Often associated with the work of Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710-1796), and German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

Usually used in either of two ways:

(1) the view that abstract concepts have a real existence and can be studied empirically;
(2) the doctrine that the physical world has a reality separate from that of the mind.

Over the reality of universals (see Platonism) and other abstract objects, realism contrasts mainly with nominalism and conceptualism (see also: resemblance theories of universals).

In dealing with the reality and status of things around us, it contrasts with idealism and phenomenalism. It contrasts with anti-realism on the possibility of truths independent of our powers of verifying them or manifesting knowledge of them.

All this suggests that realism (like ‘real’) is mainly defined by contrast. As with many philosophical terms, ‘realist’ can apply to some features of a view to other features of which some contrasting term applies.

Compare with: causal realism, critical realism, modal realism, naive realism, perspective realism

D N Robinson, An Intellectual History of Psychology (London, 1976)

RealismRealistic, or Realists may refer to:

In the arts

  • Realism (arts), the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully in different forms of the arts

Arts movements related to realism include:

  • Classical Realism
  • Literary realism, a movement from the mid 19th to the early 20th century
  • Neorealism (art)
    • Italian neorealism (film)
    • Indian neorealism (film)
  • New realism, a movement founded in 1960
  • Realism (art movement), 19th-century painting group
  • Theatrical realism, one of the many types of theatre such as Naturalism
  • Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, an art movement

In philosophy

  • Philosophical realism

Related realist philosophies include:

  • Aesthetic realism (metaphysics)
  • Agential realism (Barad)
  • Australian realism
  • Austrian realism
  • Conceptualist realism (Wiggins)
  • Critical realism (disambiguation)
  • Dialectical realism (Hacking)
  • Direct realism
  • Empirical realism
  • Entity realism
  • Epistemic structural realism
  • Epistemological realism
  • Hermeneutic realism (Heidegger)
  • Internal realism, also known as “pragmatic realism” (Putnam)
  • Local realism, the view held by the authors of the EPR paper
  • Logical realism, the conviction the rules of logic are mind-independent
  • Metaphysical realism
  • Modal realism
  • Model-dependent realism (Hawking and Mlodinow)
  • Moderate realism
  • Moral realism
  • Naïve realism
  • New realism (philosophy)
  • Ontic structural realism
  • Peircean realism
  • Perspectival realism
  • Platonic realism
  • Quasi-realism
  • Rational realism (Bardili)
  • Realistic monism (G. Strawson)
  • Realistic rationalism (Katz)
  • Referential realism
  • Romantic realism
  • Scientific realism
    • Musgrave’s scientific realism
  • Scotistic realism
  • Semantic realism (epistemology) (a position criticized by Dummett)
  • Semantic realism (philosophy of science) (Psillos)
  • Semirealism (Chakravartty)
  • Set-theoretic realism (Maddy)
  • Speculative realism
  • Subtle realism
  • Transcendental realism (Schelling, Schopenhauer, Bhaskar)
  • Truth-value link realism (a position criticized by Dummett)

In the social sciences

Realist approaches in the social sciences include:

  • Ethnographic realism, either a descriptive word, i.e. of or relating to the first-hand participant-observation practices of ethnographers, or a writing style or genre that narrates in a similar fashion.
  • Legal realism, the view that jurisprudence should emulate the methods of natural science, i.e., rely on empirical evidence
  • Realism (international relations), the view that world politics is driven by competitive self-interest
    • Classical realism (international relations)
    • Neorealism (international relations)
  • Structural realism, in international relations
  • Subtle realism, in social science research methodology


  • Realistic (album), an album by Ivy
  • Realism (Steril album), an album by Steril
  • Realism (The Magnetic Fields album), an album by The Magnetic Fields


  • Czech Realist Party, former political party in Austria-Hungary
  • Realists (political party), conservative political party in the Czech Republic

Other uses

2 thoughts on “Realism

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