chapter  12
9 Pages

Criticisms and persistent misconceptions of idealism

In a 1994 review of Nicholas Rescher’s System of Pragmatic Idealism entitled “Idealism contra Idealism”, the late T. L. S. Sprigge criticizes his author for insuffi ciently diff erentiating between realism and idealism. In so doing, Sprigge is continuing a debate that reached a peak of intensity in the 1930s, but which began in response to Moore’s “Refutation of Idealism” (1903). Moore had sharply distinguished between a general or “ordinary” realism (ibid.: 434)1 and the “spiritualist” or “theological” Berkeleyan account he identifi ed with idealism. e equation “idealism = Berkeleyanism” remained strong enough throughout the twentieth century for Burnyeat (1982) to use it to deny that any ancient philosophy might correspond to what is called “idealism”. at there was a debate until the 1930s concerning its adequacy, however, demonstrates that Moore’s equation cannot be regarded as an uncontroversial characterization of idealist philosophy. In fact, from the outset Moore’s “Refutation” is fraught with interpretational problems. He gives three defi nitions of idealism at the start of his article, successively increasing in focus. All three, however, are problematic and insuffi cient to encapsulate the vast range of idealisms dominant in his day.