The Enigma Of The Universe ► 1 ►What is the Universe? ► (A) Nature Of Reality: Idealism And Realism ► 3. Philosophical Realism

Posted: 23.08.2014

The fundamental difference between the doctrines of Idealism and Realism is that in the former the subject or the knower is considered to be the centre of reality while in the latter the objects or the things themselves are considered as reality. To understand this, we take a simple illustration. We perceive an apple by touching it, smelling it, tasting it, observing it. We have then the knowledge that it is an apple. While the idealist would insist that it (the apple) comes into existence only through its colour, taste, etc. being perceived, the realist would assert that the existence of the thing (the apple) is not at all dependent on our perception

of its qualities. Thus the doctrine of realism briefly asserts that the fundamental character of reality is to be found in its independence of all relation to the experience of a subject. The universe really exists and all the things of the universe exist objectively. What exists at all exists equally whether it is experienced or not. In other words, its existence does not depend upon its perception. The fact that the subject-you or I or God-cognises it, makes no difference to the reality of the real thing. In other words, it is not necessary that there should be experience in order that there may be real things. This, in brief, is the essence of the realist contention and any philosophy, which accepts it as valid, is in its spirit a realist philosophy.

Realism is also interpreted in various forms. Here again it is clearly not possible for us to go into the detailed discussion of the divergent views held by different realist philosophers. All that we can do is to discuss the broad outlines of some of the more prominent forms of this doctrine.

We may divide the realists into two groups on the basis of the number of the independent real things. While some representatives of realism called monists have maintained the existence of a single ultimate reality, others called pluralists believed in an indefinite plurality of independent reals. Parmenides is an instance of the former or the monistic type while Herbert with his world of simple 'reals' afford the best known instance of the latter i.e. pluralistic realism.

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