Definition of idealism in English:

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Pronunciation: /īˈdē(ə)ˌlizəm/


1The practice of forming or pursuing ideals, especially unrealistically: 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).
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).
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 (sense 2): from French idéalisme or German Idealismus, from late Latin idealis (see ideal).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: i·de·al·ism

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