Difference between revisions of "Philosophy"

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'''Philosophy,''' both the field and the concept, is notoriously [[definition of philosophy|hard to define]].  Very roughly, we might say it is the study of, or wise reflection about, very general things.  To elaborate, we might say that philosophy is the study of the meaning and justification of beliefs about the most general, or universal, aspects of things--a study which is carried out not by experimentation or careful observation, but instead typically by formulating problems carefully, offering solutions to them, giving arguments for the solutions, and engaging in dialectic about all of the above.  Philosophy studies a huge range of general concepts, such as [[existence]], [[goodness]], [[knowledge]], and [[beauty]].  It asks questions such as "What is the good life?" and "Is knowledge even possible?"  Some famous [[philosopher]]s include [[Plato]], [[Aristotle]], [[Rene Descartes]], [[John Locke]], and [[Immanuel Kant]].  The thinking of these writers, and the subject they helped to create, is notoriously difficult to understand.
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'''Philosophy,''' both the field and the concept, is notoriously [[definition of philosophy|hard to define]].  Very roughly, we might say it is the study of, or wise reflection about, very general things.  To elaborate, we might say that philosophy is the study of the meaning and justification of beliefs about the most general, or universal, aspects of things — a study which is carried out not by experimentation or careful observation, but instead typically by formulating problems carefully, offering solutions to them, giving arguments for the solutions, and engaging in dialectic about all of the above.  Philosophy studies a huge range of general concepts, such as [[existence]], [[goodness]], [[knowledge]], and [[beauty]].  It asks questions such as "What is the good life?" and "Is knowledge even possible?"  Some famous [[philosopher]]s include [[Plato]], [[Aristotle]], [[Rene Descartes]], [[John Locke]], and [[Immanuel Kant]].  The thinking of these writers, and the subject they helped to create, is notoriously difficult to understand.
  
One good way to understand the concept of philosophy is to examine its historical development.  The Greek word was ''philosophia'' (φιλοσοφία), meaning "love of wisdom."  ("Philo-" comes from the Greek word ''philein,'' meaning to love, and "-sophy" comes from the ''sophia,'' or wisdom.)  Originally the scope of philosophy included <i>all</i> fields of study, other than history; as recently as the nineteenth century, what we now call "[[science]]" was called "[[natural philosophy]]."  In the last two centuries in particular, "philosophy" has come to mean an especially abstract, nonexperimental intellectual endeavor.
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One good way to understand the concept of philosophy is to examine its historical development.  The Greek word was ''philosophia'' (φιλοσοφία), meaning "love of wisdom". ("Philo-" comes from the Greek word ''philein,'' meaning to love, and "-sophy" comes from the ''sophia'', or wisdom.) The word ''philosophos'' (φιλόσοφος) was first used by [[Pythagoras]] to distinguish himself as a seeker of wisdom from those who thought of themselves as the wise (''sophos''; σοφός).  By the time of [[Socrates]] the word had come to mean something more like "scientific man" or "learned man". Originally the scope of philosophy included ''all'' fields of study, other than history; as recently as the nineteenth century, what we now call "[[science]]" was called "[[natural philosophy]]" (this usage is still to be found in the names of departments, courses, and chairs in some Universities<ref>e.g., [http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/mackay/ the University of Cambridge] and [http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/wsearch/courses.html the University of Glasgow]</ref>).   In the last two centuries in particular, however, "philosophy" has come to mean an especially abstract, nonexperimental intellectual endeavour.
  
Whatever historical observations we might make, in fact, "philosophy" has proven to be a notoriously difficult word to define; the question "What is philosophy?" is itself, famously, a vexing philosophical question.  It is often observed that philosophers are unique in the extent to which they disagree about what their field even ''is''.
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Whatever historical observations we might make, in fact, "philosophy" has proved to be a notoriously difficult word to define; the question "What is philosophy?" is itself, famously, a vexing philosophical question.  It is often observed that philosophers are unique in the extent to which they disagree about what their field even ''is''.
  
 
Popularly, the word "philosophy" is often used to mean any form of wisdom, or any person's perspective on life (as in "philosophy of life") or basic principles behind or method of achieving something (as in "my philosophy about driving on highways").  That is different from the academic meaning, and it is the academic meaning which is used here.
 
Popularly, the word "philosophy" is often used to mean any form of wisdom, or any person's perspective on life (as in "philosophy of life") or basic principles behind or method of achieving something (as in "my philosophy about driving on highways").  That is different from the academic meaning, and it is the academic meaning which is used here.
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[[altruism]] -- [[anti-realism]] -- [[Buddhist philosophy]] -- [[coherentism]] -- [[Confucianism]] -- [[consequentialism]] -- [[constructivism]] -- [[deconstructionism]] -- [[egoism]] -- [[eudaimonism]] -- [[foundationalism]] -- [[hedonism]] -- [[historical materialism]] -- [[irrealism]] -- [[justified true belief]] -- [[nominalism]] -- [[Objectivism]] -- [[psychological egoism]] -- [[Platonism]] -- [[realism]] -- [[reliabilism]] -- [[Taoism]] -- [[Transcendentalism]] [[utilitarianism]] --  [[Populism and Nationalism]] -- [[Irrationalism and Aestheticism]] -- [[Stoicism]] -- [etc. continue the list please]
 
[[altruism]] -- [[anti-realism]] -- [[Buddhist philosophy]] -- [[coherentism]] -- [[Confucianism]] -- [[consequentialism]] -- [[constructivism]] -- [[deconstructionism]] -- [[egoism]] -- [[eudaimonism]] -- [[foundationalism]] -- [[hedonism]] -- [[historical materialism]] -- [[irrealism]] -- [[justified true belief]] -- [[nominalism]] -- [[Objectivism]] -- [[psychological egoism]] -- [[Platonism]] -- [[realism]] -- [[reliabilism]] -- [[Taoism]] -- [[Transcendentalism]] [[utilitarianism]] --  [[Populism and Nationalism]] -- [[Irrationalism and Aestheticism]] -- [[Stoicism]] -- [etc. continue the list please]
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==Notes==
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<references/>
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''This article was taken from a [http://web.archive.org/web/20011024125006/www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Philosophy very early version] of the Wikipedia article about philosophy.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy Current version.]''
 
''This article was taken from a [http://web.archive.org/web/20011024125006/www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Philosophy very early version] of the Wikipedia article about philosophy.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy Current version.]''

Revision as of 12:19, 16 February 2007

Philosophy, both the field and the concept, is notoriously hard to define. Very roughly, we might say it is the study of, or wise reflection about, very general things. To elaborate, we might say that philosophy is the study of the meaning and justification of beliefs about the most general, or universal, aspects of things — a study which is carried out not by experimentation or careful observation, but instead typically by formulating problems carefully, offering solutions to them, giving arguments for the solutions, and engaging in dialectic about all of the above. Philosophy studies a huge range of general concepts, such as existence, goodness, knowledge, and beauty. It asks questions such as "What is the good life?" and "Is knowledge even possible?" Some famous philosophers include Plato, Aristotle, Rene Descartes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. The thinking of these writers, and the subject they helped to create, is notoriously difficult to understand.

One good way to understand the concept of philosophy is to examine its historical development. The Greek word was philosophia (φιλοσοφία), meaning "love of wisdom". ("Philo-" comes from the Greek word philein, meaning to love, and "-sophy" comes from the sophia, or wisdom.) The word philosophos (φιλόσοφος) was first used by Pythagoras to distinguish himself as a seeker of wisdom from those who thought of themselves as the wise (sophos; σοφός). By the time of Socrates the word had come to mean something more like "scientific man" or "learned man". Originally the scope of philosophy included all fields of study, other than history; as recently as the nineteenth century, what we now call "science" was called "natural philosophy" (this usage is still to be found in the names of departments, courses, and chairs in some Universities[1]). In the last two centuries in particular, however, "philosophy" has come to mean an especially abstract, nonexperimental intellectual endeavour.

Whatever historical observations we might make, in fact, "philosophy" has proved to be a notoriously difficult word to define; the question "What is philosophy?" is itself, famously, a vexing philosophical question. It is often observed that philosophers are unique in the extent to which they disagree about what their field even is.

Popularly, the word "philosophy" is often used to mean any form of wisdom, or any person's perspective on life (as in "philosophy of life") or basic principles behind or method of achieving something (as in "my philosophy about driving on highways"). That is different from the academic meaning, and it is the academic meaning which is used here.

A brief introduction to some leading problems of philosophy

History of philosophy

Philosophy has a long history. Generally, philosophers divide the history of Western philosophy into ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, modern philosophy, and contemporary philosophy.

Canonically, histories of western philosophy trace the origins of philosophical problems, ideas and practice to roots in ancient Greece Template:Citation needed. Our sources for these roots are largely fragmented, and in most cases mediated throught the works of the later, better preserved Greek thinkers (see below). These pre-socratic philosophers are grouped in a timeline running from Thales (fl. c.585 BC) through to Protagoras(b. c.500 BC) and the thinkers of the Sophist schools . This classification is possibly misleading - various schools and movements can be distinguished across this period, and some were contemporaneous with Socrates and his successors.

Ancient philosophy was dominated by the trio of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In medieval philosophy, topics in metaphysics and philosophy of religion held sway, and the most important names included Augustine, Peter Abelard and Aquinas. Modern philosophy, generally means philosophy from 1600 until about 1900, and which includes many distinguished early modern philosophers, such as René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. Nineteenth-century philosophy is often treated as its own period, as it was dominated by post-Kantian German and idealist philosophers like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, and F. H. Bradley; two other important thinkers were John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Nietzsche.

In the twentieth century, philosophers in Europe and the United States took diverging paths. The so-called analytic philosophers (or Anglo-American philosophers), including Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, were centered on Oxford and Cambridge, and were joined by logical empiricists emigrating from Austria and Germany (e.g., Rudolph Carnap) and their students and others in the United States (e.g., W. V. Quine) and other English-speaking countries.

On the continent of Europe (especially Germany and France), the phenomenologist Germans Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger led the way, followed soon by Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists; this led via other "isms" to postmodernism, which dominates schools of Critical Theory as well as philosophy departments in France and Germany.

Please see our more exhaustive list of philosophers as well as the history of philosophy article, from which the above was taken.

Philosophical subdisciplines

As with any field of academic study, philosophy has a number of subdisciplines. Philosophy in fact seems to have a huge number of subdisciplines, in no small part due to the fact that there tends to be a "philosophy of" nearly everything else that is studied. The beginner is invited particularly to pay attention to logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophy of science, ethics, and political philosophy as--arguably, of course--the "central disciplines" of philosophy.

There are quite a few others; feel free to complete the list.

How to get started in philosophy

It is a platitude (at least among people who write introductions to philosophy) that everybody has a philosophy, though they might not all realize it or be able to defend it. If you're already interested in studying philosophy, your reason might be to improve the way you live or think somehow, or you simply wish to get acquainted with one of the most ancient areas of human thought. On the other hand, if you don't see what all the fuss is about, it might help to read the motivation to philosophize, which explains what motivates many people to "do philosophy," and get an introduction to philosophical method, which is important to understanding how philosophers think. It might also help to acquaint yourself with some considerations about just what philosophy is.

Applied philosophy

Philosophy has applications. The most obvious applications are those in ethics--applied ethics in particular--and in political philosophy. The political philosophies of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and John Stuart Mill have shaped and been used to justify governments and their actions. Philosophy of education deserves special mention, as well; progressive education as championed by John Dewey has had a profound impact on educational practices in the United States in the twentieth century.

Other important, but less immediate applications can be found in epistemology, which might help one to regulate one's notions of what knowledge, evidence, and justified belief are. Philosophy of science discusses the underpinnings of the scientific method, among other topics sometimes useful to scientists. Aesthetics can help to interpret discussions of art. Even ontology, surely the most abstract and least practical-seeming branch of philosophy, has had important consequences for logic and computer science. In general, the various "philosophies of," such as philosophy of law, can provide workers in their respective fields with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.

Moreover, recently, there has been developing a burgeoning profession devoted to applying philosophy to the problems of ordinary life: philosophical counseling.

Philosophical theories

altruism -- anti-realism -- Buddhist philosophy -- coherentism -- Confucianism -- consequentialism -- constructivism -- deconstructionism -- egoism -- eudaimonism -- foundationalism -- hedonism -- historical materialism -- irrealism -- justified true belief -- nominalism -- Objectivism -- psychological egoism -- Platonism -- realism -- reliabilism -- Taoism -- Transcendentalism utilitarianism -- Populism and Nationalism -- Irrationalism and Aestheticism -- Stoicism -- [etc. continue the list please]

Notes

  1. e.g., the University of Cambridge and the University of Glasgow


This article was taken from a very early version of the Wikipedia article about philosophy. Current version.