Feb 12, 2012 - Weekly Reflection    1 Comment

Week 4: Blog Reflection – Idealism and Realism..can they exist together?

Rooted in Idealism is the belief that “the Absolute or God has been revealed, over time, to those who have sought the truth.” (Gutek, Levine & Ornstein, 2011,171).  Oversoul by Ralph Waldo Emerson emphasized that, ”the soul that each of us has, plus the soul of God that encompasses all of ours,” which represents that all people are born “good” or with an innate moral capacity.

Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave described Idealism as the only certain path to knowledge. By looking at the walls, the prisoners start making imperfect guesses about the shadows behind them.  The prisoner is set free into the world of light outside the cave to discover the light of reason and realize that the shadows were mere perception and sensation. As an idealist, Plato believed that reason took precedence over any other way of acquiring knowledge, which sharply contrasts Realism argument that sensory experience was the primary path to knowledge.  From Aristotle’s point of view, he would say that our only knowledge in this world would come to us through our senses. Although Plato put his trust in reason, Aristotle trusted what he was able to experience from sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste.  As an empiricist, Aristotle argued that no form could exist without substance and that substance was experienced, therefore knowledge required experience (Gaarder, 1994).  From a realists perspective, if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, the noise would not exist.  In order to experience the sensation of seeing the tree fall and hearing the tree hit the ground, someone would have to be present to perceive the experience.

While the theories of Idealism and Realism contrast, the implications of both theories influenced todays classroom teacher. First, Idealists were truth seekers who categorized the body of knowledge into subjects, while realists emphasized “sensory learning and organizing objects into categories” (Gutek, Levine & Ornstein, 2011, 173).  Secondly, Realism is a foundation of science and influenced the way the subject is taught today.  Such that, science was taught based upon observation, public observation, as well as repeatable and verifiable observation, or the Scientific Method.  Lastly, Idealism is reflected in pre-service teacher preparation programs as seen in modeling, the emphasis on teaching with high standards, and inclusive education with a focus on giving every student the opportunity to reach intellectual potential.  My teaching philosophy will encompass both aspects of Idealism and Realism.  My realist classroom will have  systematic hands-on lessons centered around writing, reading and arithmetic, in addition to classification and how to hypothesize an experiment and use the scientific method.  While my idealist classroom will teach history and literature, and encourage students to use critical thinking and participate in grand discussions.


(2011). Plato, allegory of the cave from the republic, c. 380 bce . (2011). [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://nickkahler.tumblr.com/post/10910319953

Gaarder, J. (1994). Sophie’s world. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Gutek, G., Levine, D. & Ornstein, A. (2011). Foundations of Education, 11th Edition. CA: Wadsworth.

1 Comment

  • I agree with you that both philosophies need to be incorporated into the classroom. Both have benefits that the other is lacking. The idea that they have to be different with no interaction between the two makes as much sense as night and day not having anything to do with one another. It actually reminds me of a point that Emerson was trying to make in his essay, that you can’t have one without the other, because it would be incomplete.