Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Brightman's Platform of Personalistic Idealism

I am not endorsing this: I note it as an interesting attempt in defining what idealism means:

1. The universe is completely mental in nature.
2. Every mental existent is either a self, or else a part, aspect, phase, or process of a self. The term "person" is used for selves capable of reasoning and ideal valuations.
3. The physical universe may be regarded as the direct experiencing and willing of one cosmic person, or as a system of infra-human selves, or as a system of ideas in the minds of finite persons.
4. The total universe is a system of selves and persons, who may be regarded either as members of one all-inclusive person who individuates them by the diversity of his purposing or as a society of many selves related by common purposes.
5. Every self directly experiences itself.
6. The self knows some other selves indirectly, by inference.
7. Any metaphysical theory (except materialism which denies facts of direct experience) about the quality of reality or the number of ultimately distinct beings is compatible with all scientific observations and with scientific laws conceived either (a) as generalizations of observed sequences or (b) as statistical formulations of average behavior. But philosophy is dependent upon the facts revealed by the sciences for its conception not only of the structure of the universe, but also of its values and purposes.
8. Esthetics and ethics are based on psychological doctrines concerning the valuing consciousness, but go beyond descriptive psychology both in their normative aspects and in their metaphysical implication of beauty and goodness in the universe.
9. Similarly, the science of religion is primarily a psychological and historical discipline; but the object of the religious consciousness, God, may be identified with a metaphysical object -- the cosmic person.

"The Definition of Idealism," The Journal of Philosophy, 1933


  1. That's one sneaky mother. The "but" in #7 is what the guy wants to be true. The rest may as well be hand waving. No synthetic a priori's?

    1. Not sure what you're getting at here, Gabe.

      Ru Gehrig

    2. In fact, I'm not even sure what *Brightman* is getting at in #7.

    3. I took it to mean that reality is unitary, that science and truth do not conflict, but that truth must adapt to scientific evidence. No issue to that point. Then he goes and says that the truth is determined by facts based on science.

      This guy was the bad kind of gnostic, a believer in the zeitgeist as God. From la Wik (sorry): "[He] maintained that through the processes of the world and history evil will be overcome. In effect, God uses the tragedies of the creation as instruments that enable the world to reach its final goal."

    4. OK, Gabe, I don't really pick that up from the Wikipedia page. Are you an expert on Brightman? If not, you might be jumping the gun a bit here.

    5. I am not an expert, and even if I'm parsing it correctly, it's from Wikipedia (and not even a direct quote), so I'm probably being hasty.

      Looking forward to your Berkeley paper. I've got a couple of his books in the cue.

    6. Gabe, if you'd like to take a look at a draft, I'd love comments! You can e-mail me if you do:


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