It is sometimes difficult to detect Idealism explicitly. After Plato, many philosophers presented themselves as being opposed to Idealism Yet most of their propositions were subsequently classified as variations of omnipresent Idealism in Judeo-Christian cultures. It is therefore interesting to understand why so many brilliant intellectuals, like Marx and Nietzsche, present themselves as an alternative to an Idealism that they detest, and why they nevertheless ended up proposing convictions tainted with Idealism This chapter presents a few reasons for the popularity of these ideas, as well as some arguments to explain the hatred evoked by Idealism.
My impression is that explicit conscious procedures can only function if they can assume that, at a given moment, there exists but one truth. A person needs to have the intimate conviction that the words she uses have but the sense she attributes to them, even though her intellect knows that terms are always polysemous. As a philologist, Nietzsche was an expert in the analysis of words.4 He insists on the fact that human functioning is such that it is impossible for words not to have many meanings: they are polysemous. This is especially true when they designate abstracts entities like good and evil. For Nietzsche, the idea that such terms could only have one meaning, one signifier, as the Idealists propose, can only be imposed on a human population by tyrannies. Nietzsche’s position, strengthened by research that I will discuss, demonstrates that there exist many ways of thinking inscribed in the architecture of the mind,5 and consequently, it is impossible to associate one style of mental practice and knowledge to a term (or signifier).
It is useful to begin this discussion on philosophy with Plato, for the following reasons:
1. He is the founder of academic philosophy.
2. He is the founder of an explicit Idealism The Idealism of certain Asiatic schools of thought does exist, but it is often more diffused.
3. His theory serves as a reference point for those who have wanted to make of the opposition the between soul and body a dogma of European and religious thought.
Idealist schools have presented a variety of theories on how body and mind associate. Here are a few examples that are discussed in this volume:
1. For Plato, the life of the soul is independent from that of the body. The mind is situated in the body.
2. Aristotle’s Idealism is particularly complex. Even though he was Plato’s student, his doctrine is different. For him, the affections of soul are inseparable from the material substratum of animal lifeâ (Aristotle, Of the Soul, 1.1). The mind is now situated in the soul.
3. Descartes’s Idealism also situates the mind in the soul. Like Aristotle, he wanted to find a theory of the organism that could support the development of a Science. Descartes can be considered as one of the founders of a scientific psychology. He adopted a particularly nuanced and tolerant Idealistic position due to the influence of Montaigne’s Essays.
4. The Idealism that Reich introduced into body psychotherapy is above all intuitive and ideological. His knowledge of Plato and Spinoza is probably superficial. The Ideas are, for Reich, as with Spinoza (whom I discuss after Descartes), not concepts but the dynamics that an omnipotent nature breathes into each one of us. These dynamics are close to the Ideas in the way that nature is conceived by these authors as being totally good, coherent, and omnipresent.
The general plan of the following sections on the philosophers begins with a divine soul, capable of flying like a god in a heavenly and pure world. It then takes us finally to Hume’s materialism where thoughts are managed like a computer or a prayer wheel that generate ideas arbitrarily.