The causality of ideas

Empiricism – at least the non-Berkeleian or Aristotelian kind – tends to overlook or minimize the extent to which ideas are causes of things in the world. All art reduces to an idea, and to understand any form or pattern is to get the idea behind it.

But it’s not exactly empiricism that misses the causality of ideas – not all empiricists miss this and some non-empiricists do. Plantinga’s claim that abstract entities are not causes, for example, is hard to square with a robust awareness of the causality of ideas. If anything, we seem to be dealing with different personality types: the idea tends to be missed by what Jung or Myers-Briggs called the “sensation” types, and accorded primacy by those they call “intuitive” types.


  1. Kristor said,

    May 29, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Did you mean, “Aristotelian and non-Berkeleyan,” or, “non-Aristotelian and non-Berkeleyan”?

  2. May 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I can readily see this in regard to literature. A novel, for example, can be expressed by a one sentence thesis all made up of abstract words.

    However, how would you express the idea behind a piece of music or a painting? Would it be a sound or an image?

%d bloggers like this: