Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the
Western world. Historically, the term refers to the philosophical
thinking of Western culture, beginning with
Greek philosophy of the
Pre-Socratics such as
Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras
(c. 570 BC – c. 495 BC), and eventually covering a large area of the
globe. The word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient
Greek: philosophia (φιλοσοφία), literally, "the love of
wisdom" (φιλεῖν philein, "to love" and σοφία sophia,
The scope of philosophy in the ancient understanding, and the writings
of (at least some of) the ancient philosophers, were all intellectual
endeavors. This included the problems of philosophy as they are
understood today; but it also included many other disciplines, such as
pure mathematics and natural sciences such as physics, astronomy, and
biology (Aristotle, for example, wrote on all of these topics).
1.1 Pre-Socratic period
2.1 Early and late medieval philosophy
2.2 Late medieval and Renaissance
3.1 Early modern
4 Contemporary approaches
6.1 German idealism
Structuralism and post-structuralism
10 Western philosophical subdisciplines
Philosophy contrasted with other disciplines
11.1 Natural science
Theology and religious studies
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Hellenistic philosophy and
Ancient Greek philosophy
Ionia, source of early Greek philosophy, in western Asia Minor
In the pre-Socratic period, ancient philosophers first articulated
questions about the "arche" (the cause or first principle) of the
Philosophy is generally said to begin in the Greek
cities of western
Asia Minor (Ionia) with
Thales of Miletus, who was
active c. 585 BC and was responsible for the opaque dictum, "all is
water." His most noted students were respectively
Anaximander (all is
apeiron (roughly, the unlimited)) and Anaximenes of
Miletus ("all is
air"). Pythagoras, from the island of Samos off the coast of Ionia,
later lived at Croton in southern Italy (Magna Graecia). Pythagoreans
hold that "all is number," giving formal accounts in contrast to the
previous material of the Ionians. They also believe in metempsychosis,
the transmigration of souls, or reincarnation.
Bust of Socrates
A key figure in
Greek philosophy is Socrates.
Socrates studied under
several Sophists but transformed
Greek philosophy into a branch of
philosophy that is still pursued today. It is said that following a
visit to the
Oracle of Delphi
Oracle of Delphi he spent much of his life questioning
anyone in Athens who would engage him, in order to disprove the
oracular prophecy that there would be no man wiser than Socrates.
Socrates used a critical approach called the "elenchus" or Socratic
method to examine people's views. He aimed to study human things: the
good life, justice, beauty, and virtue. Although
nothing himself, some of his many disciples wrote down his
conversations. He was tried for corrupting the youth and impiety by
the Greek democracy. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Although his friends offered to help him escape from prison, he chose
to remain in Athens and abide by his principles. His execution
consisting in drinking the poison hemlock and he died in 399 B.C.
Plato was a student of Socrates.
Plato founded the
Academy of Athens
and wrote a number of dialogues, which applied the
Socratic method of
inquiry to examine philosophical problems. Some central ideas of
Plato's dialogues are the immortality of the soul, the benefits of
being just, that evil is ignorance, and the Theory of Forms. Forms are
universal properties that constitute true reality and contrast with
the changeable material things he called "becoming".
Aristotle was a pupil of Plato.
Aristotle was perhaps the first truly
systematic philosopher and scientist. He wrote about physics, biology,
zoology, metaphysics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric,
politics and logic.
Aristotelian logic was the first type of logic to
attempt to categorize every valid syllogism.
Alexander the Great. He in turn conquered much of the ancient world at
a rapid pace. Hellenization and Aristotelian philosophy exercised
considerable influence on almost all Western and Middle Eastern
philosophers, including Greek, Roman, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic
Main article: Medieval philosophy
Early and late medieval philosophy
Medieval philosophy is the philosophy of
Western Europe and the Middle
East during the Middle Ages, roughly extending from the
Christianization of the
Roman Empire until the Renaissance.
Medieval philosophy is defined partly by the rediscovery and further
development of classical Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, and partly
by the need to address theological problems and to integrate the then
widespread sacred doctrines of
Abrahamic religion (Islam, Judaism, and
Christianity) with secular learning. Early medieval philosophy was
influenced by the likes of Stoicism, neo-Platonism, but, above all,
the philosophy of
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. The prominent figure of this period was St.
Augustine who adopted Plato's thought and Christianized it in the 4th
century and whose influence dominated medieval philosophy perhaps up
to end of the era but was checked with the arrival of Aristotle's
texts. Augustinianism was the preferred starting point for most
philosophers (including the great St. Anselm of Canterbury) up until
the 13th century.
The foundations of many northern European universities were built in
Middle Ages by waves of Irish, Scottish & English monks from
the Celtic Church begun by Columba, see Celtic Christianity. John of
Ireland (Erigena) wrote an important synthesis of ancient learning in
the 9th century -- De divisione naturae-- which has been called the
final achievement of ancient philosophy, a work which "synthesizes the
philosophical accomplishments of fifteen centuries."
Erigena is said
to have been stabbed to death by his students with their pens, and his
works were later condemned as heresy. His theology would today be
called "pantheistic," in keeping with Celtic resolutions of pagan and
Christian philosophy. He also studied Greek texts in Athens, and
uniquely among European philosophers, wrote in that language, calling
The Division of Nature, the Periphyseon.
The Celtic Church's intellectual influence on European theology and
imagination was later overthrown and down-graded, but would persist
nonetheless. To complicate the Manichean conception of Heaven &
Hell, for example, the Irish invented Purgatory, adding a spectrum of
possibilities to the geography of binary thinking. Dante's Inferno was
influenced by Irish literature, specifically, The Vision of Tondal or
Visio Tnugdali. Similarly, European explorers were familiar with a New
World called "Brazil" or
Saint Brendan's Island
Saint Brendan's Island or Brasil (mythical
island) from Irish writings about an island far west in the Atlantic,
which was translated across Europe in many languages as the Navigatio
Brendanis or St. Brendan's Voyage.
Charlemagne was fed by Celtic Church missionaries
travelling from Ireland & Britain to France and Germany through
the Dark Ages and lasted until the great Italian re-ordering took
place of European institutions & thought in the 13th century by
the "Doctor of the Church,"
Thomas Aquinas in Paris.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, the father of Thomism, was immensely influential in
Catholic Europe; he placed a great emphasis on reason and
argumentation, and was one of the first to use the new translation of
Aristotle's metaphysical and epistemological writing.
Philosophers from the
Middle Ages include the Christian philosophers
Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Anselm, Gilbert de la Porrée, Peter
Abelard, Roger Bacon, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus,
William of Ockham
William of Ockham and Jean Buridan; the Jewish philosophers Maimonides
and Gersonides; and the
Muslim philosophers Alkindus, Alfarabi,
Alhazen, Avicenna, Algazel, Avempace, Abubacer, Ibn Khaldūn, and
Averroes. The medieval tradition of
Scholasticism continued to
flourish as late as the 17th century, in figures such as Francisco
Suárez and John of St. Thomas.
Late medieval and Renaissance
Renaissance ("rebirth") was a period of transition between the
Middle Ages and modern thought, in which the recovery of classical
texts helped shift philosophical interests away from technical studies
in logic, metaphysics, and theology towards eclectic inquiries into
morality, philology, and mysticism. The study of the classics
and the humane arts generally, such as history and literature, enjoyed
a scholarly interest hitherto unknown in Christendom, a tendency
referred to as humanism. Displacing the medieval interest in
metaphysics and logic, the humanists followed
Petrarch in making man
and his virtues the focus of philosophy.
Main article: Modern philosophy
The term "modern philosophy" has multiple usages. For example, Thomas
Hobbes is sometimes considered the first modern philosopher because he
applied a systematic method to political philosophy. By
René Descartes is often considered the first modern
philosopher because he grounded his philosophy in problems of
knowledge, rather than problems of metaphysics.
Modern philosophy and especially Enlightenment philosophy is
distinguished by its increasing independence from traditional
authorities such as the Church, academia, and Aristotelianism;
a new focus on the foundations of knowledge and metaphysical
system-building; and the emergence of modern physics out of
Main articles: 17th-century philosophy, Age of Enlightenment, and
Early modern philosophy
Some central topics of philosophy in this period include the nature of
the mind and its relation to the body, the implications of the new
natural sciences for traditional theological topics such as free will
and God, and the emergence of a secular basis for moral and political
philosophy. These trends first distinctively coalesce in Francis
Bacon's call for a new, empirical program for expanding knowledge, and
soon found massively influential form in the mechanical physics and
rationalist metaphysics of René Descartes.
Other notable modern philosophers include Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke,
Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Many other contributors were
philosophers, scientists, medical doctors, and politicians. A short
list includes Galileo Galilei, Pierre Gassendi, Blaise Pascal, Nicolas
Malebranche, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Christiaan Huygens, Isaac
Newton, Christian Wolff, Montesquieu, Pierre Bayle, Thomas Reid, Jean
le Rond d'Alembert, Adam Smith, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The approximate end of the early modern period is most often
identified with Immanuel Kant's systematic attempt to limit
metaphysics, justify scientific knowledge, and reconcile both of these
with morality and freedom.
Main article: 19th-century philosophy
Later modern philosophy is usually considered to begin after the
Immanuel Kant at the beginning of the 19th century.
German philosophy exercised broad influence in this century, owing in
part to the dominance of the German university system. German
idealists, such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Hegel, and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, transformed the work of
Kant by maintaining that the world is constituted by a rational or
mind-like process, and as such is entirely knowable. Arthur
Schopenhauer's identification of this world-constituting process as an
irrational will to live influenced later 19th- and early 20th-century
thinking, such as the work of Friedrich Nietzsche.
The 19th century took the radical notions of self-organization and
intrinsic order from Goethe and Kantian metaphysics, and proceeded to
produce a long elaboration on the tension between systematization and
organic development. Foremost was the work of Hegel, whose
Phenomenology of Spirit
Phenomenology of Spirit produced a "dialectical" framework for
ordering of knowledge.
As with the 18th century, developments in science arose from
philosophy and also challenged philosophy: most importantly the work
of Charles Darwin, which was based on the idea of organic
self-regulation found in philosophers such as Smith, but fundamentally
challenged established conceptions.
After Hegel's death in 1831,
19th-century philosophy largely turned
against idealism in favor of varieties of philosophical naturalism,
such as the positivism of Auguste Comte, the empiricism of John Stuart
Mill, and the materialism of Karl Marx.
Logic began a period of its
most significant advances since the inception of the discipline, as
increasing mathematical precision opened entire fields of inference to
formalization in the work of
George Boole and Gottlob Frege. Other
philosophers who initiated lines of thought that would continue to
shape philosophy into the 20th century include:
Gottlob Frege and Henry Sidgwick, whose work in logic and ethics,
respectively, provided the tools for early analytic philosophy.
Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce and William James, who founded pragmatism.
Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, who laid the groundwork
for existentialism and post-structuralism.
Main article: Contemporary philosophy
The three major contemporary approaches to academic philosophy are
analytic philosophy, continental philosophy and pragmatism. They
are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.
The 20th century deals with the upheavals produced by a series of
conflicts within philosophical discourse over the basis of knowledge,
with classical certainties overthrown, and new social, economic,
scientific and logical problems. 20th century philosophy was set for a
series of attempts to reform and preserve, and to alter or abolish,
older knowledge systems. Seminal figures include Gottlob Frege,
Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul
Sartre, and Edmund Husserl.
Since the Second World War, contemporary philosophy has been divided
mostly into analytic and continental traditions; the former carried in
the English speaking world and the latter on the continent of Europe.
The perceived conflict between continental and analytic schools of
philosophy remains prominent, despite increasing skepticism regarding
the distinction's usefulness.
Main article: Analytic philosophy
In the English-speaking world, analytic philosophy became the dominant
school for much of the 20th century.
The term analytic philosophy roughly designates a group of
philosophical methods that stress detailed argumentation, attention to
semantics, use of classical logic and non-classical logics and clarity
of meaning above all other criteria. Though the movement has
broadened, it was a cohesive school in the first half of the century.
Analytic philosophers were shaped strongly by logical positivism,
united by the notion that philosophical problems could and should be
solved by attention to logic and language.
Bertrand Russell and
G.E. Moore are also often counted as founders of
analytic philosophy, beginning with their rejection of British
idealism, their defense of realism and the emphasis they laid on the
legitimacy of analysis. Russell's classic works The Principles of
On Denoting and
Principia Mathematica with Alfred
North Whitehead, aside from greatly promoting the use of mathematical
logic in philosophy, set the ground for much of the research program
in the early stages of the analytic tradition, emphasizing such
problems as: the reference of proper names, whether 'existence' is a
property, the nature of propositions, the analysis of definite
descriptions, and discussions on the foundations of mathematics. These
works also explored issues of ontological commitment and metaphysical
problems regarding time, the nature of matter, mind, persistence and
change, which Russell often tackled with the aid of mathematical
Gottlob Frege's The Foundations of Arithmetic was the first analytic
work, according to
Michael Dummett (Origins of Analytical Philosophy).
Frege took "the linguistic turn," analyzing philosophical problems
through language. Some analytic philosophers held that philosophical
problems arise through misuse of language or because of
misunderstandings of the logic of human language.
In 1921, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who studied under Russell at Cambridge,
published his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which gave a rigidly
"logical" account of linguistic and philosophical issues. Years later,
he reversed a number of the positions he set out in the Tractatus, in
for example his second major work, Philosophical Investigations
(1953). Investigations was influential in the development of "ordinary
language philosophy," which was promoted by Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin,
and a few others.
In the United States, meanwhile, the philosophy of Quine was having a
major influence, with the paper Two Dogmas of Empiricism. In that
paper Quine criticizes the distinction between analytic and synthetic
statements, arguing that a clear conception of analyticity is
Notable students of Quine include Donald Davidson and Daniel Dennett.
The later work of Russell and the philosophy of Willard Van Orman
Quine are influential exemplars of the naturalist approach dominant in
the second half of the 20th century. But the diversity of analytic
philosophy from the 1970s onward defies easy generalization: the
naturalism of Quine and his epigoni was in some precincts superseded
by a "new metaphysics" of possible worlds, as in the influential work
of David Lewis. Recently, the experimental philosophy movement has
sought to reappraise philosophical problems through social science
Some influential figures in contemporary analytic philosophy are:
Timothy Williamson, David Lewis, John Searle, Thomas Nagel, Hilary
Putnam, Michael Dummett, Peter van Inwagen,
Saul Kripke and Patricia
Analytic philosophy has sometimes been accused of not contributing to
the political debate or to traditional questions in aesthetics.
However, with the appearance of
A Theory of Justice
A Theory of Justice by
John Rawls and
Anarchy, State, and Utopia
Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick, analytic political
philosophy acquired respectability. Analytic philosophers have also
shown depth in their investigations of aesthetics, with Roger Scruton,
Arthur Danto and others developing the subject to its
Main article: Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century
philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. 20th-century movements
such as German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, modern
hermeneutics, critical theory, structuralism, post-structuralism and
others are included within this loose category. While identifying any
non-trivial common factor in all these schools of thought is bound to
be controversial, Michael E. Rosen has hypothesized a few common
Continental themes: that the natural sciences cannot replace the human
sciences; that the thinker is affected by the conditions of experience
(one's place and time in history); that philosophy is both theoretical
and practical; that metaphilosophy or reflection upon the methods and
nature of philosophy itself is an important part of philosophy proper.
The founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, sought to study
consciousness as experienced from a first-person perspective, while
Martin Heidegger drew on the ideas of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and
Husserl to propose an unconventional existential approach to ontology.
In the Arabic-speaking world, Arab nationalist philosophy became the
dominant school of thought, involving philosophers such as Michel
Aflaq, Zaki al-Arsuzi,
Salah al-Din al-Bitar
Salah al-Din al-Bitar of
Ba'athism and Sati'
Phenomenologically oriented metaphysics undergirded existentialism
(Heidegger, Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Albert Camus) and finally
post-structuralism (Gilles Deleuze, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel
Foucault, Jacques Derrida). The psychoanalytic work of Sigmund Freud,
Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, and others has also been influential in
contemporary continental thought. Conversely, some philosophers have
attempted to define and rehabilitate older traditions of philosophy.
Hans-Georg Gadamer and
Alasdair MacIntyre have both,
albeit in different ways, revived the tradition of Aristotelianism.
Main article: German idealism
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. 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 human
perceptions and judgments; he was therefore not an idealist in any
simple sense. 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
The most notable work of this
German idealism was G. W. F. Hegel's
Phenomenology of Spirit, of 1807.
Hegel admitted his ideas were not
new, but that all the previous philosophies had been incomplete. His
goal was to correctly finish their job.
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 supposed
contradictions between "being" and "not being"), and also
simultaneously to resolve and preserve these contradictions by showing
their compatibility at a higher level of examination ("being" and "not
being" are resolved with "becoming"). This program of acceptance and
reconciliation of contradictions is known as the "Hegelian dialectic".
Philosophers influenced by
Hegel include Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, who
coined the term projection as pertaining to humans' inability to
recognize anything in the external world without projecting qualities
of ourselves upon those things; Karl Marx; Friedrich Engels; and the
British idealists, notably T. H. Green,
J. M. E. McTaggart
J. M. E. McTaggart and F. H.
Bradley. Few 20th-century philosophers have embraced idealism.
However, quite a few have embraced Hegelian dialectic. Immanuel Kant's
"Copernican Turn" also remains an important philosophical concept
Main article: Phenomenology (philosophy)
Edmund Husserl's phenomenology was an ambitious attempt to lay the
foundations for an account of the structure of conscious experience in
general. 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. 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. Through the work of Heidegger and
Sartre, Husserl's focus on subjective experience influenced aspects of
Main article: Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to the work of a number of late 19th-
and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal
differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking
begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but
the acting, feeling, living human individual. In existentialism,
the individual's starting point is characterized by what has been
called "the existential attitude", or a sense of disorientation and
confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd
world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional
systematic or academic philosophy, in both style and content, as too
abstract and remote from concrete human experience.
Although they did not 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.
Structuralism and post-structuralism
Structuralism and Post-structuralism
Ferdinand de Saussure
Inaugurated by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, structuralism
sought to clarify systems of signs through analyzing the discourses
they both limit and make possible. Saussure conceived of the sign as
being delimited by all the other signs in the system, and ideas as
being incapable of existence prior to linguistic structure, which
articulates thought. This led continental thought away from humanism,
and toward what was termed the decentering of man: language is no
longer spoken by man to express a true inner self, but language speaks
Structuralism sought the province of a hard science, but its
positivism soon came under fire by post-structuralism, a wide field of
thinkers, some of whom were once themselves structuralists, but later
came to criticize it. Structuralists believed they could analyze
systems from an external, objective standing, for example, but the
poststructuralists argued that this is incorrect, that one cannot
transcend structures and thus analysis is itself determined by what it
examines. While the distinction between the signifier and signified
was treated as crystalline by structuralists, poststructuralists
asserted that every attempt to grasp the signified results in more
signifiers, so meaning is always in a state of being deferred, making
an ultimate interpretation impossible.
Structuralism came to dominate continental philosophy throughout the
1960s and early 1970s, encompassing thinkers as diverse as Claude
Roland Barthes and Jacques Lacan. Post-structuralism
came to predominate from the 1970s onwards, including thinkers such as
Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida,
Gilles Deleuze and even Roland
Barthes; it incorporated a critique of structuralism's limitations.
Pragmatism and Instrumentalism
Pragmatism asserts that the truth of beliefs consists in their
usefulness and efficacy rather than their correspondence with
reality. Peirce and James were its co-founders and it was later
modified by Dewey as instrumentalism. Since the usefulness of any
belief at any time might be contingent on circumstance, Peirce and
James conceptualised final truth as something established only by the
future, final settlement of all opinion.
Pragmatism attempted to find a scientific concept of truth that does
not depend on personal insight (revelation) or reference to some
metaphysical realm. It interpreted the meaning of a statement by the
effect its acceptance would have on practice. Inquiry taken far enough
is thus the only path to truth.
For Peirce commitment to inquiry was essential to truth-finding,
implied by the idea and hope that inquiry is not fruitless. The
interpretation of these principles has been subject to discussion ever
since. Peirce's maxim of pragmatism is, "Consider what effects, which
might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of
our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the
whole of our conception of the object."
Critics accused pragmatism falling victim to a simple fallacy: that
because something that is true proves useful, that usefulness is an
appropriate basis for its truthfulness. Pragmatist thinkers
include Dewey, Santayana, Quine and Lewis.
Pragmatism was later worked
on by Rorty, Lachs, Davidson, Haack and Putnam.
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Main article: Thomism
Largely Aristotelian in its approach and content,
Thomism is a
philosophical tradition that follows the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
His work has been read, studied and disputed since the 13th century,
especially by Roman Catholics. Aquinas enjoyed a revived interest
beginning in the late 19th century, among both atheists (Philippa
Foot) and theists (Elizabeth Anscombe). Thomist philosophers tend
to be rationalists in epistemology, as well as metaphysical realists
and virtue ethicists. They claim that humans are rational animals
whose good can be known by reason that can be achieved by the will.
Thomists argue that soul or psyche is real and immaterial but
inseparable from matter in organisms. Soul is the form of the body.
Thomists accept Aristotle's causes as natural, including teleological
or final causes. In this way, although Aquinas argued that whatever is
in the intellect begins in the senses, natural teleology can be
discerned with the senses and abstracted from nature through
Thomism encompasses multiple variants, from
The so-called new Natural lawyers like Grisez and George applied
Thomistic legal principles to contemporary ethical debates, while
Freeman proposed that Thomism's cognition was most compatible with
Thomism (Haldane) encourages dialogue
between analytic philosophy and broadly Aristotelian philosophy of
mind, psychology and hylomorphic metaphysics. Other contemporary
Thomists include Stump, MacIntyre and Finnis.
Main article: Marxism
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis, originating from Marx
and Engels. It analyzes class relations and societal conflict using a
materialist interpretation of historical development and a dialectical
view of social transformation. Marxist analyses and methodologies
influenced political ideologies and social movements. Marxist
understandings of history and society were adopted by academics in
archaeology, anthropology, media studies, political science, theater,
history, sociology, art history and theory, cultural studies,
education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics,
critical psychology and philosophy.
Western philosophical subdisciplines
Western philosophers have often been divided into some major branches,
or schools, based either on the questions typically addressed by
people working in different parts of the field, or notions of
ideological undercurrents. In the ancient world, the most influential
division of the subject was the Stoics' division of philosophy into
logic, ethics, and physics (conceived as the study of the nature of
the world, and including both natural science and metaphysics). In
contemporary philosophy, specialties within the field are more
commonly divided into metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics
(the latter two of which together comprise axiology, or value theory).
Logic is sometimes included as a main branch of philosophy, sometimes
as a separate science philosophers happen to work on, and sometimes
just as a characteristically philosophical method applying to all
branches of philosophy.
Within these broad branches there are now numerous sub-disciplines of
philosophy. At the broadest level there is the division between
English-speaking world and Nordic countries) and
continental philosophy (in the rest of Europe). For continental
philosophy subdividing philosophy between "experts" is problematic for
the very nature of the interdisciplinary task of philosophy itself;
however, for most of analytic philosophy further divisions simplify
the task for philosophers in each area.
The interest in particular sub-disciplines waxes and wanes over time;
sometimes sub-disciplines become particularly hot topics and can
occupy so much space in the literature that they almost seem like
major branches in their own right. (Over the past 40 years or so
philosophy of mind—which is, generally speaking, mainly a
sub-discipline of metaphysics—has taken on this position within
analytic philosophy, and has attracted so much attention that some
suggest philosophy of mind as the paradigm for what contemporary
analytic philosophers do).
Philosophy contrasted with other disciplines
Originally the term "philosophy" was applied to all intellectual
Aristotle studied what would now be called biology,
meteorology, physics, and cosmology, alongside his metaphysics and
ethics. Even in the eighteenth century physics and chemistry were
still classified as "natural philosophy", that is, the philosophical
study of nature. Today these latter subjects are popularly referred to
as sciences, and as separate from philosophy. But the distinction is
not clear; some philosophers still contend that science retains an
unbroken — and unbreakable — link to philosophy.
More recently, psychology, economics, sociology, and linguistics were
once the domain of philosophers insofar as they were studied at all,
but now have only a weaker connection with the field. In the late
twentieth century cognitive science and artificial intelligence could
be seen as being forged in part out of "philosophy of mind."
Philosophy is done primarily through self-reflection and critical
thinking. It does not tend to rely on experiment. However, in some
ways philosophy is close to science in its character and method; some
analytic philosophers have suggested that the method of philosophical
analysis allows philosophers to emulate the methods of natural
science; Quine holds that philosophy does no more than clarify the
arguments and claims of other sciences. This suggests that philosophy
might be the study of meaning and reasoning generally; but some still
would claim either that this is not a science, or that if it is it
ought not to be pursued by philosophers.
All these views have something in common: whatever philosophy
essentially is or is concerned with, it tends on the whole to proceed
more "abstractly" than most (or most other) natural sciences. It does
not depend as much on experience and experiment, and does not
contribute as directly to technology. It clearly would be a mistake to
identify philosophy with any one natural science; whether it can be
identified with science very broadly construed is still an open
This is an active discipline pursued by both trained philosophers and
scientists. Philosophers often refer to, and interpret, experimental
work of various kinds (as in philosophy of physics and philosophy of
psychology). But this is not surprising: such branches of philosophy
aim at philosophical understanding of experimental work. It is not the
philosophers in their capacity as philosophers, who perform the
experiments and formulate the scientific theories under study.
Philosophy of science should not be confused with science it studies
any more than biology should be confused with plants and animals.
Theology and religious studies
Like philosophy, most religious studies are not experimental. Parts of
theology, including questions about the existence and nature of gods,
clearly overlap with philosophy of religion.
theology a branch of metaphysics, the central field of philosophy, and
most philosophers before the twentieth century have devoted
significant effort to theological questions. So the two are not
unrelated. But other parts of religious studies, such as the
comparison of different world religions, can be easily distinguished
from philosophy in just the way that any other social science can be
distinguished from philosophy. These are closer to history and
sociology, and involve specific observations of particular phenomena,
here particular religious practices.
The empiricist tradition in modern philosophy often held that
religious questions are beyond the scope of human knowledge, and many
have claimed that religious language is literally meaningless: there
are not even questions to be answered. Some philosophers have felt
that these difficulties in evidence were irrelevant, and have argued
for, against, or just about religious beliefs on moral or other
The philosophy of mathematics is a branch of philosophy of science;
but in many ways mathematics has a special relationship to philosophy.
This is because the study of logic is a central branch of philosophy,
and mathematics is a paradigmatic example of logic. In the late
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, logic made great advances, and
mathematics has been proven to be reducible to logic (at least, to
first-order logic with some set theory). The use of formal,
mathematical logic in philosophy now resembles the use of mathematics
in science, although it is not as frequent.
Glossary of philosophical isms
History of philosophy
List of philosophers
List of philosophical theories
Index of philosophy
List of philosophies
^ Kenny, Anthony; A New History of Western Philosophy, chapter 1.
^ Gottlieb, Anthony; The Dream of Reason: A History of Western
Philosophy from the Greeks to the
Renaissance 1st Edition, chapters 1
^ Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume II: From
Augustine to Scotus (Burns & Oates, 1950), p. 1, dates medieval
philosophy proper from the Carolingian
Renaissance in the eighth
century to the end of the fourteenth century, though he includes
Augustine and the Patristic fathers as precursors. Desmond Henry, in
Edwards 1967, pp. 252–257 volume 5, starts with
ends with Nicholas of Oresme in the late fourteenth century. David
Luscombe, Medieval Thought (Oxford University Press, 1997), dates
medieval philosophy from the conversion of Constantine in 312 to the
Protestant Reformation in the 1520s. Christopher Hughes, in A.C.
Philosophy 2: Further through the Subject (Oxford
University Press, 1998), covers philosophers from
Augustine to Ockham.
Gracia 2008, p. 620 identifies medieval philosophy as running
John of St. Thomas in the seventeenth century. Kenny
2012, volume II begins with
Augustine and ends with the Lateran
Council of 1512.
^ Schmitt & Skinner 1988, p. 5
^ Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume III: From
Ockham to Suarez (The Newman Press, 1953) p. 18: "When one looks at
Renaissance philosophy … one is faced at first sight with a rather
bewildering assortment of philosophies."
^ Brian Copenhaver and Charles Schmitt,
University Press, 1992), p. 4: "one may identify the hallmark of
Renaissance philosophy as an accelerated and enlarged interest,
stimulated by newly available texts, in primary sources of Greek and
Roman thought that were previously unknown or partially known or
^ Gracia, Jorge J.E.
Philosophy 2: Further through the Subject.
p. 621. the humanists … restored man to the centre of attention
and channeled their efforts to the recovery and transmission of
classical learning, particularly in the philosophy of Plato. in
Bunnin & Tsui-James 2008.
^ Copleston, ibid.: "The bulk of
Renaissance thinkers, scholars and
scientists were, of course, Christians … but none the less the
classical revival … helped to bring to the fore a conception of
autonomous man or an idea of the development of the human personality,
which, though generally Christian, was more 'naturalistic' and less
ascetic than the mediaeval conception."
^ Schmitt & Skinner 1988, pp. 61, 63
^ Cassirer; Kristeller; Randall, eds. (1948). "Introduction". The
Philosophy of Man. University of Chicago Press.
^ "Hobbes: Moral and Political Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of
Philosophy. "Hobbes is the founding father of modern political
philosophy. Directly or indirectly, he has set the terms of debate
about the fundamentals of political life right into our own times."
^ "Contractarianism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. :
"Contractarianism […] stems from the Hobbesian line of social
^ Diane Collinson. Fifty Major Philosophers, A Reference Guide.
^ Rutherford 2006, p. xiii Nadler 2008, p. 1. Kenny 2012,
^ Steven Nadler, A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, pp. 1–2:
"By the seventeenth century […] it had become more common to find
original philosophical minds working outside the strictures of the
university—i.e., ecclesiastic—framework. […] by the end of the
eighteenth century, [philosophy] was a secular enterprise."
^ Anthony Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, vol. 3 (Oxford
University Press, 2006), p. xii: "To someone approaching the early
modern period of philosophy from an ancient and medieval background
the most striking feature of the age is the absence of
the philosophic scene."
^ Donald Rutherford, The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern
Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 1: "epistemology
assumes a new significance in the early modern period as philosophers
strive to define the conditions and limits of human knowledge."
^ Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, vol. 3, p. 211: "The
period between Descartes and
Hegel was the great age of metaphysical
^ Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, vol. 3, pp. 179–180:
"the seventeenth century saw the gradual separation of the old
discipline of natural philosophy into the science of physics […]
[b]y the nineteenth century physics was a fully mature empirical
science, operating independently of philosophy."
^ Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, vol. 3, pp. 212–331.
^ Nadler, A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, pp. 2–3: "Why
should the early modern period in philosophy begin with Descartes and
Bacon, for example, rather than with Erasmus and Montaigne? […]
Suffice it to say that at the beginning of the seventeenth century,
and especially with Bacon and Descartes, certain questions and
concerns come to the fore—a variety of issues that motivated the
inquiries and debates that would characterize much philosophical
thinking for the next two centuries."
^ Rutherford, The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, p.
1: "Most often this [period] has been associated with the achievements
of a handful of great thinkers: the so-called 'rationalists'
(Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and 'empiricists' (Locke, Berkeley,
Hume), whose inquiries culminate in Kant's 'Critical philosophy.'
These canonical figures have been celebrated for the depth and rigor
of their treatments of perennial philosophical questions..."
^ Nadler, A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, p. 2: "The study of
early modern philosophy demands that we pay attention to a wide
variety of questions and an expansive pantheon of thinkers: the
traditional canonical figures (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke,
Berkeley, and Hume), to be sure, but also a large 'supporting
^ Bruce Kuklick, "Seven Thinkers and How They Grew: Descartes,
Spinoza, Leibniz; Locke, Berkeley, Hume; Kant" in Rorty, Schneewind,
and Skinner (eds.),
Philosophy in History (Cambridge University Press,
1984), p. 125: "Literary, philosophical, and historical studies often
rely on a notion of what is canonical. In
American philosophy scholars
go from Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey; in American literature from
James Fenimore Cooper to F. Scott Fitzgerald; in political theory from
Plato to Hobbes and Locke […] The texts or authors who fill in the
blanks from A to Z in these, and other intellectual traditions,
constitute the canon, and there is an accompanying narrative that
links text to text or author to author, a 'history of' American
literature, economic thought, and so on. The most conventional of such
histories are embodied in university courses and the textbooks that
accompany them. This essay examines one such course, the History of
Modern Philosophy, and the texts that helped to create it. If a
philosopher in the United States were asked why the seven people in my
title comprise Modern Philosophy, the initial response would be: they
were the best, and there are historical and philosophical connections
^ Rutherford 2006, p. 1
^ Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, vol. 3, p. xiii.
^ Nadler, A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, p. 3.
^ Shand, John (ed.) Central Works of Philosophy, Vol.3 The Nineteenth
Century (McGill-Queens, 2005)
^ Baldwin 2003, p. Western philosophy, p. 4, at Google Books
^ Beiser, Frederick C. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, (Cambridge,
^ Baldwin 2003, p. 119
^ Nicholas Joll, http://www.iep.utm.edu/con-meta/
^ Russell, Bertrand (22 February 1999). "The Principles of Mathematics
(1903)". Fair-use.org. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
^ Woodruff Smith, David (2007). Husserl. Routledge.
^ Dreyfus, Hubert L.; Wrathall, Mark A. (24 August 2011). A Companion
to Phenomenology and Existentialism. John Wiley & Sons.
^ John Macquarrie, Existentialism, New York (1972), pages 18–21.
^ Oxford Companion to Philosophy, ed. Ted Honderich, New York (1995),
^ John Macquarrie, Existentialism, New York (1972), pages 14–15.
^ Robert C. Solomon,
Existentialism (McGraw-Hill, 1974, pages 1–2)
^ Ernst Breisach, Introduction to Modern Existentialism, New York
(1962), page 5
^ Walter Kaufmann, Existentialism: From Dostoevesky to Sartre, New
York (1956) page 12
^ Matustik, Martin J. (1995). Kierkegaard in Post/Modernity. Indiana
University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-20967-2.
^ Solomon, Robert (2001). What Nietzsche Really Said. Schocken.
^ 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.
^ Rorty, Richard (1982). The Consequences of Pragmatism. Minnesota:
Minnesota University Press. p. xvi.
^ Putnam, Hilary (1995). Pragmatism: An Open Question. Oxford:
Blackwell. pp. 8–12.
^ Peirce, C. S. (1878), "How to Make Our Ideas Clear", Popular Science
Monthly, v. 12, 286–302. Reprinted often, including Collected Papers
v. 5, paragraphs 388–410 and Essential Peirce v. 1, 124–41. See
end of §II for the pragmatic maxim. See third and fourth paragraphs
in §IV for the discoverability of truth and the real by sufficient
investigation. Also see quotes from Peirce from across the years in
the entries for "Truth" and "Pragmatism, Maxim of..." in the Commens
Dictionary of Peirce's Terms, Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola, editors,
University of Helsinki.
^ Peirce on p. 293 of "How to Make Our Ideas Clear", Popular Science
Monthly, v. 12, pp. 286–302. Reprinted widely, including Collected
Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce (CP) v. 5, paragraphs 388–410.
^ Pratt, J. B. (1909). What is Pragmatism?. New York: Macmillan.
^ Kerr, Fergu (15 April 2008). After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism.
John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-4051-3714-0.
^ Aquinas, "De veritate, Q.2, art.3, answer 19".
^ Feser, Edward (1 September 2009). Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide.
Oneworld Publications. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-85168-690-2.
^ Paterson, Craig; Pugh, Matthew S. (2006). Analytical Thomism:
Traditions in Dialogue. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-3438-6.
Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Western
Philosophy (Oxford University
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Western philosophy at the Indiana
Western philosophy at PhilPapers
Philosophy Sites on the Internet - Tel Aviv University list
Glyn Hughes' Squashed Philosophers - abridged versions of classic
Short History of Western Philosophy, A, by Johannes Hirschberger;
edited by Clare Hay; ISBN 978-0-7188-3092-2
Philosophy of psychiatry
Philosophy of perception
Space and time
Schools of thought
Acintya bheda abheda
Foundationalism / Coherentism
Internalism and Externalism
Ordinary language philosophy
Rationalism / Reasonism
Philosophy by region
Women in philosophy
Western world and culture
Early modern period