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

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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. It is interesting to note that, but for the absence of the physical world in this theory, many of its characteristics are shared with ‘Indirect Realism’.  

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Idealism takes the three component theory of indirect realism, and removes the final component – the physical world. We are left with the perceiving mind, and the percept. The idealist, therefore, believes in a world of sense data, but, because we lack an indubitable knowledge concerning the existence of the world, cannot claim to know of the existence of the physical world.

As I have mentioned earlier, this belief seems completely against our notion of common sense. Why, for instance, would I doubt that this desk, or this computer, is real? When I touch it, it appears to ...

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