Express Yourself

About anything and everything on the planet

February 17, 2010

Idealism vs. Realism: Exploring the Ways we Think

Having almost completed a degree in psychology, I understand enough about the human mind to know that even an individual doesn’t undesrstand why he thinks the way he does. Most people, however, do not have university degrees in psychology, and therefore are unlikely to understand anything in depth about the way we think. The way we think… I guess that’s what my series of articles is going to be about. I am interested in exploring and challenging a lot of pre-conceptions that we as a society hold. I am on a personal mission to understand what we do, and why we do it.

I want to begin my series of articles on our world by discussing different structures of thought. From my own personal experience, I find that most philosophical arguments between laymen (myself included) result from different worldviews, specifically idealism and realism. To define my terms, Google defines realism as “the attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth” and idealism as “impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are”.

By these definitions, it sounds like idealism is simply day dreaming and worthless. Why would we think about life as ideal when we know that we will probably never achieve it? We should focus on improving life in realistic ways. In other words, we can’t go from what is real, to what is ideal, practically… or realistically. The reason why we need idealism is to know in which direction to make realistic improvements. How would we know how good things could be, if we don’t think of them idealistically? It is therefore necessary to have a balance of both.

So, how do these two philosophies affect our perception of day-to-day experience? My uncle, a man I deeply respect, is most definitely a realist. He is a strong believer in taking power away from government and putting it back in the hands of citizens. He understands that governments are not perfect and are not always looking out for all their citizens and therefore should have less power. I, on the other hand, believe in giving more power to governments. I think that a controlling body should govern people and we should lose some of our personal freedoms and entrust them to the government. But then again, I don’t know any idealists that would realistically make that suggestion.

Regardless, when you read my following articles, keep this in mind. I will make sure to clarify if I am approaching something from a realistic or an idealistic perspective. Most of the time, it will be idealistic… what can I say, I’m a dreamer.

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