The Measure of a Man” deals with the thought that android could have physical and mental properties. In order to fully understand or evaluate this we have to have a clear understanding of the Mind/Body Problems and solutions. Humans are material objects consisting of physical and mental properties. (Hasker, 1983) Physical properties examples are height, weight, color, shape or size and mental properties are awareness, consciousness, feeling, thinking, emotions and senses. The problem arises because these properties interact where intentional or unintentional continuously. (Hasker, 1983) Hasker discusses several mind/body solutions such as idealism, materialism, behaviorism, dualism, and emergentism. Data is an android that was assembled to resemble a human being. In this episode Commander Maddox has orders for Data to transfer to his unit for disassemble with a goal to learn more about him or as Maddox referred to him as “it”, so an arm of androids can serve the Starfleet. Data refuses and has his Captain Picard supporting him. Maddox’s stand is Data has no rights and his characteristics were developed by man to resemble humans so we can direct him. Hasker talks about Behaviorism which states mental properties are special categories of physical properties. (Hasker, 1983) The mind/body solution could be used due to Maddox’ thinking that Data is a physical representation of a dream, conceived in the mind of man...

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...cohort of Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Rachel Dawes, who joins Batman and the police in combating the new rising threat of a criminal calling himself the "Joker”. As a society we watch hours of movies but do we really see the underline meaning of the movie; do we see the idealistic or realistic views that are being portrayed in the movie? Or we just watch for the laughs? In the Film The Dark Knight we see the main character who we know as “batman” displaying such character. According to A Novel Approach to Politics (pg. 3) it clearly states that The Dark Knight reflects what we all face in trying to balance the drive to do what we think would be best (idealism) with what we must do or are able to do which is (realism). What makes a person a realist or idealist? According to which is an online source; Idealism is the tendency to represent things in their ideal forms, rather than as they are. According to Action Films thriller 101 “Bruce Wayne is an idealist who believes he can alter the world’s crime ridden roots through the donning of a mask and a cape”. Wayne as an idealist is willing to sacrifice his life and anything he values for the cities future. He represents order and justice but in the same breath he seeks it as a vigilante and at the risk of his city and its citizens. Harvey Dent can be seen as an idealist too as which is interesting because while Dent and Wayne they both started out being idealist neither ends as both Dent like Wayne got caught...

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