Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about (philosophical) idealism. I qualify it as philosophical to distinguish it from casual meaning of optimistic. In philosophy, idealism is a metaphysical view about the nature of reality — one that I’ve always seen as in contrast to realism.
What caught my eye in all the talk was that I couldn’t always tell if people were speaking of epistemological or ontological idealism. I agree, of course, with the former — one way or another, it’s the common understanding — but I’m not a fan of the various flavors of ontological idealism.
It seems downright Ptolemaic to me.
Over the last few months I’ve been making changes — some big, some trivial — to my life. (I bought a new dining room table, for instance.) Part of it is that, after five years of retirement, five years of goofing off, I’m finding myself a little restless, so I’ve applied myself to making some changes.
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One of those changes was finally getting a new laptop. The old Sony Vaio (running Windows Vista!) I’ve had since 2011 worked well enough (even with the squished bug) that I never pursued getting something else, although I always meant to. As I’ve said before, sometimes “well enough” works well enough for me.
This fall I bought a new (Dell XPS 15; Windows 10) laptop, and as part of the whole “changes” thing I’ve been trying DuckDuckGo for my searches rather than good ol’ Google…
In debates (or even just discussions) people sometimes ask how we know the physical world is really there. A variation asks how we know that what we perceive as the real world is the same as what other people perceive. (One example of this is the inverted spectrum.)
The most accurate answer is: We don’t. Not for sure, anyway. There is at least one assumption built in, but it’s one we have to make to escape our own minds. According to ancient philosophical tradition, the only fact we know for sure is that we ourselves exist. (Although I think there’s an argument to be made about a priori knowledge.)
But, as with the excluded middle, accepting reality as an axiom seems almost necessary if we’re to move forward in any useful way.