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Philosophical Idealism (Pro) vs. Realism (Con)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 2/6/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 971 times Debate No: 99654
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




This debate is for the DDO Beginner's Tournament. I shall be challenging tahirimanov to this debate.

Philosophical idealism is defined as "the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial."

Realism is defined as "the belief that some aspects of reality are ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc."

The first round is acceptance only. Best of luck to my opponent!


I accept.
As basis definition for realism, I suggest Britannica's definition, realism, in philosophy, the viewpoint which accords to things which are known or perceived an existence or nature which is independent of whether anyone is thinking about or perceiving them.
Debate Round No. 1


Greetings to my opponent! Before we begin, I"d like to specially thank SolonKR for moderating this debate tournament, and to the mentors for their kind assistance.

My first argument will be loosely based off of the "Chariot Analogy" made by the Buddhist philosopher Nagasena in a conversation with the Greek king Milinda. It is recorded in the Milinda Panha, which was written around 100 years B.C. The full conversation is available here:

The argument made by Nagasena goes as follows.

King Milinda told Nagasena that he had come to meet him (Nagasena) on a chariot. Nagasena denies this assertion, telling the king that no "chariot" can exist. The king expresses bafflement, and Nagasena explains his assertion. First, Nagasena asks the king if the object known as a chariot is manifested in any of the constituent parts of the "chariot" (wheels, axle, seat, etc.). To this Milinda replies no. Nagasena then asks if the "chariot" is manifested in the combination of its parts. It cannot be, as the scattering about of the parts would not create a chariot. Finally, Nagasena asks if the chariot is something outside or not included in the chariot. The answer to this is certainly not, for obvious reasons. Thus we can only conclude that no "chariot" objectively exists, and that the word"and the parts of the chariot"do not represent anything but themselves.

Now I shall apply this argument to the topic at hand. Let"s take the image of a tree. A realist would perceive a tree and assume the existence of a tree. An idealist would not assume the objective existence of any such tree underneath their mental perceptions. Nagasena"s point applied to this debate topic would go something like this:

One perceives, through one or more of their senses, what is generally recognized to be a tree. Per Nagasena"s argument, however, no tree exists. Is the tree manifested in any of its constituent visual parts? The answer is no, as the existence of a part does not create the whole. Is the existence of a tree suggested by the combination of its perceived parts (branches, leaves, trunk, etc.)? No"the visualizations of a tree (or perceptions, more broadly) do not necessarily suggest the existence of such, as the individual may be hallucinating, dreaming, or simply looking at a visual representation of a tree, such as a painting or photograph. Does the tree exist because of something outside of the tree? No, as mentioned above. Furthermore, no external entities are known to exist, so we cannot draw upon them to prove the existence of a tree. So when we perceive a tree, we have no reason to believe that such a tree exists, because no part inside or out of the tree necessitates its existence. Since we can"t know that a tree exists, we must assume it doesn"t until proven otherwise.

This brings me to my next point, and it is a short one. It is simply that one can only know two things:

i.Matter appears to exist.
ii.I exist in some form.

The first is obvious. I perceive through sight, sound, and touch the laptop that I am typing this horribly convoluted and poorly written argument on. But I cannot know the objective existence of the laptop or any other matter because the only evidence I have of its existence is my perception of it, and because of Nagasena"s argument. The second is explained by Descartes" famous "I think, therefore I am." For one to ponder any topic, there has to be an individual doing the pondering. The existence of an "I" or "ego" is debatable, but the epistemological point still stands. Since all of our observations on the world are based upon perception, we cannot know the existence of any "external" entities without referring to perception"for what else could we use to prove their existence? I"ve proven that perception is untrustworthy, so the only possibility left is mental phenomena"but of course these cannot be used, as the existence of A (mental perceptions) cannot be used to infer the existence of B (physical reality) because A and B are fundamentally different from each other.

My final argument concerns Ockham"s razor. (Given two hypotheses that equally explain a situation, the simpler one should be preferred over the more complex explanation). The two solutions are realism and idealism, and idealism is the simpler of the two. Realism would concern the mind and all the manifestations of external reality. Idealism concerns only the mind because idealism asserts that the appearance of external reality is in some way wholly dependent on the mind.

I believe I have shown that, epistemologically, one cannot know anything apart from the two points listed above and so have fulfilled my BoP under our definition of idealism.

I apologize for the poor formatting and the (possibly?) confusing presentation of the arguments. If you have any questions or confusion about my arguments, please ask in the comments. The topic we have chosen is one I am not completely familiar with, so I apologize for any incoherence.

Thanks again to Con, the mentors, and Solon. Over to Con now. Good luck!


1. IN THE BEGINNING (Introduction)
Realism in a nutshell, can be defined as, things exist, and have certain properties independent of anyone's belief, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and etc. So, things exist, and their existence is independent (of human mind).

In contrast to Idealism, Realism is simpler, and intuitive. Outside the philosophy club, people assume Realism (even if they are unaware of subject of Philosophical Realism). And inside the club, only handful people are idealists (according to PhilPapers, 4.2% are idealists, while 81.6% are non-sceptical realists).
While one can argue, ontologically Idealism, such as Theistic Idealism is more sound, because it only assumes existence of (One) mind, while Realism assumes existence of both mind and material. However, it doesn't simplify things, but rather complicates. The new entity is introduced, (The Great Mind, if you will). And with new entity comes its attributes and properties, which have to be addressed, while being unobservable.
Humans, by their inate nature, are realists, they later choose to be idealists.

All electrons are identical, scientists, data and mathematics will say that. There are two explanations. First is simple one, electrons exist and they have same properties. That's why every time we observe them, get same results. The second one is Idealism, which can be divided into equally valid and unfalsifiable subcategories:
A. Only I exist
Only my mind exist and I constructed this "reality" in my mind in a such way that every outcome will be consistent.
B. Grand Network of Brains
As name suggests, all minds are connected and they agree to produce consistent results.
C. The Great Mind
Only one mind (Deity) exists and everything is a grand play in this mind.
Which one is true?
This argument is not only true for electrons, but also can be used for everything, such as why ice floats, why pi (π) always same and etc.
4. IS 7 PRIME? (Conclusion)
Realism means there are things which exist, and they are neither minds not ideas in minds. It is simple, inate and intuitive. Earth revolves around the Sun, even if I say it doesn't.

3. (survey results, and links)
Debate Round No. 2



I shall now respond to my opponent’s arguments.

"Outside the philosophy club, people assume Realism (even if they are unaware of subject [sic] of Philosophical Realism). And inside the club only [a] handful [of] people are idealists..."

I fail to see what bearing this has on the debate. Appealing to the beliefs of the majority is fallacious, and the assumptions of most people are no indicator of the truth of a statement.

"While one can argue, ontologically Idealism, such as Theistic Idealism is more sound, because it only assumes existence of (One) mind, while Realism assumes existence of both mind and material. However, it doesn't simplify things, but rather complicates. The new entity is introduced, (The Great Mind, if you will). And with new entity comes its attributes and properties, which have to be addressed, while being unobservable."

Con's point is based on a false premise, and that is that idealism necessitates the existence of some sort of "Great Mind." Although a belief of this type would certainly constitute an idealistic belief system, idealism as defined in this debate can involve the existence of any mind, "great" or not. So idealism is in fact the simpler theory because it only has to explain the existence of one mind--no entities have been added from realism. Realism has to explain the existence of that mind plus external entities, their interactions with each other, and their interactions with other minds.

Electron Argument

Con again misrepresents idealism in that his list is incomplete or inaccurate. Explanation A seems to me the most logical possibility, but Con insists that for idealism to be true "reality" must be a complete creation or construction of the mind. This goes against our definitions, which define realism as "[the belief that] things exist, and have certain properties independent of anyone's belief, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and etc. So, things exist, and their existence is independent (of human mind)." All I have to do to prove realism false under these definitions is to prove that physical phenomena are not independent from mental phenomena. This is easily provable due to the widely accepted Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. Under this theory, a system does not have definite properties prior to being observed; that is, the act of observing or measuring the properties of an entity will “change,” for lack of a better word, the outcome of an investigation. This means that the act of perceiving, a mental function, influences the properties of physical entities. Therefore physical phenomena are dependent upon mental phenomena, and vice versa, proving realism false.

I believe that concludes my rebuttals. Over to Con now! :)



1. Links
Firstly, I apologize about links. I copied whole argument from text editor, which may be incompatible with DDO text editor. So, I will post them again.

2. Chariot Strikes Back
After reading the story of Nagasena and Milinda, I came to the conclusion that, Nagasena is full scale anti-realist. That, he does not or would not assign truth value to any claim, theory, idea, and etc. However, his argument against the existence is nothing, but a game of words.
Let S be set of parts, where p(i) are parts (i=1,2,...n), S = {p(i) | i=1...n}. And Θ[i=1...n, p(i)] is an operation which defines the chariot, Θ = chariot. The claim that the part of chariot is not chariot is true, because p(i) != Θ (“!=” means “not equal to”). And also set of parts are not chariot, because S != Θ.
Also, by asking, whether chariot is something outside of the chariot or not included in the chariot, Nakasena just affirms the Law of Identity, basically it means chariot is chariot, or -(-chariot) = chariot (“-” here stands for “not”).
None of these actually defies the equation Θ = chariot, which basically means chariot is an operation Θ[i=1...n, p(i)] (construction, for those who still does not get it) using the parts S = {p(i) | i=1...n}, in predefined way. As seen here Nagasena’s argument against chariot is not an argument. He may be Nagasena, but he is definitely not Buddha.

3. Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Club
There is a difference between appealing to the beliefs of cavemen and astrophysicists. I am not going to explain of argue for epistemology of testimony, here. In few words, most of our beliefs, claims and etc are based on testimony, on certain matters we trust a group of people who are experts of that matter. So when it comes to reality we should do the same. Whom you are gong to trust on matters of universe, a philosopher, or a astrophysicist.

4. False Premise and Misrepresentation
I said, “such as, Theistic Idealism,” and used it as an example. I never claimed it was Con’s position. And Con didn’t present his position of Idealism, rather argue around general definition of Idealism. Saying only mind exists, is not an answer, because it begs the question of which mind exists.
And categorization of Idealistic claims is not a misrepresentation, actually it is job of Con to do so. If it is a misrepresentation, then Con must provide reasons for it.

5. Solipsism
Only I (my mind) exists (3A), is not the most logical possibility. Because my claim only I exist, is equally valid as, Emperor’s claim, that only he exists. The Law of Non-Contradiction states, both two contradictory claims cannot be true. So whose claim is true, or whose mind truly exist? And this claim cannot be applied just to humans, it is equally valid for cats, Martians, and for the pen I hold in my hands. The most rational choice is to abandon such claims. Or you may have a Solipsism Syndrome.
And also, if my mental states are only mental states, then why do I suffer, and my definition of suffering cannot be subjective or cannot be treated as subjective, because I being only mind which exists, has the right to define terms, things and etc. (It is absurd, isn’t it?)
Con didn’t touch upon 3B (GNB) and 3C (TI), so I am ignoring them for this round.

6. Observers and Interpreters
In Physics, specially in Quantum Physics, terms “observer, being observed, observe” doesn’t mean a mind observing things, anything from particle to universe can be observer. As Werner Heisenberg said, “it does not matter whether the observer is an apparatus or a human being.” Every particle inside the box has already observed the cat, and Wigner’s friend killed the Schrödinger’s cat.
And lastly, Copenhagen’s interpretation cannot be used as evidence. Because there are several interpretations and models of universe, such as Many Worlds, Consistent Histories and etc. Each of them is equally valid for Realism as equally valid for Idealism. These interpretations are interpretations of mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics.

7. Suggestions
Solipsism Syndrome
The Problem of Other Minds
Wigner’s Friend
Laws of Classical Logic

8. Sources and Links

Previous Links:
4. (survey results, and links)

Debate Round No. 3


Due to being pressed for time I must concede. Your arguments were clearly superior. I apologize for not providing a better challenge for you, and I thank you for the debate. It's been a pleasure debating with you and I wish you a good day and good luck in round 2. :)


I got little disappointed. I will keep this round short.

"The first step on the realist path is to recognize that one has always been a realist; the second is to recognize that, however hard one tries to think differently, one will never manage to,; the third is to realize that those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part. If one then asks oneself why, one's conversion to realism is all but complete." Etienne Gilson,;

"Experience precedes thoughts." Tahir Imanov (me)

"Consciousness is a faculty of awareness which means that it could not be aware of anything unless there was something independent of consciousness to be aware of."

Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Tree_of_Death 1 year ago
Read your last round. You've totally changed my opinion. Thank you :)
Posted by tahirimanov 1 year ago
Use simple text editor, like gedit, or notepad if you are Windows user
Posted by Tree_of_Death 1 year ago
I apologize for any punctuation errors. I wrote my arguments on Word and then copied them here, and a lot of the punctuation appears to have died in the transition :(
Posted by tahirimanov 1 year ago
No worries
Posted by Tree_of_Death 1 year ago
I'm sorry my arguments are taking so long. I'll post them tomorrow.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Hayd 1 year ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Pro concedes