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Assess the view that only minds, and their ideas, exist.

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Introduction

Conor McGloin - 12:1 ASSESS THE VIEW THAT ONLY MINDS, AND THEIR IDEAS, EXIST. (24 marks) The view that there is no physical world, and only our minds exist, is the basis of an 'Idealist' school of thought. Idealism is based upon the notion that, because we can not claim to have any direct knowledge of the material world, there is no way we can be sure that the world around us actually exists. The reason we can never have 'direct' experience of the world is that we only experience it through our senses. These senses can be deceived and, therefore, we have no reason to believe that they give us a view of how the world is, and not how it appears. The idealist theory is an empirical theory, as well as being an a posteriori theory. From these notions, some philosophers theorised that there was no physical world at all, and just a mental world built from our precepts. ...read more.

Middle

The counter-intuitive aspect of the idealist argument appears to be the biggest stumbling block the theory is facing. Berkley, a British philosopher and subscriber to the idealist school of thought, put forward the theory that we can not imagine something that is not purely mental, because the process of imagining is mental itself. An idealist argues that in order for something to exist, it must be perceived. Because perception is a mental event, the object being perceived must also be a mental event. Therefore, the denial of an external world is not denied. It is theorised that the world does exist, but as a series of mental events. To return to Berkley's point. Dr. Johnson, a writer, attempted to present a counter argument to Berkley's point. He kicked a stone, with Berkley watching, and stated 'I refute thee thus'. He appeared to think that simply by kicking the stone, he would prove it had physical substance, as well as being a mental event in itself. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, I may believe that the British flag contains the colour green. If I consider that every time I have seen the British flag in the past it has not contained the colour green, and that my friend tells me the flag has no green in it, I see that this belief is not coherent with my other beliefs regarding the colours contained in the British flag. We may argue that the very notion of coherent beliefs is, in its essence, a circular argument. We must depend on beliefs for which we can have no direct evidence, in order to justify beliefs that themselves have no direct evidence. It is this point that particularly troubles me with regards to the system of thought known as Idealism. Also, idealism appears to be in complete contradiction with my common sense view of the world. I must admit, however, that I find the arguments on the side of idealism hugely compelling, and for that reason, I don not feel I can personally deny the possibility that I am living in a purely mental state. ...read more.

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