From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Idealism is the philosophical theory which maintains that experience is ultimately based on mental activity. In the philosophy of perception, idealism is contrasted with realism, in which the external world is said to have an apparent absolute existence. Epistemological idealists (such as Kant) claim that the only things which can be directly known for certain are just ideas (abstraction). In literature, idealism refers to the thoughts or the ideas of the writer.
In the philosophy of mind, idealism is the opposite of materialism, in which the ultimate nature of reality is based on physical substances. Materialism is a theory of monism as opposed to dualism and pluralism, while idealism might or might not be monistic. Hence, idealism can take dualistic form and often does, since the subject-object division is dualistic by definition. Idealism sometimes refers to a tradition in thought that represents things of a perfect form, as in the fields of ethics, morality, aesthetics, and value. In this way, it represents a human perfect being or circumstance.
Idealism is a philosophical movement in Western thought, but is not entirely limited to the West, and names a number of philosophical positions with sometimes quite different tendencies and implications in politics and ethics; for instance, at least in popular culture, philosophical idealism is associated with Plato and the school of platonism.
In general parlance, "idealism" or "idealist" is also used to describe a person having high ideals, sometimes with the connotation that those ideals are unrealisable or at odds with "practical" life, or naively at variance with empirical observations of the real world.
The word "ideal" is commonly used as an adjective to designate qualities of perfection, desirability, and excellence. This is foreign to the epistemological use of the word "idealism" which pertains to internal mental representations. These internal ideas represent objects that are assumed to exist outside of the mind.
Le Palais idéal
- See Ferdinand Cheval