Definition of idealism in English:


Line breaks: ideal|ism
Pronunciation: /ʌɪˈdɪəlɪz(ə)m
, -ˈdiːə-/


[mass noun]
  • 1The unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection: the idealism of youth Compare with realism.
    More example sentences
    • We learned about the three ‘major’ sets of political beliefs - idealism, liberalism and realism.
    • As Abbott has since admitted, this was done not through any sense of public duty or political idealism.
    • This is not to say that Americans have lost their idealism or their belief that international relations should be dictated in part by moral principles - hardly.
  • 1.1(In art or literature) the representation of things in ideal or idealized form. Often contrasted with realism ( sense 2).
    More example sentences
    • He posited that Durer's work represents a synthesis of naturalism and idealism that offers an example to contemporary artists.
    • Lesley Cormack is resolute in trying to resolve the contradiction between Dee's textual idealism and social pragmatism, to the disadvantage of the idealist text.
    • These are said to have been most influential in early nineteenth-century France and Germany and to have had a profound effect on German idealism and on European romanticism in general.
  • 2 Philosophy Any of various systems of thought in which the objects of knowledge are held to be in some way dependent on the activity of mind. Often contrasted with realism ( sense 3).
    More example sentences
    • Kant's transcendental idealism should not be confused with subjective idealism which makes the physical dependent on the mental.
    • There are theists in all of these categories (don't know about transcendental idealism or logical positivists), so they all allow for divine intervention of a kind.
    • No significant distinction would then remain between Kant's position (that we can have knowledge of phenomena) and the empirical idealism that he claims to reject.


late 18th century (in sense 2): from French idéalisme or German Idealismus, from late Latin idealis (see ideal).

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