Portal:Philosophy Information

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A portal for Wikipedia's philosophy resources • 17,548 articles in English
The Thinker, a statue by Auguste Rodin, is often used to represent philosophy.

Philosophy (from Greek: φιλοσοφία, philosophia, 'love of wisdom') is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some sources claim the term was coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BCE); others dispute this story, arguing that Pythagoreans merely claimed use of a preexisting term. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.

Historically, philosophy encompassed all bodies of knowledge and a practitioner was known as a philosopher. 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. Since then, various areas of investigation that were traditionally part of philosophy have become separate academic disciplines, and namely the social sciences such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Today, major subfields of academic philosophy include metaphysics, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of existence and reality; epistemology, which studies the nature of knowledge and belief; ethics, which is concerned with moral value; and logic, which studies the rules of inference that allow one to derive conclusions from true premises. Other notable subfields include philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. ( Full article...)

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Selected philosopher of the week

Søren Kierkegaard

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855), a 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian, is generally recognized as the first existentialist philosopher. He bridged the gap that existed between Hegelian philosophy and what was to become Existentialism. Kierkegaard strongly criticised both the Hegelian philosophy of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as the nature of faith, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with existential choices. Kierkegaard's work resists definite interpretation, since he wrote most of his early work under various pseudonyms, and often these pseudo-authors would comment on and critique the works of his other pseudo-authors.


Selected article of the week

Phrenology (from Greek: φρήν, phrēn, "mind"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is a theory which claims to be able to determine character, personality traits, and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head (reading "bumps"). Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall around 1800, and very popular in the 19th century, it is now discredited as a pseudoscience. Phrenology has however received credit as a protoscience for having contributed to medical science the ideas that the brain is the organ of the mind and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions.

Its principles were that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that mind has a set of different mental faculties, each particular faculty being represented in a different part or organ of the brain. These areas were said to be proportional to a given individual's propensities and importance of a mental faculty, and the overlying skull bone to reflect these differences.

Phrenology, which focuses on personality and character, is to be distinguished from craniometry, which is the study of skull size, weight and shape, and physiognomy, the study of facial features. However, these fields have all claimed the ability to predict traits or intelligence. They were once intensively practised in anthropology/ ethnology and sometimes utilized to "scientifically" justify racism. While some principles of phrenology are well-established today, the basic premise that personality is determined by skull shape is almost universally considered to be false.

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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?

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