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Idealism is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that the human mind and its ideas create reality. Solipsism is an extreme form of idealism, positing that only one's own mind is sure to exist, and that because one cannot be completely sure about the existence of the external world then it has a possibility of not existing; least of all as one knows it. Materialism is the opposite of idealism, and because Marxism is largely a materialist philosophy it is generally opposed to idealism. However, Marxism does recognize that ideas may in fact shape material bases, as ideas are manifest through the superstructure of society, which mutually determines the base of society as well. Ultimately however, Marxism views materials as prime in importance.

Idealism is often expressed in a mild form, wherein it is the notion that history progresses primarily because of ideas, rather than material bases. Materialists most often understand the importance of ideas, and to an extent beliefs, however materialists believe that ideas and beliefs are shaped primarily by the environment, whether this applies to how a person's own psychology develops, how the group psychology of a society develops, or in what conditions certain ideologies, customs, etc. arise from.

Some common examples of views/arguments that prioritize an idealist view of the world are:

  • There are natural leaders and natural followers
  • Capitalism is most suited to human nature because humans are inherently greedy
  • Global warming is happening because humans are naturally destructive
  • The "free market" is universal and the end of history

Materialists in general reject these claims, applying the materialist view in response:

  • Most leaders and followers are created through social conditions and economic advantages and disadvantages
  • Humans are greedy under capitalism because greed is rewarded under capitalism; humans before capitalism were generally more cooperative in their labor
  • Human destructiveness as it relates to global warming is a symptom of the profit motive which people are compelled to abide to under capitalism
  • The "free market" as it is known is mostly a European invention that rose as a result of the societies, economies, and even geographies that had developed specifically in Europe, which ultimately are sourced from material reasons

Idealism is often used as a simple way of justifying the status quo when applied to fields such as politics, economics, or history. Because idealism isn't as scientific as materialism, it tends to be much easier for the layman to understand and accept.

More examples of idealism[edit]

  • Liberal revolutions are legitimate because of the noble ideas of the Enlightenment
  • Slavery was abolished because it was the morally right thing to do

History of idealist thought[edit]