What is absolute idealism?
Question: "What is absolute idealism?"
Answer: In philosophy, idealism is the belief that thoughts, ideas, or “mind” is the ultimate basis of reality; therefore, physical things are illusory or secondary. Absolute idealism takes this further to claim there is a single unifying “mind” behind all things. This is closely related to pantheism, which also suggests that only one “thing” actually exists. According to absolute idealism, thought is the interplay of experiences within that unifying mind, and truth is defined as consistency between thoughts, rather than a coherence between separate objective realities.
The philosopher most closely connected with absolute idealism is G. W. F. Hegel. He suggested there must be a foundation for reality on which all other concepts are based. For Hegel, this made sense only if that ultimate source was a mind, rather than something mindless or physical. To Hegel, this was not necessarily a sentient being or a consciousness; rather, the “Absolute” would simply be “thought for thought’s sake.” A consequence of this approach is that “truth” becomes defined as the harmony between two thoughts. Since reality under absolute idealism is based in thought, this creates a circular definition that can lead to solipsism.
Absolute idealism can be contrasted to concepts such as subjective idealism, which holds that existence is dependent on being perceived by a mind. Subjective idealism allows for the possibility of multiple minds, whereas absolute idealism implies there is ultimately only one mind. In this way, absolute idealism shares many implications with pantheism. Both, in practice, claim “everything is (ultimately) God.”
Absolute idealism is not compatible with the Bible’s approach to truth, creation, or the nature of God. Scripture speaks of God being separate from what He creates (Numbers 23:19; Job 38:4–7). Evil is portrayed as being opposed to God’s very nature, not merely a contradiction between thoughts in the mind of God (1 Timothy 1:8–11). The Bible’s concept of eternity is especially contrary to absolute idealism; the Bible’s teaching that certain people will exist forever in a place separated from God conflicts with the unity put forward by absolute idealism (Revelation 20:11–15).
While God’s thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8), God is not merely thinking: He is a being with intent (Psalm 33:10–12). Nor is the Judeo-Christian God a non-sentient force or generic background noise of abstract thought (Psalm 37:28). Absolute idealism, like many other philosophical approaches, is ultimately false.
Recommended Resource: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland
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Questions about Worldview
What is absolute idealism?