(Essay) Solipsism: Facts and Fictions
Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2021 1:22 am
“To judge by the plants and fish I have seen in Naples and Sicily, I would, if I were ten years younger, be very tempted to make a trip to India, not in order to discover something new, but in order to contemplate in my own way what has already been discovered.”
Every worldview has its extremes. For metaphysical materialism, that is a radical skepticism directed towards religion and spirituality. All spiritual traditions are considered equally meaningless for these skeptics and perhaps even a source of "evil" in the world. Under duress of this crass materialism, some of the most educated people in the world began claiming all those who believe in a "soul" or a "spirit" were superstitious, indoctrinated, and delusional. I am not speaking of the "new atheists" who became popular in the last few decades, but the 'Enlightenment' thinkers from whom they cribbed all of their superficial arguments. One such thinker was John Locke, who was one of the first philosophers to make a distinction between "primary" and "secondary" qualities of human experience. He concluded that the "primary" qualities were those such as solidity, texture, spatial extension, rest or movement, light refractions, air vibrations, and so forth, which existed outside the soul and entirely independent of it, while the "secondary" qualities were the colors, sounds, smells, etc., which were produced only within the individual mind after encountering the primary qualities. The primary qualities reflected their causes directly, according to Locke, while the secondary qualities had almost nothing to do with whatever causes them.
These sorts of dualisms then came to permeate philosophy and science of the 17th-20th centuries. Matter, existing independent of mind, was elevated to the status of "objective" truth and all that has to do with inner mental experience was deemed merely "subjective" and mostly arbitrary. Modern idealist philosophy initially made its resurgence in the West as a corrective to this lopsided outlook of nominalism, rationalism, dualism, and materialism. It sought to overcome the increasingly mechanistic reductionism of humanity and nature, and to recapture the fluid ideational dynamics of the Spirit which coursed through the veins of unitary Nature. Save for a select few, the need to preserve the memory of eternal Soul and Spirit was made explicit in the writings of idealist philosophers. Henry More, a "Cambridge Platonist", wrote, "objects plainly exposed to the sight are not discovered till the soul takes notice of them." The English Romantic poet-philosopher, William Blake, observed how, "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite". Friedrich Schelling, the German idealist, remarked, "Nature shall be the visible Spirit, and Spirit, invisible Nature". These thinkers were on a mission, albeit one which often produced mediocre fruit, but a mission nonetheless.
Esepcially releveant to our topic here is the Anglo-Irish idealist philosopher George Berkeley, who wrote, "Such I take this important one to be... that all the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of someEternal Spirit." It is bold assertions such as these, which are generally associated with the approach of "subjective idealism", that really emphasized the role of idealist philosophy as preserver of the withering Spirit against the increasingly decadent forces of materialism. All that was "merely subjective" about the world was considered of everlasting importance from Berkeley's perspective. The qualitative phenomena of the world did not only exist within a person's skull, but the "skull" itself was a quality which emanates within a Mind who encompasses the entire Cosmos in its potential experience.
And that is how idealism also found its own "extreme" position - henceforth named "solipsism". In its most simple formulation, solipsism suggests that I cannot ever know if other minds, besides my own, actually exist. The most I can know is that my own mind exists and that all other aspects of the world, including other apparent minds, exist only insofar as they are perceived-known by my own. Naturally, this raises the question of what it means "to perceive-know"? If one a priori limits knowledge to an abstract representational modelling of the Cosmos, then it becomes clear why solipsism is so "absurd". The idealist armed with this rationalist presupposition is like the materialist scientist who feels he has gained insight into the mechanistic explanations of how life arises from non-life armed only with the artifical labratory conditions he himself has created. The conclusions sought are already embedded within the starting conditions. The abstract intellect, by projecting itself onto the entire Cosmos, can proudly claim that its own abstract modelling is incapable of verifying the influences of experiences which go beyond it (such as those of the 'collective unconscious'), so to embrace solipsism is to cut oneself off from genuine feeling, understanding, and empathy for others.
When I began writing this essay, my intention was to present a rigorous logical argument, complete with philosophical references, for why this bogeyman of "solipsism" is the rationalization of idealist philosophers (and the strawman of everyone else) which allows them to avoid confronting the structured reality of the Soul and Spirit. In the course of outlining the main points to be made in support of this argument, I realized that no such approach is even necessary. If one does not presuppose a few basic unwarranted assumptions, which I will mention below, the truth of solipsism becomes undeniably clear. Or, put another way, the bogeyman of "solipsism" becomes completely irrelevant to idealist philosophy as it was first consistently conceived in the modern age by thinkers such as Berkeley. I will mention the flawed assumptions briefly as expressed in the work of a major idealist philosopher before continuing to sum up the conclusions which I feel are beyond any reasonable doubt within a consistent idealist framework. If one has the impression that what was just written is a "bold assertion", I hope to also show this impression is itself a modern prejudice against immanently self-evident truths. As Owen Barfield remarked, "the obvious is the most difficult thing of all to point out to anyone who has genuinely lost sight of it".
Immanuel Kant's Transcendental ("Critical") Idealism
Kant, given his deep philosophical inquiries and the enormous influence of his philosophy in all subsequent Western culture, will serve as the basis of revealing the flaws of this 'anti-solipsistic' ("transcendental", "critical", or "objective") idealism. It should be kept in mind that I am not passing judgment on Kant or anyone else mentioned, directly or indirectly, in this essay. If anything, I hope it becomes clear that the underlying reasons for these ubiquotous flaws of modern abstract thinking go well beyond the orbits of any particular personalities. These sorts of deeply ingrained lapses in judgment cannot be explained by matters of personal psychology, since they are so widespread and entrenched among so many well-intentioned and highly educated people, such as philosophers who were frequently trained in making logical arguments. Very early in his Critique of Pure Reason ("CPR"), Kant observes the following:
Kant wrote:THAT all our knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt. For how is it possible that the faculty of cognition should be awakened into exercise otherwise than by means of objects which affect our senses, and partly of themselves produce representations, partly rouse our powers of understanding into activity, to compare, to connect, or to separate these, and so to convert the raw material o four sensuous impressions into a knowledge of objects, which is called experience? In respect of time, therefore, no knowledge of ours is antecedent to experience, but begins with it.
There can be no doubt of the above, indeed. Kant goes on to caveat that the fact all knowledge begins with experience does not neccesarily entail that all knowledge arises out of experience. It is quite possible that sense-experience stimulates our cognition, but our cognition also supplies content out of itself (a priori "intuitions") in addition to that content which is supplied from the sensible objects. At first, we cannot tell the difference between the two, so we generally assume all content comes from sense-perception, but this assumption is without any logical warrant. So far, so good. Kant then writes about these two main faculties of knowing - (1) receiving sense-impressions and (2) cognizing those sense-impressions: "Neither of these faculties has a preference over the other. Without the sensuous faculty no object would be given to us, and without the understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are void; intuitions without conceptions, blind." We are still on firm ground here. All consistent idealism must maintain that sense-perception and cognition are inseperable from one another and serve as the basis for all genuine knowledge. The way in which Kant leaps from this firm ground right into epistemic quicksand is a rather spectacular display, and alone makes the early sections of the CPR worth reading.
Kant wrote:Of far more importance than all that has been above said, is the consideration that certain of our cognitions rise completely above the sphere of all possible experience, and by means of conceptions, to which there exists in the whole extent of experience no corresponding object, seem to extend the range of our judgments beyond its bounds. And just in this transcendental or supersensible sphere, where experience affords us neither instruction nor guidance, lie the investigations Reason, which, on account of their importance, we consider far preferable to, and as having a far more elevated aim than, all that the understanding can achieve within the sphere of sensuous phenomena. So high a value do we set upon these investigations, that even at the risk of error, we persist in following them out, and permit neither doubt nor disregard nor indifference to restrain us from the pursuit. These unavoidable problems of mere pure reason are God, Freedom (of will) and Immortality. The science which, with all its preliminaries, has for its especial object the solution of these problems is named metaphysics—a science which is at the very outset dogmatical, that is, it confidently takes upon itself the execution of this task without any previous investigation of the ability or inability of reason for such an understanding.
Kant thereby violates the very first principle he laid out, not more than a few pages after laying it out - the principle that we cannot derive knowledge from beyond our 1st-person experience, either in the form of sense-impressions or cognitive 'intuitions'. The assertion that "certain of our cognitions rise above the sphere of all possible experience... to which there exists in the whole extent of experience no corresponding object", is nothing more than a baseless assumption. Kant cannot possibly determine, from 1st-person experience, the true extent of "all possible experience" which can provide "corresponding objects" for certain cognitions. In making this assertion, he has raised himself up into a non-existent 3rd-person spectator perspective on the Universe in which all possible experience is laid bare, including the experience of every other perspective apart from his own. To picture in our minds what one must think of each individual's conscious experience under duress of this unwarranted assumption, something akin to water bubbles floating in oil would be appropriate. From the Kantian 3rd-person epistemic perspective, the 'intuitions' of perception-cognition, including the dimensions of space-time, and the 'things-in-themselves' which stand behind them simply don't mix. And that is how idealism begins transforming into the image of what it first purported to challenge - crass materialism.
Kant is claimed by his proponents, many of whom do not realize they are his proponents, to have logically defeated Reason as a source of true knowledge, yet he won this victory by making the most simple of logical errors himself. He mistook his current limited perspective and experience for the space of all possible experience, past, present, and future. Then he observed that "pure reason" deals with concepts which do not seem to correspond with any direct sense-impressions "in the whole extent of experience", in which he included space and time themselves, and therefore these concepts must be a priori judgments which we subconsciously impose on the noumenal 'things-in-themselves'. Not only are these conceptual judgments subconsciously imposed prior to any experience, but they cannot possibly have any importance for any true knowing endeavor, according to Kant. He then feels he has won an important victory for the Spirit and for faith by insulating it from "pure reason". In reality, however, Kant had dealt a devastating blow to the Spirit, because it is not other than Reason. Our Reason is precisely that spiritual capacity which allows us to transcend the fragmentation of mere intellect, but only when it is not assumed to be a static conceptual faculty which does not evolve along with everything else in our experience (a reality Hegel later incorporated into his systematic philosophy of Spirit).
Kant and subsequent idealist philosophers such as Arthur Schopenhauer were absolutely correct in this regard - mere intellect is in no position to constellate holistic unities of genuine knowledge from the phenomenal fragments it created in the first place. The latter was especially honest with himself, and in his perception of the world around him, where nearly all others remained wilfully blind. Schopenhauer did not see the Spirit or the Soul permeating his mental experience, except in rare meditative and musical contemplations. It is no coincidence that his writings reflected a desire to be less reliant on abstractions of the intellect. This approach was an intentional one which came from his understanding that the intellect had little left to offer in the way of deeply meaningful philosophical explanations. Schopenhauer understood that the World is man's Idea and this logically necessitated his conclusion that truth cannot be properly evaluated by way of the abstract intellect, including Kant's supposed epistemic "truth". All of the idealist philosophers and theologians of the world combined could not 'protect' the Soul from dissolution by way of their clever abstractions. In the process of this critique of critical idealism, however, Schopenhauer did not restore Reason to its rightful noumenal place, but rather ended up going even deeper into the abstractions to find an exit.
Schopenhauer wrote:The world is my mental picture — this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and cognizes, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has attained to philosophical discretion. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he knows no sun and no earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as mental picture, that is, only in relation to something else, to the one who pictures it, which is he himself. If any truth can be asserted a priori, it is this one, for it is the expression of that form of all possible and thinkable experience which is more universal than all others, than time, space, or causality, for all these presuppose it ...
In this first book, then, we consider the world only from this side, only so far as it is idea. The inward reluctance with which any one accepts the world as merely his idea, warns him that this view of it, however true it may be, is nevertheless one-sided, adopted in consequence of some arbitrary abstraction. And yet it is a conception from which he can never free himself. The defectiveness of this view will be corrected in the next book by means of a truth which is not so immediately certainas that from which we start here; a truth at which we can arrive only by deeper research and more severe abstraction, by the separation of what is different and the union of what is identical. This truth, which must be very serious and impressive if not awful to every one, is that a man can also say and must say, "the world is my will."
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea
In this manner, Schopenhauer follows Kant in constructing a completely circular logic. Both of them use the naive realism characteristic of materialism to erect their epistemic philosophies. They begin from the position that the naive realist has no warrant to accept external sense-perceptions as objectively real, which is indeed true, but then immediately forget this truth when moving from 'external' perceptions to perceptions of the physical organism and internal perceptions of "endogenous experiences", naively assuming the latter to be objectively real. The reason this forgetting occurs is simple - the external transpersonal (shared) world of quantities and qualities is treated as something altogether different from the internal "personal" world of qualities, i.e. the water bubbles floating in the black oil; an assumption subconsciously imported from Cartesian rationalism i.e. mind-matter dualism. That this treatment is diametrically opposed to any consistent idealist approach does not slow them down one bit. On the contrary, they both express the utmost confidence and certainty in the conclusions they have reached in this manner. Rudolf Steiner, in his Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1895), highlights very well this entirely circular approach of the "critical idealists", who subconsciously adopt naive realism in their chain of logic.
Steiner wrote:The way of thinking here described, known as critical idealism, in contrast to the standpoint of naïve consciousness known as naïve realism, makes the mistake of characterizing the one percept as mental picture while taking the other in the very same sense as does the naïve realism which it apparently refutes. It wants to prove that percepts have the character of mental pictures by naïvely accepting the percepts connected with one's own organism as objectively valid facts; and over and above this, it fails to see that it confuses two spheres of observation, between which it can find no connection.
Critical idealism can refute naïve realism only by itself assuming, in naïve-realistic fashion, that one's own organism has objective existence. As soon as the idealist realizes that the percepts connected with his own organism are exactly of the same nature as those which naïve realism assumes to have objective existence, he can no longer use those percepts as a safe foundation for his theory. He would have to regard even his own subjective organization as a mere complex of mental pictures. But this removes the possibility of regarding the content of the perceived world as a product of our spiritual organization. One would have to assume that the mental picture “color” was only a modification of the mental picture “eye”. So-called critical idealism cannot be proved without borrowing from naïve realism. Naive realism can be refuted only if, in another sphere, its own assumptions are accepted without proof as being valid.
This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned, that the eye and the hand are percepts no less than the sun and the earth. Using Schopenhauer's expressions in his own sense, we could reply: My eye that sees the sun, my hand that feels the earth, are my mental pictures just as much as the sun and the earth themselves. That with this the whole theory cancels itself, is clear without further argument. For only my real eye and my real hand could have the mental pictures “sun” and “earth” as modifications of themselves; the mental pictures “eye” and “hand” cannot have them. Yet it is only of these mental pictures that critical idealism is allowed to speak.
Schopenhauer's radical honesty and "severe abstraction" led him to a soul-less, spirit-less, and nihilistic outlook precisely because it remained incomplete without the restoration of Reason as a noumenal aspect of the world. He could not imagine a reasoning Power higher than the abstracting intellect. The mere intellect who beholds the underlying Idea of the world, without the living essence of Reason permeating that Idea, will inevitably perceive it as a blind and even malevolent Will (exactly as the materialists perceived religion and spirituality); a dark, instinctual void from which all representational experience bubbles up to the surface of our conscious experience. It is no different than the materialists who attribute the deepest dynamics of the Cosmos to "dark matter" and "dark energy". Since it appears dark to their intellect, that same intellect assumes it must actually be "dark" in its own essence. Following very closely behind the footsteps of Kant, then, Schopenhauer also managed to contradict himself in the most obvious manner - "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." The limits of Kant and Schopenhauer were those of mere intellectual vision and were henceforth projected outwards as limits of Reality itself. Contrast their naive realist vision of true knowledge with the one below.
Steiner wrote:Knowing has meaning only if we do not regard the configuration given to the senses as a finished one, if this configuration is for us a half of something that bears within itself something still higher that, however, is no longer sense-perceptible. There the human spirit steps in. It perceives that higher element. Therefore thinking must also not be regarded as bringing something to the content of reality. It is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas. Idealism is therefore quite compatible with the principle of empirical research. The idea is not the content of subjective thinking, but rather the result of research. Reality, insofar as we meet it with open senses, confronts us. It confronts us in a form that we cannot regard as its true one; we first attain its true form when we bring our thinking into flux. Knowing means: to add the perception of thinking to the half reality of sense experience so that this picture of half reality becomes complete.
Again, nothing written here is about the "personal failings" of Kant, Schopenhauer or anyone else, which should be clear from the fact that there is no essentially "personal" reality in a consistent idealist approach. Instead, it is a critique of the underlying ideas they represented and of those who continue holding to these flawed ideas today, in spite of having every opportunity to perceive these flaws just as clearly as we have perceived them above. The important thing here is that these ideas exist and influence large swaths of people in our time, including philosophers, scientists, and academics of all sorts, and that this influence occurs mostly subconsciously, so there is not even any impulse to perceive and correct it. There is really no other explanation for how the straightforward logic of what was written above could be missed by so many brilliant idealist philosophers for centuries. Returning to our main topic, we can see how "solipsism" sounds to the critical idealist like "God" to the skeptical atheist. The reason for this subconscious reaction is the same for both - solipsism implies a deep, bottomless reality to the human soul within each individual that this individual is responsible for investigating. Since the dawn of systematic thinking, that has always been the primary motivation to altogether avoid inquiry of the "subjective" realm of Mind (Spirit) - avoidance of this weighty responsibility.
Kant was cleary a pious man, while Schopenhauer clearly was not, yet they both found ways to justify keeping the noumenal spiritual (ideal-mental) realm wholly apart from inquiries into the phenomenal world. What matters now is finding the clear path forward to freeing the Spirit, since it was first only imprisoned by our own habits of mind reflected in the naive realism of materialist and critical idealist philosophies. Reality itself does not bind the Spirit whatsoever. Even if we start from the manifold, fragmented phenomena of the world, as long as we employ sound logic without any prejudicial assumptions - whether those be idealist, dualist, or materialist - we will still end up within the One unified essence shared by all and capable of being genuinely known through our ideational activity. We can see that if we look at the common 'elements' between the sensible spheres of the living and the 'non-living' in the Cosmos. As we move from the self-reflective sentience of human beings down through the non-reflective animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, and finally into the 'unconscious' mineral kingdom, we arrive at fewer and fewer essential 'elements' which are shared by all within that sphere. The human soul participates in all of these spheres, containing some of each of these nested spheres of Be-ing within himself.
- Sphere of Ego-"I" (Spirit) : There is an infinite amount of thought-qualities which consist in the spirit of a human being. The process of self-reflective Thinking itself generates this infinity. We can reflect on our thinking, reflect on our reflection of thinking, reflect on our reflection of our reflection of thinking, ad infinitum.
- Sphere of Soul Forces (Instinct, Desire, and Feeling): It is not known to what extent, if any, genes code for these soul qualities we share with other animals, but we can at least say the human genome codes for approximately 25,000 proteins.
- Sphere of Life Forces: There are seven life processes - nutrition, transportation, excretion, respiration, reproduction, sensitivity, and growth - shared by all living organisms, including plants.
- Sphere of Physical Forces: There are four fundamental forces of physics - gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. These are considered the forces shared by all that exists within the sensible Cosmos. These fource forces are thought to have 'delaminated' from One single force at the very beginning of the sensible Cosmos.
The pattern is clear: as we move towards those 'elements' which are common to the entire sensible Cosmos, we go down to fewer and fewer elements. It does not matter at all what those elements are, in their essence; it only matters that we are observing a clear pattern which would hold true no matter what they stand in for (matter, idea, will, etc.). It may help to remember the qualitative meaning of "matter" here - "be of importance; have significance." Commonly used names for that One single force which underlies the sensible Cosmos is "God", "Absolute Idea", "Mind at Large", "Love", "Will", or, simply, "Consciousness". The intellectual models of analytical philosophy, however, cannot figure out how this One Idea 'delaminates' into a multiplicity of qualitative perspectives, and that is precisely because those models have a priori ruled out the Ego-"I" which encompasses all spheres of our shared existence. Therefore, modern idealists clinging to such models simply take the standard materialist models of Nature and transpose them onto idealism, just lke the "new atheists" did with the vastly more substantive arguments of the Enlightenment philosophers. The only thing more irrelevant than a philosopher or scientist who cannot speak to timless and universal spiritual experiences is one who cannot speak to any concrete experiences whatsoever.
In that process, atomism and reductionism found their way right into the heart of idealist philosophy and into scientific inquiries at large. Everything about our experience and its evolutionary history is now explained by 'bottom-up' combinations of 'things', except, instead of only calling these 'things' "matter", they are also called "conscious agencies", "excitations of Mind at Large", "alters", and are given many other such labels. This approach inevitably lapses into a specific form of dualism called "panpsychism". Then we have the materialists, dualists, "subjective idealists", "objective idealists", and "panpsychists" battling it out with each other within increasingly abstracted academic circles, never realizing that they all arrived at dead-ends because they took the same wrong turns. More specifically, they all took the same wrong directions from the rationalists who drafted those directions for altogether different reasons 500 odd years ago. I will use one last illustration before concluding with the facts and fictions surrounding solipsism. Let's imagine that the One Mind, which any consistent idealism cannot deny, is the physical Sun. We can further imagine the sphere of all conscious experience within this One Mind is the physical Earth.
Now we want to explain what gives rise to all of the conscious experience on Earth and how those phenomenal relations continue evolving together. The approach of the materialist, dualist, and anti-solipsistic idealist alike is akin to ignoring the Sun's energy altogether and focusing only on the dynamics which occur on Earth. Instead of seeking to understand those dynamics through the 'low entropy' source of energy, i.e. the Sun which provides light, warmth, nutrition, growth, etc., they want to explain the dynamics by ignoring the Sun and adding layers upon layers of 'high entropy' and "dark" complexity on top of the complexity of Nature that was already there to begin with. Can anyone deny that this adding of complexity is, in fact, how nearly all modern philosophy and science seeks to explain our conscious experience in the phenomenal world? To happily embrace solipsism, or whatever other outer label is attaced to the inner logical necessities of idealism, is to start tracing through this 'low entropy' energy along its gradient which extends all the way back to the Sun. As we move along the gradient, our conscious experience becomes easier to understand, not more difficult. Moving along the gradient is making conscious and investigating entire subconscious realms of archetypal ideas which presently exist between where we are on Earth and where we can be within the warm embrace of the Sun.
Fact: A person cannot derive genuine knowledge of the world from outside their own 1st-person percetion and cognition. There is no 3rd-person "spectator" perspective.
Fact: A consistent metaphysical idealism must admit that there is only One Mind who exists and gives rise to the phenomenal world through its archetypal ideation.
Fact: The One Mind cannot be naively explained apart from its ideational activity, i.e. it cannot be atomized and reduced into non-ideational percepts, concepts, and/or their combinations.
Fiction: Solipsism is "counter-intuitive".
Many people in the modern age conflate "intuition" with "common sense", the latter being what is habitually accepted as true at any given time. In every idealist philosophical tradition, "intuition" refers to something much deeper and more fundamental than this sort of superficial common sense. For reasons already mentioned above, and many other reasons not mentioned but easily discerned by the reader, it is precisely Intuition which reveals the Cosmos, and all within it, is unified and essentially One.
Fiction: Solipsism rules out the possibility of true novelty and unique experience for individuated perspectives.
Here is an objection which projects its own egoism onto the solipsism bogeyman. Whether any experience is truly unique from a detached 3rd-person perspective, we cannot know. From our own 1st-person perspective, we certainly do experience states of Be-ing as if they are novel. Yet, at the same time, one of the grandfathers of Western philosophy, Socrates, correctly noted that all genuine knowledge comes to us as a sort of re-membering of forgotten truths. Goethe also expressed this in his quote at the beginning of this essay. Only those clinging to their own rigid, egoic personal perspective would fail to take joy in the richness of their ever-evolving integral experience because they felt it was not theirs alone. Related to that, one cannot pragmatically speak of ideal discoveries as "new" if, upon discovery, it's as if the ideal relation always existed.
It's useless to try to imagine pure ideas without experience, precisely because we only create a hard problem for ourselves. Yet this doesn't preclude the fact that the experienced ideas exist in certain relations. To give a simplified example, if I think about 1 and 2, then 4 and 5, does this mean that 3 doesn't exist until it is experienced? From experiential perspective every idea exists for me only when I experience it. But still, the relation between 2 and 4 is such that they can only be what they are if there is 3 in between. The important thing is that when I discover 3, nothing really changes for 1,2,4,5 - they are only complemented; the ideal picture becomes more complete. Even if 3 was never discovered, the relation between the above numbers would be as if 3 exists. This would be different if, after the discovery of 3, all other numbers change relations. Then we would really have justification to speak of ideas being created. The act of creation of the idea has measurable effect and displaces all other ideas in some way. But, as long as I discover ideas which only complement my own experiential ideal landscape, all talks about whether these ideas exist in 'pure form' before I experience them is pointless. - Cleric
Fiction: If there is One Mind, then we cannot explain the existence of many qualitatively distinct and unique perpsectives (see illutration below in response).
Fiction: Solipsism means the person adhering to it does not accept the reality of any other perspective apart from his own, and therefore will lack compassion and empathy for others, or will be acting against his own worldview when displaying compassion and empathy for others (see illutration below in response).
It is plain to see that the separation has only a subjective existence, that it is only created by our intellect. It cannot hinder me from dividing one and the same objective unity into thought-configurations that are different from those of a fellow human being; this does not hinder my reason, in its connecting activity, from attaining the same objective unity again from which we both, in fact, have taken our start. Let us represent symbolically a unified configuration of reality (figure 1). I divide it intellectually thus (figure 2); another person divides it differently (figure 3). We bring it together in accordance with reason and obtain the same configuration.
This makes it explainable to us how people can have such different concepts, such different views of reality, in spite of the fact that reality can, after all, only be one. The difference lies in the difference between our intellectual worlds. This sheds light for us upon the development of the different scientific standpoints. We understand where the many philosophical standpoints originate, and do not need to bestow the palm of truth exclusively upon one of them. We also know which standpoint we ourselves have to take with respect to the multiplicity of human views. We will not ask exclusively: What is true, what is false? We will always investigate how the intellectual world of a thinker goes forth from the world harmony; we will seek to understand and not to judge negatively and regard at once as error that which does not correspond with our own view. Another source of differentiation between our scientific standpoints is added to this one through the fact that every individual person has a different field of experience. Each person is indeed confronted, as it were, by one section of the whole of reality. His intellect works upon this and is his mediator on the way to the idea. But even though we all do therefore perceive the same idea, still we always do this from different places. Therefore, only the end result to which we come can be the same; our paths, however, can be different. It absolutely does not matter at all whether the individual judgments and concepts of which our knowing consists correspond to each other or not; the only thing that matters is that they ultimately lead us to the point that we are swimming in the main channel of the idea.
- Rudolf Steiner, Goethean Science (1883)