The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE METHOD OF SUBJECTIVISM

THE theory of Subjectivism or Epistemological Idealism can be defined as the belief that objects, particularly material objects, cannot exist independently of a consciousness of them, and that therefore all reality consists exclusively of conscious being and its states. Before considering the strong and weak points of the principal forms of subjectivism, the whole subject may be brought into a clearer light if we trace in a manner partly logical and partly historical the successive applications of the subjectivistic principle from that first stage in which only the unreal and illusory objects are made dependent upon consciousness to the culminating stage of solipsism, according to which the entire universe is unreal apart from one's own experience.


I
THE FIRST STAGE OF SUBJECTIVISM: THE SUBJECTIVITY OF UNREAL OBJECTS.

The manner in which the first stage of subjectivism arose has already been set forth in the chapter on objectivism. Of the various objects of experience, all of which, to the naïve mind, appear to exist independently of the observing consciousness, the first to be deprived by philosophic reflection of their independence and assigned a purely subjective status are those which occur in perceptual and conceptual error. We see, for example, a person approaching us who at a distance appears to be an acquaintance. Upon a nearer view our supposed acquaintance turns out to be a stranger. The object

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