Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.
  • n. Pursuit of one's ideals.
  • n. Idealized treatment of a subject in literature or art.
  • n. Philosophy The theory that the object of external perception, in itself or as perceived, consists of ideas.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The property of a person of having high ideals that are usually unrealizable or at odds with practical life.
  • n. An approach to philosophical enquiry which asserts that direct and immediate knowledge can only be had of ideas or mental pictures.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of being ideal.
  • n. Conception of the ideal; imagery.
  • n. The system or theory that denies the existence of material bodies, and teaches that we have no rational grounds to believe in the reality of anything but ideas and their relations.
  • n. The practice or habit of giving or attributing ideal form or character to things; treatment of things in art or literature according to ideal standards or patterns; -- opposed to realism.
  • n. a belief in the feasibility of the implementation of ideal principles and noble goals, and the practice or habit of pursuing such goals; -- opposed to realism and cynicism.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The metaphysical doctrine that the real is of the nature of thought; the doctrine that all reality is in its nature psychical.
  • n. Pursuit of the ideal; the act or practice of idealizing; especially, imaginative treatment of subjects; a striving after ideal beauty, truth, justice, etc.
  • n. In art, the effort to realize the highest type of any natural object by eliminating all its imperfect elements and combining the perfect into a whole which represents Nature, not as she is exhibited in any one example, but as she might be.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (philosophy) the philosophical theory that ideas are the only reality
  • n. impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are
  • n. elevated ideals or conduct; the quality of believing that ideals should be pursued

Etymologies

First attested 1796, from ideal +‎ -ism. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We suspect that, for most people, the difference between “self-congratulatory idealism” and admirable idealism comes down to this: If the idealism is about something that is safely in the past or safely far away and has nothing to do with me, it's admirable, or at least harmless; if it does have something to do with me and my behavior, then it must be judgmental and self-congratulatory.

    Philocrites: This week at uuworld.org: Heroes' dilemma.

  • Corresponding to this individualistic tendency on the part of absolute idealism, there has been recently projected a _personal idealism_, or

    The Approach to Philosophy

  • That's what they call idealism; the word's vastly abused, but the thing is good.

    The Madonna of the Future

  • She mis-guessed my age though admitted it was what she called my "idealism" that led to the error.

    Site Home

  • This kind of idealism is very troubling it can to lead to uncivil rest.

    'Party Loyalty Oath' would prevent Republicans from backing Crist

  • After Jess drops out of school and finds herself living on a commune, the last of her youthful idealism is worn away by how easy it is for peace loving pacifists fall into patriarchal roles once some smell the scent of power.

    Archive 2009-09-01

  • Or maybe idealism is correct, in which case – no matter, or at least it's radically different from the common perception.

    Biocosm & The Biocentric Universe

  • In real life, however, Zuckerberg wants us to believe that his world-changing idealism is behind his work on the social network.

    'The Social Network' Doesn't Live Up To Hype

  • Because the beauty elicits from us a certain idealism that improves the world in which we live and gives us as glimpse of something glorious and eternal.

    Why Latin Hymns?

  • It borders on being treasonous, does more damage to the US than any terrorist organization has ever dared dream of doing, and ought to be summarily deported to some other landmass where its idealism is more appropriate.

    Think Progress » Right Wing Rallies Around Trent Lott’s Segregationist Remarks To Attack Harry Reid

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