Philosophy Primer

What is Philosophy?

  • What is Philosophy?
    • Why study Philosophy?
  • What are the origins of Western Philosophy?
    • The Pre–Socratic Greek Philosophers
    • Socrates

What is not Philosophy?

  • Fallacious Arguments
  • Ad Hoc Stories
  • Arguments that require Special Pleading
  • Conspiracy Theories (see Skepticism Made Simple)
  • Pseudo–Science
  • Junk Philosophy

Major Branches of Philosophy

  • Metaphysics (Ontology)
    • The philosophy of reality. What is existence? What is real?
    • Why is there something rather than nothing? Is there a reality beyond what we can experience?
  • Epistemology
    • The philosophy of knowledge. What is knowledge? What are the different kinds of knowledge?
    • How do we know what we know? Do other people think like me? Could a robot think like me?
  • Philosophy of Mind
    • In the ancient and medieval world, this was the part of theological studies concered with the soul
    • Now, Phil. of Mind is concerned with consciousness, neuroscience, psychology, the mind–body problem, etc.
  • Ethics
    • Moral philosophy. How do we know right from wrong? On what do we base our moral claims?
    • Is there a framework we can build that could answer every ethical problem successfully?
  • Political Philosophy
    • How should we govern? What are rights and how should we decide between them (e.g. security vs. liberty?)
    • How do we define fairness, liberty, and justice? What should I give the state and what am I owed in return?
  • Social & Cultural Philosophy
    • As a society, why do we do the things we do? How might we do things better?
    • What are the roots of our social ideas? Why have our social ideas changed over time and place?
  • Aesthetics
    • The philosophy of art. What is beauty? Does art have a purpose and if so, what?
    • What can our tastes tell us about truth, our human limitations, and our perception of the world?
  • Logic
    • The foundation of all philosophy: the philosophy of true and valid reasoning. 
    • How does one make a reasonable claim?
    • How does one judge between the reasonableness of two different claims?
  • Natural philosophy (no longer used)
    • 1834: the philosophy of nature (using methodological naturalism) has been reorganized as Science
    • The endeavor of what is now called science can be traced back to Aristotle
    • Modern scientific methods can be traced back to the 1500s
    • Also, as of the 1960s there is a philosophy of science (if you will, the philosophy of natural philosophy)


Major Alternatives & Additions to the Ancient Greek Philosophical Tradition

  • African Philosophy
  • American Indian Philosophy
  • Ancient Eastern Philosophy
    • Philosophy in Ancient India
    • Buddhist Philosophy
    • The Political Philosophy of Confucius
    • Daoist Metaphysics
  • Western Philosophy & the Abrahamic Traditions