Albert Fuglsang-Madsen

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Idealism - Idealists?

Hello TED people,

I will try my best to express the thought creating basis to this conversation.

· To begin with, Plato/Socrates described the Allegory of the Cave, the idea of the concrete world being an illusion and our mind and soul being free, whereas thoughts were considered holy. He said only philosophers understood the real world, the world of "ideas" where they can see things for what they really is, and their responsibility to lead the people who haven't yet obtained the same ability. He believed that the soul already knows everything, but we just "remember" it once again - that the soul is eternal and we're born over and over in different bodies.

· Later, idealism believed in freeing the body from it's flesh and shackles and return to the spirit world, the "dualistic" point of view in the world, believing only artists understood the true meaning, and simply explained it was a realisation of reality, rather than having the obligation to leading others

· Even later, today, we have Buddhism believing that the world of ideas is the real one, and the physical world being the illusion, like Plato, where we all have an "energy" within us that is an eternal river, sometimes bringing us into this illusion (birth) and that the only ones who truly understands this are munks.
"Life is like a candle, if you light its flame and go to bed, when you wake up, it will be the same candle, but the flame is different than it was when you left"

Now, I was thinking, how do you define idealists? And does that word even cover the modern/new understanding of idealists : people who always want the most optimal in every situation, and also believe in the power of thoughts and science -- expressing our thoughts and ideas and thoughts being the best. A point of view where the real people are not philosophers, artists or munks, but simply just people who realise that the world is more than just material? Is it time for a redefinition? Is there a new conception of "idealists"?

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    May 7 2013: Hello Albert,

    We humans are both, material and ideas. Whether one is more important than the other and in which order is not as relevant to me, as is the fact that we cannot be just one or the other. Even if ideas turn out to be merely electric impulses down millions of axons, there is no question that a piece of music can evoque a specific memory and make us travel in our minds. Yes, the world of ideas is a powerful one too.

    As for idealists, there is a quote by Eduardo Galeano that i like in reference to utopia and it's purpose:

    “Utopia lies at the horizon.
    When I draw nearer by two steps,
    it retreats two steps.
    If I proceed ten steps forward, it
    swiftly slips ten steps ahead.
    No matter how far I go, I can never reach it.
    What, then, is the purpose of utopia?
    It is to cause us to advance.”

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      May 7 2013: i like that interpretation :) and yes, who knows which one is "the real" and which is the "illusion" maybe they're both equally real.

      Also the horizon .. I like the image, but what exactly should Utopia be? Paradise? I'm not really chasing paradise in my opinion :p
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    May 4 2013: I think the word can be a double-edged sword. Purely defining it, I would say a person holds a vision of the pinnacle of human existence as their 'guiding light'. But with that definition, Gandhi and Francis of Assisi and Bucky Fuller could be considered 'idealists', but so could Hitler, Stalin, J W Gacy and other scumbags who would rule the world with their perverted ideals. This is why I feel the word is double-edged. Your thoughts?...
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      May 5 2013: Maybe the term idealist could be categorized depending on the most popular point of view - for instance as you say, Hitler, Stalin and so on are considered 'scumbags' by far the most people on Earth - Maybe we could just categorize that as negative idealism or damaging idealism? :)
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    May 4 2013: I am only human Albert and certainly not ideal :) Your topic reminds me of a line from a song by Rabindranath Tagore. I am trying a mediocre translation.
    "In the great worlds, under great skies and in eternal time, I, the human, walk alone with great awe."
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      May 2 2013: Haha don't worry, I won't light any :D hehe

      And yeah I think so too. There's just more to it, isn't there? I mean a person who accepts that the complete "ideal" might not be achievable due to human moral or late modern traditions might think like... You know, the optimal solution considering the current situation.

      What I mean is, for instance in physics: You calculate an arrows path towards a tree, hitting the exact spot you want it to – the perfect shot. You do this by calculating how much power should be spent to make it travel with the neccesary speed and the correct angle. This is the idealist. The perfect shot. But! What about those who considers the wave drag? What about those who thinks in advance of the current issues that might prevent the perfect shot? An idealist is seeing the perfect shot, but maybe another sort of idealist is the one who comes closest to bullseye with everything taken in consideration. Should there be two types of idealists?

      And also – I agree you don't have to be a monk, philosopher, artist or buddhist to grasp the idea and concept, but the original term "idealist" was "invented" during the time when artists believed that only artists were the real idealists, right? So don't we need another word for it now?
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    May 2 2013: When I think of an "idealist", I think of someone who has ideals of how to live and confidently lives by those or who believes lofty goals are achievable and works toward them. Examples of ideals might be living in a way that consistently finds the good in people or working toward peace with a belief that it is achievable with effort.

    Concepts like love, peace, courage, justice are abstract rather than physical objects, if that is what you mean by things not being entirely "material."

    I don't connect idealism particularly to artists, monks, and philosophers in the non-technical way I think most people use the term.
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      May 2 2013: Working toward a personal goal through a path of your own ideals as to the perfect life. I like that. But ideals are also how the world "should" be, right? Not just one self? I mean, that is how we use the term as well, isn't it? But the "idealism" of Buddhism and Artists mostly referred to oneself. Should we use another word? Some way to separate the two different ways of idealism?
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        May 2 2013: People can be idealistic about the world. I mentioned peace and justice, which are not concepts specific to the self.