Naïve realism : Meaning, Examples, Characteristics and Criticism

Naïve realism is a psychological theory that asserts that our senses make us directly aware of the objects in our surroundings as they really are. This idea is also called as direct realism, common sense realism, or perceptual realism. It can be thought of as the conviction that the world is viewed or conceived in an objective or an unmediated manner.

It describes the tendency of people to believe that they view the social world as it is, i.e. as an objective reality rather than as a subjective interpretation of reality. This brings with itself two important implications. First, this means that what we experience and how things actually are, are thought to coincide. Second, every rational person is expected to share our views, if they don’t, they are considered benighted, biased, or wrong. For instance, if we support a political party and its ideologies considering it as the best, others who might want a different political party or its ideologies, we might conclude that they are wrong or are uninformed. Contrary to naïve or direct realism, is the indirect or representational realism that consists of the idea that what our conscious experience is not of the real world but of the internal representation of the world.

Some important characterizes of the naïve realism are: the world consists of material objects some features of which can be known by sensing them. These objects can exist not only when we can perceive them but also when they cannot be perceived. They are perception independent in the sense that they retain the properties we perceive them as having even when we are unable to perceive them. Lastly, our claim about the knowledge we bear about them is justified by the belief that we more or less perceive the world directly as it is.

Critiques often reject the idea of naïve realism considering it as distinct from scientific realism. According to scientific realism, the universe, as described by science is real regardless of how people interpret it. Since naïve realism lacks knowledge about the relationship between sets of properties or facts, many thinkers seem to refute the idea of naïve realism. This worldview has also been challenged scientifically by the new findings of quantum physics. It is also criticized on the grounds that due to our prejudices or stereotypes we may see and conceive things as we want to rather than as they really are. Another criticism states that when we are influenced by various factors, our senses can perceive or envision things differently. However, in reality, the things might appear different or there might not be any changes in the physical characteristics of those things. For example, when we are traveling in a desert, we often see water bodies nearby, which is only a mere illusion known as a mirage. Thus, things are not exactly how they appear to us or how we perceive them. Also, things might also appear different physically to different viewers when viewed from different angles.