The Philosophical DictionaryPerceptual Realism
- . Belief that material objects exist independently of our perception of them. (Thus, opposed to idealism.) Realistic theories of perception include both representationalism, in which awareness of objects is mediated by our ideas of them, and direct realism, which presumes an immediate relation between observer and observed.
- . Belief that only mental entities are real, so that physical things exist only in the sense that they are perceived.
- . Contemporary philosophical realism, also referred to as metaphysical realism, is the belief in and allegiance to a reality that exists independently of observers. Realists believe that theories are successful because they have a correspondence to reality. That is, because the theoretical explanations in question have some correspondence to what actually exists. Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality. Realists tend to embrace what they believe is actually real, despite how unattractive reality itself may be. Most realists arrive at their understanding of reality through critical thinking.
- . Idealism is a class of positions in ontology and epistemology. Idealism as an epistemological position asserts that everything we experience is of a mental nature. That is, we can only have direct, immediate knowledge of the contents of our mind. We can never directly know or experience an external object itself. As an ontological position Idealism asserts either that only minds and the objects of mind exist, or that everything is composed of mental realities (e.g., thoughts, feelings, perceptions, ideas, or will).
- In contrast with idealism, realism refers to the point of view that reality exists and the job of the scientist is to discover this reality and how it works. Thus, one could say that Comte discovered the law of the three stages. Idealism refers to the opinion that no particular reality exists, but rather multiple realities can be perceived and the ones we embrace reflect a consensually held construction about what is real. Thus, one could say that the "law of the three stages" provides
- of viewing the differences observed in societies with different levels of complexity and technological advancement.