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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown


A theory which holds that only mental states are knowable, the modern applications of which originate with Immanuel Kant. According to Kant, the world conforms to the categories of the mind, not vice versa. Against empiricism -- the view that all knowledge derives from experience, from the sensory data that impress themselves on the blank slate of consciousness -- idealism maintains that the mind plays an active role in the perception and structuring of the phenomenal world. Transcendental versions of the theory maintain that ultimate reality lies in a noumenal realm transcending the sensory world.

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
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Last modified: March 31, 1997