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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: February 2013



The idealist tradition in philosophy stretches from the earliest beginnings of the subject, and extends to the present. There has never been a moment in the history of philosophy when there has not existed an idealist current: for every Locke and Hume there is a Berkeley, just as for every Russell and Moore there is a Whitehead and for every contemporary philosophical naturalist there is a John Leslie and a T. L. S. Sprigge. While this very ubiquity makes a survey of the entire range of idealist philosophy a difficult and obscure undertaking, the present philosophical situation affords good reasons to do so.

First, idealism is once again at the core of mainstream philosophical problems. The same issues that make a survey of idealism as such difficult, however, make any extant idealism partial with respect to that tradition. In consequence, portraits of idealism emerge that, while depicting only local features, tend inexorably to be confused with the entire landscape. Most contemporary idealism, for example, is preoccupied with constructing a metaphysics on the basis of a normativity posed as an alternative to naturalism. While this has, of course, been one theme in the history of idealism, it does not exhaust it.

Second, therefore, there is a need for an account of idealism that sets out its central problems such that contemporary, historical and unacknowledged idealisms can be coordinated within its general landscape. Despite the enormous and growing scholarly interest in idealism, such interest tends by definition to focus on specific philosophers, schools or periods, rather than addressing idealism as such.

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  • Online ISBN: 9781844654765
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