Definitions of Realism


In the arts, realism is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.

“Art finds her own perfection within, and not outside of, herself.
She is not to be judged by any external standard of resemblance.”
– Oscar Wilde

It has been prevalent in the arts at many periods, and is in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization. In general, realism has been the awareness or acceptance of the facts and necessities of life; a practical rather than a moral or dogmatic view of things. It is also a style of painting and sculpture which seeks to represent the familiar or typical in real life, rather than an idealized, formalized, or romantic interpretation.

“Realism can break a writer’s heart.”
– Salman Rushdie

Outside the arts, in science, realism is the viewpoint that an external reality exists independent of observation. In philosophy, it is the doctrine that universals are real i.e. they exist and are distinct from the particulars that instantiate them.

5 thoughts on “Definitions of Realism

  1. Hmm, not sure I believe in realism since we’re all trapped in subjective reality and limited by our brain’s ability to perceive it. I think I’ll get a bumper sticker, “realism is deception.”

  2. Interesting, would you say that all reality is relative – reality is merely perception?

  3. I suspect that reality is relative and that even realism is just another illusion. LOL, I would not advise challenging the laws of physics, however, unless you had a strong faith and a built in safety net.

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  5. The most paradoxical response to that, of course, would be, “Oh, really?”

    But all humor aside, if we each perceived the same object differently, I would agree, but when many of us perceive the same object similarly, with minor subjective differences, I would have to suspect that there was at least a modicum of reality attached.

    Of course I could easily counter that by saying that no matter how many blind men perceived an elephant as a rope, that wouldn’t necessarily make it so.

    Certainly food for thought – sometimes, it’s not just about the knowledge, but about the journey.

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