A friend once said, “Realism sounds like one of those made-up works where you just add an ‘ism’ to the end.” He has a point, and most people have no idea what “realism” means, but the short answer is that it means assessing actions by their effects in reality and not what people think about them.
We can see its importance by looking into the root of realism:
There are two general aspects to realism, illustrated by looking at realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties. First, there is a claim about existence. Tables, rocks, the moon, and so on, all exist, as do the following facts: the table’s being square, the rock’s being made of granite, and the moon’s being spherical and yellow. The second aspect of realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties concerns independence. The fact that the moon exists and is spherical is independent of anything anyone happens to say or think about the matter.
Philosophy is like genetics for language; it shows us the roots of our interpretations, the categorical boundaries we place around them, and the centers of their meaning, or the simplest possible interpretation of them, which is how we apply them and expand them.
Realism means that objects exist outside of us and our thoughts about them. More appropriately, external reality is consistent and esoteric: it has a thought-like basis, but this is not arbitrary nor bends to our whims, and some understand more than others.
Utilitarianism, by contrast, says that whatever most people think will make them happy is good and therefore should be imposed on others, making it within the confines of civilization, “reality.” This false humanity reality leads us away from actual reality toward negativity and groupthink.
We live in a utilitarian time. What people purchase, vote for, and talk about takes precedence over what is real or what represents potential actions that could lead to higher quality results. Our time is inherently inwardly-focused and self-referential. It denies reality.
Should we wish to rise again, accepting realism provides the first step, since it rejects the equality inherent to utilitarianism. The number (quantity) of people who like some idea becomes less important than the quality of that idea, its correspondence to reality, and the quality of the people who support it.