Idealism and Panpsychism
Idealism is the belief that the only thing that exists is consciousness itself. Bishop Berkeley summed it up in a bit of pleasant Latin: “Esse est percepti” — to be, is to be perceived.
The only experiences we have are mental experiences. We seem to drink, say, a glass of wine, but really we only perceive the wine. The wine exists — as far as we are concerned — only insofar as we are conscious of it. We form an idea of wine and then externalize that idea into the wine. “This is earthy and unassuming, with a citrus finish,” we might say. But until we tasted it, the wine was no such thing. The wine was, Berkeley would say, nothing at all.
Samuel Johnson, my good buddy and trusted friend, was once walking with some friends who were discussing Berkeley’s idealism. One said something along the lines of “Yeah, of course it’s nonsense, but how do you refute it?” meaning, of course, in the philosophical sense. Johnson aimed a square kick at a stone and said “I refute it thus!” But what Johnson (a man smarter than me by a factor of ten) failed to recognize is that he still only recognized the solidity of the stone as an idea.
I’m a flavor of idealist who admits to the existence of a world outside my mind. Otherwise, I’d be a solipsist, and they’re terrible party guests. However, this world outside my mind is, itself, a world if ideas. The world is a mental, not a physical, construct — the very idea of physicality is just that, an idea. This particular flavor of idealist is labeled panpsychist, from the Greek pantos, all, and psyche, mind.
Why do I think this? That’ll be another post — this one is already too long.