Pragmatism, Realism and Idealism


Idealism (French “idealisme” from Greek “idea”) is the general designation of philosophical doctrines asserting that the consciousness, thinking, mental and spiritual things are initial, fundamental, and a matter, nature and physical things are secondary, derivative. So, idealism resists to materialism in the decision of the basic question of philosophy - about the relation of life and thinking, spiritual and material both in the spheres of existence and knowledge.

Nevertheless all fundamental unity of idealistic camp in the decision of the basic question of philosophy, in this camp it is necessary to distinguish its two main forms:
· Idealism objective;
· Idealism subjective;
For the first the recognition of spiritual first principle out of our consciousness is characteristic.
The assumption of some realities out of our consciousness is unacceptable for the second.

Arguments Against Idealism

The main counterargument against subjective idealism (identities of a thing and sensation) - is the question: “why the person has sensations, what’s their reason?”

A reality of the thing is not caused by presence of a complex of person’s sensations, on the contrary - presence of sensations is caused by a reality of things, the fact of their influence on senses.


Realism is the philosophical term used for a designation of a direction, postulating existence of the reality independently from the learning subject.

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In philosophical value, the term Realism is used in three senses:

1.       Realism as a direction opposite to nominalism and conceptualism (moderate realism) in medieval philosophy (a problem universals);

2.      Realism serves for a designation of a philosophical direction of the new time and is resisting to idealism. Herbart with the followers was the spokesman of this kind of realism;

3.     Realism as a direction opposite to antirealism in modern philosophy of a science of the second half of the XX century.

The essence of a problem consists in a question on value of the general. Realism (in scholastic sense) attributes the validity to the general ideas (“universalia sunt realia”). Thus, this realism, from the other point of view, is called as idealism. Plato, in the doctrine about ideas, has given for the first time quite a distinct decision of a problem in the realistic spirit, and realists of all times see in Plato the prototype.

Arguments For Realism and Against Realism

The basic argument for realism - a conclusion to the best explanation: the scientific realism is a unique philosophy of a science, which does not do a miracle of scientific progress. The scientific realism was exposed to criticism from outside antirealists, which assert what to consider true scientific theories too risky. This argument is called as a pessimistic induction and is formulated as follows: some former scientific theories were false, for example, theories caloric, phlogiston, concept of ether. Hence, modern theories too can appear false. The position of scientific realism was severely criticized by realists though found also numerous supporters. Later there was "weaker" realistic position - critical realism in which frameworks many statements of realists were more reserved.


Among philosophical schools of the XX century, undoubtedly, one of the most known the pragmatism or an instrumentalism, more often named philosophy of the businessman truly American philosophy Sources are: a pragmatism is undoubtedly more senior, than created in the end of XIX - the beginning of XX century by American researchers S. Pierce and W. James the theory in a new fashion shining all parties of traditional philosophical knowledge, connected with ontology, epistemology, methodology, social philosophy and anthropology.

Pier and Jams started with known philosophical principles, defining sense of philosophizing through activity of the subject and personal perception of the world and in this sense their philosophical theories can be carried to that philosophic traditions which was successfully developed in Europe New time in works And Fichte, partially at D. Hume, and then at the numerous representatives of various schools of panegoizm considering that "without the subject - there is no object".

The pragmatism major principle proclaims the thesis that at each person - the philosophy and the founder of this philosophy William James (1842-1910), considered that the validity possesses set of forms, and free creativity of each person creates a pluralistic picture of the world. At each person the ways of philosophizing peculiar only to it for, with its point of view, "to philosophize means to have an individual way of perception and feeling of pulsation of a space life", and the philosophical orientation is caused by congenital temperament of the person. From the point of view of supporters of pragmatism, the philosophy is a method of settling of disputes of the philosophers, based on practical consequences of our actions.

In the pragmatism basis there is that position Kantian philosophies which asserts that the original knowledge of essence of things is initially inaccessible to the person, i.e. an agnosticism principle. Knowledge inseparably linked with the subject and its opinion. The subjective opinion of the subject defines representation that is true and that false and confirms this validity falsity success of practical actions of the person.

As true which can be accepted, W. James recognizes only that in the best way supervises over us that is better adapted for any part of the life and allows is better to merge with all set of our experience.

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The true, - considers it, is that helps to assimilate the new experience with a stock of old belief Supporters of a pragmatism assert that true is that works on us is better. It achieve only for practice, instead of for end in itself. This approach sharply distinguishes philosophy of pragmatism from European philosophical tradition of search of true dominating throughout many decades for the sake of it.

W. James' familiar expression "True is a bank note which is valid only in certain conditions", has forced to see in a new fashion many philosophical traditions and anew to overestimate them.

The relation of pragmatism to practice as to set of sensual consequences following from our understanding has allowed historians of philosophy to pull together the theory of knowledge of a pragmatism and Marxism (dialectic materialism). Unique distinction between these two epistemologies they saw only that the Marxism recognized as criterion of true socio-historical practice, and pragmatism - individual experience, success of actions of the learning subject.

The philosophy center, according to J. Dewey, the epistemology is. The knowledge beginning is always difficulty in activity and the philosophical methodology is subordinated to maintenance of success of actions of the person. For this reason it is necessary for each person to have not unique, and set of methods or ways of knowledge of the world, those tools which promote efficiency of action and its success.

The pragmatist philosophy promoted creation of a self-corrected method of knowledge, characteristic for a modern science. From the point of view of people of a science, the pragmatism learns to operate; instead of to argue in vain, the pragmatism allows understanding correctly an eternal problem of philosophy - that there is a true? - As advantage and as success in actions.

This accurate utilitarian message of philosophy of pragmatism allows to refuse many traditional philosophical problems, naming their speculative and metaphysical and to rise on consecutive positions of panegoizm. So, according to J. Dewey, cognizable things always and everywhere are inseparable from the learning subject, those and others only two aspects same. Pragmatism principles do not allow rejecting any hypothesis from which consequences useful to a life, whether it is values of morals, religion or aesthetics follow.

At the same time, any fundamental concept of morals is, from the point of view of pragmatism, dogmatism and inadmissible abstraction, such absolutization which has no right to existence because any moral situation is unique and demands the new, unique decision. Analyzing representations about good, the pragmatism does a conclusion that as good is called that answers any requirement so, the general representation identical to all about good and harm as basic categories of ethics, actually is not present and cannot be. This pragmatist approach makes an inevitable conclusion that the purposes which are put forward by the person - unreasonable and can be subordinated only by methods, means and forms of moral activity. Such approach has allowed defining major principles of discussion lasting much decade in ethics: there is also a moral activity or the moral estimation of activity of people is introduced in it by people? Whether prominent features of moral relations, no less than moral (immoral) feelings of people can be defined? The pragmatism solves these problems from positions utilitarianism: that benefit the person, as to the operating subject is moral. It is extreme version of moral relativism.

Arguments for and against pragmatism

The only way to observe things for us is to use the senses that we have. What if we have some other senses? Moles don't realize that they're blind. Obviously, their pragmatism is limited because of this. But how do we know that we aren't limited in some similar way?

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Non- limited pragmatism (without any moral standards) is closer to cynicism. Pragmatism obviously stimulates the person to finish business. If you start to do something, you should be improved in it. You should be responsible for it, should understand all its circumstances. In general, it may be identified with professionalism. But it is often associated with use of resources, people etc. But it is wrong to contempt pragmatism.


Realism and Pragmatism interpret nature of science knowledge in different ways. In realism science knowledge is a description of reality and concepts of scientific theories are matched with real objects, with their qualities and relations. Pragmatism reckons theories not as a description of real things and processes, but as useful instruments for practical activity organization. From that point of view, nothing in reality links with science theories and in is vacantly to descant about realness of those theories. Moreover, the only way is to attempt efficient and simple use of them. In the other hand idealism and realism are differing by their relation to the matter problem, and pragmatism just avoids this question due to impossibility of right answer and total absence of any profit after answering it. To conclude, pragmatism is a kind of combination between realism and idealism.

In my opinion, pragmatism is very useful and the most applied life position. It is not necessary to analyze some problem in many ways if you can just solve it and move over. In the other hand, totally pragmatic world view may cause low level of culture as s result of non-pragmatic nature of art, literature etc. In classic literature there are a lot of examples of pragmatic people(like Theodore Dreiser’s Financier) that are simple pragmatics, but without any estetical sense.

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