Introduction to philosophy

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of existence. It is the base on which all the special sciences (such as physics, biology, and economics) depend. Philosophy, therefore, is itself a science. It is not an arbiter between fact and faith, as it is widely presented today.

The five branches of philosophy

Metaphysics is the study of the nature of the universe as a whole. ‘Meta’ is Ancient Greek for ‘beyond’. Is there an objective reality? Are there laws of nature? Metaphysics answers these questions. Only then, can physics detail what that objective reality is and what those laws are. (Note: that was not how the word 'metaphysics' was coined, though it is an easy way to remember what the word actually means.)

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. What is true? What is untrue? How do we know what we know? Can we know anything?

Ethics is the study of good and evil. How do we distinguish the good from the evil? What is the standard of the good? Is ethics grounded in the supernatural or in the natural, in opinion (whether your own, some dictator’s, Society’s, or God’s) or in fact?

Politics is the study of society and government. What is the role of government? What should the laws be? Why do we need any laws?

Aesthetics is the study of art. What is art? What art is good art, and what art is bad art? What is the purpose of art?

Left: Plato (pic: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons -- Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic)

Right: Aristotle (pic: public domain)

Western philosophy, arguably, stems from the dispute between these two men.


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What Girls Said 7

  • I'm taking philosophy right now. Socrates was the man; he didn't take bs. The downside to the class: I find myself thinking deeply about everything now, and I have frequent headaches.

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  • Plato was one confusing man

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  • nice to know:)

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  • I don't like philosophy..

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  • I knew you were somewhat smart but damn. You be spicy.

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  • Nice summary :)

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  • *follows this and waits for the next take*

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What Guys Said 12

  • I’ll argue philosophers dose’t not study the fundamentals of nature on which all the sciences are based.

    If I am wrong, then can you give me just one example within the branch of physics?

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    • Well, for example, the question "Can I know anything?" (a question of epistemology) precedes the question "What do I know about atoms?", and the question "Does anything really exist?" (a question of metaphysics) precedes the question "Do noble gases exist?"

      If, as a physicist, you don't know the answers to these preceding questions, everything you say about physics will be open to charges such as "That's just your opinion" and "There's no objective reality. There's just my reality and your reality".

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    • Right, but physics, biology, and economics are not based on any of the five branches of philosophy.

    • I've explained that already. Knowledge is preceded by the acceptance of the principle that knowledge is legitimate. If you don't deal with philosophy and go straight to physics for example, when you're explaining how atoms work, the person to whom you are explaining could simply reply, "There is no objective reality. There's just my reality and your reality. What's true for you isn't true for me", and you'd have no response to that.

  • Very intriguing, I always loved philosophy...

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  • Thanks, very simple language easy to understand. Keep that good work.

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  • Nice read. I'm taking philosophy next semester!

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  • Hmm i didn't know western philosophy stemed from those 2 men

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  • I put a lot of though into everything except Epistemology. I think it's actually a little strange that I have no curiosity about that branch at all.

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  • Rolling dirty with Socrates 4life

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  • I am taking a philosophy class right now lol. It is pretty interesting.

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  • I actually did a take on epistemology. I didn't know about metaphysics or aesthetics, though.

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  • One of my undergraduate degrees was on in philosophy! Definitely an underrated skill! I basically am a pro at picking apart other peoples arguments and forming my own, while thinking abstractly.

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  • I like it, although it needs to be fleshed out a little more.

    Also, Plato can suck it. I'm an Aristotelian man.

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  • I love it! :) BASED DAWGGG

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