I typed in ‘German Idealism’ on YouTube. Big mistake. This was the first video to pop up.
I couldn’t tell if the yelling dude in the video was a complete fucking idiot or a genius. But either way, this illustrates the ignorance that people have regarding philosophy.
Does German Idealism need to be ‘completed’? If so, who gives a shit?
Of course, an idiot had to chime in saying “isn’t it a good thing that German Idealism isn’t completed?” Because ‘German’ and ‘Idealism’ has to equal Nazism, right?
But of course, this troll’s ultimate thesis is that Donald Trump is a Kantian. Where he came up with such an idea is beyond me. I doubt Trump has ever had a philosophical thought in his entire life.
But Idealism has certainly taken a hit over the last century. I don’t know if the post Kantian-type ended up sinking the ship because of its loose association with Nazism. I wouldn’t doubt Bertrand Russell felt this way, and this whole school of philosophy has suffered ever since.
Yet I think why it has fallen out of favor is because it’s ultimately unfulfilling. Reality being shaped by the mind leads us to a dead end, and we become creatures trapped within our own minds. Although many have tried to move around Kant, and many believe that they have succeeded in doing so, I find such arguments unconvincing.
I’m not quite sure where the hangup lies. I don’t know if it’s a lack of understanding of Kant, or if they are genuinely disappointed in the fact that we experience a distorted perception of reality (or phenomena). Of all the philosophers out there, it’s the German Idealist that seem to be the most misunderstood (for better or worse, I’m going to throw Schopenhauer into this category despite his protests). Hegel is notoriously hard to understand, but I think that Kant is also grossly misunderstood, despite his influence.
Russell found the “thing-in-itself” to be an awkward product of his philosophy, which would explain why the subsequent German Idealists abandoned it. Such critiques of Kant is a major failure within Russell’s historical account. Perhaps he found the ‘thing-in-itself’ to be redundant, considering our conduct in reality is based on immediate perception (an unknowable thing-in-itself never factors in the equation). But I feel that this is just a lazy attempt to escape metaphysical discussion.
Imagine if all traces of humanity vanishes instantly from this earth. Even depictions of people vanish. The only thing left is the buildings and structures. Now imagine aliens coming to earth, and all that’s left is the mystery of these structures. Remember, no humans or depictions of humans are left. And the aliens are searching for answers as to what these structures meant.
Would it be immediately clear what a ‘chair’, ‘door’, or ‘toaster oven’ would be? Would these objects have the same meaning to these advanced aliens as they would to humans? Or would they only perceive just useless hunks of metal and wood?
If you answered ‘yes’ to the first question, then I suppose that would be a nail in the coffin for idealism. If you answered ‘yes’ to the latter, then I suppose that would make you an idealist.
In this scenario, I would assume the aliens would transpose their own meaning onto these objects. We would be making a massive leap in assuming that some other intelligent species in the universe would have the same perceptions we have. And even if they did, it would be an even greater leap to assume that these perceptions are universal across all intelligent species within the universe.
This is the problem we come across when we assume that humans are experiencing reality as it really is. And we don’t know how far these perceptions go down. Is it possible that even our scientific and mathematical discoveries are actually just representations of the mind?
Scientists everywhere are uncomfortable with this notion. Empirical evidence must represent objective truth. Otherwise, what would be the point in engaging in scientific discourse?
Perhaps I won’t go as far as Kant in saying that we can’t know ANYTHING about the thing-in-itself. I’ve mentioned previously that the discovery of quantum mechanics might be a peak into a world that we were meant to see. But can we understand this world of noumena as intimately as the world of our phenomena?
Maybe not by definition. BUT, that doesn’t mean that scientific truth can’t be found. Again, I might be showing my ignorance here, but perhaps the uncertainty principle is far more widespread than what we realize. (This is just an example, I’m not entirely sure that this is what the principle actually does. Again, scientists chime in). A concept similar to this might be the source of our limited knowledge of Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself’.
I don’t know where I’m going with this.
BUT, our IDEA of objects are based on our shared perceptions. Objects are individuated through processes of the mind. In other words, the human mind is necessary to experience the world in the manner that we do. While similar experiences are possible in other biological minds, the SPECIFIC human experience can only be found in the HUMAN brain. And that is the basis of idealism.
And unfortunately, we can only use the mind to understand the world. Mathematics might be a way to circumvent the subjectivity of experience, and is often seen as such by producing logical outcomes. But it’s entirely possible that even mathematics and logic itself are just representations projected onto the world. Of course, I have made philosophy subordinate to science because science almost exclusively searches for objective truth, yet we don’t know to what extent scientific outcomes bend to our perceptions.
We can only use tools developed by the mind (mathematics, scientific method, etc.) to prove or disprove the outcomes discovered by those tools. Do these activities actually produce objective truth? I don’t know, but I’ll assume that they do in the same way that we make the assumption of free will. But, is it possible that everything that we do is only a reinforcement of human perception?
So are scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and others that search for truth just unwittingly engaging in idealism? I might be treading dangerously close to endorsing a form of George Berkeley Idealism. And so what? Is there a rule against that?
Of course I don’t want to, and I hope to find a way out of this mess.
Sadly, all of this was brought on because some idiot didn’t know what German Idealism was.