Why is Plato's Idealism and German Idealism so different?

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Plato's Idealism seems to imply an objectivity and an anti-pluralism, instead rationalizing forms into main groups yet German Idealism seems to do just the opposite. I was wondering why the use of the same term to describe them both and what the context is.

4Basically because Plato lived in Classical Greece of 400 BCE and Hegel lived in Germany of 19th Century. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2019-01-31T20:05:50.437

3In addition, Hegel had knowledge of the weaknesses of dozens of varieties of Platonism. He endeavored to avoid them... – None – 2019-01-31T22:07:19.603

3It is hard to understand the works of individual philosophers if we restrict the history of philosophy to the genealogy of "isms". – Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2019-02-01T08:08:13.050

It was because they both sought to mediate the differences between the morphing of being and change (or a priori and a posteori) – shawnru – 2019-04-18T02:39:03.297

i like the question, it has generated some interesting histories (answers) of influence. what do you mean by "anti-pluralism"? i'd have naively thought that forms are plural and mind singular. i always assumed they were both idealism because both are alternatives to materialism? – None – 2019-04-19T00:10:17.857

oh i see that Plato thought that the good was a single form which sustains all the others. interesting, thanks! my comment may also bad because we don't call substance dualism an "idealism" – None – 2019-04-19T00:17:05.590

What language do you speak? I think substance dualism is what we call when put a distinction between the two that can't be brought together, like Descartes mind-body, but when there is an attempt to bring together a priori and post it becomes idealism. – shawnru – 2019-04-19T17:58:27.350

I consider forms to eventually be singular in the culmination of God and mind to then be effectively pluralistic as using mind as an end in itself leads to subjectivity or solipsism – shawnru – 2019-04-19T17:59:34.933

1Given their differing time periods, et. al., the null hypothesis is that they'd be different. The question really is why wouldn't they be different? On the other hand, the story is more complicated. There are points of convergence and divergence with Plato in the story of German idealism. – transitionsynthesis – 2019-11-09T21:51:11.060

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Well, first of all, Platonic Idealism is often called Platonic Realism. This is because Plato believed that pure ideas exist outside of mind, and that they are in fact only true reality, while world we perceive represents only temporary and fleeting shadows of these eternal ideas. For example, every tree we could see is just a shadow of real idealistic tree. Plato also believed that true reality could only be "touched" trough thought.

Although appealing, Plato's theory is still very much a fairy tale without proof. Over the years, we are not getting closer to his World of Ideas, not only those discovered but those still unknown to us. At the same time, negative parts of his work (knowledge gained empirically could be just shadow or a dream) is still relevant, as is skepticism.

German Idealism (starting from Kant) acknowledged deficiencies of empiricism, and tried to find firm ground for knowledge in mind itself. Similarity between German and Platonic Idealism lie mostly in universality of certain mental categories, which were relatively modest for Kant, and culminates in Hegel's Absolute Mind. Absolute Mind is very similar to Plato's World of Ideas. Chief difference would be that Hegel envisaged Absolute Mind as developing itself (as each individual mind would be a part of it) , while Plato held that his ideas existed outside time and were always perfect .

what word does plato use for the "World we perceive"? – None – 2019-04-19T01:23:02.433

The world of shadows in one sense with his parable of the cave – shawnru – 2019-04-19T18:00:41.153

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Welcome, shawnru.

There is no essence of idealism; there is no common and distinctive nature which all 'idealist' theories share. (The same is true of 'realism'.)

There is merit in the following characterisation despite its age:

idealism historically contains four main propositions: (1) Plato's (value is objective - its meaning and origin lie beyond the human knower); (2) Berkeley's (reality is mental - there is no non- mental being); (3) Hegel's (reality is organic - wholes have properties which their parts do not have); and (4) Lotze's (reality is personal - only persons or selves are real). Any system is idealistic which affirms one or more of these four propositions. (Edgar Sheffield Brightman, 'The Definition of Idealism', The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 30, No. 16 (Aug. 3, 1933), pp. 429-435: 432.)

I might hesitate over the precise wording in some cases but the strength of this characterisation of idealism is that it displays the requisite diversity. So far as I know, nobody has held all four positions : they are independent, not mutually consistent (Plato rejects Lotze) and this rules out their being mutually entailing.

You need to note, of course, that there is a certain asymmetry in your question. 'Plato' refers to a particular thinker; 'German idealism' extends widely beyond any single thinker. To Hegel we must add Fichte, Schelling, and others. Many commentators would include Kant in 'German idealism' but despite his 'transcendental idealism', which has a fairly technical sense, Kant's Critical philosophy is too complex and synthesises too many elements to labelled in any way. The only case for putting Kant among the 'German idealists' is that he fits, with some affinities, into the late-18th/ early-19th century period generally known as that of 'German idealism'. A weak case, in my view.

I'd add that 'idealism' is not to be identified with and does not entail 'solipsism', the theory that only I exist. This is sometimes referred to as 'subjective idealism'. If an idealist is a solipsist it is by virtue of extra assumptions to the propositions listed above.

My general advice about philosophical labels is to ignore them - peel them off and look at what individual philosophers say. I wholly endorse Mauro's remark : 'It is hard to understand the works of individual philosophers if we restrict the history of philosophy to the genealogy of "isms".' Another general point is that once you use a label, you look for commonality and it may simply not be there. This is one of many lessons we should learn from the later Wittgenstein.

2Speaking of problematic labels, an additional problem is that it is questionable whether Kant should be counted towards German Idealism at all, since it is a mix between transcendental idealism (appearances, categories, moral law, soul, God) and transcendental realism (noumena in general, noumenal self in particular). I think that taking Kant out of the equation, Plato becomes much closer to German Idealism regarding the metaphysical positions, even though the methodological differences between Plato's philosophy and the systematical "philosophical sciences" of German Idealism remain. – Philip Klöcking – 2019-02-01T10:59:05.197

Yes, of course, you are right. I should remove Kant from the list. Yes, I will. Thanks for tip. Best - Geoffrey. – Geoffrey Thomas – 2019-02-01T13:10:05.687

Was thinking something exactly along the lines of Philip. Kant's inclusion in "German Idealism" is odd considering for his own positions but potentially less odd if the label just means a time period. – virmaior – 2019-02-01T13:36:54.387

Philip and virmaior : thanks for comments. Something went wrong with my first edit but I hope the present text takes your points into account. If not, please let me know. Best - Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas – 2019-02-01T14:26:48.150

A principal reason for grouping Kant in German idealism is that a significant portion of the literature was explicitly devoted to developing a single first principle that would ground Kant's system. The early German idealists were convinced that Kant delivered the ingredients to overcome Humean skepticism and saw their task as systematizing (or else to skeptical attacks at the possibility of doing such a thing). – transitionsynthesis – 2019-04-18T20:43:53.857

The early German idealists were convinced that Kant delivered the ingredients to overcome Humean skepticism and saw their task as systematizing (or else to skeptical attacks at the possibility of doing such a thing). Perhaps, but that does not make Kant himself an idealist. Augustine used a lot of neoplatonic ideas in his understanding of Christianity but that doesn't make Plotinus or Plato Christians. – virmaior – 2019-05-05T13:29:44.473