What is Philosophy?
Philosophy comes from the Greek for ''love of wisdom'', but a general definition of the term might be the study and pursuit of truth and wisdom through the fundamental questions of life. Socrates, the first of the great philosophers of history, believed that wisdom was sought through the examination of one's own life, the questioning of those ideas and concepts that people take for granted. He thought that the wisest way to go about this examination in pursuit of virtue was through critical inspection of accepted beliefs and conceptual clarification. In the footsteps of Socrates, most modern philosophers are concerned with subjecting human beliefs and ''common sense'' to rigorous logical scrutiny. Some of the questions that emerge from these examined beliefs include:
Does free will exist, or is all determined?
What is the basis for morality?
What gives something artistic value?
Is there a god?
How can one know that they know anything?
Is life inherently meaningful?
People all over the world have struggled with these questions since ancient times. Occasionally, philosophy overlaps with religion, such as with Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Daoism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Hindu philosophical theories include those of Raja Yoga, Vedanta, and Advaita Vedanta. Islamic philosophers count Rumi among them. In the west, philosophers like St. Augustine and Søren Kierkegaard mixed Christianity with their philosophical writings.
The main branches of modern philosophical inquiry are metaphysics, epistemology, audiology (ethics and aesthetics), and logic, but there are two primary groups into which most modern philosophers are grouped; these are analytic and continental philosophy. These terms were originally a geographic distinction, but over time became descriptive as well, with the analytic philosophy of Britain and America focusing primarily on the analysis of language for clarity and resolution of arguments, and the continental philosophy of mainland Europe focusing on the speculative side theory.
While these shades of the two great western philosophical schools have roots in the philosophies of Socrates and Plato, both schools trace their lineage and divergence to a more recent philosopher, Immanuel Kant. From there, analytic philosophers focus on the works of Carnap, Davidson, Frege, Mill, Quine, Russell, and Wittgenstein, while the continental philosophers take up the questions of Bergson, Derrida, Foucault, Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl, Nietzsche, and Sartre.
Aesthetics in Philosophy
Learn about aesthetics philosophy, or the philosophy of beauty, and how it shapes the way we think about art and nature. Discover major theorists in the field.
What is epistemology? Learn the epistemology definition and see epistemology examples. Learn the types of epistemology. Learn about Kant's epistemology.
Learn about feminist philosophy. Understand the philosophy of feminism, examine its history, and understand the ethics and theories of feminist philosophy.
Learn about logic in philosophy and how the study of logic is applied. Explore the philosophy of logic, review formal logic and informal logic, and explore examples.
Explore modern philosophy, its place in the history of philosophy, and how it manifested in the branches of philosophy. Discover influential modern philosophers.
In this lesson, learn about ontology. Find ontology example questions to understand the ontological theory. Understand the role of philosophers such as Aristotle.
Learn about postmodernism, a view of the world in literature and philosophy. Discover the characteristics that make postmodernism an important concept.
Social and Political Philosophies
Learn what social and political philosophy is. Explore the history of social and political philosophy, discover philosophers such as Georg Hegel, and see examples.
Philosophy is an ancient discipline whose etymology means ''the love of wisdom'' in Greek. Over thousands of years, the field has investigated and theorized every aspect of human life, resulting in many philosophical theories, concepts, and approaches. Study.com has hundreds of lessons available that cover these very topics, and students of philosophy will find courses on the history and study of philosophy, the philosophy of education and other disciplines, and stoicism and other philosophical schools.
Philosophy 101: Intro to Philosophy
This college-level course is the ideal starting place for students interested in the study of philosophy. Chapters discuss philosophical topics like free will and determinism, self and the mind, ideas of god and the soul, epistemology, and ethics.
Critical Thinking Study Guide
Students studying philosophy will need to keep their critical thinking skills sharp, and this course is designed to facilitate that. Lessons cover the element of critical thinking, including logical reasoning, rhetoric, and how to fashion an argument.
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving & Decision Making
This course applies the critical thinking skills that one develops as a student of philosophy to the world of business. It discusses the steps and ethics of decision-making, problem solving in teams, and the intersection of creative and critical thinking.
Humanities 201: Critical Thinking & Analysis
This is a college course that introduces philosophy and humanities students to the basics of critical thinking and its application. Critical thinking topics include approaches and methods of analysis, elements of an argument, types of reasoning, and fallacies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main definition of philosophy?
The main definition of philosophy is the pursuit of truth, wisdom, and virtuous life through the investigation of the fundamental questions of life. Socrates believed this was best done by conceptual clarification and the questioning of beliefs taken for granted.
What are examples of philosophies?
Examples of philosophies include the two main schools of modern western philosophy: analytic and continental. Other, more ancient, philosophies include Cynicism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, (Neo-)Platonism, Hermeticism, Yoga, and Vedanta.
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