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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Idealism—it's a no-brainer

I am not a philosophical idealist, by which I mean that I do not believe that the only reality is mind/consciousness. But if the only alternative to idealism was materialism (the view that nothing exists but matter) then idealism wins hands down. It's a no-brainer! (Excuse the pun.)

After all, doubting the reality of consciousness is as close to impossible as anything gets. Of course, there are hard-core materialists that try very hard to do precisely this, but don't hold your breath! Success is as far from them as it ever has been and as far as it ever will be. Doubting the reality of matter, however, is a different kettle of fish. That is indeed possible. After all, we only have access to it via the mediation of consciousness.

Idealism can be imagined to be true (even if it is false) but while I suppose that one can possibly make sense of the claim "materialism is a possible state of affairs in an alternative universe," I am at a loss to understand how anyone can even imagine that believing "materialism is the truth about our world" is even possible. The very imagining of its truth is inexplicable in purely materialist terms and so if one can imagine that the proposition is true then the proposition must be false. Or so it seems to me.

7 comments:

Micah said...

Well-said, Robin! Reminds me of the discussion CS Lewis has regarding the problems of reason and logic arising from non-reason, in his 'Miracles' book.

The idea of person, mind, love, etc. ever arising from non-person seems to me a much greater leap to make than to see person as a continuation, emanating from eternal transcendent Person, Love.

It's really quite breathtaking to contemplate that each of us is a fragment that came from Person, our own little bits of person being on journeys of becoming and returning to the Source. :). The alternative of nihilism just depresses me to no end.

Micah said...

Oh, I meant to ask, though:

Besides theists and naturalists/materialists, Lewis mentions the third possibility of dualists, who see Person and non-person/material having always just coexisted, neither coming from the other. Have you ever come across real, live Dualists? Seems like they must be a rare breed?

Micah said...

(Although I guess if we really believe in God and other-than-God both being real now -- as opposed to all is conciousness -- we're sort of 'present-day' dualists? But I see all Creation as first being ideas in the mind of God -- so in that sense, everything begins as consciousness? Sort of like Middle Earth in the mind of Tolkien, or Lizzy and Darcy in the mind of Austen?)

Micah said...

Sorry, I think I may be focusing on other questions beyond your thoughts here. Guess you were just looking at all being conciousness of any sort, rather than the more specific idea that all is One consciousness. Feel free to delete my rabbit-trail ramblings above. Don't want to derail your topic's purpose.

Robin Parry said...

Micah

C. S. Lewis is thinking along precisely these lines. It's an age-old and classic criticism of materialism.

Dualism is a term that can cover a range of different views. Cartesian dualism is one of them and it is certainly an alternative to idealism and materialism in that is seems both mind and matter as having reality as as being irreducible to each other. This view is also riddled with problems.

Perhaps we need to rethink matter.

Some kind of God-creation dualism is essential for Christianity, as you say. We have to be very careful how we spell that out as dragons lurk close by various ways of doing it.

You sound like you'd enjoy John Scottus Eriugena, a ninth century Christian chappy. We have an excellent book on his Christology coming out and that discusses his doctrine of creation at length. It will be called "A Celtic Christology" (Eriugena was Irish). Your thoughts are not unlike his.

Micah said...

Thanks for the suggestion on Eriugena, Robin. Sounds very intriguing -- will have to check him out. Ah, would 'A Celtic Christology' happen to be coming out soon, with St. Patrick's Day around the corner? :)

Am very interested in learning more about the whole Celtic Church history, in general. (I've kind of got off onto odd tangents in some books recently on the legends of Christ and Joseph of Arimathea having been in Britain at various points -- wonder if there's any kernel of truth to all those stories about Cornwall, Somerset, Glastonbury...but that's a whole other rabbit trail. :) )

Tim Hall said...

I agree with you, but I don't have a ready answer for the materialist who objects that the consciousness you refer to is a complex--but ultimately still material--process of physical neurons firing within a physical brain. What does one say to this?