Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?
Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.
Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.
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Emanuel Lasker (December 24, 1868 – January 11, 1941) was a German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher who was World Chess Champion for 27 years, from 1894 to 1921, the longest reign of any officially recognised World Chess Champion in history. In his prime, Lasker was one of the most dominant champions, and he is still generally regarded as one of the strongest players ever.
His contemporaries used to say that Lasker used a "psychological" approach to the game, and even that he sometimes deliberately played inferior moves to confuse opponents. Recent analysis, however, indicates that he was ahead of his time and used a more flexible approach than his contemporaries, which mystified many of them. Lasker knew contemporary analyses of openings well but disagreed with many of them. He published chess magazines and five chess books, but later players and commentators found it difficult to draw lessons from his methods. Read more...
Selected article of the week
Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Laosi; also Lao Tse, Lao Tu, Lao-Tzu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Lao Zi, Laocius, and other variations) was a philosopher of ancient China, and is a central figure in Taoism (also spelled "Daoism"). Laozi literally means "old master", and is generally considered honorific. Laozi is revered as a deity in most religious forms of Taoism. Taishang Laojun is a title for Laozi in the Taoist religion, which refers to him as "One of the Three Pure Ones".
According to Chinese tradition, Laozi lived in the 6th century BC. Historians variously contend that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures, that he is a mythical figure, or that he actually lived in the 4th century BC, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States period.
A central figure in Chinese culture, both nobility and common people claim Laozi in their lineage. Throughout history, Laozi's work has been embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements.
Academic Branches of Philosophy
Philosophy ponders the most fundamental questions humankind has been able to ask. These are increasingly numerous and over time they have been arranged into the overlapping branches of the philosophy tree:
- Aesthetics: What is art? What is beauty? Is there a standard of taste? Is art meaningful? If so, what does it mean? What is good art? Is art for the purpose of an end, or is "art for art's sake?" What connects us to art? How does art affect us? Is some art unethical? Can art corrupt or elevate societies?
- Epistemology: What are the nature and limits of knowledge? What is more fundamental to human existence, knowing (epistemology) or being (ontology)? How do we come to know what we know? What are the limits and scope of knowledge? How can we know that there are other minds (if we can)? How can we know that there is an external world (if we can)? How can we prove our answers? What is a true statement?
- Ethics: Is there a difference between ethically right and wrong actions (or values, or institutions)? If so, what is that difference? Which actions are right, and which wrong? Do divine commands make right acts right, or is their rightness based on something else? Are there standards of rightness that are absolute, or are all such standards relative to particular cultures? How should I live? What is happiness?
- Logic: What makes a good argument? How can I think critically about complicated arguments? What makes for good thinking? When can I say that something just does not make sense? Where is the origin of logic?
- Metaphysics: What sorts of things exist? What is the nature of those things? Do some things exist independently of our perception? What is the nature of space and time? What is the relationship of the mind to the body? What is it to be a person? What is it to be conscious? Do gods exist?
- Political philosophy: Are political institutions and their exercise of power justified? What is justice? Is there a 'proper' role and scope of government? Is democracy the best form of governance? Is governance ethically justifiable? Should a state be allowed? Should a state be able to promote the norms and values of a certain moral or religious doctrine? Are states allowed to go to war? Do states have duties against inhabitants of other states?
Selected philosopher of the week
William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. He was the brother of novelist Henry James.
William James was born in New York City, son of Henry James Sr., an independently wealthy and notoriously eccentric Swedenborgian theologian well acquainted with the literary and intellectual elites of his day. The intellectual brilliance of the James family milieu and the remarkable epistolary talents of several of its members have made them a subject of continuing interest to historians, biographers, and critics.
James interacted with a wide array of writers and scholars throughout his life, including his godfather Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Charles Sanders Peirce, Josiah Royce, George Santayana, Ernst Mach, John Dewey, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, James Frazer, Henri Bergson, H. G. Wells, G. K. Chesterton, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, and Carl Jung.
Related Academic Fields
Did you know
- …that Francisco de Vitoria (pictured), a Spanish Renaissance Roman Catholic theologian, was the founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca?
- ...that Collective Intentionality is a topic in the Philosophy of Mind that has been explored by John Searle, Margaret Gilbert, and J. David Velleman, among others?
- …that a 2001 discovery of lost manuscripts by Majorcan philosopher and writer Ramon Llull showed that he had indeed discovered the Borda count and Condorcet criterion, and as a result he has been called the father of computation theory?
- …that although the paradox, Buridan's ass, is named after French priest Jean Buridan, it had already been previously stated in De Caelo by Aristotle?
- …that besides being a philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz was an engineer, lawyer, philologist, sinophile, and a famed mathematician who co-invented calculus?
- …that while most Enlightenment scholars criticized the Byzantine system of the Eastern Roman Empire, Konstantin Leontiev, a scholar from the Russian Empire praised it for the very same reasons?
- …that Marc Sautet started the philosophical cafe known as Café Philosophique?
- …that criteria of truth are standards and rules used to judge the accuracy of statements and claims?
- …that a deductive fallacy is an argument that has true premises, but may still have a false conclusion?
- …that Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers is the first dated book printed in England?
- …that Wikipedia has information on everything?
- …that a successful experimental system must be stable and reproducible enough for scientists to make sense of the system's behavior, but unpredictable enough that it can produce useful results?
- …that the ancient Chinese text Huangdi Yinfujing, attributed to the mythical emperor Huangdi in the 3rd century BCE, may have been a forgery from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE)?
- …that Time magazine editor Otto Fuerbringer was responsible for the controversial 1966 Is God Dead? cover?
- …that alternative theories of speciation besides natural selection include Lamarckism and orthogenesis?
- …that before the 17th century it was believed that all organisms grew from miniature versions of themselves that had existed since the beginning of creation, a theory called preformationism?
- …that children have trouble attributing implicit meaning to aspect verbs implicating non-completion such as start, but find implicit meaning in degree modifiers such as half, as in half-finished?
- …that Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya (pictured), a blind Hindu religious leader, has observed nine Payovrata, a six-month diet of only milk and fruits, per the fifth verse of the Dohāvalī composed by Tulasidāsa, which says that chanting the name of Rāma subsisting on a diet of milk and fruits for six months will result in all the auspiciousness and accomplishments in one's hand?
The following are images from various Philosophy-related articles on Wikipedia.
Selected weekly picture
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- Falsificationism Looking for comments on lead.
- Optimism should have a separate page that focuses on the philosophical idea of optimism and distinguishes the philosophical view from "positive thinking" and other everyday uses of the word.
- Philosophy of social science, has some okay points but requires elaboration on Wittgenstein and Winch, perhaps other linguistic critiques, whether logical positivist or postmodernist.
- Exchange value needs to be redone, it shouldn't be under 'Marxist theory'- although it's an important component of Marxist theory it's also vital for all economics. That said the article's weight on Marx is also absurd.
- German Idealism and the articles related to it may need to be rewritten or expanded to avoid undue weight on Arthur Schopenhauer.
- Protected values first section confuses right action and values and needs a copy edit, moving and wikifying
- Quality (philosophy) needs a more clear explanation.
- Socratic dialogues could do with some tidying and clarification. See the talk page for one suggested change.
- Problem of universals: The introductory definition is (perhaps) fixed. But, the article is poor. Check out the German version.
- Teleology: the article is shallow and inconsistent.
- Existentialism: the quality of this article varies wildly and is in desperate need of expert attention.
- Analytic philosophy This is a very major topic, but still has several sections which are stubs, and several topics which are not covered.
- Lifeworld A philosophical concept that seems to have fallen exclusively into the hands of the sociologists. Could use some attention; it's a major and complex issue in phenomenology.
- Perception Needs the attention of philosophically minded Wikipedians. This is only the start of an overhaul of perception and related articles.