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312. Philosophy

See also 21. ARGUMENTATION ; 100. COSMOLOGY ; 104. CRITICISM ; 145. ETHICS ; 216. IDEAS ; 233. KNOWLEDGE ; 250. LOGIC ; 392. THEOLOGY ; 393. THINKING ; 402. TRUTH and ERROR ; 405. UNDERSTANDING ; 407. VALUES ; 422. WISDOM .

the philosophic doctrine that claims that events can or do occur without cause. accidentalist, n.
the doctrine that all reality is animate, in motion, or in process. actualist, n. actualistic, adj.
aesthetics, esthetics
a branch of philosophy dealing with beauty and the beautiful. aesthete, aesthetic, n., adj. aesthetical, adj.
reasoning deductively, from a generalization to particular events.
the science of the systemization of knowledge. See also 20. ARCHITECTURE ; 23. ART .
the study of virtue.
the philosophy of Aristotle, especially an emphasis upon formal deductive logic, upon the concept that reality is a combination of form and matter, and upon investigation of the concrete and particular. Aristotelian, n., adj.
the theory that minute, discrete, finite, and indivisible elements are the ultimate constituents of all matter. Also called atomic theory . atomist, n. atomistic, atomistical, adj.
Averroism, Averrhoism
the philosophy of Averroës, chiefly Aristotelianism tinged with Neoplatonism, asserting the unity of an active and divine intellect common to all while denying personal immortality. Averroist, Averrhoist, n. Averroistic, Averrhoistic, adj.
the philosophical theory of Jeremy Bentham that the morality of actions is estimated and determined by their utility and that pleasure and pain are both the ultimate Standard of right and wrong and the fundamental motives influencing human actions and wishes. Benthamite, n. Benthamic, adj.
the philosophy of Henri Bergson, emphasizing time or duration as the central f act of experience and asserting the existence of the élan vital as an original life force governing all organic processes in a way that can be explained only by intuition, not by scientific analysis. Bergsonian, n., adj.
the philosophy and beliefs of George Berkeley denying the existence of the real world. Berkeleian, n., adj.
the philosophy of René Descartes and his followers, especially its emphasis on logical analysis, its mechanistic interpretation of physical nature, and its dualistic distinction between thought (mind) and extension (matter). Cartesian, n., adj.
the principles and practices of universal causation.
commonsense realism
naive realism.
positivism, def. 1.
the doctrine that universals exist only in the mind. Cf. idealism. conceptualist, n. conceptualistic, adj.
the personal philosophy of Kwame Nkrumah (1909-72), president of Ghana (1960-66), devised and named by him.
the branch of philosophy that studies the origin, evolution, and structure of the universe, especially such characteristics as space, time, causality, and freedom. cosmologist, n. cosmologic, cosmological, adj.
a Greek philosophy of the 4th century B.C. advocating the doctrines that virtue is the only good, that the essence of virtue is self-control and individual freedom, and that surrender to any external influence is beneath the dignity of man. Cynic, n. Cynical, adj.
the principles of the school of the philosopher Aristippus of Cyrene. Cyrenaic, n. Cyrenean, Cyrenian, adj.
the doctrines of a school of philosophy emphasizing empiricism and positivism. Cf. transcendentalism. descendentalist, n. descendental, descendentalistic, adj.
1. the doctrine that all f acts and events result from the operation of natural laws.
2. the doctrine that all events, including human choices and decisions, are necessarily determined by motives, which are regarded as external forces acting on the will. Also called predeterminism . Cf. fatalism. determinist, n. deterministic, adj.
the compiling of extracts from ancient Greek philosophers, with editorial commentary. doxographer, n. doxographical, adj.
1. any theory in any field of philosophical investigation that reduces the variety of its subject matter to two irreducible principles, as good/evil or natural/supernatural.
2. Metaphysics. any system that reduces the whole universe to two principles, as the Platonic Ideas and Matter. Cf. monism, pluralism. dualist, n. dualistic, adj.
any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain natural phenomena by the action and interaction of forces, as mechanism or Leibnizianism. Cf. vitalism. dynamist, n. dynamistic, adj.
a doctrine denying the existence of a final cause or purpose in life or nature. Cf. teleology. dysteleologist, n. dysteleological, adj.
1. the use or advocacy of a method involving the selection of doctrines from various systems and their combination into a unified system of ideas.
2. such a system. eclectic, n., adj.
a school of philosophy founded by Parmenides and its doctrines, especially those contributed by Zeno (of Elea), asserting the unreality of motion or change. Eleatic, adj.
a theory of the origin of the world by a series of emanations from the Godhead. Also called emanatism . emanationist, n. emanational, adj.
1. the doctrine that all ideas and categories are derived from sense experience and that knowledge cannot extend beyond experience, including observation, experiment, and induction.
2. an empirical method or practice. empiricist, n. empirical, adj.
Vitalism. a vital agent or force directing growth and life. Cf. teleology. entelechial, adj.
the philosophical system of Epicurus, holding that the natural world is a series of fortuitous combinations of atoms, and that the highest good is f reedom from disturbance and pain. Also Epicurism. Epicurean, n., adj.
the doctrine that consciousness is a mere accessory and accompaniment of physiological processes and is powerless to affect these processes. epiphenomenalist, n. epiphenomenal, adj.
the branch of philosophy that studies the origin, nature, methods, validity, and limits of human knowledge. epistemologist, n. epistemic, epistemological, adj.
1. a philosophical theory asserting that metaphysical essences are real and intuitively accessible.
2. a philosophical theory giving priority to the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of something over its existence. Cf. existentialism. essentialist, n. essentialistic, adj.
ethical nihilism
the belief that there are no bases for establishing a moral or ethical philosophy. Cf. nihilism .
ethical relativism
the belief that morality is relative to the society where it exists and that its criticism and evaluation are irrelevant. Cf. relativism .
the branch of philosophy that considers the good, moral principles, and right action. ethicist, n. ethical, adj.
etiology, aetiology
the science of causation. etiologic, aetiologic, etiological, aetiological, adj.
1. the doctrine that man forms his essence in the course of the life resulting from his personal choices.
2. an emphasis upon mans creating his own nature as well as the importance of personal freedom, decision, and commitment. Also called philosophical existentialism . Cf. essentialism. existentialist, n., adj.
the philosophical theory that states that experience is the source of all knowledge. experientialist, n. experiential, adj.
the doctrine that all things are subject to fate or inevitable predestination and that man is ultimately unable to prevent inevitabilities. Cf. determinism. fatalist, n. fatalistic, adj.
theories and beliefs of J. G. Fichte, German philosopher and social thinker, a precursor of socialism. Fichtean, n., adj.
the doctrines of any of various dualistic sects among the Jews and the early Christians who claimed possession of superior spiritual knowledge, explained the creation of the world in an emanational manner, and condemned matter as evil. Gnostic, n., adj.
a theory maintaining that two seemingly conflicting notions are not radically opposed, but are part of a gradually altering continuity. gradualist, n., adj. gradualistic, adj.
theories and doctrines of Ernst Haeckel, German biologist and philosopher, especially the notion ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Haeckelian, adj.
Hegelian dialectic
an interpretive method, originally used to relate specific entities or events to the absolute idea, in which an assertable proposition (thesis) is necessarily opposed by its apparent contradiction (antithesis), and both reconciled on a higher level of truth by a third proposition (synthesis). Also called Hegelian triad .
the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and his followers, characterized by the use of a special dialectic as an analytical and interpretive method. See also Hegelian dialectic. Hegelian, n., adj.
Hermeticism, hermeticism
1. the ideas or beliefs set forth in the writings of Hermes Trismegistus.
2. adherence to these ideas and beliefs.
the philosophical beliefs of Thomas Hobbes, who maintained that an individual has the right to self-preservation and the pursuit of happiness. Hobbist, n. Hobbesian, adj.
the theory that whole entities, as fundamental components of reality, have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts. Cf. organicism. holist, n. holistic, adj.
1. Ethics. the doctrine that mans obligations are concerned wholly with the welfare of the human race.
2. Theology. the doctrine that man may achieve perfection without divine assistanee. humanitarian, n., adj.
hylicism, hylism
1. the materialist theories of the early Ionic philosophers. hylicist, n.
2. the doctrines concerning the lowest of three Gnostic orders of mankind, the material or fleshly, unsavable as sons of the devil. Cf. pneumatism, psychism.
3. the theory that regards matter as the principle of evil, as in dualistic theology or philosophy. hylic, adj.
the theory derived from Aristotle that every physical object is composed of two principles, an unchanging prime matter and a form deprived of actuality with every substantial change of the object. hylomorphist, n. hylomorphic, adj.
the essential substance or underlying nature or principle of a thing. hypostatic, hypostatical, adj.
1. a principle or proposition that is assumed for the sake of argument or that is taken for granted to proceed to the proof of the point in question.
2. a system or theory created to account for something that is not understood. hypothesist, hypothetist, n. hypothetic, hypothetical, adj.
any system or theory that maintains that the real is of the nature of thought or that the object of external perception consists of ideas. Cf. realism. idealist, n. idealistic, adj.
a theory or doctrine that the material world is wholly or nearly wholly an illusion. illusionist, n. illusionistic, adj.
the belief that material things have no objective existence but exist only as mental perceptions. immaterialist, n. immaterial, adj.
a view that admits no real difference between true and f alse in religion or philosophy; a form of agnosticism. See also 28. ATTITUDES . indifferentist, n.
a pragmatic philosophy holding that it is the function of thought to be a means to the control of environment, and that the value and truthfulness of ideas is determined by their usefulness in human experience or progress. instrumentalist, n., adj.
1. a theory that nonrational forces govern the universe.
2. any attitude or set of beliefs having a nonrational basis, as nihilism. irrationalist, n., adj. irrationalistic, adj.
the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant, asserting that the nature of the mind renders it unable to know reality immediately, that the mind interprets data presented to it as phenomena in space and time, and that the reason, in order to find a meaningful basis for experience or in order for ethical conduct to exist, may postulate things unknowable to it, as the existence of a soul. Kantist, n. Kantian, adj.
the view of a school of Roman Catholic casuists who maintained that any chance of liberty, however slight, should be foliowed. laxist, n.
Leibnizianism, Leibnitzianism
the philosophy of Gottfied Wilhelm von Leibniz and his followers, especially monadism and the theory of preestablished harmony, the theory that this is the best of all possible worlds because God has chosen it (satirized by Voltaire in Candide ), and proposals for a scientific language and a method of symbolic computation. Leib-nizian, Leibnitzian, n., adj.
1. one who advocates liberty, especially with regard to thought or conduct.
2. the philosophical doctrine of free will. Cf. necessitarianism, determinism, fatalism. libertarian, n., adj.
logical positivism
positivism, def. 2.
a philosophical system that places strong emphasis on logic.
the theory that regards matter and its various guises as constituting the universe, and all phenomena, including those of the mind, as caused by material agencies. materialist, n., adj. materialistic, adj.
1. the theory that everything in the universe is produced by matter in process, capable of explanation by the laws of chemistry and physics.
2. the theory that a natural process is machinelike or is explainable in terms of Newtonian mechanics. mechanist, n. mechanistic, adj.
the doctrine that the world tends to become better of itself, or that it may improve more rapidly by proper human assistance. Cf. optimism, pessimism. meliorist, n. melioristic, adj.
the doctrine that objects of knowledge have no existence except in the mind of the perceiver, as in Berkeleianism. mentalist, n. mentalistic, adj.
the study of ways of attaining happiness.
a branch of philosophy concerned with the foundations of ethics and especially with the definition of ethical terms and the nature of moral discourse.
the doctrine that knowledge of the Absolute is within human reach, but through a higher religious consciousness rather than by logical processes. metagnostic, adj.
a branch of philosophy concerned with being, first principles, and often including aspects of cosmology and epistemology. metaphysician, n. metaphysical, adj.
a concept believed to be beyond but related to empirically gained data. Also metempirics.
the philosophy of pessimism.
the doctrines of Mo-Tze, Chinese sage of the 5th century B.C., who advocated government by an absolute monarch and universal love. Mohist, n., adj.
1. the Leibnizian doctrine of monads as unextended, indivisible, and indestructible entities that are the ultimate constituent of the universe and a microcosm of it. Also called monadology .
2. the doctrine of Giordano Bruno concerning monads as basic and irreducible metaphysical units that are psychically and spatially individuated. monadistic, adj.
1. Metaphysics. a theory that only one basic substance or principle exists as the ground of reality. Cf. dualism, pluralism.
2. Metaphysics. a theory that reality consists of a single element. Cf. pluralism.
3. Epistemology. a theory that the object and the sense datum of cognition are identical. monist, n. monistic, monistical, adj.
the philosophic doctrine that claims that the soul is mortal. mortalist, n.
naive realism
the theory that the world is perceived exactly as it is. Also called natural realism, commonsense realism . Cf. idealism, realism.
the belief that the human brain is capable of spontaneous or innate ideas. See also 169. FOREIGNERS . nativist, n. nativistic, adj.
natural realism
naive realism.
the doctrine of the determinism of the will by antecedent causes, as opposed to that of the f reedom of the will. Also called necessarianism . Cf. determinism, fatalism, libertarianism. necessitarian, n., adj.
any system of thought opposed to positivism; doctrines based upon doubt and skepticism. negativist, n., adj. negativistic, adj.
Neoplatonism, Neo-Platonism
a philosophical system originated in Alexandria in the 3rd century A.D., founded on Platonic doctrine, Aristotelianism, and Oriental mysticism, with later influences from Christianity. Neoplatonist, n. Neoplatonic, adj.
the neo-scholastic philosophy closely related to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. neo-Thomist, n.
the philosophy of Nietzsche, especially its emphasis on the will to power as the chief motivating force of both the individual and society. Also called Nietzscheanism . Nietzschean, n., adj.
the belief that existence is not real and that there can be no objective basis of truth, a form of extreme skepticism. Cf. ethical nihilism. nihilist, n., adj.
Medieval Philosophy. the doctrine that abstract words or universals do not represent objectively existing entities, and that universals are only names applied to individual physical particulars that alone exist objectively. nominalist, n., adj. nominalistic, adj.
any of several philosophical concepts regarding the noumenon. noumenalist, n., adj.
noumenon Kantianism.
1. that which can be the object only of a purely intellectual, nonsensuous intuition, the thing-in-itself (Ding an Sich ).
2. an unknowable object (as God), the existence of which is not capable of proof. noumenal, adj.
1. any of various philosophical theories stressing the external or objective elements of cognition.
2. Ethics. any theory asserting that the moral good is objective and not influenced by human feelings. objectivist, n., adj.
the Cartesian philosophic doctrine that holds that mind and matter are incapable of affecting each other and that their reciprocal action must be owing to the intervention of God. occasionalist, n. occasionalistic, adj.
adherence to oligarchy as a principle. oligarchist, n.
philosophical inquiry into the nature of being itself, a branch of metaphysics. ontologist, n. ontologie, ontological, ontologistic, adj.
the idea that the concepts used in nonanalytical scientific statements must be deflnable in relation to identiflable operations. operationist, n. operationistic, adj.
1. the belief that good is ultimately triumphant over the evil in the world.
2. the Leibnizian doctrine that this is the best of all possible worlds.
3. the belief that goodness pervades reality. Cf. meliorism, pessimism. optimist, n. optimistic, adj.
the theory that vital activities stem not from any single part of an organism but from its autonomous composition. Cf. holism, mechanism, vitalism. organicist, n. organicistic, adj.
a method or means for communicating knowledge or for philosophical inquiry.
the doctrines developed or ascribed to the 3rd-century Christian theologian Origen, especially an attempt to develop a Christian philosophy combining Platonism and the Scriptures. Origenist, n. Origenistic, adj.
the doctrine that material nature is the source of all phenomena. pamphysicism, adj.
the theory that all matter has some consciousness.
1. the doctrine that the universe is a realization or act of the Logos.
2. the Hegelian doctrine that logos or reason informs the absolute or absolute reality. panlogist, n. panlogical, panlogistic, panlogistical, adj.
the doctrine that each object in the universe has a mind or an unconscious psyche and that all physical occurrences involve the mental. panpsychist, n. panpsychistic, adj.
the philosophical theory of Arthur Schopenhauer, who maintained that the ultimate reality of the universe is will.
the theory that mind and matter accompany each other but are not causally related.
the doctrine of the effects on the mind of pleasure and pain.
1. the philosophy of Aristotle, who taught while walking.
2. the followers of Aristotle and his school of philosophy. Peripatetic, n., adj.
1. the doctrine that all things naturally tend to evil.
2. the doctrine that this is the worst of all possible worlds. Cf. Leibnizianism.
3. the doctrine that the evil and pain in the world outweigh goodness and happiness, and that the world is basically evil. Cf. meliorism, optimism. pessimist, n. pessimistic, adj.
the mental image or representation of a real person or thing. See also 182. GHOSTS ; 309. PERCEPTION .
the doctrine that phenomena are the only objects of knowledge or the only form of reality. phenomenalist, n. phenomenalistic, adj.
1. the study of phenomena.
2. the philosophical system of Edmund Husserl and his followers, especially the careful description of phenomena in all areas of experience. phenomenologist, n. phenomenologic, phenomenological, adj.
a spurious philosophic argument. philosophist, n., adj.
a doctrine, related to logical positivism, that all meaningful statements, with the exception of necessary statements of logic and mathematics, must relate either directly or indirectly to observable properties of the temporal. physicalist, n., adj.
the philosophy of Plato and his followers, especially the doctrine that physical objects are imperfect and impermanent representations of unchanging ideas, and that knowledge is the mental apprehension of these ideas or universals. Platonist, n., adj. Platonistic, adj.
1. a theory positing more than one principle or basic substance as the ground of reality. Cf. dualism, monism .
2. a theory that reality consists, not of an organic whole, but of two or more independent material or spiritual entities. pluralist, n. pluralistic, adj.
the doctrines concerning the highest of three Gnostic orders of mankind, those who have received spiritual gifts and are therefore by nature capable of salvation. Cf. hylicism, psychism.
1. a philosophical system developed by Auguste Comte, concerned with positive facts and phenomena, the flrst verifled by the methods of the empirical sciences, the second explainable by scientific laws. Also called Comtism .
2. a contemporary philosophical movement stressing the task of philosophy as criticizing and analyzing science, and rejecting all transcendental metaphysics. Also called logical positivism . positivist, n. positivistic, adj.
a philosophical system stressing practical consequences and values as standards by which the validity of concepts are to be determined. pragmatist, n., adj. pragmatistic, adj.
the pragmatist philosophy of C. S. Peirce, especially his work in logic and problems in language. pragmaticist, n.
the doctrine, introduced by the Skeptics and influential in the seiences and social sciences in modified form, that certainty is impossible and that probability suffices to govern belief and action. probabilist, n. probabilistic, adj.
a doctrine of philosophy that is prudential.
Rare. a false, sham, or foolish philosopher.
the doctrines concerning the second of three Gnostic orders of mankind, those endowed with souls and free wills, savable through the right use of the latter. Cf. hylicism, pneumatism .
any of various theories of nature or of animal and human behavior based upon teleological doctrines. purposivist, n.
1. the Skeptic doctrines of Pyrrho and his followers, especially the assertion that, since all perceptions tend to be faulty, the wise man will consider the external circumstances of life to be unimportant and thus preserve tranquility.
2. extreme or absolute skepticism. Cf. Skepticism. Pyrrhonist, n. Pyrrhonian, Pyrrhonic, n., adj.
the essential nature or quality of something that makes it different and distinct from other things and establishes its identity. quidditative, adj.
Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. the fifth essence, of which the heavenly bodies were thought to be made, distinguished from the four elements of ure, air, water, and earth; hence, the most pure essence or most perfect embodiment of a thing or being. quintessential, adj.
a nice or fine point, as in argument; a subtlety. quodlibetal, adj.
a person who likes to talk about or dispute fine points or quodlibets.
the doctrines of Pierre de la Ramée (Ramus), who opposed scholasticism and the dialectics of Aristotle. Ramist, n., adj.
1. the doctrine that knowledge is gained only through the reason, a faculty independent of experience.
2. the doctrine that all knowledge is expressible in self-evident propositions or their consequences. rationalist, n. rationalistic, adj.
1. the doctrine that universals have a real objective existence. Cf. idealism.
2. the doctrine that objects of sense perception have an existence independent of the act of perception. realist, n.
1. a doctrine asserting the existence of relations as entities.
2. a theory maintaining the conditioning of any ideological perspective or system by its sociocultural context. relationist, n.
any theory maintaining that criteria of judgment vary with individuals and their environments; relationism. Cf. ethical relativism. relativist, n. relativistic, adj.
the philosophy that advocates restriction and restraint, as in trade dealings. restrictionist, n., adj.
the philosophy of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, 19th-century Italian philosopher and ecclesiastic, who taught that the idea of true being is inborn and that through it true knowledge is made potential. Rosminian, n., adj.
the philosophy of idealism, as set forth by F. W. J. von Schelling.
the representation in outline of a particular systematic arrangement or of a particular concept. schematist, n.
a head of a school, especially the head of one of the ancient Athenian schools of philosophy.
the doctrines of the schoolmen; the system of theological and philosophical instruction of the Middle Ages, based chiefly upon the authority of the church fathers and on Aristotle and his commentators. Scholastic, n., adj.
the philosophy of John Duns Scotus, medieval Scholastic, especially his proposal that philosophy and theology be made separate disciplines. Scotist, n. Scotistic, Scotistical, adj.
1. the doctrine that all ideas are derived from and essentially reducible to sense perceptions. Also called sensuism .
2. Ethics. the doctrine that the good is to be judged only by or through the gratification of the senses. Also called sensualism . See also 145. ETHICS ; 248. LITERARY STYLE ; 265. MEDIA . sensationalist, n. sensationalistic, adj.
sensationalism, def. 2.
sensationalism, def. 1.
any philosophy that derives the universe from one principle.
Skepticism, Scepticism
the doctrines or opinions of philosophical Skeptics, especially the doctrine that a true knowledge of things is impossible or that all knowledge is uncertain. Cf. Pyrrhonism. Skeptic, Sceptic, n.
Soeraticism, Soeratism
some aspect of Socrates philosophy.
the theory that only the self exists or can be proved to exist. Also called panegoism . solipsist, n. solipsistic, adj.
1. the teachings and ways of teaching of the ancient Greek sophists.
2. subtle, superficially plausible, but actually specious or fallacious reasoning, as was sometimes used by the sophists.
the state or quality of appearing to be greater or more than is to be found on a close examination, as an argument that has the appearance of merit but does not stand up to a close look. speeious, adj.
the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, who maintained that only thought and extension are capable of being apprehended by the human mind. Spinozist, n. Spinozistic, adj.
the school of philosophy founded by Zeno (of Citium), who asserted that men should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity. Stoic, n., adj.
1. Epistemology. the doctrine that all knowledge is limited to experiences by the self and that all transcendent knowledge is impossible.
2. Ethics. the theory that certain states of feeling or thought are the highest good.
3. Ethics. the doctrine that the good and the right can be distinguished only by individual feeling. subjectivist, n. subjectivistic, adj.
the attempted reconciliation of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion. syncretic, syncretical, syncretistic, syncretistical, adj.
the process of deductive reasoning, as from cause to effect, from the simple elements to the complex whole, etc. See also 230. JOINING . synthesist, n. synthetic, synthetical adj.
the principles or practice of synthesis or synthetic methods or techniques.
a person who practices or believes in synthetic methods or principles.
1. the doctrine that final causes (purposes) exist.
2. the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature.
3. such a design or purpose.
4. the belief that purpose and design are a part of or apparent in nature.
5. Vitalism. the doctrine that phenomena are guided by both mechanical forces and goals of self-realization. Cf. entelechy. teleologist, n. teleologie, teleological, adj.
the philosophical doctrine that emphasizes the ultimate reality of time instead of the reduction of time to a manifestation of the eternal. temporalist, n. temporalistic, adj.
the belief that God has set a term for the probation of individuals during which time they are offered grace. terminist, n.
the theological and philosophical doctrines of St. Thomas Aquinas and his followers. Thomist, n. Thomistic, adj.
1. any philosophy based upon the doctrine that the principles of reality are to be discovered only through the analysis of the processes of thought, as Kantianism.
2. a philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical, as the philosophy of Emerson. Cf. descendentalism. transcendentalist, n. transcendentalistic, adj.
Casuistry. a position in the probabilistic controversy of the 16th and 17th centuries maintaining that, in the absence of moral certitude, only the most rigorous of any probable courses of ethical action should be taken. Also called rigorism . tutiorist, n.
the philosophical tenets set forth by John Stuart Mill based on the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number and holding that the criterion of virtue lies in its utility. utilitarian, n., adj.
1. the doctrine that phenomena are only partly controlled by mechanical forces and are in some measure self-determining. Cf. mechanism, organicism.
2. the doctrine that ascribes the functions of a living organism to a vital principle (as élan vital) distinct from physical or chemical forces. Cf. dynamism. vitalist, n., adj. vitalistic, adj.
any theory that regards the will rather than the intellect as the fundamental agency or principle in human activities and experience, as Nietzscheism. voluntarist, n. voluntaristic, adj.

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PHILOSOPHY. In the sixteenth century, "philosophy" still meant Aristotelianism in its medieval Christian form, with Platonism and other ancient doctrines, including stoicism, Epicureanism, skepticism, eclecticism, and various occult traditions, remaining on the academic margins, though they were becoming lively topics of intellectual controversy. Philosophical practice of the period was increasingly devoted to the comparative study of these systems. Opposing these dogmatic (or skeptical) traditions, however, was the novel and unorthodox question posed by Tommaso Campanella (15681639), "whether it is useful for Christian philosophy to construct a new philosophy after that of the pagans, and if so, on what grounds." This was a challenge taken up by a number of fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century thinkers, including Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and other Neoplatonists; Lorenzo Valla, Desiderius Erasmus, and other humanists; Rudolphus Agricola, Petrus Ramus, and other reformers of rhetoric and logic; Jacopo Zabarella, Giordano Bruno, and other Italian natural philosophers; and Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and other champions of the "party of nature" and a self-proclaimed "new philosophy."

The study of these and other philosophical movements beyond the academic mainstream has been pursued in the past two generations, especially by Paul Oskar Kristeller and his students. This has opened up new perspectives on the history of Western thought, even though the older traditionswhich tend to jump from the medieval theologian-philosopher Thomas Aquinas (1224/12251274) and Scholasticism directly to Descartes (15961650), the French rationalist and metaphysician, and other seventeenth-century system buildershave remained dominant in the modern philosophical canon.


According to convention, modern philosophy begins with Descartes and the English empiricist and philosopher of science Francis Bacon (15611626), pivotal figures who broke decisively with the intellectual system of the late medieval world and helped to articulate a new agenda for philosophy. This simplifies a complex story, as medieval philosophy gave way to early modern systems of thought slowly, across several generations. But Bacon and Descartes indeed helped to usher in a revolutionary period in philosophy, with upheavals in crucial areas such as epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, ethics, and political philosophy.

At the start of the seventeenth century, the presumptive authority of time-tested ancient thinkers, particularly the towering figure of Aristotle (384322 b.c.e.), still carried great weight in philosophy and the sciences. The overwhelmingly dominant philosophical system, firmly entrenched in the universities, was Aristotelian Scholasticism, a synthesis of Aristotle's philosophy with Christian doctrine that had been forged by Aquinas. But modern philosophers such as Bacon and Descartes rejected this traditional deference toward Aristotle and other ancient figures of authority and broke with the Scholastic system. The decline in respect for traditional philosophical authorities had various sources. The religious crises of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation had shaken the presumption in favor of tradition, opening space for a more assertive questioning of received doctrine. Humanist scholars had unearthed and reintroduced lost systems of thought, such as ancient Greek atomism and classical skepticism, that presented alternatives to the theories of Aristotle, encouraging critical debate on the merits of all these competing systems. Developments in Renaissance science and the burgeoning scientific revolution were also exposing the fallibility of Aristotelian physics and cosmology. While Scholastic philosophy continued to dominate the universities through the seventeenth century, the main developments in modern philosophy came from thinkers operating outside of this old establishment, usually men of independent means or supported by aristocratic patronage rather than a professor's salary. These philosophers typically addressed their works to the educated classes more broadly and wrote in the vernacular rather than the Latin of Scholastic academia.

In practice the break with the Scholastic intellectual system helped to reestablish philosophy as an autonomous discipline outside of theology. While most of the leading early modern philosophers were religious believers who sought to develop philosophical theories consistent with their religious commitments, nevertheless there was a marked shift toward the scientific study of human nature and the physical world, unmediated by an explicit emphasis on theological doctrine. The trend toward secularization encompassed even ethics and political philosophy, with philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes (15881679), David Hume (17111776), and Immanuel Kant (17241804) founding moral and political principles on reason or human nature, rather than the commands of God. (This "secularization thesis" is also part of the conventional story of modern philosophy, but it has been challenged by some recent scholars, most notably Hans Blumenberg.)


The agenda of early modern philosophy was closely connected with the new scientific worldview pioneered by figures such as Galileo (15641642), Kepler (15711630), and Newton (16421727). Bacon, Descartes, and the philosophers who followed them were gripped by the explanatory range and power of the new science and were concerned to articulate, codify, and defend its methods and to explore its implications for metaphysics and epistemology. Several philosophers of the period were involved firsthand in the practice of science: leading examples include Descartes and the German philosophers Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (16461716) and Kant. Early modern philosophers would also self-consciously import the experimental method of the new science into the realm of philosophy, as in the theories of mind developed by the British empiricists John Locke (16321704) and Hume.

The new scientific worldview brought a fresh range of philosophical questions to the fore. First, there were questions concerning scientific method (a particular interest of Bacon, Locke, and Hume). How could inductive extrapolation from observed phenomena to unobserved cases be justified? Would science ever show us the inner essence of things and explain their underlying causal powers, or was it limited to merely cataloging correlations and patterns among surface phenomena? Then there were the metaphysical questions. What did the success of the new mathematical, quantitative models of nature show us about the relationship between mathematics on the one hand and empirical reality on the other? In what sense were subjective features of experience like colors and sounds part of the material world? And, most pressingly, what was the status of human beings in the scientific world picture? Was there still room for free will, morality, religion, and the human soul in the vast, cold, deterministic world of the new mathematical sciences?


Early modern philosophy is justly famous for its reorientation toward epistemology, or the theory of knowledge. The examination of the processes by which we arrive at and justify knowledge claims took on a new primacy in the period, as philosophers such as Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Hume, and Kant each in their own way urged the importance of clarifying the nature and limits of our own cognitive faculties. Apart from the general wisdom of examining the sources and justifiability of our beliefs before boldly advancing theories on subjects that may exceed our capacities, the new emphasis on epistemology had several more immediate motivations. It was connected to the collapse in the prestige of traditional sources of authority such as Aristotle and church doctrine. If ancient authorities no longer commanded automatic deference, then whoor whatshould a responsible thinker take as a legitimate source of knowledge? It was also related to the questions of method and scientific procedure raised by the achievements of the new science. Most famously, it was prompted by the skeptical onslaught of figures like Michel de Montaigne (15331592), the great French essayist and popularizer of ancient forms of skepticism, who argued that all the bases of our so-called knowledge are inadequate.

It is customary to distinguish between two main factions in early modern epistemology: the empiricists on the one hand and the rationalists on the other. The distinction can be overemphasized at the risk of falsely caricaturing the rationalists as hostile to empirical investigation, or of obscuring a complex pattern of intellectual influences back and forth between the two groups. Nevertheless the distinction does capture an important difference in approaches to the theory of knowledge. The empiricistsled by Bacon, Locke, and Humeargued that all our ideas are ultimately acquired in experience, and that the limits of experience set boundaries on our knowledge. The empiricist thus counsels a certain humility: our knowledge is forever limited to the patterns and regularities we witness among the empirically observable features of the world; metaphysical speculation about the inner nature of things transcends our capacities. By contrast, the rationalistsled by Descartes, the Dutch Jewish metaphysician Baruch Spinoza (16321677), and Leibnizargued that our minds are innately furnished with certain ideas over and above those we acquire in experience. Using these innate ideas we can reason about things transcending experience. For the rationalist, this explains how we can have knowledge that goes beyond all possible empirical confirmation, either because of its universal nature (logic, mathematics, knowledge of the laws of nature) or because of its transcendent subject matter (God, the soul, morality).


Early modern philosophers explored a wide range of issues in metaphysics (the study of the ultimate nature of reality), including, notably, problems of space and time, causation, the ultimate structure of matter, the nature of morality, and God. However, the most characteristic metaphysical questions of the period focus on the connection between the human mind or soul on the one hand and the physical world on the other. Clearly these issues were related to the epistemological turn, and in particular to Descartes's famous skeptical problem of how we can know that there is a physical realm beyond our minds at all. But such questions were also forced by reflection on the new scientific worldview. Advocates of the new science such as Galileo and Descartes argued that the objective, mind-independent world described by science could be exhaustively characterized in terms of mathematically tractable "primary" qualities such as shape, size, and motion. "Secondary" qualities such as colors, tastes, sounds, and smells were then downgraded to a derivative status and were in some sense observer-relative and mind-dependent, more a feature of subjective experience than ultimate objective reality. This distinction had great appeal for most early moderns, but it would be challenged by figures such as the Irish cleric George Berkeley (16851753), Hume, and Kant, who pointed out that a clear distinction between mind-dependent and mind-independent properties is not so easy to draw. Kant argued that even space and time were mind-dependent or "ideal." For Berkeley the notion of any mind-independent reality whatsoever was fundamentally incoherent: all that exists are minds and their ideas.

Granted the existence of an objective material realm, the next question concerned the relationship between the mind and the physical body. Descartes developed the popular theory that the mind is an immaterial soul-substance over and above the material brain, arguing that this helped to explain the existence of consciousness and made room both for an afterlife beyond bodily death and for free will (as well as moral responsibility) outside the deterministic laws governing the material order. But others thought the theory raised more problems than it solved, including difficulties in accounting for the causal interaction between immaterial soul and material body. Materialists such as Hobbes and Spinoza insisted that the human animal, mind included, was just a complex material system; others such as Locke counseled a metaphysical agnosticism about the ultimate nature of the thinking self.


The medieval church and the Scholastic tradition had located the source of political legitimacy in implicit divine approval of established dynasties, a conservative doctrine that left little room for individual rights against the monarch or for systems of popular sovereignty. Leading Protestant theologians such as Martin Luther (14831546) reaffirmed the doctrine of divine right, although some of the more radical Anabaptist reformers preached against it. The main philosophical revolt against this medieval tradition came with the social contract theorists: the Dutch legal scholar and philosopher Hugo Grotius (15831645), Hobbes, Locke, and the Swiss-born social theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778). These figures posited a hypothetical "state of nature" without government to explore the basic rights of the individual, and they argued that legitimate state authority was ultimately derived from such foundational individual rights, transferred conditionally through popular (though perhaps implicit) consent. The corollary was that individuals retained certain inalienable rights against government, that state authority was in some (perhaps quite attenuated) sense contingent on popular consent, and that regimes in breach of the implicit contract were illegitimate and could be justly overthrown. Locke would extend the contract theory to argue for religious toleration (although Catholics and atheists were excluded as beyond the pale) on the basis of natural rights, adding arguments premised on general empiricist epistemic humility and on the involuntary nature of religious belief. Conservatives such as Hume and Edmund Burke (17291797) attacked the contract theory, arguing that there was in fact no popular consent; the foundation of natural rights was metaphysically dubious; and the doctrine threatened to destabilize the ancient political settlements that secured peace and civic order.

In the international arena the Florentine diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli (14691527) notoriously endorsed realism, the harsh doctrine that there are no moral constraints governing relations between distinct states. Here he was followed by Hobbes, a skeptic about political morality in the absence of an overarching sovereign power to coercively enforce duties. Opponents of realism included Grotius, who developed a substantial system of international law and moral precepts on the basis of treaty, and Kant, who argued that reason prescribed a universal political morality transcending national jurisdictions and advocated the creation of a "league of nations" to enforce international law.

See also Aristotelianism ; Bacon, Francis ; Berkeley, George ; Bruno, Giordano ; Burke, Edmund ; Descartes, René ; Empiricism ; Enlightenment ; Epistemology ; Erasmus, Desiderius ; Free Will ; Galileo Galilei ; Grotius, Hugo ; Hobbes, Thomas ; Hume, David ; Idealism ; Kant, Immanuel ; Kepler, Johannes ; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm ; Locke, John ; Logic ; Machiavelli, Niccolò ; Montaigne, Michel de ; Moral Philosophy and Ethics ; Nature ; Neoplatonism ; Newton, Isaac ; Political Philosophy ; Ramus, Petrus ; Renaissance ; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques ; Scholasticism ; Scientific Revolution ; Skepticism, Academic and Pyrrhonian ; Spinoza, Baruch ; Stoicism .


Primary Sources

Bacon, Francis. Selected Philosophical Works. Edited by Rose-Mary Sargent. Indianapolis, 1999.

Berkeley, George. Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Edited by Jonathan Dancy. Oxford and New York, 1998.

. A Treatise Concerning the Principle of Human Knowledge. Edited by Jonathan Dancy. Oxford and New York, 1997.

Descartes, René. Selected Philosophical Writings. Translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch. Cambridge, U.K., 1988.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford and New York, 1999.

. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. Edited by Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford and New York, 1998.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis, 1996. Translation of Kritik der reinen Vernuft (1781/1787).

. Ethical Philosophy: The Complete Texts of Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals and Metaphysical Principles of Virtue, Part II of the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated by James W. Ellington. Indianapolis, 1993. Includes a translation of Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (1785).

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. Philosophical Essays. Translated and edited by Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber. Indianapolis, 1989.

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by Peter H. Nidditch. Oxford, 1975.

Spinoza, Baruch. A Spinoza Reader. Edited and translated by Edwin Curley. Princeton, 1994.

Secondary Sources

Ayers, Michael, and Daniel Garber, eds. The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1998. This collection of essays supplies impressive historical detail and covers many neglected figures from the period. It is extremely helpful for those already fairly familiar with the outlines of early modern philosophy, but perhaps a little overwhelming for the beginner.

Blumenberg, Hans. The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. Translated by Robert M. Wallace. Cambridge, Mass., 1983.

Chappell, Vere, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1994.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy. 9 vols. New York, 19531963. Superseded in parts by recent scholarship, but still a classic survey. Volume 3 covers the Renaissance up to Bacon; volume 4 covers the rationalists Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; volume 5 covers the British empiricists from Hobbes through Hume; and volume 6 covers the French Enlightenment and Kant.

Cottingham, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1992.

Cropsey, Joseph, and Leo Strauss, eds. History of Political Philosophy. 3rd ed. Chicago, 1987.

Garrett, Don, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1996.

Guyer, Paul, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kant. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1992.

Jolley, Nicholas. Locke: His Philosophical Thought. Oxford and New York, 1999.

Loeb, Louis E. From Descartes to Hume: Continental Metaphysics and the Development of Modern Philosophy. Ithaca, N.Y., 1981. Presupposing some basic knowledge of standard approaches to the history of early modern philosophy, Loeb criticizes the traditional distinction drawn between the rationalists and the empiricists.

Norton, David Fate, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hume. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1993.

Thomas Holden

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PHILOSOPHY in America has encompassed more or less systematic writing about the point of our existence and our ability to understand the world of which we are a part. These concerns are recognizable in the questions that thinkers have asked in successive eras and in the connections between the questions of one era and another. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, theologians asked: What was the individual's relation to an inscrutable God? How could human autonomy be preserved, if the deity were omnipotent? After the English naturalist Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, philosophers asked: How could human freedom and our sense of the world's design be compatible with our status as biological entities? Early in the twentieth century academic thinkers wanted to know: If we were biological organisms, enmeshed in a causal universe, how could we come to have knowledge of this universe? How could mind escape the limits set by causal mechanisms? By the second half of the twentieth century, professional philosophers often assumed that we were of the natural world but simultaneously presupposed that knowledge demanded a transcendence of the natural. They then asked: How was knowledge possible? What were the alternatives to having knowledge?

Much philosophical exchange existed across national boundaries, and it is not clear that anything unique characterizes American thought. Nonetheless, standard features of philosophy in this country stand out. In the period before the Revolutionary War, thinkers often looked at the "new learning" of Europe with distaste, and the greater religious coloration of American thought resulted from self-conscious attempts to purge thinking of the evils of the Old World. In the nineteenth century the close association of thinkers in Scotland and America revealed both their dislike of England and their sense of inferiority as its intellectual provinces. In the twentieth century the strength and freedom of the United States, especially in the period of Nazi dominance, made America an attractive destination for European intellectuals and dramatically altered philosophy at home. During the period of the Vietnam War suspicion of the United States also affected thought.

From the middle of the eighteenth century American thinkers have been attracted to idealism, that speculative view that existence is essentially mental. The position of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, that the physical world did not transcend consciousness, or of objective or absolute idealism, that the world was an aspect of an absolute mind, has repeatedly been formulated as a viable option. Thinkers have also enunciated communitarian idealism—that one or another aggregate of finite minds defines reality. But there has been a long circuitous march from a religious to a secular vision of the universe. In America this march has taken a longer time than in other Western cultures. One might presume that the march would diminish the role of the mental, a term often a step away from the spiritual or religious. But despite the growing emphasis on the nonreligious, the deference to one or another kind of idealism has meant in America that realism—the view that physical objects at least exist independently of mind—has often been on the defensive, although a constant option. The eccentric journey away from religion has meant the relatively slow growth of what is often thought to be realism's cousin, materialism—that monistic position opposed to idealism, stipulating that the mental world can be reduced to the physical. More to the point, idealism and a defense of science have often coincided. Philosophers have regularly conceded that scientific investigation could easily but erroneously combine with materialism, but they have usually argued that only some sort of idealism can preserve scientific priorities. The varieties of idealism have also been characterized by a strong voluntaristic component: the will, volition, and the propensity to act have been crucial in defining the mental or the conscious.

The Era of Jonathan Edwards

In the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century, people in America known formally as philosophers were part of a wider dialogue that had three major components. Most important were parish ministers, primarily in New England, who wrote on theology and participated in a conversation that embraced a religious elite in England and Scotland, and later Germany. These clerics expounded varieties of Calvinist Protestantism. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was the most influential and talented member of this ministerial group, which later included Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882). But the latter two lived at a time when such thinkers were deserting their congregations and turning away from traditional Protestant doctrine.

The second major component of American speculative thought was located in the seminaries that grew up

in the Northeast, the South, and the old Midwest throughout the nineteenth century. These institutions, often independent entities not connected to American colleges, were—aside from law and medical schools—the only places where an aspiring young man could receive instruction beyond what an undergraduate received; they arose to train a professional ministry. The specialists in theology at these centers gradually took over the role played by the more erudite ministry. Leonard Woods (1774–1854) of Andover Theological Seminary, Henry Ware (1764–1845) of the Harvard Divinity School, Nathaniel William Taylor (1786–1858) of the Yale Divinity School, Charles Hodge (1797–1878) of the Princeton Theological Seminary, and Edwards Amasa Park (1808–1900) of Andover belong to this cadre. Among these institutions Yale was primary.

The divinity school theologians had the major power base in the nineteenth century. They trained the ministers and controlled much learned publication. Their outlook tended to be more narrow and sectarian than that of those speculators who were not professors of divinity, but it is difficult to argue that they were not the intellectual equals of those outside the divinity schools.

A final group were actually known as philosophers; they were the holders of chairs in mental, moral, or intellectual philosophy in the American colleges of the nineteenth century. Their function was to support theoretically the more clearly religious concerns of the divinity school theologians and the most serious ministers on the hustings. The philosophers were inevitably ministers and committed Protestants themselves, but in addition to showing that reason was congruent with faith, they also wrote on the grounds of the social order and politics and commented on the affairs of the world. Frequently the presidents of their institutions, they had captive student audiences and easy access to publication. Worthies here include Francis Bowen (1811–1890) of Harvard, James McCosh (1811–1894) of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), and Noah Porter (1811–1892) of Yale, again the leading educator of philosophical students.

This philosophical component of the speculative tradition was provincial. Until after the Civil War, the American college was a small, sleepy institution, peripheral to the life of the nation. It leaders, including philosophers, participated in the shaping of public discourse but were generally undistinguished. Their libraries were inadequate, their education mediocre, and the literary culture in which they lived sentimental and unsophisticated. Europe barely recognized these philosophers, except when they went there to study. Yet the philosophers found senior partners in transatlantic conversations and were on an intellectual par with American clergymen and divinity school theologians.

The intersecting dialogues among amateurs, divinity school theologians, and college philosophers focused on the ideas of Edwards, expressed in works like his Religious Affections (1746) and Freedom of the Will (1754). His ruminations

on the moral responsibility of the solitary person confronting a sometimes angry, at least mysterious, deity controlled subsequent thinking, which tended to emphasize a priori deliberation about the fate of the individual soul. Indeed, the founding fathers of the Revolutionary and Constitutional period—men like Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), James Madison (1751–1836), Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804), and John Adams (1735–1826)—were rarely considered philosophers. They had denigrated the study of theology, made politics primary, and grounded their thought in history and experience.


In the last third of the nineteenth century the work of Darwin dealt a body blow to the religious orientation of American speculative endeavors. The primacy of divinity schools in the scholarly world ended, and the explicit Christian thought that governed intellectual life all but disappeared. At the same time, in the space of thirty years, many old American colleges were transformed into large,

internationally recognized centers of learning, while new public and private universities commanded national attention. Students who a generation earlier would have sought "graduate" training in Europe, especially Germany, or in an American seminary, would by 1900 attend a postbaccalaureate program in an American university to obtain the Ph.D., the doctoral degree. Many of these students now found in philosophy what previously had been sought in the ministry or theological education. Those who, in the nineteenth century, had been a creative force outside the system of the divinity schools and the colleges, vanished as professional philosophers took their place.

Among the first generation of university thinkers from 1865 to 1895, philosophical idealism was the consensus. At the end of the nineteenth century, one form of idealism—pragmatism—came to dominate the discourse of these thinkers. Pragmatism won out not only because its proponents were competent and well placed but also because they showed the philosophy's compatibility with the natural and social sciences and with human effort in the modern, secular world. A rich and ambiguous set of commitments, pragmatism associated mind with action and investigated the problems of knowledge through the practices of inquiry, tinting the physical world with intelligence and a modest teleology. Knowledge of the world was ascertainable, but the pragmatists did not define it as the intuitive grasp of a preexisting external object. Knowledge was rather our ability to adjust to an only semi hospitable environment. Beliefs were modes of action and true if they survived; experience competitively tested them. The pragmatists used Darwinian concepts in the service of philosophy. Nonetheless, at another level, pragmatism's use of Darwin permitted the reinstatement, in a chastened fashion, of beliefs that were religious if not Protestant. Pragmatists emphasized the way that ideas actually established themselves in communities of investigators and what their acceptance meant. If beliefs about the spiritual prospered, they were also true. In part, the world was what human beings collectively made of it. When most influential, pragmatism was a form of communitarian idealism.

There were two main variants of pragmatism. One was associated with Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts (a tradition that eventually extended to the end of the twentieth century). It included Charles Peirce (1839–1914), William James (1842–1910), Josiah Royce (1855–1916), and later C. I. Lewis (1883–1964), Nelson Goodman (1906–1998), W. V. Quine (1908–2000), Thomas Kuhn (1922–1996), and Hilary Putnam (1926–). This group of thinkers made mathematics, logic, and the physical sciences the model of inquiry, although William James, the most influential of them, famously held that science and religion were similarly justified and could each be defended.

The second variant of pragmatism was called "instrumentalism" by its leading light, John Dewey (1859–1952). Dewey's vision inspired a school of thinkers at the University of Chicago, where he taught in the 1890s, and shaped the intellectual life of New York City and its universities—New York University, City College of New York, the New School for Social Research, and Columbia—after he moved to Columbia in 1904. Instrumentalism in Chicago and New York took the social sciences as the model of inquiry and, especially in the person of Dewey, was far more interested in social and political issues than the pragmatism of Harvard.

While the philosophers in this period wrote for their own learned journals, they also contributed to the leading non-religious journals of opinion such as The Nation and The New Republic. Through the first third of the twentieth century, philosophy rationalized the work of the scholarly disciplines that promised solutions to the problems of life for which religion had previously offered only consolation. Public speaking went from ministerial exhortation to normative social-science reformism. This mix of the popular and the professorial in what is called the "golden age" of philosophy in America extended from the 1890s until Dewey's retirement in 1929. It gave philosophy its

greatest influence and public import and produced a series of notable works—among them Peirce's essays in the Popular Science Monthly of 1877–1878, James's Pragmatism (1907), and Dewey's Quest for Certainty (1929).

Professional Philosophy

Although variants of pragmatism were never absent from discussion, in the second third of the twentieth century a number of vigorous academics conducted a refined epistemological critique of the empirical bases of knowledge. Pragmatic assumptions were called into question. C. I. Lewis of Harvard in Mind and the World-Order (1929) and Wilfrid Sellars (1912–1989) of the University of Pittsburgh in "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" (1956) were regarded as the preeminent writers in this area. The intellectual migration from Europe caused by the rise of totalitarianism in the 1930s contributed to this argument when a uniquely stringent empiricism, logical positivism, made an impact on the debate after World War II. The United States became known for its "analytic philosophy, " which emphasized clarity and precision of thought, often using logic and the foundations of mathematics to make its points, denigrating much "normative" reasoning in the areas of social and moral philosophy, and presupposing an apolitical sensibility. Leading philosophers

in the United States were secular in their commitments, but in a culture still oriented to Judeo-Christian belief, they turned away from the civic sphere.

These developments gave American thought worldwide honor in circles of scholars, but came at great cost to the public presence of philosophy and even to its audience in the academy. In contrast to what philosophy had been, both in and outside the university, during the period of James, Royce, and Dewey, philosophy after World War II had narrow concerns; it became a complex and arcane area of study in the university system. The 1960s accentuated the new academic status of philosophy. The radicalism and spirit of rebellion surrounding the Vietnam War condemned professional thought as irrelevant.

In the last quarter of the century a cacophony of voices competed for attention in the world of philosophy. A most influential movement still had a connection to Cambridge, originating in the "pragmatic analysis" developed after World War II by Goodman and Quine. This movement was often materialistic in its premises but also skeptical of all claims to knowledge, including scientific ones. The pragmatic analysts had an uneasy connection to an extraordinary publication of 1962, Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Although Kuhn's work was ambiguous, it soon justified a much more romantic attack on the objectivity of science and on the pursuit of analytic philosophy itself. The publications of Richard Rorty (1931–) in the last twenty years of the century, especially Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), gave a deeper philosophical justification for these ideas, as many philosophers in philosophy departments rejected straitened approaches to their field without being able to assert a compelling vision of another sort. Moreover, scholars in other disciplines—most importantly in English departments—claimed that traditional philosophy had reached a dead end. These nondisciplinary philosophers challenged philosophers for the right to do philosophy. These developments took American philosophy from the high point of achievement and public influence of the "classic" pragmatists to a confused and less potent role at the end of the twentieth century.


Brent, Joseph. Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life. Rev. ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Clendenning, John. The Life and Thought of Josiah Royce. Rev. ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1999.

Feigl, Herbert, and Wilfrid Sellars, eds. Readings in Philosophical Analysis. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949.

Kuklick, Bruce. Philosophy in America: An Intellectual and Cultural History, 1720–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. A comprehensive survey.

Miller, Perry. Jonathan Edwards. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1949. The first and still the most influential of modern works on Edwards.

Muelder, Walter G., Laurence Sears, and Anne V. Schlabach, eds. The Development of American Philosophy: A Book of Readings. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960.

Perry, Ralph. The Thought and Character of William James. 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1935. Still the authoritative work.

Rorty, Richard, M., ed. The Linguistic Turn: Essays in Philosophical Method. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Simon, Linda. Genuine Reality: A Life of William James. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1998. The most recent of many biographies.

Stuhr, John J. ed. Pragmatism and Classical American Philosophy: Essential Readings and Interpretative Essays. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Westbrook, Robert B. John Dewey and American Democracy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, Press, 1991.


See alsoExistentialism ; Positivism ; Post-structuralism ; Pragmatism ; Religious Thought and Writings ; Transcendentalism .

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Philosophy is the systematic inquiry into fundamental questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and behavior. As an academic discipline, philosophy has three central areas of inquiry and a number of other related subdisciplines that follow from these three areas. The three core areas are metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Other important branches of philosophy include logic, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, aesthetics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of religion. Each of these areas can be further broken down into subspecialties; so for instance, the philosophy of science includes the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of math, the philosophy of the social sciences, and so on. Furthermore, given what is generally taken to be the systematic nature of philosophical inquiry, the boundaries between the different areas of study and how each area relates to others are themselves matters of some disagreement. Is the philosophy of science to be regarded as a subdiscipline of epistemology or as a separate area of study? What is the relation of the philosophy of mind to metaphysics, on the one hand, and to the philosophy of psychology, on the other? What is the relation of political philosophy to ethics and to the philosophy of law, and should all of these areas be considered subdisciplines under a broader rubric such as value theory? Indeed, most philosophers would agree that the question what is philosophy? is itself a philosophical issue about which there is no one accepted answer, regardless of whether philosophy is taken as a method of inquiry, a way of understanding and living in the world, or as an academic discipline.


Perhaps, then, a better way of characterizing philosophy is in terms of the fundamental questions that concern the three core areas. Metaphysics traditionally asks questions about the fundamental nature of reality. What really exists? What are the fundamental constituents of reality? Are there two (or more) fundamental and mutually irreducible substances, for instance, mind and matter? What is the nature of identity, of causation, and of time? How should we characterize the difference between persons and bodies? Metaphysical questions cross over into what might seem to be other areas of philosophy. For instance, the question of the existence of God is a metaphysical question that is at the heart of the philosophy of religion. Likewise, the metaphysical question of the relation of mind and body has traditionally been the central focus of the philosophy of mind. One might regard questions about the nature of truth as metaphysical, but the nature of truth is a central concern in both the philosophy of language and logic. The problems of freedom and determinism and the nature of freedom are generally taken to fall within metaphysics, but they have obvious and important implications for ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, what it is, and how we acquire it. What can we know? What are the limits of knowledge? Can we really know anything? Or is skepticism of some variety true? If we cannot know anything, if genuine knowledge (in a particular domain or in general) is impossible for humans, then some sort of skepticism must be the case. The traditional challenge of the skeptic going back at least as far as Plato is to the assertion that we are justified in claiming to know something (in particular or in general as the case may be), the claim to have secure knowledge. So the options, in a crude and simplified way, are between having secure knowledge or skepticism. What is the difference between mere belief and knowledge? Is true belief the same as knowledge? Is there a fundamental difference between empirical knowledge and knowledge of a priori entities such as concepts and numbers? Questions about the nature of justification and justified belief, as opposed to mere opinion, also are part of epistemology.

Some questions are both epistemological and metaphysical. Such questions often have to do with the nature of perception. For example, the question of the relation of appearance to reality, that is, of how the world appears to us versus how it really is in itself, is at once both a question in epistemology (what we can know of how the world really is) and metaphysics (the nature of the real). Hovering over these epistemological concerns are questions about rationality and what it means to be, think, and act rationally. The concept of rationality might be taken to be in part epistemological and in part metaphysical, but it also is important in normative domains such as ethics and in logic.

Ethics, or moral philosophy, has three traditional questions at its core: How should one live? What is the good? What is the right? These questions have to do with, in turn, the nature of virtue, value, and duty or right action. One can approach ethics, as the Greeks typically did, by thinking about the first question: how a person should live. What is the proper or best life for a human being? What kind of person should I be? What kind of virtues or disposition of character should I attempt to cultivate in myself? Answering these questions allows one to determine what is good (what adds value to a life) and what is right (what duties one has and how one should act in certain situations).

In the modern period, philosophers have typically started with one of the other questions and moved from it to the other two concerns. One approach, consequentialism including utilitarianism, starts with a theory of the good or what has value, and then determines right action in terms of what will bring the most good into the world. Virtues are understood as those character traits that will help one best promote the good. The other major approach, often called deontology, starts with a theory of duty or right action. Certain actions are taken to be dutiful or right because of some feature they possess. The good is understood in terms of the promotion of such actions, or if there is an independent theory of the good, promoting the good is seen as subservient to doing ones duty. A third contemporary approach, virtue theory or neo-Aristotlelianism, attempts to revive the approach of the Greeks and make virtue the fundamental normative concept.

These questions are all considered part of normative ethics, or the theory of how one should act. When these sorts of questions are asked of specific sorts of cases or problems, normative ethics shades into applied ethics, which includes a number of subfields such as medical ethics or bioethics, environmental ethics, and business ethics. Another important area of ethical inquiry is metaethics, or the theory of the nature of ethics. Metaethics is the inquiry into metaphysical and epistemological issues about normative ethics and the nature of moral language. Metaethical issues include questions about the nature of value and truth in ethics; epistemological issues about ethical judgments such as whether ethical assertions admit of truth, how we can come to have knowledge in ethics, and the nature of justification in ethics; and philosophy of language concerns about the nature of specifically moral language such as the moral ought and good.

The discipline of philosophy as practiced in the English-speaking world and most of Europe is primarily the tradition of the West starting with the Greeks. Non-Western traditions, including Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, African philosophy, and Islamic philosophy, receive some attention but remain largely on the margins of the field. In the twentieth century, a major and rather complicated division developed in European philosophy between two schools or approaches to the subject generally known as Analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy. Both approaches share the same history of the discipline, even with somewhat different readings of certain figures such as Immanuel Kant until at least Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The Analytic tradition sees its specific roots in Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein in the early twentieth century, whereas the Continental tradition traces its origins to such figures as Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Martin Heidegger. The Continental tradition includes such philosophical subdisciplines as phenomenology, existentialism, and postmodernism. By the middle of the twentieth century the Analytic approach was dominant in Anglo-American philosophy, and the Continental approach held sway in France, Germany, and most of Western Europe.

Unlike many disciplines, in particular the natural sciences, the history of philosophy is itself an important field within philosophy. Although the history of physics might be of some interest to physicists, most would not consider it an important field of current research or inquiry within physics. Philosophers, however, regard some mastery of the history of their discipline as an essential part of current work in most areas of philosophy. More than in most other subjects, philosophers recognize that how one tells the history of the field often affects how one understands the very nature of the problems that seem of greatest contemporary interest. Discussions of the major figures in the history of Western philosophy such as Plato, Aristotle, René Descartes, David Hume, Kant, and John Stuart Mill are directly relevant to current work in ethics, epistemology, and many areas of metaphysics so much so that positions in current debates are often labeled as Kantian or Humean or Cartesian.


Historically, the social sciences have either been offshoots of philosophy or very closely connected to philosophical discussions. In some sense the social sciences have their roots, as do the natural sciences, in Greek thought. Plato and Aristotle can lay claim to being the first political scientists and economists. Not until the modern period, however, starting with seventeenth-century figures such as Thomas Hobbes and Giambattista Vico, did the social sciences begin to emerge in their modern form. Still, it was only in the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century that thinking about the nature of society and social behavior began to be seen as an area of investigation separable from thinking about the deep normative issues of ethics and political philosophy. The great figures regarded as among the fathers of modern social science such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and William James were all trained in philosophy. Only in the twentieth century, largely as a result of the influence of positivism and the specialization of the academy, did a split between the investigation of the nature of social life and processes and the traditional concerns of philosophy clearly emerge.

A subdiscipline of contemporary philosophy of particular relevance to the social sciences is the philosophy of the social sciences. A central question of this subdiscipline concerns how to situate the social sciences in relation to the other disciplines. To what degree should the social sciences on the model of the natural sciences, such as physics, be understood? Or should they rather be viewed as closer to the humanities? Or should the social sciences be regarded as different in important respects from both the natural sciences and the humanities? Part of the difficulty in answering this question is that the social sciences span a broad spectrum of types and areas of investigation, from the study of the mind and of individual behavior in different arenas of social existence such as the economic or political, to understanding alien cultures, to social and political theory on the broadest scale. Can one expect to find epistemological, metaphysical, or methodological unity across all areas of investigation that are generally regarded as social sciences?

Still, there are central questions that remain at the core of philosophical interest in the social sciences. Since the Greeks, philosophers have speculated about whether society and the institutional norms and rules that govern human life are natural or the result of convention. Thinking about this question leads naturally into questions about diverse cultures and to epistemological and methodological issues concerning how one understands alien cultures. These questions about the nature of foreign cultures and the possibility of our understanding cultures different from our own are central to anthropology and the philosophy of anthropology, a subfield of the philosophy of the social sciences.

A different, but related, epistemological issue concerns how we explain social behavior. The standard model of explanation in the natural sciences is causal explanation. This model assumes that there are lawlike generalizations in terms of which we can understand particular occurrences or phenomena. But are there comparable laws or generalizations in the social sciences, especially that hold across cultures? Many doubt that there are. Alternatively, some have tried to attempt to explain social phenomena in terms of functional explanation, where the explanation appears to be in terms of the effects brought about rather than the causes of those effects. There are, however, serious questions about the relation of causal and functional explanation. A third important position holds that neither causal nor functional explanation is appropriate in the social sciences. Rather, the goal of the social sciences is understanding in the sense of the recovery of the meaning of individual or social behavior and phenomena from the point of view of the agents themselves. This debate has traditionally been referred to as that between Eklaren (explanation) and Verstehen (understanding).

Another central debate in the philosophy of the social sciences concerns the relation of social structures, institutions, and practices on the one hand, and individual behavior and meaning on the other. Can all social phenomena be reduced to the aggregation of individual behaviors and meanings, in which case the goal of the social sciences should be to explain everything on the level of the individual? Or is the social ultimately irreducible to the level of the individual? In the latter case, the social sciences, or at least some of them, seem to occupy a conceptual space separate from the natural sciences, psychology, and the humanities. The position that holds that reduction of the social to the individual is possible and epistemologically required can be called methodological individualism. The position that resists this reduction and holds for a separate conceptual space for the social can, accordingly, be referred to as methodological holism.

One final and important issue should be mentioned: the relation of fact and value in the social sciences. The natural sciences are concerned with facts, the facts out of which the world is constructed, and regard themselves and are generally regarded as value neutral. The relation of fact and value is much more problematic in the social sciences in at least two ways. Although natural science can be used in ways that might be judged good or bad, social scientists more often seem to bring value judgments and commitments to their work, making it harder to separate purely scientific judgments from value judgments. On a more basic philosophical level, there is a question about whether the very subject matter of the social sciences can be constituted independently of values. Although some hold that all theory, regardless of whether it is in the natural or social sciences, is value-laden, those in the natural sciences have traditionally thought of themselves as concerned with a realm of fact independent of values. Whether there are social facts with anything similar to the same degree of value independence has long been and remains a much more controversial claim. The constitution of social facts may inescapably involve normative assumptions, in which case the object domain of the social sciences would be significantly different from that of the natural sciences.

SEE ALSO Aristotle; Epistemology; Ethics; Hobbes, Thomas; Hume, David; James, William; Kant, Immanuel; Knowledge; Marx, Karl; Meaning; Meta-Analysis; Mill, John Stuart; Nietzsche, Friedrich; Philosophy of Science; Philosophy, Moral; Philosophy, Political; Plato; Positivism; Reality; Reductionism; Revolutions, Scientific; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Science; Smith, Adam; Social Science; Weber, Max


Audi, Robert. 2002. Epistemology: A Contemporary Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. New York: Routledge.

Cutrofello, Andrew. 2005. Continental Philosophy: A Contemporary Introduction. New York: Routledge.

Darwall, Stephen. 1998. Philosophical Ethics. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Grayling, Anthony C., ed. 1995. Philosophy: A Guide Through the Subject. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grayling, Anthony C., ed. 1998. Philosophy 2: Further Through the Subject, Vol 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kagan, Shelly. 1997. Normative Ethics. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Kim, Jaegwon. 2005. Philosophy of Mind. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Root, Michael. 1993. Philosophy of Social Science. Oxford: Blackwell.

Rosenberg, Alexander. 1995. Philosophy of Social Science. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Stroll, Avrum. 2001. Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press.

Van Inwagen, Peter. 2002. Metaphysics. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Lawrence H. Simon

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philosophy [Gr.,=love of wisdom], study of the ultimate reality, causes, and principles underlying being and thinking. It has many aspects and different manifestations according to the problems involved and the method of approach and emphasis used by the individual philosopher. This article deals with the nature and development of Western philosophical thought. Eastern philosophy, while founded in religion, contains rigorously developed systems; for these, see Buddhism; Confucianism; Hinduism; Islam; Jainism; Shinto; Taoism; Vedanta; and related articles.

Distinguishing Characteristics

This search for truth began, in the Western world, when the Greeks first established (c.600 BC) inquiry independent of theological creeds. Philosophy is distinguished from theology in that philosophy rejects dogma and deals with speculation rather than faith. Philosophy differs from science in that both the natural and the social sciences base their theories wholly on established fact, whereas philosophy also covers areas of inquiry where no facts as such are available. Originally, science as such did not exist and philosophy covered the entire field, but as facts became available and tentative certainties emerged, the sciences broke away from metaphysical speculation to pursue their different aims. Thus physics was once in the realm of philosophy, and it was only in the early 20th cent. that psychology was established as a science apart from philosophy. However, many of the greatest philosophers were also scientists, and philosophy still considers the methods (as opposed to the materials) of science as its province.


Philosophy is traditionally divided into several branches. Metaphysics inquires into the nature and ultimate significance of the universe. Logic is concerned with the laws of valid reasoning. Epistemology investigates the nature of knowledge and the process of knowing. Ethics deals with problems of right conduct. Aesthetics attempts to determine the nature of beauty and the criteria of artistic judgment. Within metaphysics a division is made according to fundamental principles. The three major positions are idealism, which maintains that what is real is in the form of thought rather than matter; materialism, which considers matter and the motion of matter as the universal reality; and dualism, which gives thought and matter equal status. Naturalism and positivism are forms of materialism.

The History of Philosophy

Historically, philosophy falls into three large periods: classical (Greek and Roman) philosophy, which was concerned with the ultimate nature of reality and the problem of virtue in a political context; medieval philosophy, which in the West is virtually inseparable from early Christian thought; and, beginning with the Renaissance, modern philosophy, whose main direction has been epistemology.

Classical Philosophy

The first Greek philosophers, the Milesian school in the early 6th cent. BC, consisting of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, were concerned with finding the one natural element underlying all nature and being. They were followed by Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Leucippus, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and Democritus, who took divergent paths in exploring the same problem.

Socrates was the first to inquire also into social and political problems and was the first to use the dialectical method. His speculations were carried on by his pupil Plato, and by Plato's pupil Aristotle, at the Academy in Athens. Roman philosophy was based mainly on the later schools of Greek philosophy, such as the Sophists, the Cynics, Stoicism, and epicureanism. In late antiquity, Neoplatonism, chiefly represented by Plotinus, became the leading philosophical movement and profoundly affected the early development of Christian theology. Arab thinkers, notably Avicenna and Averroës, preserved Greek philosophy, especially Aristotelianism, during the period when these teachings were forgotten in Europe.

The Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century

Scholasticism, the high achievement of medieval philosophy, was based on Aristotelian principles. St. Thomas Aquinas was the foremost of the schoolmen, just as St. Augustine was the earlier spokesman for the church of pure belief. The Renaissance, with its new physics, astronomy, and humanism, revolutionized philosophic thought. René Descartes is considered the founder of modern philosophy because of his attempt to give the new science a philosophic basis. The other great rationalist systems of the 17th cent., especially those of Baruch Spinoza and G. W. von Leibniz, were developed in response to problems raised by Cartesian philosophy and the new science. In England empiricism prevailed in the work of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and David Hume, as well as that of George Berkeley, who was the outstanding idealist. The philosophy of Immanuel Kant achieved a synthesis of the rationalist and empiricist traditions and was in turn developed in the direction of idealism by J. G. Fichte, F. W. J. von Schelling, and G. W. F. Hegel.

The romantic movement of the 18th cent. had its beginnings in the philosophy of J. J. Rousseau; its adherents of the 19th cent. included Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as the American transcendentalists represented by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Opposed to the romanticists was the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx. The evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin profoundly affected mid-19th-century thought. Ethical philosophy culminated in England in the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and in France in the positivism of Auguste Comte. Pragmatism, the first essentially American philosophical movement, was founded at the end of the 19th cent. by C. S. Peirce and was later elaborated by William James and John Dewey.

The Twentieth Century

The transition to 20th-century philosophy essentially came with Henri Bergson. The century has often seen a great disparity in orientation between Continental and Anglo-American thinkers. In France and Germany, major philosophical movements have been the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and the existentialism of Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. Positivism and science have come under the scrutiny of Jürgen Habermas of the Frankfurt School; he has argued that they are driven by hidden interests. Structuralism, a powerful intellectual movement throughout the first half of the 20th cent., defined language and social systems in terms of the relationships among their elements.

Beginning in the 1960s arguments against all of Western metaphysics were marshaled by poststructuralists; among the most influential has been Jacques Derrida, a wide-ranging philosopher who has pursued deconstruction, a program that seeks to identify metaphysical assumptions in literature and psychology as well as philosophy. Both structuralism and poststructuralism originated mostly in France but soon came to influence thinkers throughout the West, especially in Germany and the United States.

Major concerns in American and British philosophy in the 20th cent. have included formal logic, the philosophy of science, and epistemology. Leading early figures included G. E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein; Anglo-American philosophy was later exemplified by logical positivists like Rudolph Carnap. In their close attention to problems of language, the logical positivists, influenced by Wittgenstein, in turn influenced the work of W. V. O. Quine and others in the philosophy of language. Later Anglo-American philosophers turned increasingly toward ethics and political philosophy, as in John Rawls' work on the problem of justice.


See W. Windelband, A History of Philosophy (2d ed. 1901, repr. 1968); B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (rev. ed. 1961); W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy (3 vol., 1962–69); A. H. Armstrong, ed., The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (1966); J. Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy (2d ed. 1966) and Recent Philosophers (1985); A. Wedberg, A History of Philosophy (3 vol., 1982–84); F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy (9 vol., 1985); D. W. Hamlyn, A History of Western Philosophy (1987); R. Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey (1995); E. Craig, ed., Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1998); P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy (tr. 2002).

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philosophy Study of the nature of reality, knowledge, ethics and existence by means of rational inquiry. The oldest known philosophical system is the Vedic system of India, which dates back to the middle of the 2nd millennium bc or earlier. Like other Eastern philosophies, it is founded upon a largely mystical view of the universe and is integrated with India's main religion, Hinduism. From the 6th century bc, Chinese philosophy was largely dominated by Confucianism and Taoism. Also in the 6th century, Western philosophy began among the Greeks with the work of Thales of Miletus. Later pre-Socratic philosophers included Pythagoras, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Zeno of Elea and Democritus. Greek philosophy reached its high point with Socrates, who laid the foundations of ethics; Plato, who developed a system of universal ideas; and Aristotle, who founded the study of logic. Zeno of Citium evolved the influential school of Stoics, which contrasted with the system of Epicureanism, founded by Epicurus. A dominant school of the early Christian era was Neoplatonism, founded by Plotinus in the 3rd century ad. The influence of Aristotle and other Greeks pervaded the thought of Muslim philosophers, such as Avicenna and Averroës, and the Spanish-born Jew, Moses Maimonides. In the work of scholastic philosophers, such as Abélard, Albertus Magnus, Saint Thomas Aquinas and William of Occam, philosophy became a branch of Christian theology. Modern scientific philosophy began in the 17th century with the work of Descartes. His faith in mathematics was taken up by Leibniz. In England, Hobbes integrated his materialist world view with a social philosophy. In the 18th century, empiricism was developed by Berkeley and Hume. The achievements of Kant in Germany and the French Encyclopedists were also grounded in science. In the 19th century, a number of diverging movements emerged, among them the classical idealism of Hegel, the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels, the positivism of Comte, and the work of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, which emphasized the freedom of the individual. In the 20th century, dominant movements included existentialism, logical positivism, phenomenology, and vitalism. See also aesthetics; Enlightenment; epistemology; logic; materialism; metaphysics; pragmatism; scholasticism; utilitarianism

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philosophy As an intellectual activity, philosophy is the most broad-ranging of the academic disciplines, since it addresses a wide range of interlinked questions about the nature of understanding, logic, language, and causality, many of which occur in the various other sciences. The sociologist is most likely to encounter philosophical debate in the fields of epistemology and ethics—both of which branches of philosophy are dealt with elsewhere in this dictionary.

The philosophy of the social sciences is a recognized specialism among sociologists, and asks questions about (among other things) the processes of concept-formation, the relationships between theory and evidence, the place of values, nature of motivation, role of language, and the nature of proof in the social sciences generally and sociology in particular. Again, many of the most significant arguments and most influential schools of thought concerning these issues have been treated separately, as discrete items in this dictionary.

It has sometimes been argued that much of what passes as sociological theory (for example in the works of Anthony Giddens) is actually social philosophy, since it consists mainly of metaphysical speculation about the human condition, rather than concrete or testable propositions about social life. However, this is probably a minority view, although there is quite widespread agreement that sociology has in the past (most obviously during the 1960s) suffered from an excessive reflexivity and obsession with exploring the epistemological foundations of the discipline. See also HISTORIOGRAPHY; METHODOLOGICAL PLURALISM.

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For discussion of the philosophy of science and its relationship to the social sciences, seeScience, article onthe philosophy of science; also relevant are the articlesCausation; Positivism; ScientificExplanation; and the biographies ofBacon; Cassirer; Cohen; Dewey; Husserl; James; Peirce; Schlick; Schutz; Whitehead. The philosophy of history is discussed inHistory, article onthe philosophy of history; and in the biographies OfCroce; DlLthey; Hegel; Hume; Marx; Simmel; Sorokin; Spengler; Vico. Articles that deal with other aspects of philosophy areEthics, article onethical systems and social structures; Political theory; Utilitarianism. The relevance to the social sciences of certain major figures in the history of philosophy is discussed in the biographies ofAquinas; Aristotle; Augustine; Bentham; Descartes; Hegel; Hobbes; Hume; Kant; Locke; Mlll; Spinoza.

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phi·los·o·phy / fəˈläsəfē/ • n. (pl. -phies) the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.See also natural philosophy. ∎  a set of views and theories of a particular philosopher concerning such study or an aspect of it: a clash of rival socialist philosophies. ∎  the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience: the philosophy of science. ∎  a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior: don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed, that's my philosophy. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French philosophie, via Latin from Greek philosophia ‘love of wisdom.’

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507. Philosophy

  1. Aristotle (384322 B.C.) eminent Greek philosopher. [Gk. Hist.: NCE, 147]
  2. Confucius (c. 551479 B.C.) classic Chinese sage. [Chinese Hist.: NCE, 625]
  3. Plato (427347 B.C.) founder of the Academy; author of Republic. [Gk. Hist.: NCE, 2165]
  4. Socrates (469399 B.c.) Athenian philosopher, propagated dialectic method of approaching knowledge. [Gk. Hist.: NCE, 2553]

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This entry includes two subentries:

Historical Overview and Recent Developments
Relations to Other Intellectual Realms

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philosophydaffy, taffy •Amalfi •Cavafy, Gaddafi •Effie •beefy, Fifi, leafy •cliffy, iffy, jiffy, Liffey, niffy, sniffy, spiffy, squiffy, stiffy, whiffy •salsify •coffee, toffee •wharfie •Sophie, strophe, trophy •Dufy, goofy, Sufi •fluffy, huffy, puffy, roughie, roughy, scruffy, snuffy, stuffy, toughie •comfy • atrophy •anastrophe, catastrophe •calligraphy, epigraphy, tachygraphy •dystrophy, epistrophe •autobiography, bibliography, biography, cardiography, cartography, chirography, choreography, chromatography, cinematography, cosmography, cryptography, demography, discography, filmography, geography, hagiography, historiography, hydrography, iconography, lexicography, lithography, oceanography, orthography, palaeography (US paleography), photography, pornography, radiography, reprography, stenography, topography, typography •apostrophe •gymnosophy, philosophy, theosophy •furphy, murphy, scurfy, surfy, turfy

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