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Philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia, which means "love of wisdom." The study of the most general and abstract features of the world, as well as the categories with which we think: mind, matter, reason, proof, and truth, is defined as philosophy (Maritain, pp.4). Pythagoras is said to have been the first person to call himself a philosopher. As a result, philosophy has a long history. Some philosophical methods include systematic presentation of ideas, rational arguments, critical questioning, and individual discussions. Being a philosopher isn't solely determined by the material one reads. Argumentation skills, critical thinking, and an open mind are all required. In the 19th century, natural philosophy had academic principles such as medicine, astronomy, and physics. Other principles that have been included over the years are economics, sociology, linguistics, and psychology (Maritain, pp.30). Philosophy was divided into three major categories. These categories were natural philosophy, moral and metaphysical philosophy. Natural philosophy studied the nature while moral philosophy studied the aspect of right and wrong as well as virtues that people portrayed. Metaphysical philosophy studied what existed after physics by explaining the existence of objects and logic. Many of those who are considered professional philosophers serve their communities as professors or researchers. However, this is not the only fields an undergraduate, for example, can serve under in their region. Philosophy is further divided into sub-fields that help answer different philosophical questions. These sub-fields include epistemology, metaphysics, axiology, logic, and history of philosophy.
Philosophy can be divided into two main categories based on the geographical location. The main categories are western and eastern philosophy. Western philosophy is a tradition of philosophy of the western world. This tradition dates back to great scholars such as Pythagoras and Thales. Another philosopher Socrates claimed he did not have wisdom but pursued wisdom. Western philosophy is categorized into three stages. These eras are Ancient, Medieval and Modern Philosophy. The ancient stage had many Greek schools that were because of Socrates students. Plato was one of the students and began Platonic Academy. Plato then tutored Aristotle, another influential philosopher, who founded Peripatetic School (Maritain, pp.26). Some of the topics the Greeks discussed include metaphysics, logos, and cosmology. Medieval philosophy era consisted mainly the rise of Christianity and focused on Judeo-Christianity. The main philosophers in this era were St.Augustine and Roger bacon among other philosophers. Their thinking was mainly addressed to link philosophy and the Supreme Being. Modern philosophy shifted from the normal structures of thinking such as religion and church. This age moved to rational and secular base for knowledge. Some of the thinkers in this period were Rene Descartes and Thomas Hobbes.
Eastern philosophy comprises different philosophies from Asia. These philosophies include Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese philosophy. Persian, Arabic, Babylonian and Jewish philosophy is from the Middle Eastern. Eastern philosophy focuses more on accepting facts as given to them while western philosophy focuses on finding and proving the truth. Eastern philosophers emphasize more on the issue of social responsibility while western philosophers focus on the issue of the rights of individuals. Hindu philosophy expounds on Hinduism that mainly highlights the issue of religion and life. Hinduism explains the views of individuals from a philosophical point of view. This philosophy was divided into six different schools of thought. Yoga is one of the schools of thought under this category. Yoga stresses on contemplation and meditation. Other schools include Samkhya, logic, Vaisheshika, Mimasa, and Vedanta. Jain philosophy deals with metaphysics and epistemology problems. This philosophy tries to explain situations such as the existence of people. Jain philosophy has had major contributions in the Indian philosophical world.
The study of this principle plays some crucial roles in our lives. Philosophy helps us to think critically and pay attention to the issues that are of importance in our lives. This principle helps us to dig deeper into our thoughts and focus on the underlying issues. Philosophy helps us focus on how to think carefully but not on what to believe. It helps individuals develop their ability to engage and present their arguments in an articulate manner. Since this is an activity, one is able to develop their thinking and analytical abilities. The analytical abilities are important in analyzing strengths and weaknesses of any given situation.
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that explains the reason for existence. This branch focuses on answering the question of what is the reality. The study of this sub-field of philosophy addresses our view on the world. Cosmology and ontology are other categories that are found under metaphysics. Cosmology is the study of the world while ontology studies human beings. This sub-field is important as it helps explain certain elements in the world around us. Our ability to analyze reality and act right or measures the degree of correctness on our metaphysical view. The proper study must aim to understand reality in the right manner. Under this subject, there is the aspect of interdependence among perceptions. Metaphysics explains the issue of identity among objects, for example. Some of the elements that help expound on identity are essence, accident, particulars and abstract objects. Essence is properties that make items what they are and in case it loses these elements, it ceases to have its identity. An accident is the attributes an item possesses and if it loses these attributes, its identity still remains. Particulars are items considered to be found in space and time (Maritain, pp.61-64).
Epistemology is the study of how we receive knowledge. It tends to explain the issue of how we know various things. This branch of philosophy has elements such as logical reasoning, emotions, ideas and other aspects that are mental. Epistemologists try to understand whether knowledge is achievable and possible. This branch is important in the evaluation of determining what is true and what is false. The study explains that without this field of philosophy we could barely think. We would not as well have a basis of rating whether our thinking was productive or not. Correct epistemology helps us distinguish what is right and what is wrong. It also helps us improve our lives. One of the problems in this branch is regress argument. This argument requires proving a statement if it is right, justification from another statement. Rationalism emphasizes on reasoning as a reference for knowledge while empiricism emphasizes on observations. Reason, logic, and objectivity are some of the elements of epistemology. Reason is how to receive and acquire this knowledge. Logic is how we maintain the set of knowledge acquired. Objectivity is how we link between knowledge and reality to help determine the validity of knowledge.
Axiology is composed of topics such as ethics, political philosophy and feminist philosophy among others. Ethics is the study of what is right and what is wrong. Ethics is important in our lives by helping people decide what actions to take. Lack of this principle would render our actions aimless. Hence, individuals would not have a direction towards achieving their goals. Normative, applied and meta-ethics are the main branches of this topic. A correct basis of ethics will require a set of standards from which comparison of actions can be based. This standard is achieved by analyzing human behavior and queer requirements. This system needs to incorporate the day-to-day decisions as well as choices we make during emergencies. Aesthetics addresses issues such as emotional values, enjoyment and the nature of art among other components. Political philosophy is the study of linkage between the government and communities. Politics and ethics are related as they help address the issue of how individuals should relate with one another. Feminist philosophy focuses on the issue of gender and sexuality.
Logic is the systematic nature of reasoning that is applied to any of the fields of philosophy. Reasoning and argument comprise the study of logic. Arguments are statements that are linked in a way to establish a concept or an idea. The statements linked together are known as premises while the concept or idea is referred to as the conclusion. Some of the branches of logic include philosophical, mathematical and modal logic. Some of the problems associated with this branch of philosophy are validity, consistency, soundness, and completeness.
The history of philosophy is different from the philosophy of history. The history of philosophy focuses on studying a specific era or individual whereas philosophy of history focuses on the theory aspect of history. Some of the philosophers involved in the philosophy of history include Hegel and Marx.
Philosophy has several schools of thought such as rationalism, empiricism, idealism, positivism, and structuralism among many other schools. Idealism states that most of the representations are subjective outside world are inexistent. This school of thought states that ideas build up reality. Some religions such as Hindu consider idealism as compared to Christianity that considers dualism. Philosophers such as Plato and Rene Descartes shared their philosophical views on idealism. Idealism has other categories that include subjective idealism, transcendental, objective and absolute idealism among many other categories.
Positivism focuses on science and objectivity to determine human laws. This doctrine states that the only valid knowledge is scientific based. This is because such knowledge has supporting theories that are confirmed by some methods such as observation and measurements. This school of thought came into existence in the 19th century by Auguste Comte, who was a philosopher. His Universal rule had three phases. The first stage involved reference to God, the second stage involved the metaphysics where human rights were very crucial. The final stage was more scientific and considered the rights of an individual important. This doctrine of positivism has various principles such as the logic of inquiry and that scientist should not allow common sense interfere with their research. Some of the types of positivism include legal, social, polish and logical positivism (Maritain, pp. 61-65).
Rationalism is a theory that explains that individuals have the knowledge and it is not dependent on experience or teachings from religion. Hence, it explains that some of the conclusions are based on an individual’s intuition while others are from valid arguments. This idea is based on logic rather than experience. Three concepts are adapted by rationalists. They include intuition, instinctive knowledge and concepts. Some of the common rationalists include Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. Rene Descartes was the first philosopher to contribute to rationalism. According to Descartes, sensory experience was not necessarily in determining knowledge certain subjects such as mathematics. He insisted that some ideas are God-given while others are because of imagination and others are because of sensory experience. However, from the three ideas, he believed God-given ideas were the only valid ideas. Spinoza expounded on Descartes ideas on rationalism, which were mainly based on the idea of God.
Empiricism school of thought states that knowledge is gained through experience. However, most of the empiricists dispute with the idea that knowledge can be inborn. This doctrine is different from rationalism since the latter states that senses are not necessarily required to determine truths. This canon came into existence as early as the 11th century. Over the different eras, there were different empiricists who made their contribution to this principle. Some of these philosophers include Sir Francis Bacon, John Locke, Bishop George Berkeley and John Stuart Mill among other scholars.
Structuralism accounts that people’s activities are constructed and do not naturally come into existence. Some main ideas under this principle include that all systems have structures, these structures determine the stand of different elements, laws that focus on co-existent and finally that structures are the main items. Structuralism was first developed by a Swiss theorist, Ferdinand de Saussure in the 20th century. He focused his theory on signs of linguistics. Over the years, this school of thought has become applicable to other fields such as sociology, mathematics, philosophy, and anthropology among others. Different philosophers are involved in more than one school of thought such as Rene Descartes. This does not discredit their philosophical contributions to any school of thought.
Maritain, Jacques. An EPZ Introduction to Philosophy. A&C Black, 2005. Pp 3-113.
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