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Fragment 164, word count: 553.

In the tradition of humanity’s search for understanding there are two general directions of questioning: the public world of actuality, and the individually private experience of I-deality. The predominant orientation of classical Indian philosophy, Vedanta*, for example, was a questioning of the experiencing subject, the self, I-deality. Much more development and mastery has been achieved overall in the direction of material actuality.

Vedanta is an Idealism

Classical Indian philosophy pondered the elusive existence of the self engaged in experience. The concept “Brahman” is closely equivalent to the concept “ideality”. Very similar mistakes about ideality were made in both ancient Greek and Indian conceptions. The ancients seemed to move immediately from immateriality to indestructibility, perfect permanence, specifically contrasting ideality with actuality by conceiving ideality as eternal, fundamentally unchanging and, as such, the ultimate source of quasi-illusory ephemeral things such as objects and phenomena.

The reason there was only murky and questionable development from the classical turn inward is the typical mistake of equating immateriality with eternal endurance, and, based on that, the promotion of turning inward as an escape from ephemeral emotions inherent in dramatic efforts for pleasurable habitation in the world. The cultural context which influenced this conceptualization of ideality was a (mistaken) tradition of fatalism, an assumption that the social and political hierarchy was a permanent and unalterable part of life, part of an ugliness to actuality that motivates a search for ultimate escape. On that assumption there is no point in examining ideality for implications for political agency.

Idealism is any conception of reality which includes ideality as fundamental and special. Only ideality (spirituality, intelligence, humanity/ personality) strives toward a specific not-yet or non-actuality, and that is the essence of creativity and so of freedom, stunningly beyond the insensitive lumps and structures of objective actuality, and, as such, a clear transcendence of nature. Ideality is points and arcs of freedom. Ideality creates freedom by conceiving a future which is not completely predetermined, a future with some predictability along with various possibilities, probabilities, and impossibilities. Novelty and originality are possible because ideality is not limited to any predetermined nature or future. The fundamental quality of I-deality is time, a dramatic temporal flight to futurity as an opening. The questioning push directing a gaze upon the world is an ever developing orientation in flight: directionality, bearing, questioning, self-directed re-orientation, always incomplete.

The most striking historical contrast to cultural communities embracing unalterable permanence in their social hierarchy of wealth and power is the formative spirit of European protestantism, a spirit in accord with a kind of idealism that creates a novel future.

As soon as individual persons universally are recognized as the only supra-actual forces creating novelty out of the drama of what matters to them, then the political situation stands in a new light. Politics is no longer about arranging a proper hierarchy among different kinds and qualities of people (as in Plato, for example), some fulfilled by leading and others fulfilled by being led. Instead, rights and dignity derive from human existence as living ideality in which an orientation and bearing of questioning is central. Individuals create the greatest benefits when they are enabled to take a substantial measure of participation and control in conceiving the ongoing evolution of their society and culture.


* Classical Indian Philosophy, Volume 5 of: A History of Philosophy Without any Gaps, written by Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri, published by Oxford University Press (2020), ISBN 978-0-19-885176-9. (See Chapter 19, pp. 129-134.)

Copyright © 2020 Sandy MacDonald.