Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?
Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.
Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.
Since the 20th century, professional philosophers contribute to society primarily as academics. However, many of those who study philosophy in undergraduate or graduate programs contribute in the fields of law, journalism, politics, religion, science, business and various art and entertainment activities.
Traditionally, the term "philosophy" referred to any body of knowledge. In this sense, philosophy is closely related to religion, mathematics, natural science, education and politics. Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy is classified in the 2000s as a book of physics; he used the term "natural philosophy" because it used to encompass disciplines that later became associated with sciences such as astronomy, medicine and physics.
In the first part of the first book of his Academics, Cicero introduced the division of philosophy into logic, physics, and ethics; in section thirteen of the first book of his Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, the 3rd-century Diogenes Laërtius, the first historian of philosophy, established the traditional division of philosophical inquiry into three parts:
This division is not obsolete but has changed. Natural philosophy has split into the various natural sciences, especially astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and cosmology. Moral philosophy has birthed the social sciences, but still includes value theory (including aesthetics, ethics, political philosophy, etc.). Metaphysical philosophy has birthed formal sciences such as logic, mathematics and philosophy of science, but still includes epistemology, cosmology and others.
Many philosophical debates that began in ancient times are still debated today. Colin McGinn and others claim that no philosophical progress has occurred during that interval. Chalmers and others, by contrast, see progress in philosophy similar to that in science, while Talbot Brewer argued that "progress" is the wrong standard by which to judge philosophical activity.
In one general sense, philosophy is associated with wisdom, intellectual culture and a search for knowledge. In that sense, all cultures and literate societies ask philosophical questions such as "how are we to live" and "what is the nature of reality". A broad and impartial conception of philosophy then, finds a reasoned inquiry into such matters as reality, morality and life in all world civilizations.
Western philosophy is the philosophical tradition of the Western world and dates to Pre-Socratic thinkers who were active in Ancient Greece in the 6th century BCE such as Thales (c. 624 – 546 BCE) and Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE) who practiced a "love of wisdom" (philosophia) and were also termed physiologoi (students of physis, or nature). Socrates was a very influential philosopher, who insisted that he possessed no wisdom but was a pursuer of wisdom. Western philosophy can be divided into three eras: Ancient (Greco-Roman), Medieval philosophy (Christian European), and Modern philosophy.
The Ancient era was dominated by Greek philosophical schools which arose out of the various pupils of Socrates, such as Plato, who founded the Platonic Academy and his student Aristotle, founding the Peripatetic school, who were both extremely influential in Western tradition. Other traditions include Cynicism, Stoicism, Greek Skepticism and Epicureanism. Important topics covered by the Greeks included metaphysics (with competing theories such as atomism and monism), cosmology, the nature of the well-lived life (eudaimonia), the possibility of knowledge and the nature of reason (logos). With the rise of the Roman empire, Greek philosophy was also increasingly discussed in Latin by Romans such as Cicero and Seneca.
Medieval philosophy (5th–16th centuries) is the period following the fall of the Western Roman Empire and was dominated by the rise of Christianity and hence reflects Judeo-Christian theological concerns as well as retaining a continuity with Greco-Roman thought. Problems such as the existence and nature of God, the nature of faith and reason, metaphysics, the problem of evil were discussed in this period. Some key Medieval thinkers include St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Boethius, Anselm and Roger Bacon. Philosophy for these thinkers was viewed as an aid to Theology (ancilla theologiae) and hence they sought to align their philosophy with their interpretation of sacred scripture. This period saw the development of Scholasticism, a text critical method developed in medieval universities based on close reading and disputation on key texts. The Renaissance period saw increasing focus on classic Greco-Roman thought and on a robust Humanism. Early modern philosophy in the Western world begins with thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes (1596–1650). Following the rise of natural science, Modern philosophy was concerned with developing a secular and rational foundation for knowledge and moved away from traditional structures of authority such as religion, scholastic thought and the Church. Major modern philosophers include Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. 19th-century philosophy is influenced by the wider movement termed the Enlightenment, and includes figures such as Hegel a key figure in German idealism, Kierkegaard who developed the foundations for existentialism, Nietzsche a famed anti-Christian, John Stuart Mill who promoted Utilitarianism, Karl Marx who developed the foundations for Communism and the American William James. The 20th century saw the split between Analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy, as well as philosophical trends such as Phenomenology, Existentialism, Logical Positivism, Pragmatism and the Linguistic turn.
The regions of the fertile Crescent, Iran and Arabia are home to the earliest known philosophical Wisdom literature and is today mostly dominated by Islamic culture. Early wisdom literature from the fertile crescent was a genre which sought to instruct people on ethical action, practical living and virtue through stories and proverbs. In Ancient Egypt, these texts were known as sebayt ('teachings') and they are central to our understandings of Ancient Egyptian philosophy. Babylonian astronomy also included much philosophical speculations about cosmology which may have influenced the Ancient Greeks. Jewish philosophy and Christian philosophy are religio-philosophical traditions that developed both in the Middle East and in Europe, which both share certain early Judaic texts (mainly the Tanakh) and monotheistic beliefs. Jewish thinkers such as the Geonim of the Talmudic Academies in Babylonia and Maimonides engaged with Greek and Islamic philosophy. Later Jewish philosophy came under strong Western intellectual influences and includes the works of Moses Mendelssohn who ushered in the Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment), Jewish existentialism and Reform Judaism.
Pre-Islamic Iranian philosophy begins with the work of Zoroaster, one of the first promoters of monotheism and of the dualism between good and evil. This dualistic cosmogony influenced later Iranian developments such as Manichaeism, Mazdakism, and Zurvanism.
After the Muslim conquests, Early Islamic philosophy developed the Greek philosophical traditions in new innovative directions. This Islamic Golden Age influenced European intellectual developments. The two main currents of early Islamic thought are Kalam which focuses on Islamic theology and Falsafa which was based on Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. The work of Aristotle was very influential among the falsafa such as al-Kindi (9th century), Avicenna (980 – June 1037) and Averroes (12th century). Others such as Al-Ghazali were highly critical of the methods of the Aristotelian falsafa. Islamic thinkers also developed a scientific method, experimental medicine, a theory of optics and a legal philosophy. Ibn Khaldun was an influential thinker in philosophy of history.
In Iran several schools of Islamic philosophy continued to flourish after the Golden Age and include currents such as Illuminationist philosophy, Sufi philosophy, and Transcendent theosophy. The 19th- and 20th-century Arab world saw the Nahda (awakening or renaissance) movement which influenced contemporary Islamic philosophy.
Indian philosophy (Sanskrit: darśana; 'world views', 'teachings') refers to the diverse philosophical traditions that emerged since the ancient times on the Indian subcontinent. Jainism and Buddhism originated at the end of the Vedic period, while Hinduism emerged as a fusion of diverse traditions, starting after the end of the Vedic period.
Hindus generally classify these traditions as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on whether they accept the authority of the Vedas and the theories of Brahman and Atman (soul, self) therein. The orthodox schools include the Hindu traditions of thought, while the heterodox schools include the Buddhist and the Jain traditions. Other schools include the Ajñana, Ajivika and Cārvāka which became extinct over their history.
Important Indian philosophical concepts shared by the Indian philosophies include dharma, karma, artha, kama, dukkha (suffering), anitya (anicca, impermanence), dhyana (jhana, meditation), renunciation (with or without monasticism or asceticism), various samsara with cycles of rebirth, moksha (nirvana, kaivalya, liberation from rebirth), and virtues such as ahimsa.
Jain philosophy accepts the concept of a permanent soul (jiva) as one of the five astikayas, or eternal infinite categories that make up the substance of existence. The other four being dharma, adharma, akasha (space) and pudgala (matter). The Jain thought separates matter from the soul completely. It has two major subtraditions: Digambara (sky dressed, naked) and Svetambara (white dressed), along with several more minor traditions such as Terapanthis. Asceticism is a major monastic virtue in Jainism. Jain texts such as the Tattvartha Sutra state that right faith, right knowledge and right conduct is the path to liberation. The Jain thought holds that all existence is cyclic, eternal and uncreated. The Tattvartha Sutra is the earliest known, most comprehensive and authoritative compilation of Jain philosophy.
Buddhist philosophy begins with the thought of Gautama Buddha (fl. between sixth and fourth centuries BCE) and is preserved in the early Buddhist texts. It originated in India and later spread to East Asia, Tibet, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, developing syncretic traditions in these regions. The Mahayana branches of Buddhist thought is the dominant philosophical tradition in East Asian regions such as China, Korea and Japan. The Theravada forms are dominant in Southeast Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.
Because ignorance to the true nature of things is considered one of the roots of suffering (dukkha), Buddhist philosophy is concerned with epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and psychology. Buddhist philosophical texts must also be understood within the context of meditative practices which are supposed to bring about certain cognitive shifts. Key innovative concepts include the Four Noble Truths as an analysis of dukkha, Anicca (impermanence) and Anatta (not-self).
After the death of the Buddha, various groups began to systematize his main teachings, eventually developing comprehensive philosophical systems termed 'Abhidharma'. Following the Abhidharma schools, Mahayana philosophers such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu developed the theories of Shunyata (emptiness of all phenomena) and Vijñapti-matra (appearance only), a form of phenomenology or transcendental idealism. The Dignāga school of Pramāṇa (lit. means of knowledge) promoted a complex form of epistemology and Buddhist logic.
There were numerous schools, sub-schools and traditions of Buddhist philosophy in India. According to Oxford professor of Buddhist philosophy Jan Westerhoff, the major Indian schools from 300 BCE to 1000 CE were:
The Vedas-based orthodox schools are a part of the Hinduism traditions and they are traditionally classified into six darsanas: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta. The Vedas as a knowledge source were interpreted differently by these six schools of Hindu philosophy, with varying degrees of overlap. They represent a "collection of philosophical views that share a textual connection", according to Chadha. They also reflect a tolerance for a diversity of philosophical interpretations within Hinduism while sharing the same foundation.
Some of the earliest surviving Hindu mystical and philosophical texts are the Upanishads of the later Vedic period (1000–500 BCE). Hindu philosophers of the six schools developed systems of epistemology (pramana) and investigated topics such as metaphysics, ethics, psychology (guna), hermeneutics and soteriology within the framework of the Vedic knowledge, while presenting a diverse collection of interpretations. These schools of philosophy accepted the Vedas and the Vedic concept of Atman and Brahman, differed from the following Indian religions that rejected the authority of the Vedas:
East Asian philosophical thought began in Ancient China, and Chinese philosophy begins during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the following periods after its fall when the "Hundred Schools of Thought" flourished (6th century to 221 BCE). This period was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments and saw the rise of the major philosophical schools of China, Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism as well as numerous other less influential schools. These philosophical traditions developed metaphysical, political and ethical theories such Tao, Yin and yang, Ren and Li which, along with Chinese Buddhism, directly influenced Korean philosophy, Vietnamese philosophy and Japanese philosophy (which also includes the native Shinto tradition). Buddhism began arriving in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), through a gradual Silk road transmission and through native influences developed distinct Chinese forms (such as Chan/Zen) which spread throughout the East Asian cultural sphere. During later Chinese dynasties like the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) as well as in the Korean Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) a resurgent Neo-Confucianism led by thinkers such as Wang Yangming (1472–1529) became the dominant school of thought, and was promoted by the imperial state.
In the Modern era, Chinese thinkers incorporated ideas from Western philosophy. Chinese Marxist philosophy developed under the influence of Mao Zedong, while a Chinese pragmatism under Hu Shih and New Confucianism's rise was influenced by Xiong Shili. Modern Japanese thought meanwhile developed under strong Western influences such as the study of Western Sciences (Rangaku) and the modernist Meirokusha intellectual society which drew from European enlightenment thought. The 20th century saw the rise of State Shinto and also Japanese nationalism. The Kyoto School, an influential and unique Japanese philosophical school developed from Western phenomenology and Medieval Japanese Buddhist philosophy such as that of Dogen.
African philosophy is philosophy produced by African people, philosophy that presents African worldviews, ideas and themes, or philosophy that uses distinct African philosophical methods. Modern African thought has been occupied with Ethnophilosophy, with defining the very meaning of African philosophy and its unique characteristics and what it means to be African. During the 17th century, Ethiopian philosophy developed a robust literary tradition as exemplified by Zera Yacob. Another early African philosopher was Anton Wilhelm Amo (c. 1703–1759) who became a respected philosopher in Germany. Distinct African philosophical ideas include Ujamaa, the Bantu idea of 'Force', Négritude, Pan-Africanism and Ubuntu. Contemporary African thought has also seen the development of Professional philosophy and of Africana philosophy, the philosophical literature of the African diaspora which includes currents such as black existentialism by African-Americans. Modern African thinkers have been influenced by Marxism, African-American literature, Critical theory, Critical race theory, Postcolonialism and Feminism.
Indigenous American philosophy is the philosophy of the Indigenous people of the Americas. There is a wide variety of beliefs and traditions among these different American cultures. Among some of the Native Americans in the United States there is a belief in a metaphysical principle called the "Great Mystery" (Siouan: Wakan Tanka, Algonquian: Gitche Manitou). Another widely shared concept was that of Orenda or "spiritual power". According to Peter M. Whiteley, for the Native Americans, "Mind is critically informed by transcendental experience (dreams, visions and so on) as well as by reason." The practices to access these transcendental experiences are termed Shamanism. Another feature of the indigenous American worldviews was their extension of ethics to non-human animals and plants.
In Mesoamerica, Aztec philosophy was an intellectual tradition developed by individuals called Tlamatini ('those who know something') and its ideas are preserved in various Aztec codices. The Aztec worldview posited the concept of an ultimate universal energy or force called Ometeotl which can be translated as "Dual Cosmic Energy" and sought a way to live in balance with a constantly changing, "slippery" world. The theory of Teotl can be seen as a form of Pantheism. Aztec philosophers developed theories of metaphysics, epistemology, values, and aesthetics. Aztec ethics was focused on seeking tlamatiliztli (knowledge, wisdom) which was based on moderation and balance in all actions as in the Nahua proverb "the middle good is necessary".
The Inca civilization also had an elite class of philosopher-scholars termed the Amawtakuna who were important in the Inca education system as teachers of religion, tradition, history and ethics. Key concepts of Andean thought are Yanantin and Masintin which involve a theory of “complementary opposites” that sees polarities (such as male/female, dark/light) as interdependent parts of a harmonious whole.
Philosophical questions can be grouped into categories. These groupings allow philosophers to focus on a set of similar topics and interact with other thinkers who are interested in the same questions. The groupings also make philosophy easier for students to approach. Students can learn the basic principles involved in one aspect of the field without being overwhelmed with the entire set of philosophical theories.
Various sources present different categorical schemes. The categories adopted in this article aim for breadth and simplicity.
These five major branches can be separated into sub-branches and each sub-branch contains many specific fields of study.
These divisions are neither exhaustive, nor mutually exclusive. (A philosopher might specialize in Kantian epistemology, or Platonic aesthetics, or modern political philosophy.) Furthermore, these philosophical inquiries sometimes overlap with each other and with other inquiries such as science, religion or mathematics.
Metaphysics is the study of the most general features of reality, such as existence, time, objects and their properties, wholes and their parts, events, processes and causation and the relationship between mind and body. Metaphysics includes cosmology, the study of the world in its entirety and ontology, the study of being.
A major point of debate is between realism, which holds that there are entities that exist independently of their mental perception and idealism, which holds that reality is mentally constructed or otherwise immaterial. Metaphysics deals with the topic of identity. Essence is the set of attributes that make an object what it fundamentally is and without which it loses its identity while accident is a property that the object has, without which the object can still retain its identity. Particulars are objects that are said to exist in space and time, as opposed to abstract objects, such as numbers, and universals, which are properties held by multiple particulars, such as redness or a gender. The type of existence, if any, of universals and abstract objects is an issue of debate.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge (Greek episteme). Epistemologists study the putative sources of knowledge, including intuition, a priori reason, memory, perceptual knowledge, self-knowledge and testimony. They also ask: What is truth? Is knowledge justified true belief? Are any beliefs justified? Putative knowledge includes propositional knowledge (knowledge that something is the case), know-how (knowledge of how to do something) and acquaintance (familiarity with someone or something). Epistemologists examine these and ask whether knowledge is really possible.
Skepticism is the position which doubts claims to knowledge. The regress argument, a fundamental problem in epistemology, occurs when, in order to completely prove any statement, its justification itself needs to be supported by another justification. This chain can go on forever, called infinitism, it can eventually rely on basic beliefs that are left unproven, called foundationalism, or it can go in a circle so that a statement is included in its own chain of justification, called coherentism.
Rationalism is the emphasis on reasoning as a source of knowledge. It is associated with a priori knowledge, which is independent of experience, such as math and logical deduction. Empiricism is the emphasis on observational evidence via sensory experience as the source of knowledge.
Among the numerous topics within metaphysics and epistemology, broadly construed are:
Value theory (or axiology) is the major branch of philosophy that addresses topics such as goodness, beauty and justice. Value theory includes ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, feminist philosophy, philosophy of law and more.
Ethics, or "moral philosophy", studies and considers what is good and bad conduct, right and wrong values, and good and evil. Its primary investigations include how to live a good life and identifying standards of morality. It also includes meta-investigations about whether a best way to live or related standards exists. The main branches of ethics are normative ethics, meta-ethics and applied ethics.
A major area of debate involves consequentialism, in which actions are judged by the potential results of the act, such as to maximize happiness, called utilitarianism, and deontology, in which actions are judged by how they adhere to principles, irrespective of negative ends.
Aesthetics is the "critical reflection on art, culture and nature." It addresses the nature of art, beauty and taste, enjoyment, emotional values, perception and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more precisely defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. Its major divisions are art theory, literary theory, film theory and music theory. An example from art theory is to discern the set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement such as the Cubist aesthetic. The philosophy of film analyzes films and filmmakers for their philosophical content and explores film (images, cinema, etc.) as a medium for philosophical reflection and expression.
Political philosophy is the study of government and the relationship of individuals (or families and clans) to communities including the state. It includes questions about justice, law, property and the rights and obligations of the citizen. Politics and ethics are traditionally linked subjects, as both discuss the question of how people should live together.
Other branches of value theory:
Many academic disciplines generated philosophical inquiry. The relationship between "X" and the "philosophy of X" is debated. Richard Feynman argued that the philosophy of a topic is irrelevant to its primary study, saying that "philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds." Curtis White, by contrast, argued that philosophical tools are essential to humanities, sciences and social sciences.
Logic is the study of reasoning and argument. An argument is "a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition." The connected series of statements are "premises" and the proposition is the conclusion. For example:
Deductive reasoning is when, given certain premises, conclusions are unavoidably implied. Rules of inference are used to infer conclusions such as, modus ponens, where given “A” and “If A then B”, then “B” must be concluded.
Because sound reasoning is an essential element of all sciences, social sciences and humanities disciplines, logic became a formal science. Sub-fields include mathematical logic, philosophical logic, Modal logic, computational logic and non-classical logics. A major question in the philosophy of mathematics is whether mathematical entities are objective and discovered, called mathematical realism, or invented, called mathematical antirealism.
This branch explores the foundations, methods, history, implications and purpose of science. Many of its sub-divisions correspond to a specific branch of science. For example, philosophy of biology deals specifically with the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues in the biomedical and life sciences. The philosophy of mathematics studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations and implications of mathematics.
Some philosophers specialize in one or more historical periods. The history of philosophy (study of a specific period, individual or school) is related to but not the same as the philosophy of history (the theoretical aspect of history, which deals with questions such as the nature of historical evidence and the possibility of objectivity).
Philosophy of religion deals with questions that involve religion and religious ideas from a philosophically neutral perspective (as opposed to theology which begins from religious convictions). Traditionally, religious questions were not seen as a separate field from philosophy proper, the idea of a separate field only arose in the 19th century.
Issues include the existence of God, the relationship between reason and faith, questions of religious epistemology, the relationship between religion and science, how to interpret religious experiences, questions about the possibility of an afterlife, the problem of religious language and the existence of souls and responses to religious pluralism and diversity.
A variety of other academic and non-academic approaches have been explored.
The ideas conceived by a society have profound repercussions on what actions the society performs. Weaver argued that ideas have consequences. Philosophy yields applications such as those in ethics – applied ethics in particular – and political philosophy. The political and economic philosophies of Confucius, Sun Tzu, Chanakya, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Taymiyyah, Machiavelli, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have been used to shape and justify governments and their actions. Progressive education as championed by Dewey had a profound impact on 20th-century US educational practices. Descendants of this movement include efforts in philosophy for children, which are part of philosophy education. Clausewitz's political philosophy of war has had a profound effect on statecraft, international politics and military strategy in the 20th century, especially around World War II. Logic is important in mathematics, linguistics, psychology, computer science and computer engineering.
Other important applications can be found in epistemology, which aid in understanding the requisites for knowledge, sound evidence and justified belief (important in law, economics, decision theory and a number of other disciplines). The philosophy of science discusses the underpinnings of the scientific method and has affected the nature of scientific investigation and argumentation. Philosophy thus has fundamental implications for science as a whole. For example, the strictly empirical approach of B.F. Skinner's behaviorism affected for decades the approach of the American psychological establishment. Deep ecology and animal rights examine the moral situation of humans as occupants of a world that has non-human occupants to consider also. Aesthetics can help to interpret discussions of music, literature, the plastic arts and the whole artistic dimension of life. In general, the various philosophies strive to provide practical activities with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.
Some of those who study philosophy become professional philosophers, typically by working as professors who teach, research and write in academic institutions. However, most students of academic philosophy later contribute to law, journalism, religion, sciences, politics, business, or various arts. For example, public figures who have degrees in philosophy include comedians Steve Martin and Ricky Gervais, filmmaker Terrence Malick, Pope John Paul II, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bryer and vice presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
Germany was the first country to professionalize philosophy. The doctorate of philosophy (PhD) developed in Germany as the terminal Teacher's credential in the mid 17th century. At the end of 1817, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was the first philosopher to be appointed Professor by the State, namely by the Prussian Minister of Education, as an effect of Napoleonic reform in Prussia. In the United States, the professionalization grew out of reforms to the American higher-education system largely based on the German model.
Within the last century, philosophy has increasingly become a professional discipline practiced within universities, like other academic disciplines. Accordingly, it has become less general and more specialized. In the view of one prominent recent historian: "Philosophy has become a highly organized discipline, done by specialists primarily for other specialists. The number of philosophers has exploded, the volume of publication has swelled, and the subfields of serious philosophical investigation have multiplied. Not only is the broad field of philosophy today far too vast to be embraced by one mind, something similar is true even of many highly specialized subfields." Some philosophers argue that this professionalization has negatively affected the discipline.
The end result of professionalization for philosophy has meant that work being done in the field is now almost exclusively done by university professors holding a doctorate in the field publishing in highly technical, peer-reviewed journals. While it remains common among the population at large for a person to have a set of religious, political or philosophical views that they consider their "philosophy", these views are rarely informed by or connected to the work being done in professional philosophy today. Furthermore, unlike many of the sciences for which there has come to be a healthy industry of books, magazines, and television shows meant to popularize science and communicate the technical results of a scientific field to the general populace, works by professional philosophers directed at an audience outside the profession remain rare. Philosopher Michael Sandel's book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? and Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit are examples of works that hold the uncommon distinction of having been written by professional philosophers but directed at and ultimately popular among a broader audience of non-philosophers. Both works became 'New York Times best sellers.
Many inquiries outside of academia are philosophical in the broad sense. Novelists, playwrights, filmmakers, and musicians, as well as scientists and others engage in recognizably philosophical activity.
Although men have generally dominated philosophical discourse, women have engaged in philosophy throughout history. Women philosophers have contributed since ancient times–notably Hipparchia of Maroneia (active c. 325 BCE) and Arete of Cyrene (active 5th–4th centuries BCE). More were accepted during the ancient, medieval and modern eras, but no women philosophers became part the Western canon until the 20th and 21st century, when some sources indicate that Susanne Langer, G.E.M. Anscombe, Hannah Arendt and Simone de Beauvoir entered the canon.
In the early 1800s, some colleges and universities in the UK and US began admitting women, producing more female academics. Nevertheless, U.S. Department of Education reports from the 1990s indicate that few women ended up in philosophy, and that philosophy is one of the least gender-proportionate fields in the humanities. In 2014, Inside Higher Education described the philosophy "...discipline's own long history of misogyny and sexual harassment" of women students and professors. University of Sheffield philosophy professor Jennifer Saul stated in 2015 that women are "...leaving philosophy after being harassed, assaulted, or retaliated against."
In the early 1990s, the Canadian Philosophical Association noted a gender imbalance and gender bias in the academic field of philosophy. In June 2013, a US sociology professor stated that "out of all recent citations in four prestigious philosophy journals, female authors comprise just 3.6 percent of the total." Susan Price argues that the philosophical "...canon remains dominated by white males – the discipline that...still hews to the myth that genius is tied to gender." Morgan Thompson suggests that discrimination, differences in abilities, grade differences and the lack of role models in philosophy could be potential factors for the gender gap. According to Saul, "[p]hilosophy, the oldest of the humanities, is also the malest (and the whitest). While other areas of the humanities are at or near gender parity, philosophy is actually more overwhelmingly male than even mathematics." Similarly, research into professional participation in Australian philosophy indicates only a minor increase of women in senior positions since the 1960s, as well as a patterned under-citation of female philosophers.
In 2000, the Open Court Publishing Company began publishing a series of books on philosophy and popular culture. Each book consists of essays written by philosophers for general readers. The books "explore the meanings, concepts and puzzles within television shows, movies, music and other icons of popular culture" analyzing topics such as the TV shows Seinfeld and The Simpsons, The Matrix and Star Wars movies and related media and new technological developments such as the iPod and Facebook. Their most recent publication (as of 2016) is titled Louis C.K. and Philosophy; its subject is the comedian Louis C.K..
The Matrix makes numerous references to philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, existentialism and nihilism. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, Descartes's evil demon, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", Marxist social theory and the brain in a vat thought experiment. Many references to Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appear in the film, although Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation.
Philosophy is rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value). Each of the three elements in this list has a non-philosophical counterpart, from which it is distinguished by its explicitly rational and critical way of proceeding and by its systematic nature. Everyone has some general conception of the nature of the world in which they live and of their place in it. Metaphysics replaces the unargued assumptions embodied in such a conception with a rational and organized body of beliefs about the world as a whole. Everyone has occasion to doubt and question beliefs, their own or those of others, with more or less success and without any theory of what they are doing. Epistemology seeks by argument to make explicit the rules of correct belief formation. Everyone governs their conduct by directing it to desired or valued ends. Ethics, or moral philosophy, in its most inclusive sense, seeks to articulate, in rationally systematic form, the rules or principles involved.in Honderich 1995.
The English word "philosophy" is first attested to c. 1300, meaning "knowledge, body of knowledge."
Ancient Greek philosophy was divided into three branches of knowledge: natural science, ethics, and logic.
E*pis`te*mol"o*gy (?), n. [Gr. knowledge + -logy.] The theory or science of the method or grounds of knowledge.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
Aesthetics () is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty.In its more technical epistemological perspective, it is defined as the study of subjective and sensori-emotional values, or sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. Aesthetics studies how artists imagine, create and perform works of art; how people use, enjoy, and criticize art; and what happens in their minds when they look at paintings, listen to music, or read poetry, and understand what they see and hear. It also studies how they feel about art—why they like some works and not others, and how art can affect their moods, beliefs, and attitude toward life. The phrase was coined in English in the 18th century.
More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature". In modern English, the term aesthetic can also refer to a set of principles underlying the works of a particular art movement or theory: one speaks, for example, of the Cubist aesthetic.Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment) was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".Some consider Descartes' 1637 statement "I think, therefore I am" to have sparked the period. Others cite the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687). French historians traditionally date the Enlightenment to between 1715 and 1789: from the beginning of the reign of Louis XV until the French Revolution. Most end it with the turn of the 19th century. Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffeehouses and in printed books, journals, and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Church and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage to the Enlightenment.The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state. In France, the central doctrines of the Enlightenment philosophers were individual liberty and religious tolerance, in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism, along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy—an attitude captured by the phrase Sapere aude (Dare to know).Aristotle
Aristotle (; Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs, pronounced [aristotélɛːs]; 384–322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, Greece. Along with Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". Aristotle provided a complex and harmonious synthesis of the various existing philosophies prior to him, including those of Socrates and Plato, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its fundamental intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be central to the contemporary philosophical discussion.
Little is known about his life. His father, Nicomachus, died when Aristotle was a child, and he was brought up by a guardian. At seventeen or eighteen years of age, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC). His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government – and constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Shortly after Plato died, Aristotle left Athens and, at the request of Philip II of Macedon, tutored Alexander the Great beginning in 343 BC. Teaching Alexander gave Aristotle many opportunities. He established a library in the Lyceum which helped him to produce many of his hundreds of books, which were papyrus scrolls. The fact that Aristotle was a pupil of Plato contributed to his former views of Platonism, but, following Plato's death, Aristotle immersed himself in empirical studies and shifted from Platonism to empiricism. He believed all concepts and knowledge were ultimately based on perception. Aristotle's views on natural sciences represent the groundwork underlying many of his works.
Aristotle's views on physical science profoundly shaped medieval scholarship. Their influence extended from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages into the Renaissance, and were not replaced systematically until the Enlightenment and theories such as classical mechanics. Some of Aristotle's zoological observations, such as on the hectocotyl (reproductive) arm of the octopus, were disbelieved until the 19th century. His works contain the earliest known formal study of logic, studied by medieval scholars such as Peter Abelard and John Buridan. Aristotelianism profoundly influenced Islamic thought during the Middle Ages, as well as Christian theology, especially the Neoplatonism of the Early Church and the scholastic tradition of the Catholic Church. Aristotle was revered among medieval Muslim scholars as "The First Teacher". His ethics, though always influential, gained renewed interest with the modern advent of virtue ethics.
All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of academic study. Though Aristotle wrote many elegant treatises and dialogues for publication, only around a third of his original output has survived, none of it intended for publication. Aristotle has been depicted by major artists including Raphael and Rembrandt. Early Modern theories including William Harvey's circulation of the blood and Galileo Galilei's kinematics were developed in reaction to Aristotle's. In the 19th century, George Boole gave Aristotle's logic a mathematical foundation with his system of algebraic logic. In the 20th century, Martin Heidegger created a new interpretation of Aristotle's political philosophy, but elsewhere Aristotle was widely criticised, even ridiculed by thinkers such as the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the biologist Peter Medawar. More recently, Aristotle has again been taken seriously, such as in the thinking of Ayn Rand and Alasdair MacIntyre, while Armand Marie Leroi has reconstructed Aristotle's biology. The image of Aristotle tutoring the young Alexander remains current, and the Poetics continues to play a role in the cinema of the United States.Doctor of Philosophy
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin philosophiae doctorem or doctorem philosophiae) is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields.
Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor (often abbreviated "Dr" or "Dr.") or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil" (depending on the awarding institution). It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.The specific requirements to earn a PhD degree vary considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates. During the studies that lead to the degree, the student is called a doctoral student or PhD student; a student who has completed all of their coursework and comprehensive examinations and is working on their thesis/dissertation is sometimes known as a doctoral candidate or PhD candidate (see: all but dissertation). A student attaining this level may be granted a Candidate of Philosophy degree at some institutions, or may be granted a master's degree en route to the doctoral degree. Sometimes this status is also colloquially known as "Ph.D. ABD", meaning "All But Dissertation."A PhD candidate must submit a project, thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research, which is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. In many countries, a candidate must defend this work before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the university. Universities sometimes award other types of doctorate besides the PhD, such as the Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) for music performers and the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) for professional educators. In 2005 the European Universities Association defined the Salzburg Principles, ten basic principles for third-cycle degrees (doctorates) within the Bologna Process. These were followed in 2016 by the Florence Principles, seven basic principles for doctorates in the arts laid out by the European League of Institutes of the Arts, which have been endorsed by the European Association of Conservatoires, the International Association of Film and Television Schools, the International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, and the Society for Artistic Research.In the context of the Doctor of Philosophy and other similarly titled degrees, the term "philosophy" does not refer to the field or academic discipline of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is "love of wisdom". In most of Europe, all fields (history, philosophy, social sciences, mathematics, and natural philosophy/sciences) other than theology, law, and medicine (the so-called professional, vocational, or technical curriculum) were traditionally known as philosophy, and in Germany and elsewhere in Europe the basic faculty of liberal arts was known as the "faculty of philosophy".Epistemology
Epistemology ( (listen); from Greek, Modern ἐπιστήμη, epistēmē, meaning 'knowledge', and λόγος, logos, meaning 'logical discourse') is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. Much debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification. Epistemology addresses such questions as: "What makes justified beliefs justified?", "What does it mean to say that we know something?", and fundamentally "How do we know that we know?"Ethics
Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology.Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual inquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory.
Three major areas of study within ethics recognized today are:
Meta-ethics, concerning the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions, and how their truth values (if any) can be determined
Normative ethics, concerning the practical means of determining a moral course of action
Applied ethics, concerning what a person is obligated (or permitted) to do in a specific situation or a particular domain of actionExistentialism
Existentialism () is the philosophical study that begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. It is associated mainly with certain 19th and 20th-century European philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief in that beginning of philosophical thinking.
While the predominant value of existentialist thought is commonly acknowledged to be freedom, its primary virtue is authenticity. In the view of the existentialist, the individual's starting point is characterized by what has been called "the existential attitude", or a sense of disorientation, confusion, or dread in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher, though he did not use the term existentialism. He proposed that each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or "authentically".Existentialism became popular in the years following World War II, thanks to Sartre who read Heidegger while in a POW camp, and strongly influenced many disciplines besides philosophy, including theology, drama, art, literature, and psychology.Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (, German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈniːtʃə] (listen) or [- ˈniːtsʃə]; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889 at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward, a complete loss of his mental faculties. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900.Nietzsche's body of work touched a wide range of topics, including art, philology, history, religion, tragedy, culture, and science. His writing spans philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism and fiction while displaying a fondness for aphorism and irony. His early inspiration was drawn from figures such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Prominent elements of his philosophy include his radical critique of truth in favor of perspectivism; his genealogical critique of religion and Christian morality and his related theory of master–slave morality; his aesthetic affirmation of existence in response to the "death of God" and the profound crisis of nihilism; his notion of the Apollonian and Dionysian; and his characterization of the human subject as the expression of competing wills, collectively understood as the will to power. He also developed influential concepts such as the Übermensch and the doctrine of eternal return. In his later work, he became increasingly preoccupied with the creative powers of the individual to overcome social, cultural and moral contexts in pursuit of new values and aesthetic health.After his death, his sister Elisabeth became the curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts, reworking his unpublished writings to fit her own German nationalist ideology while often contradicting or obfuscating Nietzsche's stated opinions, which were explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism. Through her published editions, Nietzsche's work became associated with fascism and Nazism; 20th century scholars contested this interpretation of his work and corrected editions of his writings were soon made available. Nietzsche's thought enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1960s and his ideas have since had a profound impact on 20th and early-21st century thinkers across philosophy—especially in schools of continental philosophy such as existentialism, postmodernism and post-structuralism—as well as art, literature, psychology, politics and popular culture.Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant (; German: [ʔɪˈmaːnu̯eːl ˈkant, -nu̯ɛl -]; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was an influential German philosopher. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.
In one of Kant's major works, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), he attempted to explain the relationship between reason and human experience and to move beyond the failures of traditional philosophy and metaphysics. Kant wanted to put an end to an era of futile and speculative theories of human experience, while resisting the skepticism of thinkers such as David Hume. Kant regarded himself as showing the way past the impasse between rationalists and empiricists which philosophy had led to, and is widely held to have synthesized both traditions in his thought.Kant was an exponent of the idea that perpetual peace could be secured through universal democracy and international cooperation. He believed that this would be the eventual outcome of universal history, although it is not rationally planned. The nature of Kant's religious ideas continues to be the subject of philosophical dispute, with viewpoints ranging from the impression that he was an initial advocate of atheism who at some point developed an ontological argument for God, to more critical treatments epitomized by Nietzsche, who claimed that Kant had "theologian blood" and was merely a sophisticated apologist for traditional Christian faith.Kant published other important works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history. These include the Universal Natural History (1755), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), the Metaphysics of Morals (1797), and the Critique of Judgment (1790), which looks at aesthetics and teleology.Karl Marx
Karl Marx (German: [ˈkaɐ̯l ˈmaɐ̯ks]; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.
Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, and the three-volume Das Kapital. His political and philosophical thought had enormous influence on subsequent intellectual, economic and political history and his name has been used as an adjective, a noun and a school of social theory.
Marx's theories about society, economics and politics – collectively understood as Marxism – hold that human societies develop through class struggle. In capitalism, this manifests itself in the conflict between the ruling classes (known as the bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and the working classes (known as the proletariat) that enable these means by selling their labour power in return for wages. Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx predicted that, like previous socio-economic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism. For Marx, class antagonisms under capitalism, owing in part to its instability and crisis-prone nature, would eventuate the working class' development of class consciousness, leading to their conquest of political power and eventually the establishment of a classless, communist society constituted by a free association of producers. Marx actively pressed for its implementation, arguing that the working class should carry out organised revolutionary action to topple capitalism and bring about socio-economic emancipation.Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history, and his work has been both lauded and criticised. His work in economics laid the basis for much of the current understanding of labour and its relation to capital, and subsequent economic thought. Many intellectuals, labour unions, artists and political parties worldwide have been influenced by Marx's work, with many modifying or adapting his ideas. Marx is typically cited as one of the principal architects of modern social science.Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among the [study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics (ta meta ta phusika, 'after the Physics ', another of Aristotle's works).Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are. Metaphysics seeks to answer, in an abstract and fully general manner, the questions:
What is there?
What is it like?Topics of metaphysical investigation include existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.Nihilism
Nihilism (; from Latin nihil, meaning 'nothing') is the philosophical viewpoint that suggests the denial or lack of belief towards the reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that there is no inherent morality, and that accepted moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism may also take epistemological, ontological, or metaphysical forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or reality does not actually exist.
The term is sometimes used in association with anomie to explain the general mood of despair at a perceived pointlessness of existence that one may develop upon realising there are no necessary norms, rules, or laws.Nihilism has also been described as conspicuous in or constitutive of certain historical periods. For example, Jean Baudrillard and others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch and some religious theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity and many aspects of modernity represent a rejection of theism, and that such rejection of theistic doctrine entails nihilism.Philosopher
A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras (6th century BC).In the classical sense, a philosopher was someone who lived according to a certain way of life, focusing on resolving existential questions about the human condition, and not someone who discourses upon theories or comments upon authors. Typically, these particular brands of philosophy are Hellenistic ones and those who most arduously commit themselves to this lifestyle may be considered philosophers. A philosopher is one who challenges what is thought to be common sense, doesn’t know when to stop asking questions, and reexamines the old ways of thought.In a modern sense, a philosopher is an intellectual who has contributed in one or more branches of philosophy, such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, social theory, and political philosophy. A philosopher may also be one who worked in the humanities or other sciences which have since split from philosophy proper over the centuries, such as the arts, history, economics, sociology, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, theology, and politics.Plato
Plato (; PLAY-toe Greek: Πλάτων Plátōn, pronounced [plá.tɔːn] PLOT-own in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece and the founder of the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. The so-called Neoplatonism of philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry influenced Saint Augustine and thus Christianity.
Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato also appears to have been the founder of Western political philosophy. His most famous contribution bears his name, Platonism (also ambiguously called either Platonic realism or Platonic idealism), the doctrine of the Forms known by pure reason to provide a realist solution to the problem of universals. He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.
His own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been along with Socrates, the pre-Socratics Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, although few of his predecessors' works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself. Unlike the work of nearly all of his contemporaries, Plato's entire oeuvre is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years. Although their popularity has fluctuated over the years, the works of Plato have never been without readers since the time they were written.Political philosophy
Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.
In a vernacular sense, the term "political philosophy" often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, political belief or attitude, about politics, synonymous to the term "political ideology".
Political philosophy is a branch of philosophy. Within political science, a strong focus has historically been placed on the role of political philosophy (also known as normative theory), moral philosophy and the humanities, although in recent years there has been increased focus to political theory based on quantitative methodological approaches as well as economic theory, the natural sciences and behaviouralism.René Descartes
René Descartes (US: , UK: , French: [ʁəne dekaʁt]; Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: Cartesian; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. He is generally considered one of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age.Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system (see below) was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, used in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.
Descartes refused to accept the authority of previous philosophers. He frequently set his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, an early modern treatise on emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". His best known philosophical statement is "I think, therefore I am" (French: Je pense, donc je suis; Latin: Ego cogito, ergo sum), found in Discourse on the Method (1637; written in French and Latin) and Principles of Philosophy (1644; written in Latin).Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differed from the schools on two major points: first, he rejected the splitting of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejected any appeal to final ends, divine or natural, in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.
Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Spinoza and Leibniz, and was later opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes were all well-versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well.Socrates
Socrates (; Ancient Greek: Σωκρᾰ́της, translit. Sōkrátēs, [sɔːkrátɛːs]; c. 470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the Western ethical tradition of thought.
An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the only source to have written during his lifetime.Plato's dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, though it is unclear the degree to which Socrates himself is "hidden behind his 'best disciple'". Through his portrayal in Plato's dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the fields of ethics and epistemology. It is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus.
Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and in the modern era. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most widely known figures in the Western philosophical tradition.Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. While Stoic physics are largely drawn from the teachings of the philosopher Heraclitus, they are heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. Stoicism is predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.
The Stoics are especially known for teaching that "virtue is the only good" for human beings, and that external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves, but have value as "material for virtue to act upon". Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to Western virtue ethics. The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is "in accord with nature". Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual's philosophy was not what a person said, but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.
Many Stoics—such as Seneca and Epictetus—emphasized that because "virtue is sufficient for happiness", a sage would be emotionally resilient to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase "stoic calm", though the phrase does not include the "radical ethical" Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.Stoicism flourished throughout the Roman and Greek world until the 3rd century AD, and among its adherents was Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It experienced a decline after Christianity became the state religion in the 4th century AD. Since then it has seen revivals, notably in the Renaissance (Neostoicism) and in the contemporary era (modern Stoicism).Taoism
Taoism (, ), or Daoism (), is a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào; literally: 'the Way', also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "dao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".
The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists), and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the I Ching, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai (c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao³ Tzŭ³), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.
By the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), the various sources of Taoism had coalesced into a coherent tradition of religious organizations and orders of ritualists in the state of Shu (modern Sichuan). In earlier ancient China, Taoists were thought of as hermits or recluses who did not participate in political life. Zhuangzi was the best known of these, and it is significant that he lived in the south, where he was part of local Chinese shamanic traditions.Female shamans played an important role in this tradition, which was particularly strong in the southern state of Chu. Early Taoist movements developed their own institution in contrast to shamanism, but absorbed basic shamanic elements. Shamans revealed basic texts of Taoism from early times down to at least the 20th century. Institutional orders of Taoism evolved in various strains that in more recent times are conventionally grouped into two main branches: Quanzhen Taoism and Zhengyi Taoism. After Laozi and Zhuangzi, the literature of Taoism grew steadily and was compiled in form of a canon—the Daozang—which was published at the behest of the emperor. Throughout Chinese history, Taoism was nominated several times as a state religion. After the 17th century, however, it fell from favor.
Taoism has had a profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries, and Taoists (Chinese: 道士; pinyin: dàoshi, "masters of the Tao"), a title traditionally attributed only to the clergy and not to their lay followers, usually take care to note distinction between their ritual tradition and the practices of Chinese folk religion and non-Taoist vernacular ritual orders, which are often mistakenly identified as pertaining to Taoism. Chinese alchemy (especially neidan), Chinese astrology, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, several martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Beyond China, Taoism also had influence on surrounding societies in Asia.
Today, the Taoist tradition is one of the five religious doctrines officially recognized in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Republic of China (ROC), and although it does not travel readily from its East Asian roots, it claims adherents in a number of societies, in particular in Hong Kong, Macau, and in Southeast Asia.