Philosophy

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File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpg
The philosopher Socrates about to take poison hemlock as ordered by the court.

Philosophy is the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic).<ref>{{

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The word itself is of Greek origin: φιλοσοφία (philosophía), a compound of φίλος (phílos: friend, or lover) and σοφία (sophía: wisdom).<ref>"But philosophy has been both the seeking of wisdom and the wisdom sought." {{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }}  ISBN 1428613102</ref><ref>The definition of philosophy is: "1.orig., love of, or the search for, wisdom or knowledge 2.theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe." {{

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Though no single definition of philosophy is uncontroversial, and the field has historically expanded and changed depending upon what kinds of questions were interesting or relevant in a given era, it is generally agreed that philosophy is a method, rather than a set of claims, propositions, or theories. Its investigations are based upon reason, striving to make no unexamined assumptions and no leaps based on faith or pure analogy. Different philosophers have had varied ideas about the nature of reason, and there is also disagreement about the subject matter of philosophy. Some think that philosophy examines the process of inquiry itself. Others, that there are essentially philosophical propositions which it is the task of philosophy to prove.<ref name="Blackburn">{{

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Although the word "philosophy" originates in the Western tradition, many figures in the history of other cultures have addressed similar topics in similar ways.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref> The philosophers of the Far East are discussed in Eastern philosophy, while the philosophers of North Africa and the Near East, because of their strong interactions with Europe, are usually considered part of Western Philosophy.

Western philosophy

Main article: Western philosophy

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"The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it."
Bertrand Russell

(From The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, Lecture II)

To give an exhaustive list of the main divisions of philosophy is difficult, because various topics have been studied by philosophers at various times. Ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and logic are usually included. Other topics include politics, aesthetics, and religion. In addition, most academic subjects have a philosophy, for example the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of history.

Metaphysics was first studied systematically by Aristotle, though he did not use that term. He calls it "first philosophy" (or sometimes just "wisdom"), and says it is the subject that deals with "first causes and the principles of things". <ref>Metaphysics book alpha minor</ref> The modern meaning of the term is any inquiry dealing with the ultimate nature of what exists. Within metaphysics, ontology is the inquiry into the meaning of existence itself, sometimes seeking to specify what general types of things exist (though sometimes the term is taken to be equivalent to metaphysics). The philosophy of mind is a part of metaphysics.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, and whether knowledge is possible. Among its central concerns has been the challenge posed by skepticism: the idea that all our beliefs and thoughts may be somehow illusory or mistaken.

Ethics, or 'moral philosophy', is concerned with questions of how agents ought to act. Plato's early dialogues constitute a search for definitions of virtue. Metaethics is the study of whether ethical value judgments can be objective at all. Ethics can also be conducted within a religious context.

Logic has two broad divisions: mathematical logic (formal symbolic logic) and what is now called philosophical logic, the logic of language.

The history of Western philosophy is often divided into three periods: Ancient philosophy, Medieval philosophy, and Modern philosophy.

Greco-Roman philosophy

Template:Expert-subject

Main article: Greek philosophy

Ancient Greek philosophy may be divided into the pre-Socratic period, the Socratic period, and the post-Aristotelian period. The pre-Socratic period was characterized by metaphysical speculation, often preserved in the form of grand, sweeping statements, such as "All is fire", or "All changes". Important pre-Socratic philosophers include Pythagoras, Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Democritus, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Empedocles. The Socratic period is named in honor of the most recognizable figure in Western philosophy, Socrates, who, along with his pupil Plato, revolutionized philosophy through the use of the Socratic method, which developed the very general philosophical methods of definition, analysis, and synthesis. While no writings of Socrates survive, his influence as a "skeptic" is transmitted through Plato's works. Plato's writings are often considered basic texts in philosophy as they defined the fundamental issues of philosophy for future generations. These issues and others were taken up by Aristotle, who studied at Plato's school, the Academy, and who often disagreed with what Plato had written. The subsequent period ushered in such philosophers as Euclid, Epicurus, Chrysippus, Hipparchia the Cynic, Pyrrho, and Sextus Empiricus.

File:St-thomas-aquinas.jpg
St. Thomas Aquinas

Medieval philosophy

Main article: Medieval philosophy

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Medieval philosophy is the philosophy of Western Europe and the Middle East during what is now known as the medieval era or the Middle Ages, roughly extending from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance period. Medieval philosophy is defined partly by the process of rediscovering the ancient culture developed by Greeks and Romans in the classical period, and partly by the need to address theological problems and to integrate sacred doctrine (in Christianity and Judaism) and secular learning.

Some problems discussed throughout this period are the relation of faith to reason, the existence and unity of God, the object of theology and metaphysics, the problems of knowledge, of universals, and of individuation.

Early modern philosophy (c. 1600 - c. 1800)

Main article: Early modern philosophy

Modern philosophy is usually considered to begin with the revival of skepticism and the genesis of modern physical science. Canonical figures include Montaigne, Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.<ref>D. Rutherford (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge UP, 2006)</ref> Chronologically, this era spans the 17th and 18th centuries, and is generally considered to end with Kant's systematic attempt to reconcile Newtonian mechanics with traditional metaphysical topics.<ref>S. Nadler (ed.), A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, (Blackwell, 2002)</ref>

Later modern philosophy (c. 1800 - c. 1960)

Later modern philosophy is usually considered to begin after the philosophy of Immanuel Kant at the beginning of the 19th-century.<ref name=Shand>Shand, John (ed.) Central Works of Philosophy, Vol.3 The Nineteenth Century (McGill-Queens, 2005)</ref> German idealists, such as Hegel, expanded on the work of Kant by maintaining that the world is entirely rational and its nature is fundamentally knowable.<ref>Beiser, Frederick C. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, (Cambridge, 1993)</ref>

Rejecting idealism, other philosophers, many working from outside the university, initiated lines of thought that would occupy academic philosophy in the early and mid-20th century:

Mill's utilitarianism and Marx & Engels' Marxism dominated discussions in political philosophy until Rawls' 1971 work A Theory of Justice.

Contemporary philosophy (c. 1960 - present)

In the last hundred years, philosophy has increasingly become an activity practised within the modern research university, and accordingly it has grown more specialized and more distinct from the natural sciences. Much philosophy in this period concerns itself with explaining the relation between the theories of the natural sciences and the ideas of the humanities or common sense.

It is arguable that later modern philosophy ended with contemporary philosophy's shift of focus from 19th century philosophers to 20th century philosophers. Philosophers such as Heidegger, the later Wittgenstein, and Dewey, occupied philosophical discourses exemplified in thinkers such as Derrida, Quine, Kripke, and Rorty.

Political philosophy received new life with the works of John Rawls and Robert Nozick.

Philosophical doctrines

Realism and nominalism

Main article: Realism
See also: Nominalism

Realism sometimes means the position opposed to the 18th-century Idealism, namely that some things have real existence outside the mind. Classically, however, realism is the doctrine that abstract entities corresponding to universal terms like 'man' have a real existence. It is opposed to nominalism, the view that abstract or universal terms are words only, or denote mental states such as ideas, beliefs, or intentions. The latter position, famously held by William of Ockham, is called 'conceptualism'.

Rationalism and empiricism

File:Descartes.jpg
René Descartes
Main article: Rationalism
Main article: Empiricism

Rationalism is any view emphasizing the role or importance of human reason. Extreme rationalism tries to base all knowledge on reason alone. Rationalism typically starts from premises that cannot coherently be denied, then attempts by logical steps to deduce every possible object of knowledge.

The first rationalist, in this broad sense, is often held to be Parmenides (fl. 480 BCE), who argued that it is impossible to doubt that thinking actually occurs. But thinking must have an object, therefore something beyond thinking really exists. Parmenides deduced that what really exists must have certain properties – for example, that it cannot come into existence or cease to exist, that it is a coherent whole, that it remains the same eternally (in fact, exists altogether outside time). Zeno of Elea (born c. 489 BCE) was a disciple of Parmenides, and argued that motion is impossible, since the assertion that it exists implies a contradiction.

Plato (427–347 BCE) was also influenced by Parmenides, but combined rationalism with a form of realism. The philosopher's work is to consider being, and the essence of things. But the characteristic of essences is that they are universal. The nature of a man, a triangle, a tree, applies to all men, all triangles, all trees. Plato argued that these essences are mind-independent 'forms', that humans (but particularly philosophers) can come to know by reason, and by ignoring the distractions of sense-perception.

Modern rationalism begins with Descartes. Reflection on the nature of perceptual experience, as well as scientific discoveries in physiology and optics, led Descartes (and also Locke) to the view that we are directly aware of ideas, rather than objects. This view gave rise to three questions:

  1. Is an idea a true copy of the real thing that it represents? Sensation is not a direct interaction between bodily objects and our sense, but is a physiological process involving representation (for example, an image on the retina). Locke thought that a 'secondary quality' such as a sensation of green could in no way resemble the arrangement of particles in matter that go to produce this sensation, although he thought that 'primary qualities' such as shape, size, number, were really in objects.
  2. How can physical objects such as chairs and tables, or even physiological processes in the brain, give rise to mental items such as ideas? This is part of what became known as the mind-body problem.
  3. If all we are aware of are ideas, how can we know that anything else exists apart from ideas?

Descartes tried to address the last problem by reason. He began, echoing Parmenides, with a principle that he thought could not coherently be denied: I think, therefore I exist (often given in his original Latin: Cogito ergo sum). From this principle, Descartes went on to construct a complete system of knowledge (which involves proving the existence of God, using, among other means, a version of the ontological argument). His view attracted such philosophers as Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Christian Wolff. His philosophy also formed a general background from which, and against which, the other the British empiricists worked.

Rationalism is typically contrasted with empiricism: the view that bases our knowledge on input from the senses. John Locke, the first of the British empiricists, propounded the classic empiricist view in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1689, developing a form of naturalism and empiricism on roughly scientific (and Newtonian) principles.

During this era, religious ideas played a mixed role in the struggles that preoccupied secular philosophy. Bishop Berkeley's famous idealist refutation of key tenets of Isaac Newton is a case of an Enlightenment philosopher who drew substantially from religious ideas. Other influential religious thinkers of the time include Blaise Pascal, Joseph Butler, and Jonathan Edwards. Other major writers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke, took a rather different path. The restricted interests of many of the philosophers of the time foreshadow the separation and specialization of different areas of philosophy that would occur in the 20th century.

Skepticism

Main article: Skepticism

Skepticism is a philosophical attitude that questions the possibility of obtaining any sort of knowledge. It was first articulated by Pyrrho, who believed that everything could be doubted except appearances. Sextus Empiricus (1st century CE) describes skepticism as an "ability to place in antithesis, in any manner whatever, appearances and judgments, and thus [...] to come first of all to a suspension of judgment and then to mental tranquility."<ref>Sextus Empiricus, PH (= Outlines of Pyrrhonism) I.8</ref> Skepticism so conceived is not merely the use of doubt, but is the use of doubt for a particular end: a calmness of the soul, or ataraxia. Skepticism poses itself as a challenge to dogmatism, whose adherents think they have found the truth.<ref>Sextus Empiricus, PH (= Outlines of Pyrrhonism) I.19-20</ref>

Sextus noted that the reliability of perception may be questioned, because it is idiosyncratic to the perceiver. The appearance of individual things changes depending on whether they are in a group: for example, the shavings of a goat's horn are white when taken alone, yet the intact horn is black. A pencil, when viewed lengthwise, looks like a stick; but when examined at the tip, it looks merely like a circle.

Skepticism was revived in the early modern period by Michel de Montaigne and Blaise Pascal. Its most extreme exponent, however, was David Hume. Hume argued that there are only two kinds of reasoning: what he called probable and demonstrative (cf Hume's fork). Neither of these two forms of reasoning can lead us to a reasonable belief in the continued existence of an external world. Demonstrative reasoning cannot do this, because demonstration (that is, deductive reasoning from well-founded premises) alone cannot establish the uniformity of nature (as captured by scientific laws and principles, for example). Such reason alone cannot establish that the future will resemble the past. We have certain beliefs about the world (that the sun will rise tomorrow, for example), but these beliefs are the product of habit and custom, and do not depend on any sort of logical inferences from what is already given certain. But probable reasoning (inductive reasoning), which aims to take us from the observed to the unobserved, cannot do this either: it also depends on the uniformity of nature, and this supposed uniformity cannot be proved, without circularity, by any appeal to uniformity. The best that either sort of reasoning can accomplish is conditional truth: if certain assumptions are true, then certain conclusions follow. So nothing about the world can be established with certainty. Hume concludes that there is no solution to the skeptical argument – except, in effect, to ignore it.<ref>"And though a Pyrrhonian [i.e. a skeptic] may throw himself or others into a momentary amazement and confusion by his profound reasonings; the first and most trivial event in life will put to flight all his doubts and scruples, and leave him the same, in every point of action and speculation, with the philosophers of every other sect, or with those who never concerned themselves in any philosophical researches. When he awakes from his dream, he will be the first to join in the laugh against himself, and to confess, that all his objections are mere amusement." (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1777, XII, Part 2, p. 128)</ref>

Even if these matters were resolved in every case, we would have in turn to justify our standard of justification, leading to an infinite regress (hence the term regress skepticism).<ref>{{

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Many philosophers have questioned the value of such skeptical arguments. The question of whether we can achieve knowledge of the external world is based on how high a standard we set for the justification of such knowledge. If our standard is absolute certainty, then we cannot progress beyond the existence of mental sensations. We cannot even deduce the existence of a coherent or continuing "I" that experiences these sensations, much less the existence of an external world. On the other hand, if our standard is too low, then we admit follies and illusions into our body of knowledge. This argument against absolute skepticism asserts that the practical philosopher must move beyond solipsism, and accept a standard for knowledge that is high but not absolute.

Idealism

Main article: Idealism

Idealism is the epistemological doctrine that nothing can be directly known outside of the minds of thinking beings. Or in an alternative stronger form, it is the metaphysical doctrine that nothing exists apart from minds and the "contents" of minds. In modern Western philosophy, the epistemological doctrine begins as a core tenet of Descartes – that what is in the mind is known more reliably than what is known through the senses. The first prominent modern Western idealist in the metaphysical sense was George Berkeley. Berkeley argued<ref>First Dialogue</ref> that there is no deep distinction between mental states, such as feeling pain, and the ideas about so-called "external" things, that appear to us through the senses. There is no real distinction, in this view, between certain sensations of heat and light that we experience, which lead us to believe in the external existence of a fire, and the fire itself. Those sensations are all there is to fire. Berkeley expressed this with the Latin formula esse est percipi: to be is to be perceived. In this view the opinion, "strangely prevailing upon men", that houses, mountains, and rivers have an existence independent of their perception by a thinking being is false.

Forms of idealism were prevalent in philosophy from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Transcendental idealism, advocated by Immanuel Kant, is the view that there are limits on what can be understood, since there is much that cannot be brought under the conditions of objective judgment. Kant wrote his Critique of Pure Reason (1781–1787) in an attempt to reconcile the conflicting approaches of rationalism and empiricism, and to establish a new groundwork for studying metaphysics. Kant's intention with this work was to look at what we know and then consider what must be true about it, as a logical consequence of, the way we know it. One major theme was that there are fundamental features of reality that escape our direct knowledge because of the natural limits of the human faculties.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }}  ISBN 0-87975-596-2</ref> Although Kant held that objective knowledge of the world required the mind to impose a conceptual or categorical framework on the stream of pure sensory data - a framework including space and time themselves - he maintained that things-in-themselves existed independently of our perceptions and judgments; he was therefore not an idealist in any simple sense. Indeed, Kant's account of things-in-themselves is both controversial and highly complex. Continuing his work, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schelling dispensed with belief in the independent existence of the world, and created a thoroughgoing idealist philosophy.

The most notable work of this German idealism was G.W.F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, of 1807. Hegel asserts that the twin aims of philosophy are to account for the contradictions apparent in human experience (which arise, for instance, out of the recognition of the self as both an active, subjective witness and a passive object in the world), and also simultaneously to resolve and preserve these contradictions by showing their compatibility at a higher level of examination. This program of acceptance and reconciliation of contradictions is known as the "Hegelian dialectic". Philosophers in the Hegelian tradition include Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and the British idealists, notably T.H. Green, J.M.E. McTaggart, and F.H. Bradley.

Few 20th century philosophers have embraced idealism.

Pragmatism

Main article: Pragmatism
Main article: Instrumentalism

Pragmatism holds that the truth of beliefs does not consist in their correspondence with reality, but in their usefulness and efficacy.<ref name="Rorty">{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref> The late 19th-century American philosophers Charles Peirce and William James were its co-founders, and it was later developed by John Dewey as instrumentalism. Since the usefulness of any belief at any time might be contingent on circumstance, Peirce and James conceptualised final truth as that which would be established only by the future, final settlement of all opinion.<ref name="Putnam">{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref> Critics have accused pragmatism of falling victim to a simple fallacy: because something that is true proves useful, that usefulness is the basis for its truth.<ref name="Pratt">{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref> Thinkers in the pragmatist tradition have included John Dewey, George Santayana, and C.I. Lewis. Pragmatism has more recently been taken in new directions by Richard Rorty and Hilary Putnam.

Phenomenology

Main article: Phenomenology

Phenomenology, founded by Edmund Husserl, promotes the idea that the natural world is largely shaped by the human mind. An important part of Husserl's phenomenological project was to show that all conscious acts are directed at or about objective content, a feature that Husserl called intentionality.<ref name=Dreyfus>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref>

Setting out to revise his views on the foundation of mathematics, and influenced by the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano, under whom he had studied in Vienna, Husserl began to lay the foundations for an ambitious account not just of the kinds of experiences that underly and make possible mathematical judgments, but of the structure of conscious experience in general.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref> In the first part of his two-volume work, the Logical Investigations (1901), he launched an extended attack on the psychologism of which he had been accused by Frege. In the second part, he began to develop the technique of descriptive phenomenology, with the aim of showing how objective judgments are indeed grounded in conscious experience – not, however, in the first-person experience of particular individuals, but in the properties essential to any experiences of the kind in question.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }} </ref>

He also attempted to identify the essential properties of any act of meaning. He developed the method further in Ideas (1913) as transcendental phenomenology, proposing to ground actual experience, and thus all fields of human knowledge, in the structure of consciousness of an ideal, or transcendental, ego. Later, he attempted to reconcile his transcendental standpoint with an acknowledgement of the intersubjective life-world in which real individual subjects interact. Husserl published only a few works in his lifetime, which treat phenomenology mainly in abstract methodological terms; but he left an enormous quantity of unpublished concrete analyses.

Husserl's work was immediately influential in Germany, with the foundation of phenomenological schools in Munich and Göttingen. Phenomenology later achieved international fame through the work of such philosophers as Martin Heidegger (formerly Husserl's research assistant), Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Indeed, through the work of Heidegger and Sartre, Husserl's focus on subjective experience influenced aspects of existentialism.

Existentialism

Main article: Existentialism

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that rejects any predetermined role for human beings. Unlike tools, which are designed in order to fill some preconceived role (for example, a knife's preconceived role, or essence, is to cut), human beings are capable, to some extent at least, of deciding for themselves what constitutes their own essence.<ref name=Dreyfus /> Although they didn't use the term, the 19th-century philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche are widely regarded as the fathers of existentialism. Their influence, however, has extended beyond existentialist thought.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }}  ISBN 0805210946</ref><ref> Religious thinkers were among those influenced by Kierkegaard. Christian existentialists include Gabriel Marcel, Nicholas Berdyaev, Miguel de Unamuno, and Karl Jaspers (although he preferred to speak of his "philosophical faith"). The Jewish philosophers Martin Buber and Lev Shestov have also been associated with existentialism.</ref>

Two of the targets of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche's writings were the philosophical systems of Hegel and Schopenhauer respectively, which they had each admired in their youths. Kierkegaard thought Hegel ignored or excluded the inner subjective life of living human beings, while Nietzsche thought Schopenhauer's pessimism led people to live an ascetic, or self-hating, life. Kierkegaard suggested that truth is subjectivity, arguing that what is most important to a living individual are questions dealing with one's inner relationship to life.<ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }}  ISBN 0-14-044449-1</ref><ref>{{

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}}.{{ #if: |  “{{{quote}}}” }}  ISBN 0-691-02081-7</ref> Nietzsche proposed perspectivism, which is the view that truth depends on individual perspectives.

Although Kierkegaard was among his influences, the extent to which the German philosopher Martin Heidegger should be considered an existentialist is debated. However, in Being and Time he presented a method of rooting philosophical explanations in human existence (Dasein) to be analysed in terms of existential categories (existentiale); and this has led many commentators to treat him as an important figure in the existentialist movement. In The Letter on Humanism, Heidegger explicitly rejected the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Sartre, along with Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir, became perhaps the best-known proponent of existentialism, exploring it not only in theoretical works such as Being and Nothingness , but also in plays and novels. Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir all represented an avowedly atheistic branch of existentialism, which is now more closely associated with their ideas of nausea, contingency, bad faith, and the absurd than with Kierkegaard's spiritual angst. Nevertheless, the focus on the individual human being, responsible before the universe for the authenticity of his or her existence, is common to all these thinkers.

The analytic tradition

Main article: Analytic philosophy

The term analytic philosophy roughly designates a group of philosophical methods that stress clarity of meaning above all other criteria. The philosophy developed as a critique of Hegel and his followers in particular, and of speculative philosophy in general. Some schools in the group include 20th-century realism, logical atomism, logical positivism, and ordinary language. The motivation is to have philosophical studies go beyond personal opinion and begin to have the cogency of mathematical proofs.

In 1921, Ludwig Wittgenstein published his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which gave a rigidly "logical" account of linguistic and philosophical issues. At the time, he understood most of the problems of philosophy as mere puzzles of language, which could be solved by clear thought. Years later he would reverse a number of the positions he had set out in the Tractatus, in for example his second major work, Philosophical Investigations (1953). Investigations encouraged the development of "ordinary language philosophy", which was promoted by Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, and a few others. The "ordinary language philosophy" thinkers shared a common outlook with many older philosophers (Jeremy Bentham, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Stuart Mill), and it was this style of philosophical inquiry that characterized English-language philosophy for the second half of the 20th century.



See also Transcendentalism

Ethics and political philosophy in the West

Human nature and political legitimacy

From ancient times, and well beyond them, the roots of justification for political authority were inescapably tied to outlooks on human nature. In The Republic, Plato declared that the ideal society would be run by a council of philosopher-kings, since those best at philosophy are best able to realize the good. Even Plato, however, required philosophers to make their way in the world for many years before beginning their rule at the age of fifty. For Aristotle, humans are political animals (i.e. social animals), and governments are set up in order to pursue good for the community. Aristotle reasoned that, since the state (polis) was the highest form of community, it has the purpose of pursuing the highest good. Aristotle viewed political power as the result of natural inequalities in skill and virtue. Because of these differences, he favored an aristocracy of the able and virtuous. For Aristotle, the person cannot be complete unless he or she lives in a community. His The Nicomachean Ethics and The Politics are meant to be read in that order. The first book addresses virtues (or "excellences") in the person as a citizen; the second addresses the proper form of government to ensure that citizens will be virtuous, and therefore complete. Both books deal with the essential role of justice in civic life.

Nicolas of Cusa rekindled Platonic thought in the early 15th century. He promoted democracy in Medieval Europe, both in his writings and in his organization of the Council of Florence. Unlike Aristotle and the Hobbesian tradition to follow, Cusa saw human beings as equal and divine (that is, made in God's image), so democracy would be the only just form of government. Cusa's views are credited by some as sparking the Italian Renaissance, which gave rise to the notion of "Nation-States".

Later, Niccolò Machiavelli rejected the views of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas as unrealistic. The ideal sovereign is not the embodiment of the moral virtues; rather the sovereign does whatever is successful and necessary, rather than what is morally praiseworthy. Thomas Hobbes also contested many elements of Aristotle's views. For Hobbes, human nature is essentially anti-social: people are essentially egoistic, and this egoism makes life difficult in the natural state of things. Moreover, Hobbes argued, though people may have natural inequalities, these are trivial, since no particular talents or virtues that people may have will make them safe from harm inflicted by others. For these reasons, Hobbes concluded that the state arises from a common agreement to raise the community out of the state of nature. This can only be done by the establishment of a sovereign, in which (or whom) is vested complete control over the community, and which is able to inspire awe and terror in its subjects.<ref>{{

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Many in the Enlightenment were unsatisfied with existing doctrines in political philosophy, which seemed to marginalize or neglect the possibility of a democratic state. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was among those who attempted to overturn these doctrines: he responded to Hobbes by claiming that a human is by nature a kind of "noble savage", and that society and social contracts corrupt this nature. Another critic was John Locke. In Second Treatise on Government he agreed with Hobbes that the nation-state was an efficient tool for raising humanity out of a deplorable state, but he argued that the sovereign might become an abominable institution compared to the relatively benign unmodulated state of nature.<ref>{{

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Following the doctrine of the fact-value distinction, due in part to the influence of David Hume and his student Adam Smith, appeals to human nature for political justification were weakened. Nevertheless, many political philosophers, especially moral realists, still make use of some essential human nature as a basis for their arguments.

Consequentialism, deontology, and the aretaic turn

File:Bentham.jpg
Jeremy Bentham
Main article: Consequentialism

One debate that has commanded the attention of ethicists in the modern era has been between consequentialism (actions are to be morally evaluated solely by their consequences) and deontology (actions are to be morally evaluated solely by consideration of agents' duties, the rights of those whom the action concerns, or both).

Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are famous for propagating utilitarianism, which is the idea that the fundamental moral rule is to strive toward the "greatest happiness for the greatest number". However, in promoting this idea they also necessarily promoted the broader doctrine of consequentialism.

Adopting a position opposed to consequentialism, Immanuel Kant argued that moral principles were simply products of reason. Kant believed that the incorporation of consequences into moral deliberation was a deep mistake, since it would deny the necessity of practical maxims in governing the working of the will. According to Kant, reason requires that we conform our actions to the categorical imperative, which is an absolute duty. An important 20th-century deontologist, W.D. Ross, has argued for weaker forms of duties called prima facie duties.

More recent works have emphasized the role of character in ethics, a movement known as the aretaic turn (that is, the turn towards virtues). One strain of this movement followed the work of Bernard Williams. Williams noted that rigid forms of both consequentialism and deontology demanded that people behave impartially. This, Williams argued, requires that people abandon their personal projects, and hence their personal integrity, in order to be considered moral.

G.E.M. Anscombe, in an influential paper, "Modern Moral Philosophy" (1958), revived virtue ethics as an alternative to what was seen as the entrenched positions of Kantianism and consequentialism. Aretaic perspectives have been inspired in part by research of ancient conceptions of virtue. For example, Aristotle's ethics demands that people follow the Aristotelian mean, or balance between two vices; and Confucian ethics argues that virtue consists largely in striving for harmony with other people. Virtue ethics in general has since gained many adherents, and has been defended by such philosophers as Philippa Foot, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Rosalind Hursthouse.

Applied philosophy

Though often seen as a wholly abstract field, philosophy is not without practical applications. The most obvious applications are those in ethicsapplied ethics in particular – and political philosophy. The political and economic philosophies of Confucius, Sun Zi, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Taimiyyah, Niccolò Machiavelli, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Mahatma Gandhi, and others – all of these have been used to shape and justify governments and their actions.

A modern example is the political movement Neoconservatism, which began as a philosophical tradition at the University of Chicago centered around Leo Strauss and his unique interpretations of the work of Plato. This intellectual movement went on to shape major parts of the politics of the George W. Bush presidency, demonstrating that seemingly "ivory tower" movements can have a profound impact on real world events.

In the field of philosophy of education, progressive education as championed by John Dewey has had a profound impact on educational practices in the United States in the 20th century. Descendants of this movement include the current efforts in philosophy for children. Carl von Clausewitz's political philosophy of war has had a profound effect on statecraft, international politics, and military strategy in the 20th century, especially in the years around World War II. Logic has become crucially 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. 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 of..." strive to provide workers in their respective fields with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.

Often philosophy is seen as an investigation into an area not sufficiently well understood to be its own branch of knowledge. What were once philosophical pursuits have evolved into the modern day fields such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics, for example. But as such areas of intellectual endeavour proliferate and expand, so will the broader philosophical questions that they generate.

Eastern philosophy

Main article: Eastern philosophy

Many societies have considered philosophical questions and built philosophical traditions based upon each other's works. Eastern and Middle Eastern philosophical traditions have influenced Western philosophers. Russian (which to many people still counts as Western), Jewish, Islamic, African, and recently Latin American philosophical traditions have contributed to, or been influenced by, Western philosophy: yet each has retained a distinctive identity.

The differences between traditions are often well captured by consideration of their favored historical philosophers, and varying stress on ideas, procedural styles, or written language. The subject matter and dialogues of each can be studied using methods derived from the others, and there are significant commonalities and exchanges between them.

Eastern philosophy refers to the broad traditions that originated or were popular in India, Persia, China, Japan, and to an extent, the Middle East (which overlaps with Western philosophy due to the spread of the Abrahamic religions and the continuing intellectual traffic between these societies and Europe.)

Indian philosophy

File:Sankara.jpg
Adi Shankara (centre), 788 to 820, founder of Advaita Vedanta, one of the major schools of Hindu philosophy.
Main article: Indian philosophy

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In the history of the Indian subcontinent, following the establishment of an AryanVedic culture, the development of philosophical and religious thought over a period of two millennia gave rise to what came to be called the six schools of astika, or orthodox, Indian or Hindu philosophy. These schools have come to be synonymous with the greater religion of Hinduism, which was a development of the early Vedic religion.

Hindu philosophy constitutes an integral part of the culture of Southern Asia, and is the first of the Dharmic philosophies which were influential throughout the Far East. The great diversity in thought and practice of Hinduism is nurtured by its liberal universalism.

Persian philosophy

Main article: Philosophy in Iran

Persian philosophy can be traced back as far as Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts, with their ancient Indo-Iranian roots. These were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings. Throughout Iranian history and due to remarkable political and social influences such as the Macedonian, the Arab, and the Mongol invasions of Persia, a wide spectrum of schools of thought arose. These espoused a variety of views on philosophical questions, extending from Old Iranian and mainly Zoroastrianism-influenced traditions to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era, such as Manicheism and Mazdakism, as well as various post-Islamic schools. Iranian philosophy after Arab invasion of Persia is characterized by different interactions with the Old Iranian philosophy, the Greek philosophy and with the development of Islamic philosophy. The Illumination School and the Transcendent Philosophy are regarded as two of the main philosophical traditions of that era in Persia.

File:Confucius - Project Gutenberg eText 15250.jpg
Confucius, illustrated in Myths & Legends of China, 1922, by E.T.C. Werner.

Chinese philosophy

Main article: Chinese philosophy

Philosophy has had a tremendous effect on Chinese civilization, and East Asia as a whole. Many of the great philosophical schools were formulated during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period, and came to be known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. The four most influential of these were Confucianism, Taoism, Mohism, and Legalism. Later on, during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism from India also became a prominent philosophical and religious discipline. (It should be noted that Eastern thought, unlike Western philosophy, did not express a clear distinction between philosophy and religion.) Like Western philosophy, Chinese philosophy covers a broad and complex range of thought, possessing a multitude of schools that address every branch and subject area of philosophy.

See also: Yin-Yang, Qi, Tao, Li, I Ching

Related Topics: Korean philosophy, Bushido, Zen, The Art of War, Asian Values

African philosophy

Main article: African philosophy

Other philosophical traditions, such as African philosophy, are rarely considered by foreign academia. Since emphasis is mainly placed on Western philosophy as a reference point, the study, preservation and dissemination of valuable, but lesser known, non-Western philosophical works face many obstacles. Key African philosophers include the Fulani Uthman Dan Fodio, founder of the Sokoto Caliphate of Northern Nigeria and Umar Tall of Senegal; both were prolific Islamic scholars.In the post-colonial period, different images of what could be argued as "African" Philosophy from the level of epistemology have risen. These could include the thoughts and enquiries of such individuals as Cheik Anta Diop, Francis Ohanyido, CL Momoh, and Chinweizu . Template:Sectstub

References

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Further reading

Introductions

Topical introductions

  • Copleston, Frederick. Philosophy in Russia: From Herzen to Lenin and Berdyaev. ISBN 0-268-01569-4
  • Critchley, Simon. Continental Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. ISBN 0-19-285359-7
  • Hamilton, Sue. Indian Philosophy: a Very Short Introduction. ISBN 0-19-285374-0
  • Harwood, Sterling, ed., Business as Ethical and Business as Usual (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 2000); www.sterlingharwood.com
  • Imbo, Samuel Oluoch. An Introduction to African Philosophy. ISBN 0-8476-8841-0
  • Knight, Kelvin. Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre. ISBN 0-7456-1977-0
  • Kupperman, Joel J. Classic Asian Philosophy: A Guide to the Essential Texts. ISBN 0-19-513335-8
  • Leaman, Oliver. A Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy. ISBN 0-7456-1960-6
  • Lee, Joe and Powell, Jim. Eastern Philosophy For Beginners. ISBN 0-86316-282-7
  • Nagel, Thomas. What Does It All Mean? A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy. ISBN 0-19-505292-7
  • Scruton, Roger. A Short History of Modern Philosophy. ISBN 0-415-26763-3
  • Smart, Ninian. World Philosophies. ISBN 0-415-22852-2
  • Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. ISBN 0-345-36809-6

Anthologies

  • Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida (4th Edition) by Forrest E. Baird
  • Classics of Philosophy (Vols. 1 & 2, 2nd edition) by Louis P. Pojman
  • Classics of Philosophy: The 20th Century (Vol. 3) by Louis P. Pojman
  • The English Philosophers from Bacon to Mill by Edwin Arthur Burtt
  • European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche by Monroe Beardsley
  • Contemporary Analytic Philosophy: Core Readings by James Baillie
  • Existentialism: Basic Writings (Second Edition) by Charles Guignon, Derk Pereboom
  • The Phenomenology Reader by Dermot Moran, Timothy Mooney
  • Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings edited by Muhammad Ali Khalidi
  • A Source Book in Indian Philosophy by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Charles A. Moore
  • A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy by Wing-tsit Chan
  • Kim, J. and Ernest Sosa, Ed. (1999). Metaphysics: An Anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (2004) edited by Robert Kane
  • Husserl, Edmund and Welton, Donn, The Essential Husserl: Basic Writings in Transcendental Phenomenology, Indiana University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-253-21273-1

Reference works

  • The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
  • The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi (also available online by subscription); or
  • The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Edward Craig (an abridgement)
  • Encyclopedia of Philosophy (8 vols.) edited by Paul Edwards; in 1996, a ninth supplemental volume appeared which updated the classic 1967 encyclopedia.
  • Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon
  • History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston
  • A History of Western Philosophy (5 vols.) by W. T. Jones
  • Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (8 vols.), edited by Karl H. Potter et al. (first 6 volumes out of print)
  • Indian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • A History of Indian Philosophy (5 vols.) by Surendranath Dasgupta
  • History of Chinese Philosophy (2 vols.) by Fung Yu-lan, Derk Bodde
  • Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy edited by Antonio S. Cua
  • Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion by Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Kurt Friedrichs
  • Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy by Brian Carr, Indira Mahalingam
  • A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English by John A. Grimes
  • History of Islamic Philosophy edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman
  • History of Jewish Philosophy edited by Daniel H. Frank, Oliver Leaman
  • A History of Russian Philosophy: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Centuries by Valerii Aleksandrovich Kuvakin
  • Ayer, A. J. et al., Ed. (1994) A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations. Blackwell Reference Oxford. Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd.
  • Blackburn, S., Ed. (1996)The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Mauter, T., Ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy. London, Penguin Books.
  • Runes, D., Ed. (1942). The Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, The Philosophical Library, Inc.
  • Angeles, P. A., Ed. (1992). The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, Harper Perennial.
  • Bunnin, N. et al., Ed. (1996) The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
  • Popkin, R. H. (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York, Columbia University Press.


See also

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