In typical sci-fi scenarios, the characters realize that they are living in a simulation, or that everything is a dream, etc....once they notice that the laws of physics don't always hold, or that they themselves can defy the laws of physics. In the Matrix series for example, those who are aware that the world isn't real but just a huge AI simulation, can perform superhuman feats of strength, bend spoons, etc....while those who still believe that they are in a real physical environment can't.

Is there a formal equivalent to this idea: That if Idealism were true, then the world would only be constrained by the laws of logic, not by the laws of physics?

Has anyone argued against Idealism that way? That if Idealism were true, then we should be able to defy the laws of physics, or at least more frequently observe others doing so?

What justifications do Idealists give for there being any constraints on our world beyond logical ones? For an Idealist, why are the laws of physics they way they are, instead of being more logical or intuitive?

  • 1
    More often, I think, folks argue that if idealism were true, the laws of physics would be more logical and less arbitrary. You might want to include that option in the question.
    – user9166
    Jun 16, 2016 at 16:26
  • I don't know what you mean by more logical. They aren't that arbitrary. There aren't many free parameters.
    – AHusain
    Jun 18, 2016 at 5:48
  • David Lewis's Plural Worlds might be worth a look, I'm not sure if one could call him an idealist; more of a logician - but thats my take on it. Jul 4, 2016 at 6:21

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is a common canard, but it basically misunderstands the various notions of idealism that people actually propose.

From the the most basic 'Plato/formality' take on idealism, your will is just one idea among many. And there is no reason to presume other ideas are subject to your will. In fact, within your own mind, you experience counterexamples to this constantly. Most of your thoughts happen to you (as distinct from 'occurring to you'), and you cannot avoid having them. You can only adjust the perspective you take to them. If you cannot make yourself stop thinking about pink elephants at will, or make your mind grasp some concept just by wishing it so, why would you have control over the rest of the universe just because it was made of ideas?

From the 'monadic/process' direction of idealism all we are all complete reflections of the universe, so you may theoretically be in control of what you think, but you are not alone in the universe, and the entirety is a compromise governed by relationships, and coordinated by an overall notion of harmony and respect. This means that by deference to the overall order, you have "pre-consciously" agreed to take in what others put into your mind. Your own ideas represent just a single perspective in this grander scheme, and only by all minds agreeing so could the rules really be any different.

From the 'Hegel/Berkeley' direction of idealism, you are not God, if only because you choose not to be. You are subject to a higher order because you are not ready or willing to be one with God, or God is not yet ready and willing to be One with himself. Until that impasse is resolved, He controls things and you do not.

The laws of physics may only be logic. But it is not necessarily the logic that makes sense to you, but rather what either makes sense of the overall sum of the forms, of the overall sense of what best mediates reality between minds, or the combined will of the Universe to which you are subject.

In particular, for Kant, human understanding is only one form of understanding, and other forms of understanding influence the currency of ideas available, so physics in toto may not appeal perfectly to us. We are predisposed to understand the world, but the world is not shaped only for us. So some parts of that understanding may come more naturally than others.


Assuming by Idealism you mean what the following quote from Wikipedia states:

"In philosophy, idealism is the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial."

then the happenings in an Ideal World would only be constrained by the Laws of Logic. The laws of physics would be formulated by the inhabitants of the Ideal World and, hence, would not be constrained by anything other than logicality.

No one, to my knowledge, has argued against Idealism in this way. It would be difficult to convince an Idealist that the laws of physics are anything more than conceptual statements formulated by the mind in reaction to the Ideal World.

In fact, the Idealist Plato (whom some would call an Exaggerated Realist) claimed that the Ideal Forms (not in any one human mind, but in the Ideal World) are MORE REAL than that same physical things which "participate" in these Ideas. For example, the Ideal Circle is perfectly round, while no physical circle, however accurately drawn, may make the claim to be perfectly round!!!

Hope this helps.... Dr. Why (philosophy professor)

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