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Origins, Branches and History

What is Philosophy?
A: The Three Basic Questions: The word philosophy (Greek, philosophia) means the love (philia) of wisdom (sophia). The wisdom philosophers love and pursue arises from an inquiry guided by three basic questions:
1. 2. 3. Whats what?, Whats good?, and What do we know? And a related question - Whats true?

Philosophy as the love of wisdom begins with the attempt to answer these three basic questions as to the nature of reality (whats what?), the nature of value (whats good?), and the nature of knowledge (what do we know? *and whats true?+).

For this reason, the discipline of philosophy has, over the centuries, come to be divided into three main branches: metaphysics (the philosophical study of reality); axiology (the philosophical study of value); and epistemology (the philosophical study of the nature, extent, and limits of human knowledge).






Political Philosophy

Social philosophy

Branches of Philosophy

To summarise the major divisions of philosophy:

Metaphysics: reality (Whats what?) Ontology (being or reality in general) Philosophical cosmology (the cosmos) Philosophical theology (and the philosophy of religion) (God) Philosophical anthropology (human nature and human existence)

Axiology: value (Whats good?) Aesthetics (philosophy of art) Ethics (moral philosophy) Social and political philosophy

Epistemology: knowledge and truth (What do we know *and whats true+?)

B: Two Different Approaches to Philosophy:

Philosophy is a two-sided intellectual enterprise.
It is a form of thinking that is, on the one hand, constructive and, on the other hand, critical (or deconstructive). Thus, in defining the general nature of philosophy, a distinction is usually made between: constructive (sometimes called speculative) philosophy and critical (deconstructive) philosophy.

Constructive philosophy is the attempt to formulate (or construct) rationally defensible answers to certain fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality, the nature of value, and the nature of human knowledge, i.e., to the three basic philosophical questions and their spin-offs. Another way of defining constructive philosophy is to say that it is the attempt to formulate rationally defensible beliefs concerning the nature of reality, the nature of value, and the nature of knowledge.

What makes an answer or belief rationally defensible?

1. in the strong sense when it is credible, i.e., believable because it is supported by evidence and/or sound argumentation. Thus, the answer or belief is plausible because, on logical and/or empirical (i.e., evidential, experiential, factual) grounds, it appears to be either certainly or probably true. 2. in the weak sense when it withstands or survives criticism -- i.e., it has not (yet) been refuted (that is to say, proved to be certainly or probably false).

What makes a belief true?

What makes a belief or proposition true as opposed to false? A belief or proposition is: true when it corresponds to, agrees with, or describes reality (i.e., the way things are, what is in fact the case), false when it fails to correspond to, agree with, or describe reality.

If it is in fact the case that the average college student at Ateneo de Zamboanga learns a great deal as a result of her studies at the college, then the claim that she does so is true, and the claim that she does not do so is false.

If sex education programs in the nations schools actually have the effect of reducing or at least limiting significantly the rates of promiscuity, unwanted pregnancy, and venereal disease, then the claim that such programs are effective in the sense stated is true, and the claim that they are not so effective is false.

Constructive philosophy, then, is the attempt to formulate rationally defensible answers to metaphysical, axiological, and epistemological questions. The more ambitious forms of constructive philosophy aim at the construction of a comprehensive, coherent, and intellectually (and perhaps also emotionally) satisfying world-view or philosophical system.

To summarise: constructive philosophy concentrates on providing answers to fundamental philosophical questions, critical (deconstructive) philosophy concentrates on questioning such answers.

C: A list of sample questions in philosophy

Metaphysics: questions concerning the nature of reality, being, or existence Ontology Why is there something rather than nothing? Is it possible that there was a time before now when absolutely NOTHING existed? What is ultimately (or REALLY) real? [Appearance -v- Reality] Is reality fundamentally one or many? [Monism -v- Pluralism] What, if anything, endures through change?

Philosophical cosmology What is the cosmos made of? How is it structured? Did the cosmos come into being? If so, how? Will the cosmos cease to be in the future? If so, what does that mean for us? Philosophical theology (and the philosophy of religion) Does God exist? [Theism; Atheism; Agnosticism] What is the nature of God? What about the existence of evil (pain, suffering, and disorder)? How can evil exist in a world created and governed by an all-knowing, all-good, and all-powerful deity? *The Problem of Evil+ Is God good? Can God be less than perfect in any respect?

Philosophical anthropology Questions concerning human nature and human action: What are the essential or distinctive characteristics of human nature? Is there such a thing as a human nature shared by all humans? How are the human body and the human mind related to one another? *The Mind-Body Problem+ Are there minds other than my own? *The Problem of Other Minds+ Is there any objective reality at all (i.e., a reality that exists independently of my consciousness/mind)?

Axiology: questions concerning the nature of value and the criteria by which values may be recognised Aesthetics (the philosophy of art) Does art have a nature or essence? If not, why not? If so, can it be defined? How? Is aesthetic value intrinsic or extrinsic? Is aesthetic value objective or subjective? Is it partly objective and partly subjective? (Objectivism, Subjectivism, Interactionism) Can we distinguish between good and bad aesthetic taste? If not, why not? If so, how? Does aesthetic experience differ from other types of experience? If not, why not? If so, how?

Ethics (moral philosophy) Normative ethics What is the nature of morality? What is the nature of moral goodness? What moral principles, rules, standards, or values should we live by? What are the basic rules or principles of morality? What is the difference between right and wrong conduct? What is the foundation of morality (God, nature, reason, desire, etc.)? What is the basis of moral duty or obligation? What is the basis of moral responsibility? What is the nature of moral virtue?

Epistemology: questions concerning knowledge and truth What is the nature of knowledge? What are the sources of knowledge? What are the scope and limits of knowledge? Is there any knowledge at all? Is knowledge possible? Is cognitive certainty possible? What is the difference between knowledge and opinion? What is the nature of truth?

Ancient Philosophy

Medieval Philosophy

Modern Philosophy

Contemporary Philosophy

Historical Periods of Philosophy

Philosophy of Science Philosophy of psychology

Philosophy of mathematics

Philosophy of biology Philosophy of education

Philosophy of law

Philosophies of Discipline

Philosophy of mind Philosophy of feminism Philosophy of religion

Philosophy of culture

Philosophy of history

Philosophy of love

Philosophy of sport

Philosophies of Subject


Analytic Philosophy


Contemporary Philosophical Traditions