Life is purely amazing and its purpose for each individual, so very different. It seems we are naturally predisposed to selecting “sides” or “beliefs” in terms of how we wish to orient our focus of living. There are many philosophical, metaphysical and psychological “isms” through which we could choose to view the world. Many of us do this naturally without identifying consciously with these various schools of thought or beliefs but they seemingly form thoughts and actions within our consciousness through our daily interactions with our follow brothers and sisters. So what are these main “isms” that define the filters from which many of us align our beliefs? A little research through the World Wide Web brings us the following to consider from the world of philosophy, which also includes at least two others of interest to me personally, psychology and metaphysics. Let me share with you a little of my quick research to make my point:
From The Basics of Philosophy online resource, we have Idealism described as follows:
Idealism is the metaphysical and epistemological doctrine that ideas or thoughts make up fundamental reality. Essentially, it is any philosophy which argues that the only thing actually knowable is consciousness (or the contents of consciousness), whereas we never can be sure that matter or anything in the outside world really exists. Thus, the only real things are mental entities, not physical things (which exist only in the sense that they are perceived).
From this filter, we have alignment (at least at a very basic level) from among some of our great thinkers throughout history. Some names you might be familiar with like Plato, Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. Each took the basic framework and added to it their own unique and interesting perspectives (to say the least) and brought forth interesting ideas, thoughts, arguments and theories about the world in which we find ourselves and the way we organize our thoughts about existence. I can see some of my own thoughts and beliefs through the filer of Idealism (but please understand that my perspective is that belief is an untested hypothesis which I don’t necessarily hold as truth).
From the very same source as the above, we find Realism defined as:
Realism, at it simplest and most general, is the view that entities of a certain type have an objective reality, a reality that is completely ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Thus, entities (including abstract concepts and universals as well as more concrete objects) have an existence independent of the act of perception, and independent of their names.
The doctrine had its beginnings with Pre-Socratic philosophers like Thales, Heraclitus and Parmenides, but its definitive formulation was that of Plato and his theory of Forms . . .
Aligned with this filter and expanding it further to their own perspectives we find the great minds of St. Augustine, St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas. These individuals held very interesting perspectives and theories on our origins, the existence of God as well as additional impacts on critical thinking. I can see merit to the filter of this particular perspective or at least understand some of the frameworks and concepts as well as many other “isms.”
The former views originated much further back in our human timeline than pragmatism. As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says of Pragmatism:
Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected. Pragmatism originated in the United States during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. Although it has significantly influenced non-philosophers—notably in the fields of law, education, politics, sociology, psychology, and literary criticism—this article deals with it only as a movement within philosophy.
The term “pragmatism” was first used in print to designate a philosophical outlook about a century ago when William James (1842-1910) pressed the word into service during an 1898 address entitled “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results,” delivered at the University of California (Berkeley). James scrupulously swore, however, that the term had been coined almost three decades earlier by his compatriot and friend C. S. Peirce (1839-1914). (Peirce, eager to distinguish his doctrines from the views promulgated by James, later relabeled his own position “pragmaticism”—a name, he said, “ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.”) The third major figure in the classical pragmatist pantheon is John Dewey (1859-1952), whose wide-ranging writings had considerable impact on American intellectual life for a half-century. After Dewey, however, pragmatism lost much of its momentum.
This is yet another understandable filter from which to view various aspects of the things in life that we face or contemplate. I will neither argue for nor against it for I find merit in or at least understanding of many filters and “isms” very generally speaking. Again, I’ll say, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I dogmatically subscribe to this filter or others alone.
From the same source as the above, we find Existentialism. An excerpt to help with understanding is:
Existentialism is a catch-all term for those philosophers who consider the nature of the human condition as a key philosophical problem and who share the view that this problem is best addressed through ontology. This very broad definition will be clarified by discussing seven key themes that existentialist thinkers address. Those philosophers considered existentialists are mostly from the continent of Europe, and date from the 19th and 20th centuries. Outside philosophy, the existentialist movement is probably the most well-known philosophical movement, and at least two of its members are among the most famous philosophical personalities and widely read philosophical authors. It has certainly had considerable influence outside philosophy, for example on psychological theory and on the arts. Within philosophy, though, it is safe to say that this loose movement considered as a whole has not had a great impact, although individuals or ideas counted within it remain important. Moreover, most of the philosophers conventionally grouped under this heading either never used, or actively disavowed, the term ‘existentialist’. Even Sartre himself once said: “Existentialism? I don’t know what that is.” So, there is a case to be made that the term – insofar as it leads us to ignore what is distinctive about philosophical positions and to conflate together significantly different ideas – does more harm than good.
The seven key themes noted in the above excerpt are listed below. You might check the source and do a little reading when you have a moment. You might find these very interesting:
Philosophy as a Way of Life
Anxiety and Authenticity
As with the above “isms,” we find some of the interesting thinkers of more recent times such as Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus.
Philosophy is rich with ideas and theories concerning existence and consciousness and perhaps that is why I’m so drawn to it. The convergences of all the various aspects these filters hold exist within our every day thoughts. I cannot help but wonder about why it is we must align with a singular thought process at all, however. As others before me have come to similar conclusions, I won’t argue about the basic human need to belong to something and to find purpose within it through belief alone. One of my other favorite topics was born from Philosophy when Wilhelm Wundt in the second half of the 1800’s introduced the concept that Psychology should become its own discipline. (Discovering Psychology, 4)
There are many more “isms” through which we began to understand our frameworks. These would include:
Structuralism from Edward B. Titchener (1867-1927): “Structuralism became the first major school of thought in psychology. Structuralism held that even our most complex conscious experiences could be broken down into elemental structures, or component parts, of sensations and feelings,” (Discovering Psychology, 4).
Functionalism from William James (1842-1910): “Functionalism stressed the importance of how behavior functions to allow people and animals to adapt to their environments. Unlike structuralists, functionalists did not limit their methods to introspection. They expanded the scope of psychology research to include direct observation of living creatures in natural settings,” (Discovering Psychology, 5).
Behaviorism from John B. Watson (1878-1958): Behaviorism “. . . rejected the emphasis on consciousness promoted by structuralism and functionalism. It also flatly rejected Freudian notions about unconscious influences. Instead, behaviorism contended that psychology should focus its scientific investigations strictly on overt behavior – observable behaviors that could be objectively measured and verified,”(Discovering Psychology, 6)
There are more “isms” than I could possibly list in one simple article, which was my true intent. Just for fun, I will add one more “ism.” The actual definition of “ism” which comes to us from The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
Full Definition of ISM:
1 : a distinctive doctrine, cause or theory
2 : an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief.
So, as you can see, we humans with all of our “isms” are an interesting lot. I deeply appreciate all of the “isms” that are and have been contemplated, the great minds that created them and the reasons for their creations. It reflects to me, the multifaceted aspects of our conscious existence. Consciousness is what we are, I firmly believe. We have so many isms to contend with as we live our lives but here is an interesting thought, we don’t have to subscribe to any particular belief at all. We do not have to hold an ism as truth unless it is sufficiently proven to be a definitive truth to us in some way. I see all of the isms, philosophies and theories as ways in which we question our existence, the reality of the world and perhaps, the existence of Source (or God, if you will). What if we are that Source in all of its multifaceted concepts and constructs? Maybe it matters less which field of hard or soft-science or other fields of thought you subscribe to and more how these things help you achieve that which you sought to achieve in this life? Not one of us has an answer that would be definitively true for the unique and amazing aspect of consciousness projected in the physical reality we acknowledge here in this time that is you.
I think that what we are all attempting to define is consciousness (with a little “c” referring to the egoic aspect) and Consciousness (with a big “C” referring to the quantum Whole). From my own work, The Ego is the Veil:
Consciousness is only partially discovered and is certainly only a partially understood frontier that has the potential to neatly knit everything we see, feel and experience together. With further exploration of this frontier, I think we may find some very exciting things about our existence here in this frame. I think also that the study of consciousness cannot be contained as valid from the perspective of only one or a handful of the various applied science and other disciplines. As mentioned before, each discipline can only define consciousness from within the confines and constructs of their academic perspectives. It will take some fearless pioneers unafraid to break down the walls, barriers, biases and prejudices working hand in hand to help us better understand the nature of what it truly is. I am not satisfied by the biological constructs alone. I am unsatisfied with the neuro-biological constructs alone. I am unsatisfied with the philosophical and psychological constructs alone and I am still as yet unsatisfied with the theological and metaphysical constructs alone. I think if we work together we can find the common themes to all the various disciplines, come together, share notes, establish and test new hypotheses and attempt to draw no conclusions about what it (consciousness) truly is. (82)
In my own works I posit in a similar vein as Freud in that the ego is where consciousness meets physical reality and that creates not the typical dualist thought but that ego and veil (as in ego consciousness and veil, Cosmic Consciousness) are one and the same. Everything we see, feel and experience is a multifaceted aspect of Consciousness. I don’t see consciousness in terms of the hard or easy question or problem but rather I see it as the entirety of the framework from which we exist. It is because of this that I feel we struggle so much with our limited human words to define it. It is more than words or a thing…it is also a feeling, which is beyond emotion and an energy that is beyond our limited sensory perceptions alone.
We, in a way, are like tiny ants trying to define the entirety of the Universe. It’s too big and too much to take in with limited frameworks and premises. We’re all right and wrong in our thoughts in some regard concerning our consciousness and existence. Maybe we view that which we attempt to define from filters that are limited to begin with? We are as multifaceted as consciousness is and cannot be singly defined with any amount of accuracy in our entirety from the physical, to the mind, to consciousness or why all of these things neatly come together in the human beings that we are. We can define component parts and operations, we can run simulations and experiments of thoughts and theories and we can test what is true and what is not based on repeated success in our testing of theories from the perspective of some ism to prove our view. But what if it is the view itself that creates the outcome? What if it is our focus and intent that creates everything?
We are amazing to put it simply; every single one of us with our goals and ambitions, our thoughts and our dreams. We are actively participating in this huge Conscious (Big “C”) experience with conscious (little “c”) thoughts and ideas. We will not find the doorways of true understanding through thought alone no matter which discipline or “ism” we filter it through. It will take something more akin to the feeling (not read emotion) of the true expanse of our awareness to understand. More than mere belief, I have faith that with all of the explorations from the past, those of the present and even those yet to come, we will arrive at expanded Conscious Awareness in the bigger sense. In a way, perhaps multifaceted ways, we are already there.
Burnham, Douglas et al, “Existentialism” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/existent/. Web.
Harter, J.L., 2014, The Ego is the Veil, California, The Ministry of Connected Consciousness. Print.
Hockenbury, Don et al 2014, Discovering Psychology. Sixth Edition, New York, Worth Publishers. Print.
Mastin, Luke, “Realism” and “Idealism,” The Basics of Philosophy, http://www.philosophybasics.com. Web.
McDermid, Douglas, “Pragmatism, “ The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/pragmati/ Web.
Miriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, “Ism”, http://www.merriam-webster.com. Web.
Rev. J.L. Harter, PhD, M.Msc., B.Msc., Author, Blogger, and Spiritual Counselor, Editor of the JMCC. See Bio section for more information.
© 2014 Jaie Hart (photo and words, except where cited from other sources)