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Philosophy

From Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia written in simple English for easy reading.

Philosophy is from two Greek words that mean 'love of wisdom'. It can mean many things in English:

  • The way a person thinks about the world.
  • A group of ideas, worked out by a philosopher (someone who has studied ways of thinking about the world).
  • The study of ideas, plans, or thoughts, that is, things that are abstract (meaning "things that cannot be touched").

Philosophy in this article means a group of ideas that have been thought about by philosophers (people who do philosophy) for a long time. These ideas have come to form a large body of questions and knowledge. There are many different types of philosophy. Some come from Europe and especially Ancient Greece, while others come from Asia, or other parts of the world.

Contents

[edit] Introduction

Philosophy is the study of humans and the world by thinking and asking questions. It is not part of science, because it is not an observation of things in the real world to find out how they work. Philosophy tries to answer important questions by coming up with answers about real things and asking "why?"

There is a similarity between philosophy and religion and science in some ways. It often tries to answer many of the same questions as religion and science. Philosophers do not all come up with the same answers to questions. Some people think there are no right answers in philosophy, only better ones. Someone once said[citation needed], "The best way to categorize Philosophy is a way of thinking in the middle-grounds of Science and Religion, and in attack of both." But this statement itself only shows one person's philosophy. Sometimes, religion might also just be, spirituality.

Some important questions that philosophy asks and has asked include:

[edit] Categories in philosophy

Philosophy can be divided into different groups, based on the types of questions that it asks. Below is a list of questions split into groups. One possible list of answers to these questions can be called a 'philosophy'. There are many different 'philosophies', because all of these questions have many different answers according to different people. Not all philosophies ask the same questions. These are the questions that are usually asked by philosophers from Europe:

In metaphysics:

Metaphysics is sometimes split up into ontology (the philosophy of reality and being), the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of religion; but these sub-branches are very close together.

Ontology:

  • What is the world that we see around us? (What is reality?)
    • Is there more to the world than just what we see or hear?
    • If nobody sees something happening, does that mean that it did not happen?
    • What does it mean to say that something is possible? Do other worlds exist?
  • Is there anything very special about being a human being or being alive at all?
    • If not, why do some people think that there is?
  • What is space? What is time?

The philosophy of mind:

  • What is a mind?
  • What is a body?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Do people make choices, or can they only choose to do one thing? (Do people have free will?)
  • What makes words or ideas meaningful? (What is the relation between meaningful words or ideas and the things that they mean?)

The philosophy of religion:

  • Do people have souls?
  • Is there a God who created the Universe?

In epistemology:

In ethics:

  • What are right and wrong, good and bad?
  • Should people do some things and not others?
  • What is justice?

In aesthetics:

In logic:

  • What do the words we use mean?
  • How can we say things (especially ideas) in a way that only has one meaning?
  • Can all ideas be expressed using language?
  • What is truth?

[edit] Is philosophy useful?

Does philosophy do any good? People do not agree about this.

Some people think that philosophy is harmful, as philosophy encourages free-thinking and often questions the beliefs that others hold.

Some also think that philosophy can be dangerous. Arguments about philosophy can end up with people trying to force each other to do things by law or violence.

Philosophers believe that asking philosophical questions is useful because it brings wisdom and helps people to learn about the world and each other.

[edit] What do philosophers do?

Some philosophers are full-time thinkers (called academics), others are just "hobby" thinkers, relaxing from their usual job, or approach philosophy from another job, for example a monk, an artist or a scientist.

Most philosophers work by asking questions and looking for good definitions (meanings) of words to help them understand what a question means.

Some philosophers say the only thing needed to answer a question is to find out what it means, and that the only thing that makes philosophical questions such as those above difficult is that people do not really know what they mean (for example Ludwig Wittgenstein).

Philosophers will also often use both real and imaginary examples to make a point. For example, they may write about a real or fictional person in order to show what they think a good person or a bad person is like.

Some philosophers look for the simplest way to answer a question and say that is probably the right answer. This is a process called Occam's Razor. Others believe that complicated answers to questions can also be right.

For an example of a philosophical problem, see the God paradox.

[edit] Some philosophers

[edit] The Ancient Greek Philosophers

[edit] Later European/Western Philosophers

[edit] Modern European and American Philosophers

  • Bertrand Russell
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Ayn Rand
  • Karl Popper
  • Willard Van Orman Quine
  • Eugene T. Gendlin
  • Noam Chomsky

[edit] Asian/Eastern Philosophers

[edit] Other websites