Berkeley Was Not Anti-Realist! Idealists Do Not Reject an Objective World!

Reading a nice history of idealism called Idealism: The History of a Philosophy (Dunham, Grant, Watson). The authors spend some time refuting the very common notions that:

1) Berkeley was an anti-realist; and
2) Idealism "denies physical reality" (or the external world, or something of the sort).

The authors note "that idealism is the position that reality is mind-dependent has proved extraordinarily resilient to correction... As with the anti-realism charge, [idealism's] deep claim about universal-mindedness is not destructive, but rather constitutive of reality..." (p. 4)

Another false claim about idealists is that "philosophers committed to the mind-dependent existence of entities cannot maintain, it is held, the existence of physical reality." To the contrary, the authors assert, "We know of no idealist for whom this is true." (p. 5)

Moore famously contended that "Idealism is certainly meant to assert (1) that the universe is very different from what it seems." But, as they note, Berkeley "construed the appearance of ordinary sense experience -- the purple skies, 'wild but sweet notes of the birds,' fragrant blooms, and warm sunshine -- as the real world" (p. 201, quoting Wilson). Berkeley "is in fact a common-sense realist who follows this common-sense realism as far as it will go" (p. 203).


  1. As Einstein said "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

  2. Amusing quote, rob, but not the idealism of any philosophical great!


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