Idealism is a school of philosophy which holds that the material world is a product of the mind or spirit and has no real existence of its own. It is one of the oldest branches of philosophy and formed the core of belief systems such as Brahmanism in India and certain Buddhist sects in China long before the Classical Greek philosopher Plato introduced it to the West. Pluralistic idealism is one of several subsystems of idealism. It depicts the university as a society of spirits or minds who together endow the material universe with its “reality” and meaning. Pluralistic idealism further holds that, although there may be a hierarchy among the minds, each individual spirit exists as an independent and valuable entity. Furthermore, because they believe that these many minds each has an autonomous existence, pluralistic idealists generally place strong emphasis on values such as individuality and freedom.
Even though God may reign supreme in the society of minds, there are limits even on his power which ensure that no other member of the society is rendered insignificant. In this respect, pluralistic idealism differs considerably from monistic idealism, which also holds that the mind is all that exists, but which emphasizes the omnipotence of “the One”—the single, supreme Mind, or unified system of consciousness, that underlies and encompasses all of the Universe. Numerous philosophers have attempted, usually with limited success, to integrate monistic and pluralistic idealism.