Philosophy. Metaphysical Realism Versus Idealism

The modern metaphysical outlooks demand philosophers to stay away from explicit claims that would turn them into exclusive realists or idealists. Nevertheless, the problem of referring to the past stances still exists, and many philosophers choose to ignore the opportunity of taking a unified approach to the realism-idealism dichotomy. It means that there should be no exclusive idealist or realist positions that would mutually negate themselves in an attempt to prove a point that is outdated to a certain extent. The conceptual pattern that many philosophers tend to follow in this case is that idealism is a flawed outlook that has to be abandoned, while realism is a perfect depiction of how subjectivity could be outperformed. The current paper will address the prototypical pitfalls of the realism versus idealism argument and propose a solution intended to help modern philosophers redefine their stance on the topic.

The most well-known position on the issue of realism versus idealism is that the given dichotomy creates a unanimous rivalry. The debate between the two worldviews does not necessarily lead to the deployment of a unified philosophical doctrine where there will appear an integrated argument making the best use of advantages of both stances. Idealists tend to perceive the world as a mind’s creation, while realists see the world as a subjective truth where the laws of physics apply and have an impact on the exterior. The concepts presented by idealists are often seen as flawed due to their challenging nature. Still, the presence of ethical dilemmas and subjectivity has never affected metaphysics to an extent where there would be no probable solution. This hypothesis may also hint at the fact that realism offers a definition of actuality, and idealism defends one’s independence and the importance of having a stance on the subject. The long-standing debate between realists and idealists creates room for an amalgamated argument that takes the best from both outlooks.

The solution proposed by George Berkeley involves the basic concepts entrenched in idealism and touches upon the unthinkable nature of realism. As Goldschmidt and Pearce suggested, Berkeley’s view of ontological priority mthe ade mind superior to the body (9). This solution is reasonable only under the condition where human cognizance may be presented in a certain form that can prove the existence of the real world. For example, when a person is in imminent danger, they would be subject to seeing their reality as existential and try to protect themselves from the external threat. Accordingly, the solution found in the literature is to perceive the world as something that cannot exist outside the sphere of thinkable concepts (Goldschmidt and Pearce 22). This perceived unconventionality is important because it strengthens the argument related to the hypothesis that man can only observe those objects and ideas that are within their frame of reference. Overall, the whole notion of realism may become unthinkable in a situation where the frame of reference and subjectivity become the foundation of realist worldviews, which is somewhat of a paradox in itself.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the argument presented above is that the laws of nature are perceived as incompatible with human ideas. This leads realists to accuse their idealist counterparts of certain assumptions that revolve around the idea that the corporeal mind is the main source of all subjectivity that creates the world around them. Nevertheless, the question of why the human mind is the only exceptional mechanism that is capable of such operations remains unanswered as well. There is still room for singular distinctions, but the strongest point that refutes the subjectivity of idealism is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. The existence of reality preceded thn’s mind, and that allows many realist philosophers to hypothesize that the nature of the world is the source of human assumptions, which completely refutes the ideas that idealists deploy and promote. Most importantly, the strength of the position proposed by Berkeley is in the fact that a “world” as an idea may not exist in general if it is not thinkable.

Despite the fact that that the debate between metaphysical realism and idealism continues to disturb philosophers, the foremost task that may help them overcome the challenge is to discontinue manifestly reactive practices. Instead, both realism and idealism should be centered on the representations of self-declaration and make it easier for both idealists and realists to find positivity in each other’s theories and positions. A thorough review of the past arguments would require them to discontinue rivaling practices and get rid of the negative conception of idealism that suggests that the physical world is not real. In a sense, this would limit the impact of unrestrained subjectivism and protect both realists and idealists from reaching a point where they both would promote generalized relativism. Therefore, the primary idea is to make sure that there is a thesis that either unites realist and idealist outlooks or at least allows for a thorough argument that would keep the best from both worldviews.


Goldschmidt, Tyron, and Kenneth L. Pearce. Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press, 2017.

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