Philosophy

The School of Athens (1509–1511) by Raphael, depicting famous classical Greek philosophers in an idealized setting inspired by ancient Greek architecture

Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom")[1][2][3][4] is the study of general and fundamental questions[5][6][7] about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems[8][9] to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.[10][11] Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it?[12][13][14] What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)?[15] Do humans have free will?[16]

Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge.[17] From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics.[18] 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.[19][20] In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective?[21][22] Are there many scientific methods or just one?[23] Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy?[24][25][26] Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"),[27] epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"[28]), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.

Introduction

Knowledge

Traditionally, the term "philosophy" referred to any body of knowledge.[17][29] In this sense, philosophy is closely related to religion, mathematics, natural science, education and politics. Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy is classified in the 2000s as a book of physics; he used the term "natural philosophy" because it used to encompass disciplines that later became associated with sciences such as astronomy, medicine and physics.[18]

In the first part of the first book of his Academics, Cicero introduced the division of philosophy into logic, physics, and ethics. He was copying Epicurus' division of his doctrine into canon, physics, and ethics. In section thirteen of the first book of his Lives and Opinions of the Eminent Philosophers, the 3rd-century Diogenes Laërtius, the first historian of philosophy, established the traditional division of philosophical inquiry into three parts:

  • Natural philosophy ("physics," from ta physika, "things having to do with nature (physis)" was the study of the constitution and processes of transformation in the physical world;
  • Moral philosophy ("ethics," from êthika, literally, "having to do with character, disposition, manners") was the study of goodness, right and wrong, justice and virtue.
  • Metaphysical philosophy ("logic") was the study of existence, causation, God, logic, forms and other abstract objects ("meta ta physika" lit: "After [the book] the Physics").[30]

This division is not obsolete but has changed. Natural philosophy has split into the various natural sciences, especially astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and cosmology. Moral philosophy has birthed the social sciences, but still includes value theory (including aesthetics, ethics, political philosophy, etc.). Metaphysical philosophy has birthed formal sciences such as logic, mathematics and philosophy of science, but still includes epistemology, cosmology and others.

Philosophical progress

Many philosophical debates that began in ancient times are still debated today. Colin McGinn and others claim that no philosophical progress has occurred during that interval.[31] Chalmers and others, by contrast, see progress in philosophy similar to that in science,[32] while Talbot Brewer argued that "progress" is the wrong standard by which to judge philosophical activity.[33]