Philosophy:Objective idealism

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Short description: Idealistic metaphysics

Objective idealism is a philosophical theory that affirms the ideal and spiritual nature of the world and conceives of the idea of which the world is made as the objective and rational form in reality rather than as subjective content of the mind or mental representation.[1][2] Objective idealism thus differs both from materialism, which holds that the external world is independent of cognizing minds and that mental processes and ideas are by-products of physical events, and from subjective idealism, which conceives of reality as totally dependent on the consciousness of the subject and therefore relative to the subject itself.

Objective idealism starts with Plato’s theory of forms, which mantains that objectively existing but non-material "ideas" give form to reality, thus shaping its basic building blocks.[3]

Within German idealism, objective idealism identifies with the philosophy of Friedrich Schelling.[4] According to Schelling, the rational or spiritual elements of reality are supposed to give conceptual structure to reality and ultimately constitute reality, to the point that nature and mind, matter and concept, are essentially identical: their distinction is merely psychological and depends on our predisposition to distinguish the "outside us" (nature, world) from the "in us" (mind, spirit).[5][6] Within that tradition of philosophical thought, the entire world manifests itself through ideas and is governed by purposes or ends: regardless of the existence of a self-conscious subject, all reality is a manifestation of reason.[7]

The philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce defined his own version of objective idealism as follows:

The one intelligible theory of the universe is that of objective idealism, that matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws (Peirce, CP 6.25).

By "objective idealism", Pierce meant that material objects such as organisms have evolved out of mind, that is, out of feelings ("such as pain, blue, cheerfulness") that are immediately present to consciousness.[8] Contrary to Hegel, who identified mind with conceptual thinking or reason, Pierce identified it with feeling, and he claimed that at the origins of the world there was "a chaos of unpersonalized feelings", i.e., feelings that were not located in any individual subject.[8] Therefore, in the 1890s Pierce's philosophy referred to itself as subjective idealism because it held that the mind comes first and the world is essentially mind (idealism) and the mind is independent of individuals (objectivism).[8]

Objective idealism has also been defined[by whom?] as a form of metaphysical idealism that accepts Naïve realism (the view that empirical objects exist objectively) but rejects epiphenomenalist materialism (according to which the mind and spiritual values have emerged due to material causes), as opposed to subjective idealism denies that material objects exist independently of human perception and thus stands opposed to both realism and naturalism.[citation needed]

Notable proponents



  • Altman, Matthew C. (2014). "Introduction: What Is German Idealism?". Palgrave Handbook of German Idealism.. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-33475-6. OCLC 958581444. 
  • Beiser, Frederick (2020). "Hegel and the history of idealism". British Journal for the History of Philosophy (Informa UK Limited) 28 (3): 501–513. doi:10.1080/09608788.2019.1661828. ISSN 0960-8788. 
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  • Paul Guyer, "Absolute idealism and the rejection of Kantian dualism", Ch. 2 of The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, ed. by Karl Ameriks.
  • Peirce, C. S. (1891), "The Architecture of Theories", The Monist vol. 1, no. 2 (January 1891), pp. 161–176. Internet Archive The Monist vol. 1, page 161. Reprinted in Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. 6 (1935), paragraphs 7–34, and in The Essential Peirce, vol. 1 (1992), pp. 285–297).
  • Peirce, C. S., Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vols. 1–6, Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (eds.), vols. 7–8, Arthur W. Burks (ed.), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1931–1935, 1958. (Cited as CP vol.para.)
  • Korth, Martin (2022). "Towards a scientifically tenable description of objective idealism". arXiv:2208.12036 [physics.hist-ph].
  • Short, T. L. (2022). Charles Peirce and Modern Science. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781009223508. ISBN 978-1-009-22350-8.