Saturday, January 14, 2023

 560. Realist and idealist

 I am astonished to see that in philosophy the old debate still rages between realism and idealism. In my view, this is just superseded confusion. The realist and idealist are both right and wrong, or both half right. Here comes what I have been arguing for a long time, also in this blog.

 As the idealist says, we form our observations and perceptions according to more or less anchored forms of thought. On the other hand, those ideas develop in interaction with the world. Thus, reality is somehow woven into our ideas. Those ideas must be adequate to reality, to some extent, or we would not have survived evolution.

 Evolution of the human being occurred for a long time, in some 300-400 000 years, when the human being was a hunter-gatherer. Critical for survival was an adequate perception of things sitting or moving in time and space, such as the cave that gave shelter, a lost child, the movement of prey in hunting, or predator in being hunted, location of an enemy in war, the trajectory of an incoming spear. There is less pressure for adequate thought in modern life, which turns around abstractions such as meaning, happiness, justice, virtue, democracy, culture. We conceive of such abstractions in metaphor from objects located or moving in time and space (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980), as when we say we are ‘in’ love’ or ‘at’ war. We see communication as packages of meaning transported along a ‘communication channel’. We see causality as people or storms moving things.

 So, both the idealist and the realist are partly right when we take a dynamic, evolutionary view, of thoughts developing and adjusting to the world.


Lakoff , G. and M. Johnson. 1980, Metaphors we live by, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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