Idealism, Intentionality, and Nonexistent Objects

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Idealist philosophers have traditionally tried to defend their views by appealing to the claim that nonmental reality is inconceivable. A standard response to this inconceivability claim is to try to show that it is only plausible if one blurs the fundamental distinction between consciousness and its object. I try to rehabilitate the idealistic argument by presenting an alternative formulation of the idealist’s basic inconceivability claim. Rather than suggesting that all objects are inconceivable apart from consciousness, I suggest that it is impossible to conceive of any such object as genuinely existent. This thesis is lent credence by the fact that only in reflective self-consciousness is existence a phenomenological datum. Not only is it the case that we are not ever aware of an object as existing, we do not have a clear understanding of what it would be like to have such an awareness. If this is true, then we have reason to believe that while consciousness exists, the objects of consciousness cannot exist
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