Idealism: A love (of sophia) that dare not speak its name

Arts 29:71–94 (2007)

Paul Redding
University of Sydney
My first experience of philosophy at the University of Sydney was as a commencing undergraduate in the tumultuous year of 1973. At the start of that year, there was one department of philosophy, but by the beginning of the next there were two. These two departments seemed to be opposed in every possible way except one: they both professed to be committed to a form of materialist philosophy. One could think that having a common enemy at least might have been the cause for some degree of unanimity, but no: the traditional enemy of materialism—idealism—was regarded to have been long dead and buried. For the Marxists in the then “Department of General Philosophy”, it had been Marx who, in the second half of the nineteenth century, had “inverted” Hegelian idealism into a form of materialism, while for the analytic philosophers in the “Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy”, it had been Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore who had triumphed over British idealism at the turn of the twentieth. There may have been many things that were atypical about philosophy as it was done at Sydney in the early 1970s, but its resistance to idealism was not among them.
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