In an email exchange via the biosemiotics email list (web address now added to "Some related academic links", right margin) related to my recent blog post "Why I joined the ISCB", Edwina Taborsky asked me to define what I mean by "utopian realism", the name of this blog. My reply read like this:
[A] utopia is commonly understood as a desirable yet unachievable - impossible - future state, e.g. of a society. By "utopian realism", I mean an attitude to the state of the world that is realistic (e.g. attainable, likely) in the long term. In the short term, a state closely resembling status quo is typically what is most likely to occur. In the long term, however, it is often very unrealistic to envision a continuation of a state closely resembling status quo - and conversely, the possible future states of society etc. which we regard as totally unrealistic today, are often more likely to materialize in the long term than is the status quo. A utopian realist, then, is one who takes the long view, who has the courage to fight for desirable ideas and states of affairs (no matter how their short-term prospects look like), and who has the insight that the status quo is just a passing phenomenon.