Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions of life and general existence. It takes an analytical look at things which are often difficult, if not impossible, to study scientifically. For example, some popular questions you'll find in these philosophy articles and other sources include: Do humans have free will? Does a God exist? What is the best moral and/or political system? Anything about knowledge, reason, values, the mind, and existence are fair game in this field. In this category, you'll find philosophy articles exploring the meaning of philosophy, popular topics, and ways to get involved in the field.
Philosophy Articles For a Historical Background
All cultures and societies since the evolution of advanced intelligence in humans have participated in some form of philosophy. The information gathered over time has led to our current definitions of it. You can find more details about this history and final consensus in philosophy articles in this category, but the following is a basic rundown:
Most of them have pondered similar questions, with some differences between societies and between time periods. The main historical progressions of the field occurred based on geographical location based on continents. That is, Western philosophy originates from Europe and has evolved into a primarily secular and rational structure. Middle Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, comes from the fertile Crescent, Iran and Arabia, where it gained a distinct focus on Wisdom literature and ethics with strong influences from Islamic culture.
The Indian subcontinent has its own branch of philosophical traditions that started in ancient times and are intertwined with Jainism and Buddhism. East Asian philosophy comes from China and neighboring areas, starting in the Western Zhou Dynasty. This is where we get Confucianism, Daoism, and theories that remain popular today such as Yin and yang. In the modern era, East Asian philosophy has started incorporating ideas from Western philosophy.
Africa brings its own philosophy that focuses on Ethnophilosophy, or the study of questioning and defining what it means to be African. Western theories such as Marxism and African-American literature have also influenced Modern African philosophy. Moving over to the Americas, the Indigenous people from these two continents had their own philosophy for many years that remained isolated from the rest of the world. The different Indigenous people had a variety of philosophical views, including advanced topics such as metaphysics, values, epistemology, and more.
Branches of Philosophy: Articles to Start Off With
The following categories help organize all of the topics in philosophy to facilitate the approach of studying related topics. Within each branch are many subcategories to explore. As you'll see, it's an extensive topic. But not to fret; the philosophy articles here can help guide you through the various schools of thought in the field at a deeper level.
History of Western Philosophy
Because of the spread of Western civilization and culture through globalization, Western Philosophy is one of the more prominent areas today. Looking at its history is important because the changes in philosophical thought are arguably more important than “progress”. Some argue that progress isn't actually possible due to the nature of the questions in the field. Rather, there is just a changing perspective of how we look at and think about them over time.
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Metaphysics concerns itself with features of the real world such as time, objects, and existence. It relates to and even includes other scientific fields such as cosmology, but analyses philosophical questions relating to the science. For example, one point of focus is the debate between realism and idealism. Realism maintains that everything exists regardless of mental perception, whereas idealism says that reality is essentially immaterial save for mentally constructed realities. Instead of studying physical things, epistemology studies the knowledge we hold. This includes how we find and utilize knowledge with memory, reason, perception, and intuition. Main themes in epistemology are types of knowledge, and the philosophy of language, the mind, and human nature.
This branch looks less at divisions of philosophy into subjects for discussion, and more at the schools of thought based on certain philosophical works, ideas, authors, and time periods. This can include the philosophy of a certain area, such as Western or Eastern philosophy. Or, the schools of thought that branch from certain people, such as Marxism or Aristotelianism. You can check out some of the most important figures in the philosophy articles here.
Science, Logic, and Mathematics
In more scientific fields, philosophy is often considered a separate topic entirely even if it centers around the same ideas. For example, in mathematics, philosophical study includes the pondering of numbers as symbols that represent meaning and reasoning, rather than actually calculating and resolving mathematical problems.
This branch of philosophy addresses subjective topics such as ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy and related areas. Ethics compares good and bad in terms of values and actions. It tries to identify the best way to live based on moral standards, but also contemplates whether those standards even exist. Aesthetics looks at physical appearances in art, culture and beauty, analyzing what is considered beautiful or otherwise, and why. Political philosophy looks at governments and how they relate to the individual and smaller communities.
Careers in Philosophy and Helpful Articles
Being a “philosopher” isn't exactly a profession so much as a state of being. But if you want to apply philosophical thought to a career, the best way to do so is with a career in something such as academia, research, or political science. Philosophy provides a foundation that is also applicable to almost any field in that it encourages thinking outside the box. You can use the philosophy articles here to see this important relationship. You can also read about degrees in the subject, where to get them, and how to apply them to a career.
The term philosophy comes from the Greek word meaning “love of wisdom,” and that’s precisely what it is. The field gives us wisdom on many subjects that can’t otherwise be explored through methods like science. Instead, they require a wise perspective of deep thought and logical reasoning to understand abstract ideas. In this category of Direct Knowledge, you can read philosophy books about the field's past, new wisdom of the present, and potential future developments.
Key Topics of Philosophy Books
Philosophy as a discipline looks at rather abstract concepts such as logic, metaphysics, ethics, linguistics, and aesthetics. Basic questions about existence intrigue philosophers, and push them to try to resolve mysteries of life. Some of the classic questions include “Is it possible to know and prove anything?”; “Do we have free will?”; and “Is beauty subjective or objective?” In the philosophy books here you can explore the histories of questions such as these, as well as discover other curious aspects of the field.
Some of the topics in philosophy are often hard to study with formal and natural sciences. Thus, they become questions philosophers ask themselves and “study” through their own thoughts, observations, and logic. Thus it makes sense that some philosophy books such as Metaethics from a First Person Standpoint are written from personal perspectives and in novel formats. This book uses a fresh first person perspective to introduce students to the the complex world of moral philosophy. This includes relative concepts like “right” and “wrong” as well as objective moral knowledge. It also keeps the reader engaged by presenting thinking exercises that build off the information provided.
An even more fundamental topic to master before looking into something like metaethics is logic. The philosophy book Fundamental Methods of Logic is a great start for students of philosophy. It can also help with debate and general critical reasoning, helping you properly defend arguments.
Some Modern Changes
Many of the subjects that philosophy looked at thousands of years ago are still the focal points of arguments today. Although a lot of the field is thinking debating topics, modern advancements have changed some methods in philosophy. New findings today in sciences like psychology and neuroscience have shed light on certain topics in a more scientific way. These findings can make philosophy change its views and methods, ultimately helping it progress and find more concrete answers (to some issues, anyway).
For example, the study of consciousness looks at how people are aware of themselves and their surroundings and experiences. This awareness comes from the mind and through physical senses. Some philosophers argue that there is no way to prove consciousness through science, making it in essence an illusion without meaning. But, science seems to be getting closer to understanding it through breakthroughs in neuroscience and biology. This might make it worth taking a look at the biology and other science categories to try to find relationships that tie back to topics in the philosophy books here.
The same argument sometimes occurs with free will, but these positions are not the most common. Most agree that we just don't yet understand free will and consciousness, but that they do exist. And some scientists, particularly in the field of physics, argue that free will is an illusion because everything is determined by physical reactions of atoms and other particles. It seems we just need to continue pursuing the topic until we eventually uncover the truth. Although, some philosophers also argue that “progress” through uncovering new truths is not the right way to judge philosophy. They argue that there is no single direction for improvement, rather a general deeper analysis of the subjects through time.
These differences in philosophical thought are part of what makes the field so interesting and challenging. You can find more information in the philosophy books here on the varied positions and learn about the main subjects within the field. Metaphysics, epistemology, value theory, logic, math, and history of the field itself are all areas in philosophy with abundant information to read up on.