How do idealists explain the predictable loss of function involved in brain lesion studies, or similarly, the predictable functions caused by stimulation of specific brain regions?

  • 1
    The same way they explain hunger causing bad mood, it is not like idealists think that material world has no effect on mind.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 5:33
  • matter is mind.
    – user63148
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 8:02
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    – Dcleve
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


There are a range of views called "idealism". The most common in philosophy thru the early 1900s was phenomenalism -- that phenomenal experience was what we really knew, and any inferred matter was secondary, at least from a knowledge perspective. This form of "idealism" is compatible with ontologic materialism, dualism, or idealism, and is entirely compatible with brain trauma affecting our consciousness.

Of more relevance to your questions are ontological idealisms, like the Perennial Philosophy view that a Mind at Large is what is responsible for all reality, and we are in delusion in our belief we are separate from it. In these idealisms, if matter is created by consciousness, at least at first blush, it appears that consciousness should not be affected by mere material events.

Your question imports a Popperian "critical test case to refute a theory" approach from philosophy of science into general philosophy, in order to test metaphysical theories.

Note that while Popper's approach is highly useful in science, it is not nearly as definitive as he initially asserted. Most science theories continue to be accepted, even when they fail critical test cases. A good example is the Big Bang Theory, which for many decades was predicting that the universe was older than the oldest stars in our galaxy, but which was accepted none the less. Another philosopher, Imre Lakatos, offered an alternative view, that of Research Programmes, in which a theory is a family of views, which can be amended and tweaked to accommodate contrary observations, and a theory is maintained so long as it is "progressive" -- IE it helps to make useful predictions guiding further investigation. A theory is discarded when it becomes "regressive" because the tweaks and special assumptions make it predictively nearly useless. http://people.loyno.edu/~folse/Lakatos.html

Popper and Lakatos would both endorse the application of their methods to metaphysics claims, so that part of your approach is fine.

The strong idealist worldviews all are aware of examples of matter affecting mind, and all have deployed, methods to explain this data. The Vedic inspired idealisms resort to variants on delusion -- Maya. We falsely THINK that matter is constraining on mind, similar to all of our other Maya illusions, so we LET matter constrain our minds. Christian Science uses similar reasoning around insufficient faith. And New Age idealism often blames the negative or fear-based mindset of the victim.

Some idealist thinking in the New Age and Pagan traditions avoids this victim blaming, by asserting that the mind creating physical reality is a collaborative process -- that the physical constraints on the mental are basically the effect of multiple OTHER minds forcing the injured to experience physical constraints on their mental. The idea of a collectively created reality is why some New Age thinking seeks to change the world by changing widespread attitudes about our world. "Visualize World Peace" is a slogan attempting to create world peace by changing our collective expectations, and thus changing the actual world. This "collective reality" idealism has no issues with injuries harming consciousness.

It is not just idealist worldviews that face evidential challenges from brain lesions. Most dualist models do too. A common dualist model of mind/brain is of drone operator, and drone processor/sensor set. Injuries to a drone/body per this model should lead to reduced inputs to the operator, and reduced outputs received by the drone, but should not affect the operator's thinking. This model is not compatible with the personality changes seen in many lesions.

The application of Latakian methodology to metaphysics models, using mind data to guide the evaluation, is not widely practiced. I offer two examples of attempting to do so, in two book reviews:

https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Afterlife-against-After-Death/dp/0810886774?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_dp https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RZY1A4EL2JOZ4?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

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