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Idealism is the property of a person of having high ideals that are usually unrealizable or at odds with practical life.


  • Be these people either Conservatives or Socialists, Yellows or Reds, the most important thing is — and that is the point I want to stress — that all of them are right in the plain and moral sense of the word... I ask whether it is not possible to see in the present social conflict of the world an analogous struggle between two, three, five equally serious verities and equally generous idealisms? I think it is possible, and that is the most dramatic element in modern civilization, that a human truth is opposed to another human truth no less human, ideal against ideal, positive worth against worth no less positive, instead of the struggle being as we are so often told, one between noble truth and vile selfish error.
    • Karel Čapek (1923) R.U.R. supplement in The Saturday Review.
  • An idealist believes the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.
    • Sidney Justin Harris, "Thoughts at Large", Chicago Sun-Times; reprinted in Ann Landers's column, The Washington Post (November 12, 1979), p. B7.
  • Man is born a predestined idealist, for he is born to act. To act is to affirm the worth of an end, and to persist in affirming the worth of an end is to make an ideal.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "The Class of '61", speech delivered at the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (June 28, 1911); reported in Speeches by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1934), p. 96–97.
  • A doctrine which, because of its little-circumspect idealism, offends not just faith, but reason itself.
    • Attributed to Immanuel Kant in Luigi Ferrarese (1838) Memorie Risguardanti la Dottrina Frenologica ("Thoughts Regarding the Doctrine of Phrenology", p. 16.
  • An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.
    • H. L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major (1916), p. 19; later altered to "concludes that it will also make better soup", in A Book of Burlesques (1924), p. 205 and A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949), p. 617.
  • Berkeley was... the first to treat the subjective starting-point really seriously and to demonstrate irrefutably its absolute necessity. He is the father of idealism.
  • Sometimes people call me an idealist. Well, that is the way I know I am an American. America, my fellow citizens—I do not say it in disparagement of any other great people—America is the only idealistic nation in the world.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address supporting the League of Nations, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (September 8, 1919); reported in Albert Shaw, ed., The Messages and Papers of Woodrow Wilson (1924), vol. 2, p. 822.

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