For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation).
Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved.
The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE).
Historically, philosophy encompassed all bodies of knowledge and a practitioner was known as a philosopher.
Today, major subfields of academic philosophy include metaphysics, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of existence and reality; epistemology, which studies the nature of knowledge and belief; ethics, which is concerned with moral value; and logic, which studies the rules of inference that allow one to deduce conclusions from true premises.
Origins and evolution
Initially the term referred to any body of knowledge.
In this sense, philosophy is closely related to religion, mathematics, natural science, education, and politics.
Though it has since been classified as a book of physics, Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687) uses the term natural philosophy as it was understood at the time, encompassing disciplines such as astronomy, medicine and physics that later became associated with the sciences.
In section thirteen of his Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, the oldest surviving history of philosophy (3rd century),
Diogenes Laërtius presents a three-part division of ancient Greek philosophical inquiry:
- Natural philosophy (i.e. physics, from Greek: ta physika, lit. 'things having to do with physis [nature]') was the study of the constitution and processes of transformation in the physical world
- Moral philosophy (i.e. ethics, from êthika, 'having to do with character, disposition, manners') was the study of goodness, right and wrong, justice and virtue
- Metaphysical philosophy (i.e. logic, from logikós, 'of or pertaining to reason or speech') was the study of existence, causation, God, logic, forms, and other abstract objects (meta ta physika, 'after the Physics')
In Against the Logicians the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus detailed the variety of ways in which the ancient Greek philosophers had divided philosophy, noting that this three-part division was agreed to by Plato, Aristotle, Xenocrates, and the Stoics.
This division is not obsolete, but has changed: natural philosophy has split into the various natural sciences, especially physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and cosmology; moral philosophy has birthed the social sciences, while still including value theory (e.g. ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, etc.); and metaphysical philosophy has given way to formal sciences such as logic, mathematics and philosophy of science, while still including epistemology, cosmology, etc.
Many philosophical debates that began in ancient times are still debated today.
Chalmers, by contrast, sees progress in philosophy similar to that in science, while Brewer argues 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 this sense, all cultures and literate societies ask philosophical questions, such as "how are we to live" and "what is the nature of reality."
Main article: Western philosophy
Western philosophy can be divided into three eras:
- Ancient (Greco-Roman)
- Medieval philosophy (referring to Christian European thought)
- Modern philosophy (beginning in the 17th century)
The ancient era was dominated by Greek philosophical schools.
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).
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.
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.
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.
19th-century philosophy (sometimes called late modern philosophy) was influenced by the wider 18th-century 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 (see Contemporary philosophy).
Middle Eastern philosophy
See also: Middle Eastern philosophy
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.
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.
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.
See also: Islamic philosophy
It draws from the religion of Islam as well as from Greco-Roman philosophy.
Early Islamic philosophy developed the Greek philosophical traditions in new innovative directions.
This intellectual work inagurated what is known as the Islamic Golden Age.
Others such as Al-Ghazali were highly critical of the methods of the Islamic Aristotelians and saw their metaphysical ideas as heretical.
Islamic thought also deeply influenced European intellectual developments, especially throught the commentaries of Averroes on Aristotle.
The Mongol Invasions and the destruction of Bagdhad in 1258 is often seen as marking the end of the Golden Age.
The 19th- and 20th-century Arab world saw the Nahda movement (literally meaning 'The Awakening'; also known as the 'Arab Renaissance'), which had a considerable influence on contemporary Islamic philosophy.
Main article: Eastern philosophy
Main article: Indian philosophy
'point of view', 'perspective') refers to the diverse philosophical traditions that emerged since the ancient times on the Indian subcontinent.
Indian philosophical traditions share various key concepts and ideas, which are defined in different ways and accepted or rejected by the different traditions.
Indian philosophy is commonly grouped based on their relationship to the Vedas and the ideas contained in them.
Hindus generally classify Indian philosophical traditions as either orthodox (āstika) or heterodox (nāstika) depending on whether they accept the authority of the Vedas and the theories of brahman and ātman found therein.
The schools which align themselves with the thought of the Upanishads, the so called "orthodox" or "Hindu" traditions, are often classified into six darśanas or philosophies:Sānkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Mimāmsā and Vedānta.
The doctrines of the Vedas and Upanishads 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 (2015).
They also reflect a tolerance for a diversity of philosophical interpretations within Hinduism while sharing the same foundation.
Hindu philosophers of the six orthodox schools developed systems of epistemology (pramana) and investigated topics such as metaphysics, ethics, psychology (guṇa), hermeneutics, and soteriology within the framework of the Vedic knowledge, while presenting a diverse collection of interpretations.
The commonly named six orthodox schools were the competing philosophical traditions of what has been called the "Hindu synthesis" of classical Hinduism.
There are also other schools of thought which are often seen as "Hindu", though not necessarily orthodox (since they may accept different scriptures as normative, such as the Shaiva Agamas and Tantras), these include different schools of Shavism such as Pashupata, Shaiva Siddhanta, non-dual tantric Shavism (i.e. Trika, Kaula, etc).
The "Hindu" and "Orthodox" traditions are often contrasted with the "unorthodox" traditions (nāstika, literally "those who reject"), though this is a label that is not used by the "unorthodox" schools themselves.
These traditions reject the Vedas as authoritative and often reject major concepts and ideas that are widely accepted by the orthodox schools (such as Ātman, Brahman, and Īśvara).
These unorthodox schools include Jainism (accepts ātman but rejects Īśvara, Vedas and Brahman), Buddhism (rejects all orthodox concepts except rebirth and karma), Cārvāka (materialists who reject even rebirth and karma) and Ājīvika (known for their doctrine of fate).
Jain philosophy is one of the only two surviving "unorthodox" traditions (along with Buddhism).
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.
Main article: Buddhist philosophy
between 6th and 4th century BCE) and is preserved in the early Buddhist texts.
As such, Buddhist philosophy is a trans-cultural and international phenomenon.
The dominant Buddhist philosophical traditions in East Asian nations are mainly based on Indian Mahayana Buddhism.
Buddhist philosophical texts must also be understood within the context of meditative practices which are supposed to bring about certain cognitive shifts.
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, Indian Mahayana philosophers such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu developed the theories of śūnyatā ('emptiness of all phenomena') and vijñapti-matra ('appearance only'), a form of phenomenology or transcendental idealism.
There were numerous schools, sub-schools, and traditions of Buddhist philosophy in ancient and medieval India.
According to Oxford professor of Buddhist philosophy Jan Westerhoff, the major Indian schools from 300 BCE to 1000 CE were: the Mahāsāṃghika tradition (now extinct), the Sthavira schools (such as Sarvāstivāda, Vibhajyavāda and Pudgalavāda) and the Mahayana schools.
Many of these traditions were also studied in other regions, like Central Asia and China, having been brought there by Buddhist missionaries.
East Asian philosophy
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 such as Confucianism (also known as Ruism), Legalism, and Taoism as well as numerous other less influential schools like Mohism and Naturalism.
These schools of thought further developed during the Han (206 BCE – 220 CE) and Tang (618–907 CE) eras, forming new philosophical movements like Xuanxue (also called Neo-Taoism), and Neo-Confucianism.
Neo-Confucianism was a syncretic philosophy, which incorporated the ideas of different Chinese philosophical traditions, including Buddhism and Taoism.
The Ming scholar Wang Yangming (1472–1529) is a later but important philosopher of this tradition as well.
Buddhism began arriving in China during the Han Dynasty, 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 Japan, the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867) was also strongly influenced by Confucian philosophy.
Confucianism continues to influence the ideas and worldview of the nations of the Chinese cultural sphere today.
In the Modern era, Chinese thinkers incorporated ideas from Western philosophy.
The old traditional philosophies also began to reassert themselves in the 20th century.
Likewise, Humanistic Buddhism is a recent modernist Buddhist movement.
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 and promoted liberal reforms as well as Western philosophies like Liberalism and Utilitarianism.
Another trend in modern Japanese philosophy was the "National Studies" (Kokugaku) tradition.
This intellectual trend sought to study and promote ancient Japanese thought and culture.
During the 20th century, the Kyoto School, an influential and unique Japanese philosophical school developed from Western phenomenology and Medieval Japanese Buddhist philosophy such as that of Dogen.
Main article: African philosophy
African philosophy is philosophy produced by African people, philosophy that presents African worldviews, ideas and themes, or philosophy that uses distinct African philosophical methods.
Another early African philosopher was Anton Wilhelm Amo (c. 1703–1759) who became a respected philosopher in Germany.
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.
Indigenous American philosophy
Main article: Indigenous American philosophy
Indigenous-American philosophical thought consists of a wide variety of beliefs and traditions among different American cultures.
Another widely shared concept was that of orenda ('spiritual power').
According to Whiteley (1998), 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.
The Aztec worldview posited the concept of an ultimate universal energy or force called Ōmeteōtl ('Dual Cosmic Energy') which sought a way to live in balance with a constantly changing, "slippery" world.
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."
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.
Women in philosophy
Main article: Women in philosophy
Although men have generally dominated philosophical discourse, women philosophers have engaged in the discipline throughout history.
Some women philosophers were accepted during the medieval and modern eras, but none became part of the Western canon until the 20th and 21st century, when many suggest that G.E.M. , AnscombeHannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, and Susanne Langer 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. 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 Department of Educationhumanities, with women making up somewhere between 17% and 30% of philosophy faculty according to some studies.
Branches of philosophy
Philosophical questions can be grouped into various branches.
These groupings allow philosophers to focus on a set of similar topics and interact with other thinkers who are interested in the same questions.
These divisions are neither exhaustive, nor mutually exclusive.
Furthermore, these philosophical inquiries sometimes overlap with each other and with other inquiries such as science, religion or mathematics.
Main article: Aesthetics
Aesthetics is the "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."
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.
Main article: Ethics
Its primary investigations include how to live a good life and identifying standards of morality.
It also includes investigating whether or not there is a best way to live or a universal moral standard, and if so, how we come to learn about it.
The three main views in ethics about what constitute moral actions are:
- Consequentialism, which judges actions based on their consequences. One such view is utilitarianism, which judges actions based on the net happiness (or pleasure) and/or lack of suffering (or pain) that they produce.
- Deontology, which judges actions based on whether or not they are in accordance with one's moral duty. In the standard form defended by Immanuel Kant, deontology is concerned with whether or not a choice respects the moral agency of other people, regardless of its consequences.
- Virtue ethics, which judges actions based on the moral character of the agent who performs them and whether they conform to what an ideally virtuous agent would do.
Main article: Epistemology
Philosophical skepticism, which raises doubts about some or all claims to knowledge, has been a topic of interest throughout the history of philosophy.
It arose early in Pre-Socratic philosophy and became formalized with Pyrrho, the founder of the earliest Western school of philosophical skepticism.
Empiricism places emphasis on observational evidence via sensory experience as the source of knowledge.
Rationalism places emphasis on reason as a source of knowledge.
This debate was largely the result of attempts to solve the Gettier problem.
Another common subject of contemporary debates is the regress problem, which occurs when trying to offer proof or justification for any belief, statement, or proposition.
The problem is that whatever the source of justification may be, that source must either be without justification (in which case it must be treated as an arbitrary foundation for belief), or it must have some further justification (in which case justification must either be the result of circular reasoning, as in coherentism, or the result of an infinite regress, as in infinitism).
Main article: Metaphysics
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.
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.
Main article: Logic
Logic is the study of reasoning and argument.
Because sound reasoning is an essential element of all sciences, social sciences and humanities disciplines, logic became a formal science.
A major question in the philosophy of mathematics is whether mathematical entities are objective and discovered, called mathematical realism, or invented, called mathematical antirealism.
Mind and language
Philosophy of language explores the nature, origins, and use of language.
In recent years, this branch has become related to cognitive science.
Philosophy of science
Main article: Philosophy of science
The philosophy of science explores the foundations, methods, history, implications and purpose of science.
Many of its subdivisions correspond to specific branches of science.
For example, philosophy of biology deals specifically with the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues in the biomedical and life sciences.
Main article: Political philosophy
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.
Philosophy of religion
Main article: Philosophy of religion
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.
Metaphilosophy explores the aims of philosophy, its boundaries and its methods.
Applied and professional philosophy
Main article: Contemporary philosophy § Outside the profession
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.
Curtis White has argued that philosophical tools are essential to humanities, sciences and social sciences.
Some philosophers argue that this professionalization has negatively affected the discipline.
Main article: Outline of philosophy
- List of important publications in philosophy
- List of years in philosophy
- List of philosophy journals
- List of philosophy awards
- List of unsolved problems in philosophy
- Lists of philosophers
- Social theory
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy.