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Idealism: Meaning, Principles, Educational Implications


Meaning of Idealism

Idealism is based on concept of idea.  It believes in the existence of soul. Everything that we have is due to this soul. Soul is also considered as absolute mind or higher spirit. Soul is directly connected with the spiritual power in a man that creates intellectual culture, morality and religion. The chief aim of idealistic philosophy is to achieve the ultimate reality of life in the form of spiritual knowledge. The highest knowledge in idealism is the knowledge of self. There are three eternal values in idealism as truth, goodness and beauty. Idealism also believes in Mental Discipline, faculty of learning and law of reasoning. It has faith in ideal values and virtues.

According to Ross- “Human personality is of supreme value and constitutes the noblest work of God.”

According to V. Good– “Reality consists of transcendent universals, forms of ideas, which are the objects of true knowledge, which are like shadows or imitation of idea.”

Various meaning of Idealism are as follows-

  1. Popular Meaning- Popularly by word idealism means one who accepts and lives by lofty moral, aesthetic and religious standards. It also means one who is able to visualize and who advocates some plan or program which is non-existent. Hence, idealism can be interpreted as the thought of work for permanent peace or for the elimination of poverty.
  2. Philosophical Meaning- Idealism which is commonly known as spiritualism that communicates with the living things. It seeks to offer an explanation of the man and universe in terms of spirit or mind. In fact, it is the negation of matter and a great force driving man to strive for his becoming one with the ultimate.
  3. Derivative Meaning- The word Idealism may be derived from ideals or ideas. Ideas or higher values are essences. They are of ultimate cosmic significance. They are more important in human life than anything else. They are eternal and unchanging. They have no dimension such as length or breadth and such different from material forces.

Types of Idealism

Various forms of Idealism are as follows-

  1. Subjective Idealism-

    It is sometimes also known as mentalist or sometimes phenomenalist. This type of idealism is the philosophy that believes our idea comes from our mind or spirit. The subjective idealists hold that mind or spirits and their perceptions or ideas are all that exist. The objects of experience are not material things, they are merely perceptions.

  2. Personal Idealism-

    For personal idealism, the basic reality is neither abstract thought nor a particular thought process but it is a person, a self or a thinker. Reality of the nature of conscious is the personality. This type of idealism is the system of personal selves, hence it is pluralistic. The personal idealists hold that life is more important than any verbal forms of expression or fixed meanings. They consider that personality of a person has greater value than anything else and society must be organized as to give fullness to each person in his life and opportunities.

  3. Objectives Idealism-

    The objective idealism is of the view that the external world is the real sense. It says that knowledge of a man is determined by the nature of the world itself. The world is intelligible to mind because the finite mind is the finite reproduction of god through the limiting adjuncts of the physical organism. Its concept is that the world is real as well as ideal. There is the organization and form of the world and knowledge is determined by the nature of the world itself.

  4. Absolute Idealism-

    It deals with the spiritual knowledge of God and soul.

  5. Universe is Rational-

    In this idealism the whole universe is taken as an organism which is the living and mental part of God.

  6. Idealism of Phenomenalism-

    This was proposed by Kant. It accepts the existence of physical world also.

  7. Plato’s Idealism-

    It believes in the moral values of supreme reality truth, justice, knowledge of soul and aesthetics.

  8. Modern Idealism-

    This kind of idealism has been influenced by scientific realities also. It realizes the facts of Biological Evolution, Logic, Psychology and Mechanism.

Main Principles of Idealism

Following are the main principles of education-

  1. Universal Mind-

    Idealists believe that freedom of mind is the highest virtue. According to them, there is a spiritual universe permitted by the universal mind. This little mind is a part of the universal mind. The goal of human life is to realize the universal mind. The whole universe is one organism with its varied parts. So, our mind comes from mind and soul from soul and since they are not matter, they are imperishable. Finally reality is our mind.

  2. Realization of higher values of life-

    According to idealism, ideals or higher values of our life is made by man. They have prior existence. Idealists have full faith in eternal and spiritual values of life which never change. The chief aim of human life is to realize these values which are truth, goodness and beauty. Idealism visualizes glimpse of God in whatever is true, good and beautiful.

  3. Knowledge is perceived crystallized in mind-

    Our knowledge which is acquired from the activity, creativity and exercise of the mind is more important than the knowledge acquired through senses.

  4. Emphasis upon normative and social sciences-

    In the field of education, idealists lay more emphasis upon the natural and physical. The normative sciences are ethics, logic and aesthetics. Sociology and psychology are considered as the main subjects of the normative sciences. Idealists explain the universe on the basis of these sciences.

  5. Conceptualism in epistemology-

    Idealism is conceptualism in its epistemology. It believes that objects have no existence apart from the concept related to them. Our knowledge influences the object but this knowledge is not obtained through the perception or senses. The knowledge comes indirectly from the medium of concepts, ideas or the activity of the mind. The important aspect of reality is the physical universe.

  6. Spirit and Mind constitute the reality-

    The mind or spirit is the essential world stuff and the true reality is of mental character. Idealism believes that the spiritual nature of man is the essence of his being. The mental or spiritual is more real and important than the material. Idealism holds that the final truth is the nature of mind therefore idealist emphasis the priority of mind and the self.

  7. Man being spiritual is a superior creation-

    Idealists believe that man is not a mere animal. He is a superior creation. He possess dignity and distinctiveness. Man is an incarnation of god, the roof and crown of all creation. His spiritual side distinguishes him from other animals. He has a will to perfection, an inner striving for self-realization with which he can apprehend the absolute moral values.

Educational Implications of Idealism

Following are the educational implications of Idealism-

  1. An idealist’s concept of education is something which deals one to the highest moral conduct and deepest spiritual insight. It is believed that only through education a man led to realize the truth, beauty and goodness, the value of our life.
  2. According to Ross, the function of education is help us in our exploration of the ultimate universal values so that the truth of the universe may become our truth and give power to our life. So, he mentioned that education is expected to enlarge the boundaries of the spiritual realm.
  3. The idealists believed that the potentiality of a man knows no bounds; therefore, his education will remain incomplete. In the field of education, idealists have talk more of objectives and aims, that is, the theory of education than he devices, methods and organization of the education, that is, the practice of education.
  4. In the words of idealists man’s nature is spiritual and divine. A man can realize himself only through education. The social aspect of education is not altogether neglected by the idealists. They regard education as a social necessity as well. Such a projection should reflect the good of the society.

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