In modern schools of philosophy idealism is the perhaps the oldest one and began with the dawn of civilization, when human beings could systemize their ideas. But as a branch of philosophy it began with Socrates in the western part of the world. If we study the history of philosophy of the western part of the world, we will find many brilliant philosophers studying and perfecting this system (Dash, 1994).
The word ‘Idealism’ is derived from two distinct sources, one comes from the word ‘idea’ and the other from ‘ideal’. The words idea, ideal and ideology all come into the vocabulary of philosophy from the Greek word ‘idein’, meaning to see (Dash, 1994).
Idealists believe that ideas are the only true reality. It is not that all idealist reject matter (the material world), but rather they hold that the material world is characterized by change, instability and uncertainty, while some idea are enduring (Shahid, 2000).
Fundamental Principle of Idealism
Idea is Real
It is a system of philosophy which believes that what is real is the idea of the object which is at the conscious level of our mind and not the object that we see which is a mere shadow of that idea. It thus tries to explain physical objects also in terms of mind and consciousness.
The idealists believe that material of the physical universe is not a complete expression of reality. To them the physical world is the manifestation of some great spirit behind it. While the physical and material world is destructible and changeable, the spirit behind it is indestructible and unchangeable (Shahid, 2000).
Human beings are a Supreme Creation
According to idealism, human beings being Spiritual are a supreme creation of God. They believe that they have spirit or mind and through this spirit or mind they control the environment. They are not simply animals; they can therefore create values and their aim is to realize the ultimate values of life.
God is the source of all Knowledge
The idealists say that although human beings are a supreme creation of God and that they can create values yet they cannot find knowledge of ultimate reality from anyone elsewhere expect God.
The knowledge of the ultimate reality is not possible through the methods of observation, experimentation, reasoning, etc., which are true guides to the knowledge of the physical universe. Idealists advocate the use of intuition for knowing the ultimate (Shahid, 2000).
Values are absolute
Idealism believes in three spiritual values. They are the Truth, the Beauty and the Goodness. The truth is an intellectual value, the beauty an aesthetic value and the good a moral value. Together they constitute the ‘Good’. For Plato, these three values are identical to each other (Shahid, 2000).
Idealism and the aim of Education
According to idealists the following are the major aims of education:
Idealists believe that man/woman being spiritual is a supreme creation of God. Hence the human Personality is the noblest.. So idealists assume that the foremost aim of education is to exalt personality. This exaltation of human personality means self-realization.
Preservation of culture
Idealists give much importance to the spiritual and cultural possessions of the individual and of the real.
Development of Moral Sense
The aim of education according to idealism is to develop the child’s moral sense so that she/he can distinguish between right and wrong.
Development of Creative Powers
Human beings have thinking and reasoning powers and through this creative ability can be developed (Shahid, 2000).
Simple living and High Thinking
It is only these persons who practice this ideal, can pursue great ideals of life.
This philosophy emerged as a movement in philosophy against the extreme idealist view of the world. Many significant aspects of realism are as old as philosophic thoughts. As a deliberate and complete philosophy it did not emerge until the nineteenth century provided it a new status in the philosophic world.
John Locke and his contemporaries affirmed that the world is a real world and not a world of fantasy. It is not based on perception but is an objective reality (Shahid, 2000).
Aristotle is the pioneer of the philosophy. He was against the ideas of Plato who was interested in abstraction and generalities. Aristotle was interested in particular facts of life. Saint Thomas Aquinas is also a great contributor; he infused the realist spirit in religion (Shahid, 2000).
Basic Philosophical Principles of Realism
i. Realism and Nature of Reality
According to realists the world around is a reality. It is a world of objects and not ideas. Realism is a philosophy away from the world of ideas and is concerned with the study of the world we live in.
As reality is outside the mind and as the world around is an objective reality, knowledge of the surrounding world is the most desirable knowledge. The best method to acquire knowledge is the experimental or the scientific method. Realists believe that the real world is the world of nature. Realists believe that everything that exists in the universe is matter or energy or matter in motion (Shahid, 2000).
ii. Law of Nature and Realism
Realists believe that the physical universe is operated by natural laws.
iii. Realism and Science
Realist try to discover truth with the help of scientific methods. Such a discovery of truth helps to control the environment.
iv. Realism and Religion
There is no absolute antagonism between realism and religion, though many realists hold the view that religion is merely made by human beings and there is no God.
v. Realism and values
Most of the realists share the belief that a thing has an aesthetic value to the extent it harmonises with the beauty of nature. Many realists think that behavior is what is socially and rationally acceptable (Shahid, 2000).
Realism and Aims of Education
It is hard to mention what the aims of education are according to realism because realists do not believe in general or common aims of education.
Aims are specific to each individual and her/his perspectives. The pupil, teacher, parent, administrator political leader, etc have different perspectives; how can there be a general aim suited to all persons? intelligible
To state the aims of education in a concrete way and more comprehensible. The following are important objectives:
Ø Equipping students with knowledge and skills needed to understand and master their physical environment.
Ø Enabling students to adjust themselves to the realities of the physical world and to adjust with adult approved behaviour (Shahid, 2000).
Dash, N.B. (1994). Foundation of education thought and practice. Kalyani Publishers: India.
Shahid, S.M. (2006). Philosophy of education. Majeed Book Depot: Lahore.