realism, in philosophy. 1 In medieval philosophy realism represented a position taken on the problem of universals. There were two schools of realism. Extreme realism, represented by William of Champeaux, held that universals exist independently of both the human mind and particular things—a theory closely associated with that of Plato. Some other philosophers rejected this view for what can be termed moderate realism, which held that universals exist only in the mind of God, as patterns by which he creates particular things. St. Thomas Aquinas and John of Salisbury were proponents of moderate realism. 2 In epistemology realism represents the theory that particular things exist independently of our perception. This position is in direct contrast to the theory of idealism, which holds that reality exists only in the mind. Most contemporary British and American philosophy tends toward realism. Prominent modern realists have included Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and C. D. Broad.
See J. D. Wild, Introduction to Realistic Philosophy (1948, repr. 1984); P. K. Feyerabend, Realism, Rationalism, and Scientific Method (Vol. 1, 1985); C. Wright, Realism, Meaning, and Truth (1987); R. L. Arrington, Rationalism, Realism, and Relativism (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.