Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected
with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason,mind, and language.
Philosophy is distinguished
from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its
reliance on rational argument.
The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia),
which literally means "love of wisdom".
In more casual speech the "philosophy" of a particular
person can refer to the beliefs held by that person.
[fi-los-uh-fee] Show IPA
noun, plural phi·los·o·phies.
the rational investigation of the truths and principles ofbeing, knowledge, or
any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral
philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are acceptedas composing th
a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza.
the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of aparticular branch of
knowledge, especially with a view toimproving or reconstituting them: the ph
ilosophy of science.
a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
Instead of being treated as a single, unified subject, philosophy is typically broken down into a
number of specialties and it is common for contemporary philosophers to be experts in one field but
know little about another. After all, philosophy addresses complex issues from all facets of life - being
an expert on all of philosophy would entail being an expert on all of the most fundamental questions
which life has to offer.
This doesn't mean that each branch of philosophy is entirely autonomous - there is often much
overlap between some fields, in fact. For example, political and legal philosophy often cross with
ethics and morality, while metaphysical questions are common topics in the philosophy of religion.
Sometimes even deciding which branch of philosophy a question properly belongs in isn't very clear.
This is the study of beauty and taste, whether in the form of the comic, the tragic, or the sublime. The
word comes from the Greek aisthetikos, "of sense perception." Aesthetics has traditionally been part
of other philosophical fields like epistemology or ethics but it started to come into its own and become a
more independent field under Immanuel Kant.
Epistemology is the study of the grounds and nature of knowledge itself. Epistemological studies
usually focus upon our means for acquiring knowledge; thus modern epistemology generally involves
a debate between rationalism and empiricism, or the question of whether knowledge can be
acquired a priori or a posteriori.
Ethics is the formal study of moral standards and conduct and is also often called "moral philosophy."
What is good? What is evil? How should I behave - and why? How should I balance my needs against
the needs of others? These are some of the questions asked in the field of ethics.
Logic and the Philosophy of Language
These two fields are often treated separately, but they are close enough that they are presented
together here. Logic is the study of methods of reasoning and argumentation, both proper and
improper. The Philosophy of Language involves the study of how our language interacts with our
In Western philosophy this field has become the study of the fundamental nature of all reality - what
is it, why is it, and how are we to understand it. Some only regard metaphysics as the study of
"higher" reality or the "invisible" nature behind everything, but that isn't actually true. It is, instead,
the study of all of reality, visible and invisible.
Philosophy of Education
This field deals with how children should be educated, what they should be educated in, and what the
ultimate purpose of education should be for society. This is an often neglected field of philosophy and
is often addressed only be in educational programs designed to train teachers - in that context, it is a
part of pedagogy, which is learning how to teach.
Philosophy of History
The Philosophy of History is a relatively minor branch in the field of philosophy, focusing on the study
of history, writing about history, how history progresses, and what impact history has upon the
present day. This is can be referred to as the Critical, Analytical, or Formal Philosophy of History, as
well as the Philosophy of Historiography.
Philosophy of Mind
The relatively recent specialty known as Philosophy of Mind deals with the consciousness and how it
interacts with the body and the outside world. It asks not only what mental phenomena are and what
gives rise to them, but also what relationship they have to the larger physical body and the world
Philosophy of Religion
Sometimes confused with theology, the Philosophy of Religion is the philosophical study of religious
beliefs, religious doctrines, religious arguments and religious history. The line between theology and
the philosophy of religion isn't always sharp because they share so much in common, but the primary
difference is that theology tends to be apologetical in nature, committed to the defense of particular
religious positions, whereas Philosophy of Religion is committed to the investigation of religion itself
rather than the truth of any particular religion.
Philosophy of Science
This is concerned with how science operates, what the goals of science should be, what relationship
science should have with society, the differences between science and other activities, etc. Everything
that happens in science has some relationship with the Philosophy of Science and is predicated upon
some philosophical position, even though that may be rarely evident.
Political andLegal Philosophy
These two fields are often studied separately, but they are presented here jointly because they both
come back to the same thing: the study of force. Politics is the study of political force in the general
community while jurisprudence is the study of how laws can and should be used to achieve political
and social goals.
Divisions of Philosophy
Abstract: Philosophy, philosophical inquiry, and the main branches of philosophy are
I. What is Philosophy?
A. The derivation of the word "philosophy" from the Greek is suggested by the following
words and word-fragments.
philo—love of, affinity for, liking of
philander—to engage in love affairs frivolously
philanthropy—love of mankind in general
philately—postage stamps hobby
phile—(as in "anglophile") one having a love for
philology—having a liking for words
sophist—lit. one who loves knowledge
sophomore—wise and moros—foolish; i.e. one who thinks he knows many things
sophisticated—one who is knowledgeable
B. A suggested definition for our beginning study is as follows.
Philosophy is the systematic inquiry into the principles and presuppositions of any field of
1. From a psychological point of view, philosophy is an attitude, an approach, or a calling
to answer or to ask, or even to comment upon certain peculiar problems (i.e.,
specifically the kinds of problems usually relegated to the main branches discussed
below in Section II).
2. There is, perhaps, no one single sense of the word "philosophy." Eventually many
writers abandon the attempt to define philosophy and, instead, turn to the kinds of
things philosophers do.
3. What is involved in the study of philosophy involves is described by the London
Times in an article dealing with the 20th World Congress of Philosophy: "The great
virtue of philosophy is that it teaches not what to think, but how to think. It is the
study of meaning, of the principles underlying conduct, thought and knowledge. The
skills it hones are the ability to analyse, to question orthodoxies and to express
things clearly. However arcane some philosophical texts may be … the ability to
formulate questions and follow arguments is the essence of education."
II. The Main Branches of Philosophy are divided as to the nature of the questions
asked in each area. The integrity of these divisions cannot be rigidly maintained, for
one area overlaps into the others.
. Axiology: the study of value; the investigation of its nature, criteria, and metaphysical
status. More often than not, the term "value theory" is used instead of "axiology" in
contemporary discussions even though the term “theory of value” is used with respect to
the value or price of goods and services in economics.
0. Some significant questions in axiology include the following:
a. Nature of value: is value a fulfillment of desire, a pleasure, a preference, a
behavioral disposition, or simply a human interest of some kind?
b. Criteria of value: de gustibus non (est) disputandum(i.e., (“there's no accounting
for tastes”) or do objective standards apply?
c. Status of value: how are values related to (scientific) facts? What ultimate worth,
if any, do human values have?
1. Axiology is usually divided into two main parts.
. Ethics: the study of values in human behavior or the study of moral
problems: e.g., (1) the rightness and wrongness of actions, (2) the kinds of things
which are good or desirable, and (3) whether actions are blameworthy or
i. Consider this example analyzed by J. O. Urmson in his well-known essay, "Saints
"We may imagine a squad of soldiers to be practicing the throwing of live hand
grenades; a grenade slips from the hand of one of them and rolls on the ground
near the squad; one of them sacrifices his life by throwing himself on the grenade
and protecting his comrades with his own body. It is quite unreasonable to
suppose that such a man must be impelled by the sort of emotion that he might
be impelled by if his best friend were in the squad."
ii. Did the soldier who threw himself on the grenade do the right thing? If he did
not cover the grenade, several soldiers might be injured or be killed. His action
probably saved lives; certainly an action which saves lives is a morally correct
action. One might even be inclined to conclude that saving lives is a duty. But if
this were so, wouldn't each of the soldiers have the moral obligation or duty to
save his comrades? Would we thereby expect each of the soldiers to vie for the
opportunity to cover the grenade?
a. Æsthetics: the study of value in the arts or the inquiry into feelings, judgments,
or standards of beauty and related concepts. Philosophy of art is concerned with
judgments of sense, taste, and emotion.
. E.g., Is art an intellectual or representational activity? What would the realistic
representations in pop art represent? Does art represent sensible objects or ideal
i. Is artistic value objective? Is it merely coincidental that many forms in
architecture and painting seem to illustrate mathematical principles? Are there
standards of taste?
ii. Is there a clear distinction between art and reality?
A. Epistemology: the study of knowledge. In particular, epistemology is the study
of the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge.
0. Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and integrity of knowledge.
1. Consider the degree of truth of the statement, "The earth is round." Does its truth
depend upon the context in which the statement is uttered? For example, this
statement can be successively more accurately translated as …
"The earth is spherical"
"The earth is an oblate spheroid" (i.e., flattened at the poles).
But what about the Himalayas and the Marianas Trench? Even if we surveyed exactly the
shape of the earth, our process of surveying would alter the surface by the footprints left
and the impressions of the survey stakes and instruments. Hence, the exact shape of the
earth cannot be known. Every rain shower changes the shape.
(Note here as well the implications for skepticism and relativism: simply because we
cannot exactly describe the exact shape of the earth, the conclusion does not logically
follow that the earth does not have a shape.)
2. Furthermore, consider two well-known problems in epistemology:
. Russell's Five-Minute-World Hypothesis: Suppose the earth were created five
minutes ago, complete with memory images, history books, records, etc., how
could we ever know of it? As Russell wrote in The Analysis of Mind, "There is no
logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes
ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal
past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times;
therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove
the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago." For example, an
omnipotent God could create the world with all the memories, historical records,
and so forth five minutes ago. Any evidence to the contrary would be evidence
created by God five minutes ago. (Q.v., the Omphalos hypothesis.)
a. Suppose everything in the universe (including all spatial relations) were to expand
uniformly a thousand times larger. How could we ever know it? A moment 's
thought reveals that the mass of objects increases by the cube whereas the
distance among them increases linearly. Hence, if such an expansion were
possible, changes in the measurement of gravity and the speed of light would be
evident, if, indeed, life would be possible.
b. Russell's Five-Minute-World Hypothesis is a philosophical problem; the
impossibility of the objects in the universe expanding is a scientific problem since
the latter problem can, in fact, be answered by principles of elementary physics.
B. Ontology or Metaphysics: the study of what is really real. Metaphysics deals
with the so-called first principles of the natural order and "the ultimate
generalizations available to the human intellect." Specifically, ontology seeks to
indentify and establish the relationships between the categories, if any, of the
types of existent things.
0. What kinds of things exist? Do only particular things exist or do general things also
exist? How is existence possible? Questions as to identity and change of objects—are
you the same person you were as a baby? as of yesterday? as of a moment ago?
1. How do ideas exist if they have no size, shape, or color? (My idea of the Empire
State Building is quite as "small" or as "large" as my idea of a book. I.e., an idea is
not extended in space.) What is space? What is time?
2. E.g., Consider the truths of mathematics: in what manner do geometric figures
exist? Are points, lines, or planes real or not? Of what are they made?
3. What is spirit? or soul? or matter? space? Are they made up of the same sort of
4. When, if ever, are events necessary? Under what conditions are they possible?
III. Further characteristics of philosophy and examples of philosophical problems are
discussed in the next tutorial.
Epistemology is the study of “knowledge.” Epistemology deals with the process by which we
can know that something is true. It addresses questions such as:
--What can I know?
--How is knowledge acquired?
--Canwe be certain of anything?
Within epistemology there are two important categories—rationalism and empiricism.
Rationalism stresses reason as the most important element in knowing. Rationalism holds that
knowledge is gained primarily through the mind. It also asserts that we are born with innate ideas
that precede any experiences we may have with our physical senses.
Empiricism, on the other hand, asserts that all our knowledge comes from our five senses. To use
the terminology of the empiricist, John Locke, our minds are a “blank slate” at birth. Thus
knowledge comes from our experiences.
Metaphysics is the study of “reality.” More specifically it is the study of reality that is beyond the
scientific or mathematical realms. The term “metaphysics” itself literally means “beyond the
physical.” The metaphysical issues most discussed are the existence of God, the soul, and the
Ethics is the study of moral value, right and wrong. Ethics is involved with placing value to
personal actions, decisions, and relations. Important ethical issues today include abortion, sexual
morality, the death penalty, euthanasia, pornography, and the environment.
Logic is the study of right reasoning. It is the tool philosophers use to study other philosophical
categories. Good logic includes the use of good thinking skills and the avoidance of logic
Aesthetics is the study of art and beauty. It attempts to address such issues as:
--What is art?
--What is the relationship between beauty and art?
--Are there objective standards by which art can be judged?
--Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
Main Branches of Philosophy
The name 'Metaphysics' is derived from the Greek words 'Meta', which means beyond or after, and
'Physika', which means physics. It is that branch of philosophy which goes beyond the realms of
science. It is concerned with answering the questions about identity and the world. It questions the
existence of spiritual beings, nature of universe, life after death, etc. Aristotle, one of the most well-
known philosophers, acknowledged Thales as the first known metaphysician. His book 'Metaphysics' is
one of the prominent works in the branch of philosophy. The main branches of metaphysics are:
Ontology - The study of being or existence
Natural Theology - The study of God and creation
Universal Science - The study of first principles like the law of identity
It deals with the definition of knowledge and its scope and limitations. It translates from Greek to
mean 'theory of knowledge'. It questions the meaning of knowledge, how we obtain knowledge, how
much do we know, and how do we have this knowledge? Epistemology is further divided into
Alethiology - The study of nature of truth
Formal Epistemology - The use of logic and probability to illuminate problems related to epistemology
Meta-epistemology - Meta-philosophical study of the methods and aim of epistemology
Social Epistemology - The study of social dimensions of knowledge
Epistemology has various theories of justification. Skepticism, internalism, externalism,
foundationalism, probability theory, and empiricism, are a few of them. Famous epistemologists like
Descartes, Kant and Hume, have made a notable contribution to this branch of philosophy.
Axiology is that branch of philosophy which deals with the study of value. The two va lues studied in
axiology are as follows:
Aesthetics deals with sense, perception, and appreciation of beauty. It broadly includes everything to
do with appreciation of art, culture, and nature. It also examines how the perception of beauty is
determined by taste and aesthetic judgment. The practice of defining and criticizing appreciating art
and art forms is based on aesthetics. Aesthetics questions the definition and value of art. Symbolism,
romanticism, classicism, modernism, etc., are the various theories associated with aesthetics. Denis
Dutton identified the six universal signatures in human aesthetics as expertise, style, criticism,
imitation, special focus, and non-utilitarian pleasure. Socrates was the one who first contributed to
this field, followed by his own students Plato and Xenophon.
Ethics is concerned with questions on morality and values, and how they apply to various situations.
Ethics seeks to understand the basis of morals, how they develop, and how they are and should be
followed. Ethics can be further divided into:
Meta-ethics - Studies the foundation of moral values
Normative Ethics - Examines what actions are right and wrong
Applied Ethics - Deals with morally correct actions in various human fields, for example - professional,
business and environmental ethics.
Works of Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Nietzsche in the field of ethics is quite illustrious.
Among the branches of philosophy, logic is concerned with the various forms of reasoning and arriving
at genuine conclusions. It includes the system of statements and arguments. It is now divided into
mathematical logic and philosophical logic. It tries to avoid the imaginary or assumptions without real
Informal - Analyzes the arguments that occur in everyday language
Formal - Analyzes the properties of propositions and not their forms
Symbolic - Represents logical principles using symbols
Mathematical - Includes both, the mathematical study of logic and applying logic in mathematics
Other Branches of Philosophy
It is concerned with all the things to do with government. It deals with the relationships and
obligations of people in a state and their communities. It also includes citizens' rights, laws, and
justice systems. Plato, Hobbes, Locke and J.S. Mill, Karl Marx, Aristotle and Confucius are some of the
influential political philosophers. Communism, Feminism, Marxism, Socialism, and Liberalism are some
theories associated with this branch of philosophy.
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of the mind, as the name suggests, studies and explains everything that there is to do with
the mind. It is divided into two major schools of thought, namely dualism, which states that the mind
and body are two distinct entities; and monism, which states that the mind and body are not distinct.
It has inspired work in many modern-day sciences, including computer science, neuroscience, and
evolutionary biology. It has also helped in the research related to artificial intelligence and
understanding the human brain.
Philosophy of Language
It includes study on topics such as origin, nature and usage of language. It deeply studies and
understands the nature of language, how it helps in communication, and how it relates to the minds of
the people who are communicating. It also includes studying how language relates to the truth in the
world, and how it affects our thoughts. Prominent philosophers of language include Plato, Wittgenstein
Philosophy of Education
This branch of philosophy deals with the study of education and ways in which it can be improved. It
tries to understand and explain the nature and need of education, methods in which it can be done,
and what its ideals should be. It also deals with finding the best ways to impart instructions. The
philosophy of education overlaps in the area of study of both, the various branches of philosophy and
of education. This has been a topic of interest for philosophers the world over, and still generates a lot
Philosophy of Religion
This branch is associated with religion and God. It tries to understand and rationalize the relations
between value systems and the entity of God, among other things. It is designed to be different from
religious philosophy, so that it is not biased by certain faiths and beliefs, but looks at religion as a
whole. The three most important terms related to philosophy of religion are:
Theism - To believe that God exists
Agnosticism - To believe that the existence of God cannot be proven
Atheism - To believe that God does not exist at all
Philosophy is a very vast subject, and therefore has various other branches like philosophy of science,
law, history, psychology, and anthropology. It is a widely studied subject, and philosophers from
different parts of the world have come up with their own unique ideas and theories. It can thus be
further divided into the western and eastern schools of philosophy. This subject has deeply affected
our lifestyle, culture, values, our government systems, and even technology. Philosophy as a subject
will continue to exist as long as man continues to think and ask questions.
Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/branches-of-philosophy.html