The Philosophical Consensus

Keith Ward on Materialism, 4     1  2  3

That is, they have held that ultimate reality has the nature of mind or consciousness, and that the material universe is the appearance or creation of the ultimate mind.

Ward here says that this is what is meant by ”a basically spiritual view of the world”, the view on which there is a broad consensus among classical philosophers. He does so in terms that are typical of Western idealism and religion, but “appearance” can also be considered acceptable in accounts of the positions of some central Eastern traditions.

The question of the existence and nature of ”the material universe” is a central one to which attention should immediately be called. Ward here includes philosophers who and forms of idealism in the broad sense which accept the existence of a universe which is really material in some sense, in some cases even in the sense accepted by materialists. Only they do not regard it as ”ultlimate reality”. Other forms of idealism do not accept the existence of such a universe.

”Appearance” is an important word in this connection and in many forms of idealism. But it can mean different things. It can mean simply non-creational causality, manifestation, emanation. But in addition to this and sometimes even instead of this it can also mean – and Ward certainly has this in mind too, having used the formulation ”ultimate reality” of that which is not appearance – that which is not real or fully real, not as real as that of which it is an appearance, and in which there is an element of illusion.

Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, and many others all shared this general view.

It can of course be noticed how many the ”many others” are: some of the pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plotinus, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, John Scotus Eriugena, the late medieval Franciscans, the Renaissance Platonists (not just the Italian but also the Cambridge ones), the rest of the German Idealists and the nineteenth-century idealists in France, Britain, America and elsewhere. It should also be noticed how few the materialists really are. Ward soon returns to this.

Even David Hume, a philosopher opposed to religious belief, who denied the existence of ultimate mind, did not suppose that matter could be ultimately real. Indeed, he thought that the material universe was a construct out of ”impressions” or ”ideas”, and had no objective reality, or at least not a reality that could be rationally established.

This is only an argument (from the authority of Hume as a prominent mind) against materialism. It could be clarified that it is ”the material universe”, i.e. a universe of matter as conceived by materialists, lumps of matter, like atoms, for instance, floating about out there in objective, absolute time and space, that has ”no objective reality, or at least not a reality that could be rationally established”, not what Hume regards as ”a construct out of ’impressions’ or ’ideas’”. The latter could be a valid expression of what the universe that materialists hold to be material acutally is, but contrary to the purportedly material universe it does have objective reality of a different kind, a reality which can be rationally established. This, after all, is part of what is meant when Ward says with the classical, in a broad sense idealist tradition, as he does elsewhere, that the world is intelligible.

1 Response to “The Philosophical Consensus”

  1. 1 Constance V. Walden December 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Men make things complicated when God has made it svery simple: Jesus died for our sins on the cross; He was buried, and He was raised the third day. Believe it, be baptized, and be saved. That’s it. It’s simple. Even the least intelligent of us can understand it. It’s man who makes it difficult with him many philosophical musings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



Recent Comments

AS on The Significance of Franklin…
Bas on The Significance of Franklin…
Bas on The Significance of Franklin…
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Salvini, SD och EU-reformismen…
Jan Olof Bengtsson on 10 år
RB on 10 år
Jan Olof Bengtsson on 10 år
axelwkarlsson on 10 år
Jan Olof Bengtsson on 10 år
sui generis on 10 år
Victor on 10 år
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Moderat omprövning
Irminsul on Salvini, SD och EU-reformismen…
Jan Olof Bengtsson on Salvini, SD och EU-reformismen…
axelwkarlsson on Salvini, SD och EU-reformismen…
All original writing © Jan Olof Bengtsson
"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi