Definition of realism in English:



mass noun
  • 1The attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.

    ‘the summit was marked by a new mood of realism’
    • ‘A certain notion of realism began not only to prescribe what could now happen, but to airbrush out what had actually happened.’
    • ‘Yet when assessing the current situation, realism is also required, as well as precision about what is actually taking place.’
    • ‘Whenever questioned about the perilous financial predicament he always maintained a sense of diplomacy and realism about the situation.’
    • ‘Before we all get too carried away it has to be said that his announcement was guided as much by healthy realism as by altruism.’
    • ‘Practical realism must dictate that there is no alternative but to maintain status quo on a permanent basis.’
    • ‘If the Tories have the courage to take this principled stance and the wit to argue their case coherently, they might well find a resonance in the country, where there is a new, angry mood of realism.’
    • ‘It is not the kindness of this prince's heart but the piercing realism of Machiavelli that has produced this morally preferable outcome.’
    • ‘This article is completely atypical in its brutal realism about the situation in Saudi Arabia.’
    • ‘As Jamal Saghir was saying, there's now much more realism about what the private sector can and can't deliver in the developing world.’
    • ‘On the other hand, a certain level of realism has turned in.’
    • ‘What we want is the ability to recognise the difference between situations that call for optimism, trying harder, and the situations that call for realism and pessimism.’
    • ‘Mr Rogers hopes this development may bring a greater sense of realism to a situation which ‘has been as cracked as a dropping pot for at least a decade now’.’
    • ‘She also says that students need to balance feeling secure on campus with a sense of caution and realism.’
    • ‘Mr Douglas has come out with the classic cringe which believes pessimism, or realism as he would no doubt like to call it, is an inherently Scottish state of mind.’
    • ‘The journey from apathy to realism is a long, tedious one.’
    • ‘An idealist tempered by realism, Holland was a doer, not a doubter.’
    • ‘This should come from within the profession if we are to inculcate a sense of realism and ownership in practices in readiness for mandatory incident reporting.’
    • ‘It is such responses that put Howard a million miles from the toughness and realism his moral certainties are supposed to carry.’
    • ‘Through discussions with the party he became convinced that post-strike realism would make nationalists accept a deal confined to Northern Ireland.’
    • ‘It is generous in its scope, but the generosity is based on long-term realism and the proposition that reform and change is not only necessary, but unavoidable.’
    pragmatism, practicality, matter-of-factness, common sense, level-headedness, clear-sightedness
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    1. 1.1 The view that the subject matter of politics is political power, not matters of principle.
      ‘political realism is the oldest approach to global politics’
      • ‘But none of that new realism is allowed to affect the doctrine of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent.’
      • ‘The foreign policy of the Voronin administration over the past three years has been based on the classic principles of realism.’
      • ‘Now the six-party dialogue is beginning to inject a new dose of realism into Pyongyang's policy.’
      • ‘Political realism in essence reduces to the political-ethical principle that might is right.’
      • ‘Like most arguments about realism in politics, this is a dubious one.’
      • ‘It is exactly these regularly held elections and the freedom of the press that have brought realism to Russian foreign policy and purged it of ideology.’
      • ‘Third, we need policies that combine realism and compassion.’
      • ‘In the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, Europe advocated realism and practiced power politics.’
      • ‘Political realism that determines the goals of geo-politics confronts nations with a situation where military security is equally essential.’
      • ‘But political realism dictates that this change cannot be accomplished directly; it must proceed via a series of transititional stages.’
      • ‘Making allies of the enemies of democracy because they share putative interests with us is, in other words, not realism but foolish self-deception.’
      • ‘His views on these issues, and those recently proclaimed by former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, show both informed realism and political courage.’
      • ‘To recognize that war is inevitable is not pessimism, but political realism.’
      • ‘His prognosis, then, was based upon the hope that Hitler would - at least for a time - share his own perspective on political and military realism in Europe.’
      • ‘To a large extent Jordan's success was due to the pragmatism and political realism of King Abdullah.’
      • ‘Unity, flexibility, realism and political acumen are the crying needs of the hour.’
      • ‘It will also have a different crime rate, divergent patterns of morality, a different standard and notion of what counts as political realism.’
      • ‘Australia's defence and security planners view the world around us through the relatively narrow lens of power-politics' realism and respond accordingly.’
      • ‘On my second reading of it the ideas are much clearer, and I find myself increasingly amazed at the uniqueness and political realism of the Marxist worldview and analysis.’
      • ‘Although criticised by many at that time for being too soft, it was in essence a policy based on realism and aimed at liberating India to play a larger role in the world.’
    2. 1.2 The doctrine that the law is better understood by analysis of judges rather than the judgements given.
      ‘modern jurists have tended to underestimate the scope of American legal realism’
      • ‘The Constitution of the United States of America is a majestic old document, but in our age of legal realism the common wisdom is that judges do with it what they want.’
      • ‘Well, the new realism is that juries cannot be trusted in respect of any matter that might be adverse to the accused.’
      • ‘The other school of thought is sometimes called positivism, sometimes called legal realism.’
      • ‘John Rosenberg thinks I may be understating the degree of liberal legal realism still prevalent.’
      • ‘This is a kind of legal realism and Anastaplo documents it nicely - or at least Lincoln's awareness of it.’
      • ‘The first to develop was legal realism - basically a group of really cynical judges.’
      • ‘This approach - sometimes known as legal realism - led to some landmark decisions.’
      • ‘One could hardly ask for a better example of the legal realism he would so soon consider to be a pernicious and dangerous idea.’
  • 2The quality or fact of representing a person or thing in a way that is accurate and true to life.

    ‘British soaps will stay because of their gritty realism’
    • ‘It is a statue cast in bronze and shows both realism of style and undoubted symbolic ritual function.’
    • ‘If we return to the gunshot analogy, we realize why creating sound effects is a perfectly legitimate practice in maintaining realism.’
    • ‘Each stroke he made with the brush was incredibly painstaking, because he had to match it up precisely in order to give it a certain amount of realism.’
    • ‘The irony here is that this series achieves a high degree of realism when it deals with medical and surgical emergencies.’
    • ‘She has always been interested in colour and composition rather than realism and believes painting to be a subject in itself, a ‘visual experience of mood and atmosphere’.’
    • ‘It's a Cold War story based on a Tom Clancy book, so the locations are plentiful and the political intrigue calls for realism.’
    • ‘At the heart of Victorian realistic tendencies was the unraveling of the very practice of realism itself.’
    • ‘He interweaves a Brechtian political parable with naturalist realism.’
    • ‘The biological realism of this restricted model is tenuous.’
    • ‘Adult television has already begun to recognize the public's hunger for fascinating scientific realism.’
    • ‘The more you look for details, cues and fakes, the more you add to the realism of the situation.’
    • ‘In Chandler's famous puff for the superiority of the private eye over the classic mystery, its virtue is said to lie in its greater realism.’
    • ‘The paintings reproduce the photographed features with illusionistic realism while leaving the surrounding heads completely flat.’
    • ‘The game strives for a certain degree of realism rather than dazzle, and in that I think it has succeeded.’
    • ‘And it gives that movie a certain essence, a certain kind of realism.’
    • ‘At the same time, the over-exaggeration of torque when taxiing in planes seems to be a developer's nuance rather than actual realism.’
    • ‘So I want to treat this as a piece of realism rather than the picturesque tradition, which tends to depict an idealised version of English heritage.’
    • ‘Regardless of whether or not one accepts Loach's version of reality, his dedication to realism is laudable.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, a number of important African American writers played truant from the school of racial realism.’
    • ‘Although it did cover social issues, they argued that this was merely an inevitable consequence of its commitment to realism, rather than something which they self-consciously set out to do.’
    authenticity, fidelity, verisimilitude, truthfulness, faithfulness, naturalism
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 An artistic or literary movement or style characterized by the representation of people or things as they actually are.
      Often contrasted with idealism (sense 1)
      • ‘Show entries range in style from realism to the very abstract.’
      • ‘We're not dealing with realism in those sections, where the actors are masked.’
      • ‘However, if the narratives make a claim for social realism, then they also acknowledge the limits of realism as a representational mode.’
      • ‘And though realism in equine art is popular, some artists say they have found great success in more abstract styles.’
      • ‘Poynton's arrant realism provides echoes of Lucian Freud, Stanley Spencer, Eric Fischl and Philip Pearlstein.’
      • ‘Wright was committed to the practice of modern realism and radical modernism.’
      • ‘By about 1930, many artists who in the 1910s and early 1920s employed an abstract style had turned to realism.’
      • ‘What is realism as understood by the theoretician of art?’
      • ‘The artist's style combines heroic realism with a restrained delicacy of expression that places him among the best of the century's monument makers.’
      • ‘These discoveries about the earliest form of genre painting in Italy open up the topic of realism in the seicento to further scrutiny.’
      • ‘My preference for styles is realism to modern art, but learning how to achieve different art forms is interesting.’
      • ‘For the most part, it falls into two broad categories or camps: the various forms of literary realism, and the various gambits of postmodernism.’
      • ‘First, there was renewed interest in realism from the larger art community.’
      • ‘The occasion emphasized continuity with an admired past, but these composers' operas embraced a new style of realism (known as verismo).’
      • ‘They produced masterpieces of American realism, and that realism was the kiss of death: it offered little to Theory.’
      • ‘Later, I shall deal with issues of idealism and realism in African film productions.’
      • ‘It belongs rather to that tradition of artistic realism that stakes its claim to truth on calculated departures from familiar modes of seeing and knowing.’
      • ‘Now continue and stop imposing realism on this deeply realism-resistant work.’
      • ‘Within the context of art, say of realism versus expressionism, you can have a realistic body or an expressionistic body.’
      • ‘Though the prose is nicely formed and sometimes beautiful, the world created often veers more closely to romantic fantasy than literary realism.’
  • 3Philosophy
    The doctrine that universals or abstract concepts have an objective or absolute existence. The theory that universals have their own reality is sometimes called Platonic realism because it was first outlined by Plato's doctrine of ‘forms’ or ideas.

    Often contrasted with nominalism
    • ‘Some commentators have thought that Descartes is committed to a species of Platonic realism.’
    • ‘What it seems that we have done is to locate ourselves more decisively on one side of the continental divide of the old Christian world, between realism and nominalism.’
    • ‘Another aim is to show that the problem of direct realism versus indirect realism is of importance for the ontological analysis of social reality.’
    • ‘Other terms for this ontology are pluralistic realism and transcendental realism.’
    • ‘I must confess that I have always found the concept of symbolic realism to be somewhat disconcerting.’
    • ‘Thus, the ontological eliminative structuralism inherits the problems and potential solutions of realism in ontology (platonism).’
    • ‘The position of entity realism is that at least some of the cognitive objects discussed in scientific theories do exist.’
    • ‘That means the status of strings in string theory in physics can become a philosophical topic by way of discussions of realism and nominalism.’
    • ‘There's little indication of the available range of ethical theories, from crude emotivism to Platonic realism, from McDowellian objectivism to virtue theory.’
    • ‘The alternative between a theological and an independent theory of ethics is, he holds, the alternative between ethical nominalism and realism.’
    1. 3.1 The doctrine that matter as the object of perception has real existence and is neither reducible to universal mind or spirit nor dependent on a perceiving agent.
      Often contrasted with idealism (sense 2)
      • ‘Peirce's realism attempted to embrace both the constructions of the mind and the mind's interface with reality through perception.’
      • ‘She argues that ontological realism about a type of entity is justified if the objective existence of the entities is part of our best explanation of the world.’
      • ‘Many contemporary philosophers see the ultimate triumph of atomism as a victory for realism over positivism.’
      • ‘It is therefore not surprising that commentators have wanted to show that properly understood his phenomenology is realist or at least neutral with respect to realism and idealism.’
      • ‘A large number of people said that the real was the measurable, which could be a sign of realism, operationalism, or hermeneutical realism.’
      • ‘Abelard defends his thesis that universals are nothing but words by arguing that ontological realism about universals is incoherent.’
      • ‘The controversy in metaphysics between idealism and realism is that, for the idealist, nothing exists independently of the mind.’

While realism in art is often used in the same contexts as naturalism, implying a concern with accurate and objective representation, it also suggests a deliberate rejection of conventionally attractive or appropriate subjects in favour of sincerity and a focus on the unidealized treatment of contemporary life. Specifically, the term is applied to a late 19th-century movement in French painting and literature represented by Gustave Courbet in the former and Balzac, Stendhal, and Flaubert in the latter