So, I have been having a very nice and informative discussion with Brandon about Berkeley’s so-called “Master Argument” which got me to thinking. Has immaterialism been refuted? It seems to me not. Here is a brief, and no doubt sketchy, survery of some of the better known ‘refutations’.
Kant famously argued as follows:
I am conscious of my own existence as determined in time. All determination of time presupposes something permanent in prception. This permanent cannot, however, be something in me, since it is only through this permenent that my existence in time can iteself be determined. Thus perception of this permanent is possible only through a thing outside me and not through a mere representation of a thing outside me…(B276)
Let us leave aside the problems with applying the concept ‘thing’ to noumena. It seems clear that this is question beging against the immaterialist, for they will gladly admit that there is something outside their mind; namely immaterial ideas. Kant’s argument only establishes, if it establishes anything, that our experience is not possible if we are solipsists
Moore, as I understand it, argued that the nature of judgement refutes idealism. Our hudgments are about things that are outside our minds and this fact shows that not everything is in the mind. But again, this is nothing more than question beging for the same reasons as given above. What argument has been given that the things outside the mind are not themselves mental?
Armstrong identifies materialism with the view that only the postulates of physics are ultimately real. He then argues against immaterialism using something that is closer to my heart; namely the causal clusure of the physical. We have no reason to believe that there are immaterial substances because it would be utterly mysterious how they would causally act in the world. But yet again this is just question beging against the immaterialist from the get go. The immaterialist can happil;y admit that the only things that are ultimately real are the postulates of physics but then maintain that electrons and quarks are simply ideas out of which more complex ideas are composed.
So it seems to me that idealism is far from being refuted. Rather it just seems that people are sick of arguing about it…Now, I don’t mean to say that it is true (or that it is false; I am agnostic).
Are there any other refutations of idealism that I don’t know about?