What is idealism?

  • (noun): Impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are.
    See also — Additional definitions below


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. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas — especially beliefs and values — shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind. An extreme version of this idealism can exist in the philosophical notion of solipsism.

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Some articles on idealism:

The Beast (Revelation) - Interpretations - Idealism
... Idealism, also known as the allegorical or symbolic approach, is an interpretation of the book of Revelation that sees the imagery of the book as non-literal symbols ...
Left Realism - Break With Left Idealism
... currents in criminology since the war reformism and left idealism", criticising 'the moral panics of the mass media or the blatant denial of left idealism' ...
Idealism in The Philosophy of Science
... This kind of idealism led to the pantheism of Spinoza. 1900, Karl Pearson wrote, "There are many signs that a sound idealism is surely replacing, as a basis for natural philosophy, the crude materialism of the older physicists." This book influenced ... of human freedom" and his Science and the Unseen World (1929) for support of philosophical idealism "the thesis that reality is basically mental" ...
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Idealism - Vegetarianism
... Shelley, in heartfelt dedication to sentient beings, wrote "If the use of animal food be, in consequence, subversive to the peace of human society, how unwarrantable is the injustice and the barbarity which is exercised toward these miserable victims ... They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged ...
Metaphysicians - History and Schools of Metaphysics - Early Analytical Philosophy and Positivism
... During the period when idealism was dominant in philosophy, science had been making great advances ... scientifically minded philosophers led to a sharp decline in the popularity of idealism during the 1920s ... Russell and William James tried to compromise between idealism and materialism with the theory of neutral monism ...

More definitions of "idealism":

  • (noun): (philosophy) the philosophical theory that ideas are the only reality.

Famous quotes containing the word idealism:

    It wasn’t idealism that made me, from the beginning, want a more secure and rational society. It was an intellectual judgement, to which I still hold. When I was young its name was socialism. We can be deflected by names. But the need was absolute, and is still absolute.
    Raymond Williams (1921–1988)

    Cynicism makes things worse than they are in that it makes permanent the current condition, leaving us with no hope of transcending it. Idealism refuses to confront reality as it is but overlays it with sentimentality. What cynicism and idealism share in common is an acceptance of reality as it is but with a bad conscience.
    Richard Stivers, U.S. sociologist, educator. The Culture of Cynicism: American Morality in Decline, ch. 1, Blackwell (1994)

    The idealism of Berkeley is only a crude statement of the idealism of Jesus, and that again is a crude statement of the fact that all nature is the rapid efflux of goodness executing and organizing itself.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)