Chapter 8 Bradleyan Idealism and Philosophical Materialism

In: Idealist Alternatives to Materialist Philosophies of Science
Author: K.M. Ziebart

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In Chapter 8, “Bradleyan Idealism and Philosophical Materialism,” K.M. Ziebart argues that the historical polarization between philosophical materialism and idealism is not really helpful, as evidenced by F.H. Bradley’s metaphysics in which the ideal and the material coexist and even overlap. According to Bradley, material and ideal processes are fundamentally embodied, natural phenomena. One way in which this coexistence is manifested is the development of the function of judgment. Judgment may be what distinguishes human beings from other creatures but it has evolved out of other physical processes and thus should not be regarded as a clear or essential dividing line between the two. Judgment is a “late acquisition” of human beings, indicating that the possession of mind is really a matter of degree. Bradley’s analysis of mental development is indicative of his overall metaphysics. Not only is it empirical in method but it regards ideal operations as continuous with the physical without reducing them to it. This careful balancing of the ideal and the material highlights the realism of Bradley’s metaphysics as well. It is both idealist and materialist, Ziebart maintains, since there is nothing that falls outside reality in its idealist and materialist instantiations. Furthermore, the careful balancing of the ideal and the material as jointly constituting reality highlights the realism of Bradley’s metaphysics. Indeed, Bradley’s metaphysics might best be described as empirical in methodology, idealist in development, materialist in embodiment, and realist in totality.