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Fragment 183, Word count: 375.

Various answers to the question “What are ideas?” mostly have in common that ideas exemplify a distinct immaterial face of existence. Idealism encompasses answers to that question which emphasize the foundational or primordial status of such immaterial existence. Essentialist idealism presents ideas as primordial templates for the categories of all things that exist, absolutely independent of any living consciousness, excepting possibly a unique eternal divine consciousness. These ideas are prior to the rest of existence in some profound sense and supposedly cause the rest of existence. As exemplified by Platonic idealism, there is a certain sense of metaphysics presented by essentialist idealism: a primordial reality that is profoundly different, in its immutable immateriality, from the world of ordinary appearances, a reality of predetermined forever templates for the forms that any physical existence must take.

A non-essentialist idealism presents a very different sense of metaphysics: ideas are ephemeral features which shape the frame-work of orientation that guides the future-ward tilt or bearing of some living individual. Ideas exist only in the intentional agency of living individuals. Instead of standing as eternally enduring categories and structures, the special genius of ideality is its fluid subsistence by leaping ceaselessly into losses and novel opportunities expressing personal dramas of caring; plunging, partly falling, into an ever-just-opening non-existence, evaluating the uncertain prospects for improvisations of personal dramas within a mix of expected and unexpected circumstances and expressive impulses. There is no question here of ideas existing separately from the living of particular sentient and intentional agents. Even as such, ideas cannot be left out of a description of fundamental existence, of what there is, since they present an undeniable complication to neat conceptions of reality as fixed, atomized, and final. As necessarily temporal and immaterial (even though organized as embodied), ideas are anomalous existences, inseparable from the subjectivity of personal experiences. Ideality is still metaphysical but its meta-physicality is in its living spontaneity and creative agency, in its sentient-intentionality at the raw ever-becoming edge of existence. Human existence is living: experience-derived anticipation as context and inspiration for important intentions and aspirations. It is an actively reaching incompleteness or openness to existence at its core: discontinuous, multiple, monadic, locally limited, ephemeral.

Copyright © 2021 Sandy MacDonald.