Realism denotes two distinct sets of philosophical theories, one regarding the nature of universal concepts and the other dealing with knowledge of objects in the world.
In late – classical and medieval philosophy, realism was a development of the Platonic theory of Forms and held, generally, that universals such as “red” or “man” have an independent, objective existence, either in a realm of their own or in the mind of God
In modern philosophy realism is a broad term, encompassing several movements whose unity lies in a common rejection of philosophical Idealism. In its most general form realism asserts that objects in the external world exist independently of what is thought about them.
The most straightforward of such theories is usually known as naive realism. It contends that in perception humans are made directly aware of objects and their attributes and thus have immediate access to the external world. This view fails, however, to explain perceptual mistakes and illusions, and most realists argue that causal processes in the mind mediate, or interpret, directly perceived appearances. Thus the objects remain in essence independent, although the causal mechanism may distort, or even wholly falsify, the individual’s knowledge of them.
Regarding the nature of universal concepts
Extreme realism – William of Champeaux
Universals exist independently of both human mind and particular things. They possess real existence and precede the existence of singular concrete objects. It is a development of Platonic theory of Forms or ideas.
Modern realism – Thomas Aquinas, John of Salisbury
Universals exist only in the mind of God as patterns by which He created particular things. Universals cannot exist apart from individual objects. Universals are abstracted from particular things.
Dealing with the knowledge of the objects of the world ( Epistemologically)
Realism represents the theory that particular things exist independent of our perception. It is in contrast to idealism, which holds that reality exists only in the mind. This is the modern trend of British and American philosophers like Bertrand Russel, G.E.Moore etc.
Socialist Realism: It began in the beginning of 20 th century in Russia.
It is a truthful historically concrete reflection of reality taken in the evolutionary development and presented in the light of Communist idea. It was a revolt against Capitalism and Bourgeoism.
- Working class is the true producer of human values
- Commitment to communist ideology
- Service to the people
- Adherence to partisanship
Idealism interprets and explains the whole universe, things, mind and their relations as realization of a system of ideas. Things take different forms , determined by the view of ideas or ideals.
Plato: Every reality is explained in terms of a single idea or concept. Ideas are eternal and real; actually existing things are mere approximations of the ideas. E.g. A line is not actually a line; but only a moving point. A perfect or true line is the concept of a line; what we draw is an imperfect approximation of the perfect ideal entirely Ideas are eternal and are found in Heavens.
Aristotle: A concept is not to be found in Heavens; but formed from our experience of variety of things of similar nature.
German idealism: Knowledge is a joint venture of experience and reasoning, a synthesis of rationalism and Empiricism. Percept without concept is blind; concept without percept is empty.
Materialism regards nothing as real and substantial. , which has no tangibility. It reduces everything inn terms of physical matter, which is for him the on ly reality. Only tangible things are real and hence substantial.
Terms like power, energy, motion, principle, mind etc are intangible, hence not substantial, but are mere attributes or conditions or products of matter.
Substantialism: All things in nature, which exist or can form the basis of a concept, are really substantial entity, whether they are the so-called principles or forces or atoms of corporeal bodies. Substantial existence or real beings are the sources or underlying ground of all phenomena , mental or physical. Gravitation, Magnetism, Light, Sound etc are all substances. Mind is a substance since it acts to think or produce thoughts. Life and mind are one and identical, since they have identical qualities and attributes.
Substantialistic hypothesis of living organism
Within every living being, there exists a vital and mental organism , the invisible counterpart of the physical structure, the source of all vital and physiological phenomena.
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