What is Idealism?

Idealism is an educational philosophy founded upon spiritual ethics, values, and principles that teachers use to guide learners holistically.

Western metaphysical idealism is frequently associated with Berkeleyan immaterialism and Kantian transcendental idealism; however, epistemic idealism also exists as a metaphysical position using ideaist arguments while remaining neutral on whether reality as “thing in itself” is mental.


Idealism refers to a philosophy which asserts that reality is founded upon ideas. Additionally, idealism can also be considered metaphysical; meaning it focuses on the nature and perceptions of reality as well as relationships among various realities that may need adjusting or how we may change them.

Idealists tend to think that reality is composed of mental constructs or the results of physical capabilities, and see the world as an arena where students learn essential values, norms, and principles through discussions, lectures, debates, dialogues or dialogues with teachers – who serve as carriers who reflect back knowledge to improve it further through their teaching methods.

There are various kinds of idealism, including metaphysical and epistemological idealism. Metaphysical idealism asserts that reality consists of mind or spirit, while epistemological idealism asserts that concepts exist only. These ideologies have had great influence in philosophy history – including Berkeley (theistic ideallism), Kant (transcendental idealism) and Hegel (absolute idealism).

Idealism can be considered a religious perspective and has links with theism, pantheism and monism as well as with nihilism and anti-positivism.

Though idealism may be related to religion, most forms are independent from any specific belief system. Idealism stands in opposition to materialism – the idea that matter is the source of all physical things and can only be known through material forms – as well as realism – the belief that reality resides primarily in sensory perception and is understood through physical senses alone.

Idealism is a philosophical perspective that can be applied in various fields, including education. Teachers can utilize Idealism as a teaching tool to help their students comprehend their personal and professional responsibilities in society; this can foster social responsibility while building character among students. Furthermore, the philosophy can foster an optimistic attitude toward life – encouraging students to face challenges head-on regardless of opposition – while helping them become more accepting of other people and their ideas.

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There can be various reasons for engaging with idealism. Some idealists embrace it out of an objective conception of reality and view science as the best means of doing this, while others subscribe to epistemological idealism based on beliefs that there exists an ultimate basis or mental component to all reality and all matter; those who endorse such views are known as epistemological idealists.

George Berkeley and Leibniz held to a metaphysical idealism they called “immaterialism” or “metaphysical idealism”, believing everything contains mental components; their ultimate nature being mind. Other idealists like Kant and Fichte held what is referred to as Real-idealism or Absolute Idealism which states everything as being interwoven through transcendent unification that overrides oppositions between things.

Others, such as Hegel, adopted a metaphysical idealism which can be described as existialism or objectivity. While Hegel’s theory of idealism has often been mischaracterized as antirealist, in reality Hegel was dissatisfied with attempts to produce a more naturalistic and objective version. For Hegel it looked too much like terminological stipulation when seeking to reconcile oppositions by asserting they all belonged to an underlying unity or were the product of development processes.

Pluralistic idealism is another type of idealism. Pluralistic idealism holds that there are various individual minds or monads or processes which, combined, help explain the physical universe’s existence. This differs from classical idealism’s view that only one ultimate mind existed and Schopenhauer’s ontological idealism which sees an underlying reality with pure activity while all other realities are mere simulations thereof. Descartes, Spinoza and Kant are well known advocates of pluralistic idealism.

Early Idealists

Early idealism emerged through the work of philosophers such as Berkeley, Leibniz and Hegel. Although these philosophers could be considered idealists, they never used the term “idealism” to identify themselves; even after its first use appeared during the eighteenth century most philosophers didn’t use this label to identify themselves; perhaps their philosophical puzzles such as God-related questions or interactions among substances of different sorts more than anything else interested them than asserting or refuting an idealist position.

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Idealism’s fundamental tenets hold that reality is predominantly mental and knowledge pertains to only what the mind can perceive or grasp, in contrast to materialism which claims that matter dominates reality and forms much of knowledge; additionally realism holds that objects exist independently from human minds and are perceived by us in accordance with reality.

Idealism is an integral part of Western culture. As an alternative to materialism, idealism offers people an avenue for self-realization through respect for other humans and equal rights for all individuals. Additionally, idealist views emphasize equality and dignity for all humans – something materialism cannot offer.

Idealist approaches are fundamental in politics, especially with regard to democracy. Idealism suggests that countries should work toward spreading democracy abroad as well as within its own borders – this includes cooperating with non-democratic nations in sharing democratic principles while striving for an ideal world free from poverty, oppression and religious conflict.

As opposed to pacifism, idealism allows nations to participate actively in international politics in order to advance their ideals and influence other countries’ policies – this may involve engaging non-democratic nations in negotiations over democracy issues or providing aid for developing nations – even military interventions into other nations to address problems like poverty, climate change or refugee crises.

Modern Idealists

Modern philosophers are widely seen as idealists. Some hold ontological idealist positions while others espouse epistemic idealism without making metaphysical commitments regarding reality as it exists; these latter figures include Russell and Moore; while some even advocate both epistemic and metaphysical idealism.

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One characteristic of this kind of idealism is assigning special significance to ideas or concepts, especially abstract ones. According to Platonism, reality itself consists of these abstract concepts while all other objects (including sensory experiences ) serve merely as simulations of them.

There have been other forms of idealism endorsed by philosophers at various points throughout history, such as that espoused by Descartes or Spinoza; however, these versions do not fall under the realm of metaphysical idealism in the same manner as Plato and Berkeley did.

Idealism has many educational ramifications. At its core lies its basic philosophy that education should play a pivotal role in maintaining, enriching and transmitting culture; additionally it promotes moral and intellectual development for this to occur successfully. Idealist education seeks to ensure citizens with strong desires for preserving culture along with an ability to think critically and creatively.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel offered another form of idealism. Hegel advocated a dynamic concept of idealism similar to Fichte and Schelling but rejected their one-sidedness and tendency towards unfounded assumptions. Instead, Hegel saw his theory as an attempt at transcending any traditional forms of idealism.

Other modern idealists have advocated the theory of social and environmental responsibility, and advocated the values associated with free and democratic societies. Many educators who support idealism incorporate it into their pedagogy; educators who adopt idealism believe the primary purpose of education should be providing students with rich and varied knowledge while teaching tolerance towards different cultures. They are also committed to inculcating values such as cooperation and obedience among their pupils for successful citizenship.