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For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation).

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

Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge.[14] From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine and physics.[15] For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize.[16][17] In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective?[18][19] Are there many scientific methods or just one?[20] Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy?[21][22][23] Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"),[24] epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity" [25]), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic, philosophy of science and the history of Western philosophy.

Since the 20th century professional philosophers contribute to society primarily as professors, researchers and writers. However, many of those who study philosophy in undergraduate or graduate programs contribute in the fields of law, journalism, politics, religion, science, business and various art and entertainment activities.[26]



Philosophy and culture

In one sense, philosophy is synonymous with wisdom or learning. In that sense, all cultures have a philosophical tradition.

Western philosophy
Main article: Western philosophy

Western philosophy dates to the Greek philosophers, who were active in Ancient Greece beginning in the 6th century BC. Pythagoras distinguished himself from other "wise ones" by calling himself a mere lover of wisdom, suggesting that he was not wise.[27] Socrates used this title and insisted that he possessed no wisdom but was a pursuer of wisdom.[28] Socrates' student Plato is often credited as the founder of Western philosophy. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said of Plato: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them."[29]

Eastern philosophy
Main article: Eastern philosophy
The Iranian prophet Zarathustra is credited as the founder of Zoroastrianism.

Eastern philosophy is a term that encompasses the many philosophical currents originating outside Europe, including China, India, Japan, Persia and other regions. They have their own timelines, regions and philosophers. Major traditions include:

Philosophy and knowledge

Traditionally, the term "philosophy" referred to any body of knowledge.[14][30] In this sense, philosophy is closely related to religion, mathematics, natural science, education and politics. Newton's 1687 "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" is classified in the 2000s as a book of physics; he used the term "natural philosophy" because it used to encompass disciplines that later became associated with sciences such as astronomy, medicine and physics.[15]

Philosophy was traditionally divided into three major branches:

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

Philosophical progress

Many philosophical debates that began in ancient times are still debated today. Colin McGinntand others claim that no philosophical progress has occurred during that interval.[32] Chalmers and others, by contrast, see progress in philosophy similar to that in science,[33] while Talbot Brewer argued that "progress" is the wrong standard by which to judge philosophical activity.[34]

Philosophical categories

Philosopher questions can be grouped into categories. These groupings allow philosophers to focus on a set of similar topics and interact with other thinkers who are interested in the same questions. The groupings also make philosophy easier for students to approach. Students can learn the basic principles involved in one aspect of the field without being overwhelmed with the entire set of philosophical theories.

Various sources present different categorical schemes. The categories adopted in this article aim for breadth and simplicity.

These five major branches can be separated into sub-branches and each sub-branch contains many specific fields of study.[35]

These divisions are neither exhaustive, nor mutually exclusive. (A philosopher might specialize in Kantian epistemology, or Platonic aesthetics, or modern political philosophy.) Furthermore, these philosophical inquiries sometimes overlap with each other and with other inquiries such as science, religion or mathematics.[37]

Metaphysics and epistemology


Main article: Metaphysics

Metaphysics is the study of the most general features of reality, such as existence, time, objects and their properties, wholes and their parts, events, processes and causation and the relationship between mind and body. Metaphysics includes cosmology, the study of the world in its entirety and ontology, the study of being.


Main article: Epistemology

Epistemology is the study of knowledge (Greek episteme).[38] Epistemologists study the putative sources of knowledge, including intuition, a priori reason, memory, perceptual knowledge, self-knowledge and testimony. They also ask: What is truth? Is knowledge justified true belief? Are any beliefs justified? Putative knowledge includes propositional knowledge (knowledge that something is the case), know-how (knowledge of how to do something) and acquaintance (familiarity with someone or something). Epistemologists examine these and ask whether knowledge is really possible.

Among the numerous topics within metaphysics and epistemology, broadly construed are:

Value theory

Value theory (or axiology) is the major branch of philosophy that addresses topics such as goodness, beauty and justice. Value theory includes ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, feminist philosophy, philosophy of law and more.


Main article: Ethics

Ethics, or "moral philosophy", studies and considers what is good and bad conduct, right and wrong values, and good and evil. Its primary investigations include how to live a good life and identifying standards of morality. It also includes meta-investigations about whether a best way to live or related standards exists. The main branches of ethics are normative ethics, meta-ethics and applied ethics.


Main article: Aesthetics

Aesthetics is the "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."[39][40] It addresses the nature of art, beauty and taste, enjoyment, emotional values, perception and with the creation and appreciation of beauty.[41][42] It is more precisely defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.[43] It divides into art theory, literary theory, film theory and music theory. An example from art theory is to discern the set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement such as the Cubist aesthetic.[44] The philosophy of film analyzes films and filmmakers for their philosophical content and explores film (images, cinema, etc.) as a medium for philosophical reflection and expression.[citation needed]

Political philosophy

Main article: Political philosophy

Political philosophy is the study of government and the relationship of individuals (or families and clans) to communities including the state. It includes questions about justice, law, property and the rights and obligations of the citizen. Politics and ethics are traditionally linked subjects, as both discuss the question of what how people should live together.

Other branches of value theory:

There are a variety of branches of value theory.

  • Philosophy of law (often called jurisprudence) explores the varying theories explaining the nature and interpretation of laws.
  • Philosophy of education analyzes the definition and content of education, as well as the goals and challenges of educators.
  • Feminist philosophy explores questions surrounding gender, sexuality and the body including the nature of feminism itself as a social and philosophical movement.
  • Philosophy of sport analyzes sports, games and other forms of play as sociological and uniquely human activities.

Logic, science and mathematics

Many academic disciplines generated philosophical inquiry. The relationship between "X" and the "philosophy of X" is debated. Richard Feynman argued that the philosophy of a topic is irrelevant to its primary study, saying that "philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds." Curtis White, by contrast, argued that philosophical tools are essential to humanities, sciences and social sciences.[45]

Its topics are numbers, symbols and the formal methods of reasoning as employed in the social and natural sciences.


Main article: Logic

Logic is the study of reasoning and argument. An argument is "a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition." The connected series of statements are "premises" and the proposition is the conclusion. For example:

  1. All humans are mortal. (premise)
  2. Socrates is a human. (premise)
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (conclusion)

Because sound reasoning is an essential element of all sciences,[46] social sciences and humanities disciplines, logic became a formal science. Sub-fields include mathematical logic, philosophical logic, Modal logic, computational logic and non-classical logics. .

Philosophy of science

Main article: Philosophy of science

This branch explores the foundations, methods, history, implications and purpose of science. Many of its sub-divisions correspond to a specific branch of science. For example, philosophy of biology deals specifically with the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues in the biomedical and life sciences. The philosophy of mathematics studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations and implications of mathematics.

History of philosophy

Some philosophers specialize in one or more historical periods. The history of philosophy (study of a specific period, individual or school) is related to but not the same as the philosophy of history (the theoretical aspect of history, which deals with questions such as the nature of historical evidence and the possibility of objectivity).

Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History influenced many philosophers to interpret truth in light of history, a view called historicism.

Philosophical schools

Some philosophers specialize in one or more of the major philosophical schools, such as Continental philosophy, Analytical philosophy, Thomism, Asian philosophy or African philosophy.

General history

The history of philosophy is the compilation and study of philosophical ideas and concepts through time. In addition to recording and assessing the evolution of debate over time, issues include: How can changes in philosophy be accounted for historically? What drives the development of thought in its historical contexts? To what degree can philosophical texts from prior historical eras still be understood?

Ancient philosophy

Main article: Ancient philosophy

Western philosophy began with Hellenistic philosophy, supplanted by the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire. Next came Medieval philosophy. In Eastern philosophy, Old Iranian philosophy was supplanted by early Islamic philosophy. Philosophical thought arose in many cultures roughly contemporaneously. Karl Jaspers termed the intense period of philosophical development beginning around the 7th century and concluding around the 3rd century BCE the Axial Age in human thought.


Main article: African philosophy

Historian Will Durant dates the philosophical maxims of Ptahhotep to as early as 2880 BCE. Durant claimed that Ptahhotep could be considered the first philosopher by virtue of producing the earliest and surviving fragments of moral philosophy, as collected in The Maxims of Ptahhotep.[47][48]


Babylonian philosophy traces back to early Mesopotamia. These thinkers discussed philosophical constructs, particularly ethics, in the forms of dialectic, dialogues, epic poetry, folklore, hymns, lyrics, prose and proverbs. The concepts of the Babylonians developed beyond empirical observation.[49] The Babylonian text Dialog of Pessimism contains similarities to the agnostic thought of the sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts and the dialogues of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic Socratic method of Socrates and Plato.[50] The Milesian philosopher Thales is also traditionally said to have studied philosophy in Mesopotamia.

Ancient China

Confucius, illustrated in Myths & Legends of China, 1922, by E.T.C. Werner.
Main article: Chinese philosophy

Philosophy had a tremendous effect on ancient Chinese civilization that extended throughout East Asia. The tradition originated in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States eras, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought",[51] which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments.[51] During this era the major philosophies of China, Confucianism, Mohism, Legalism and Taoism, arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, such as Agriculturalism, Chinese Naturalism and the Logicians. Of the many Chinese philosophical schools, only Confucianism and Taoism survived the Qin Dynasty's suppression of any Chinese philosophy that opposed Legalism.

Confucianism is humanistic,[52] claiming that humans are teachable, improvable and perfectible through individual and communal endeavour, specifically including self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi and li.[53] Ren is an obligation of altruism and humanity towards other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community.[53]

Taoism focuses on establishing harmony with the Tao, which is the origin of and the totality of everything that exists. The word "Tao" (or "Dao", depending on the romanization scheme) is usually translated as "way", "path" or "principle". Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos (天人相应); health and longevity; and wu wei, action through inaction. Harmony with the Universe, or the origin of it through the Tao, is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices.

Ancient Graeco-Roman
Plato (left) and Aristotle (right): detail from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio, 1509

Ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy is the period of Western philosophy, spanning the 6th century [c. 585] BC to the 6th century AD. It is usually divided into three periods: the pre-Socratic period, the Ancient Classical Greek period of Plato and Aristotle and the post-Aristotelian (or Hellenistic) period. A possible fourth period includes the Neoplatonic and Christian philosophers of Late Antiquity. The most important of the ancient philosophers in terms of subsequent influence are Plato and Aristotle.[54] Roman Ancient history asserted that Pythagoras was the first to call himself a philosopher, or lover of wisdom.[55] Pythagorean ideas exercised a marked influence on Plato and through him, all of Western philosophy. Plato and Aristotle, the first Classical Greek philosophers, referred critically to other simple "wise men", who were called "sophists," and who were common before Pythagoras' time. This critique may imply a contemporaneous distinction between the "lovers of wisdom" (the true Philosophers) and other earlier and more common traveling teachers.

The main subjects of ancient philosophy are: the fundamental causes and principles of the universe; reconciling the diversity and change of the natural universe with the possibility of obtaining fixed and certain knowledge about it; questions about things that cannot be perceived by the senses, such as numbers, elements, universals and gods. Socrates is said to have been the initiator of more focused study upon human elements, including the analysis of patterns of reasoning and argument and the nature of the good life and the importance of understanding and knowledge in order to pursue it; the explication of the concept of justice and its relation to various political systems.[54]

In this period the crucial features of the Western philosophical method were established: a critical approach to established views and the appeal to reason and argumentation. This includes Socrates' dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method or method of "elenchus", which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice. To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually yield the desirred answer. The influence of this approach is most strongly felt today in the use of the scientific method, in which hypothesis is the first step.

Ancient Indian

Main article: Indian philosophy
In Jain philosophy, Karma is action and reaction: if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness.

The term Indian philosophy (Sanskrit: Darshanas), encompasses several schools that originated in the Indian subcontinent, including Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy and Jain philosophy. Their origins are intertwined. These philosophies have a common underlying theme of Dharma and Karma and similarly attempt to explain the attainment of Moksha (liberation). They were formalized and promulgated chiefly between 1000 BC to a few centuries AD.

India's philosophical tradition dates back to the composition of the Upanisads[56] in the later Vedic period (c. 1000-500 BCE). Subsequent schools (Skt: Darshanas) of Indian philosophy were identified as orthodox (Skt: astika) or non-orthodox (Skt: nastika), depending on whether or not they regarded the Vedas as an infallible source of knowledge.[57] In the history of the Indian subcontinent, following the establishment of a Vedic culture, the development of philosophical and religious thought over a period of two millennia gave rise to what came to be called the six schools of astika, or orthodox, Indian or Hindu philosophy. These schools are synonymous with Hinduism, which was a development of the early Vedic religion. Schools of Hindu philosophy are Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva mimamsa and Vedanta. Other classifications include Pashupata, Saiva, Raseśvara and Pāṇini Darśana with the other orthodox schools.[58]

Jain philosophy revolves around the concept of ahimsā (non-violence). The major contribution of the Jain philosophy was the doctrine of Anekantavada (multiplicity of viewpoints). According to Jain epistemology, knowledge is of five kinds – sensory knowledge, scriptural knowledge, clairvoyance, telepathy and omniscience.[59]

Buddhist philosophy and materialist (Cārvāka) philosophy rejected the idea of an eternal soul. Competition and integration between the various schools was intense during their formative years, especially between 500 BC to 200 AD. Some like the Jain, Buddhist, Shaiva and Vedanta schools survived, while others like Samkhya and Ajivika did not, becoming assimilated extinct. The Sanskrit term for "philosopher" is dārśanika, one who is familiar with the systems of philosophy, or darśanas.[60]

Ancient Persian

Main article: Iranian philosophy

Old Iranian philosophical traditions and thoughts have Indo-Iranian roots. These were considerably influenced by Zarathustra's teachings. Throughout Iranian history and due to political and social influences such as the Macedonian, the Arab and the Mongol invasions of Persia, a wide spectrum of thought arose. These extended from Old Iranian and mainly Zoroastrianism-influenced traditions to schools appearing in the late pre-Islamic era, such as Manicheism and Mazdakism, as well as various post-Islamic schools. Illuminationism and transcendent theosophy are two important traditions.[61]

5th–16th centuries

Medieval Europe

Main article: Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy developed in Western Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages, roughly extending from the Christianization of the Roman Empire until the Renaissance.[62] Medieval philosophy began with the rediscovery and further development of classical Greek and Hellenistic philosophy and attempted to address theological problems and to integrate the sacred doctrines of Abrahamic religion (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) with secular learning. Its history is traditionally divided into two main periods: the period in the Latin West following the Early Middle Ages until the 12th century, when the works of Aristotle and Plato were preserved and cultivated; and the "golden age"[citation needed] of the 12th, 13th and 14th there, which finished recovering the ancients and significantly developed the philosophy of religion, logic and metaphysics.

The Medieval era was disparagingly treated by Renaissance humanists, who saw it as a barbaric "middle" period between the classical age of Greek and Roman culture and the "rebirth" or renaissance of classical culture. Yet this period of nearly a thousand years was the longest period of philosophical development in Europe and possibly the richest. Jorge Gracia argued that "in intensity, sophistication and achievement, the philosophical flowering in the thirteenth century could be rightly said to rival the golden age of Greek philosophy in the fourth century B.C."[63] Major topics included the relation of faith to reason, the existence and unity of God, the object of theology and metaphysics, knowledge, of universals and of individuation.

Major thinkers include Christian philosophers Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Anselm, Gilbert of Poitiers, Peter Abelard, Roger Bacon, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham and Jean Buridan; the Jewish philosophers Maimonides and Gersonides; and the Muslim philosophers Alkindus, Alfarabi, Alhazen, Avicenna, Algazel, Avempace, Abubacer, Ibn Khaldūn and Averroes. Scholasticism continued to flourish as late as the 17th century, via Francisco Suarez and John of St. Thomas. Aquinas, the father of Thomism, was influential in Catholic Europe; he placed a great emphasis on reason and argumentation and was one of the first to use the new translation of Aristotle's metaphysical and epistemological writing. His work was a significant departure from the Neoplatonic and Augustinian thinking that dominated early Scholasticism.


The Renaissance ("rebirth") was a period of transition between the Middle Ages and modern thought,[64] in which the recovery of classical texts helped shift philosophical interests away from technical studies in logic, metaphysics and theology towards eclectic inquiries into morality, philology and mysticism.[65][66] The study of the classics and the humanities generally, such as history and literature, enjoyed a scholarly interest hitherto unknown in Christendom, a tendency referred to as humanism.[67][65] Displacing the medieval interest in metaphysics and logic, the humanists followed Petrarch in making man and his virtues the focus of philosophy.[68][69]

The study of classical philosophy developed in two new ways. On the one hand, the study of Aristotle was changed through the influence of Averroism. The disagreements between Averroist Aristotelians and more orthodox Catholic Aristotelians such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas eventually contributed to the development of a "humanist Aristotelianism" developed in the Renaissance, as exemplified in the thought of Pietro Pomponazzi and Giacomo Zabarella. Secondly, as an alternative to Aristotle, the study of Plato and the Neoplatonists became common. This was assisted by the rediscovery of works that were not well known in Western Europe. Notable Renaissance Platonists include Nicholas of Cusa and later Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.[69]

The Renaissance also renewed interest in anti-Aristotelian theories of nature considered as an organic, living whole comprehensible independently of theology, as in the work of Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Telesius and Tommaso Campanella.[70] Such movements in natural philosophy dovetailed with a revival of interest in occultism, magic, hermeticism and astrology, which were thought to yield hidden ways of knowing and mastering nature (e.g., Ficino and Mirandola).[71] These new movements in philosophy developed contemporaneously with larger religious and political transformations in Europe: the Reformation and the decline of feudalism. Though the theologians of the Protestant Reformation showed little direct interest in philosophy, their destruction of the traditional foundations of theological and intellectual authority harmonized with a revival of fideism and skepticism in thinkers such as Erasmus, Montaigne and Francisco Sanches.[72][73][74] Meanwhile, the gradual centralization of political power in nation-states was echoed by the emergence of secular political philosophies, as in the works of Niccolò Machiavelli (described as the first modern political thinker),[75] Thomas More, Erasmus, Justus Lipsius, Jean Bodin and Hugo Grotius.[76][77]

East Asia

Mid-Imperial Chinese philosophy is primarily defined by the development of Neo-Confucianism. During the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism from Nepal spread throughout China. (Philosophy and religion were clearly separate in the West, but were more continuous in the East due to, for example, Buddhism's philosophical concepts.)

Neo-Confucianism is a philosophical movement that advocated a more rationalist and secular form of Confucianism by rejecting superstitious and mystical elements of Daoism and Buddhism that had influenced Confucianism during and after the Han Dynasty.[78] Although the Neo-Confucianists were critical of Daoism and Buddhism,[79] the two did have an influence on the philosophy and the Neo-Confucianists borrowed terms and concepts from both. However, unlike the Buddhists and Daoists, who saw metaphysics as a catalyst for spiritual development, religious enlightenment and immortality, the Neo-Confucianists used metaphysics as a guide for developing a rationalist ethical philosophy.[80] Neo-Confucianism had its origins in the Tang Dynasty; the Confucianist scholars Han Yu and Li Ao were the forbears of the Neo-Confucianists of the Song Dynasty.[79] The Song Dynasty philosopher Zhou Dunyi is seen as the first true "pioneer" of Neo-Confucianism, using Daoist metaphysics as a framework for his ethical philosophy.[80] Elsewhere in East Asia, Japanese Philosophy began to develop as indigenous Shinto beliefs fused with Buddhism, Confucianism and other schools of Chinese and Indian philosophy. As in Japan, Korean philosophy integrated the emotional content of Shamanism into Neo-Confucianism. Vietnamese philosophy also became influenced heavily by Confucianism.[citation needed]


Main article: Indian philosophy

The period between 5th and 9th centuries CE was the most prominent epoch in the development of Indian philosophy as Hindu and Buddhist philosophies both flourished.[81] The non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta emerged as the most influential[82] and most dominant school.[83] The major philosophers of this school were Gaudapada, Adi Shankara and Vidyaranya. Advaita Vedanta rejected theism and dualism by insisting that "Brahman [ultimate reality] is without parts or without a second." Since Brahman has no properties, contains no internal diversity and is identical with the whole reality, it cannot be understood as God.[84] (Indescribable) Brahman is best described as Satchidananda (merging "Sat" + "Chit" + "Ananda", i.e., existence, consciousness and bliss). Advaita ushered in new schools of thought in the medieval period, including Visishtadvaita (qualified monism), Dvaita (dualism), Dvaitadvaita (dualism-nondualism), Suddhadvaita (pure non-dualism), Achintya Bheda Abheda and Pratyabhijña (the recognitive school).

Middle East

Main article: Islamic philosophy

Early Islamic thought refers to philosophy during the "Islamic Golden Age", traditionally dated between the 8th and 12th centuries. One main school was Kalam, which mainly dealt with Islamic theological questions such as the Mu'tazili and Ash'ari. The other school was Falsafa, which was founded on interpretations of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. Later philosopher-theologians attempted to harmonize the two, notably by Ibn Sina (Avicenna) who founded Avicennism, Ibn Rushd (Averroës) who founded Averroism and others such as Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) and Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī. Avicenna developedhis "Floating Man" thought experiment concerning Self-awareness, in which a man isolated from sense experience (e.g., blindfolded and free falling) would still be aware of his existence.[85] In epistemology, Ibn Tufail wrote the novel Hayy ibn Yaqdhan. In response Ibn al-Nafis wrote the novel Theologus Autodidactus. Both concerned autodidacticism as illuminated through the life of a feral child spontaneously generated in a cave on a desert island.


Main article: Aztec philosophy

The Aztecs had a well-developed school of philosophy, perhaps the most developed in the Americas amassing even more texts than the ancient Greeks.[86] Aztec philosophy considered dualism, monism and aesthetics. Aztec philosophers attempted to answer the main Aztec philosophical question of how to gain stability and balance in an ephemeral world. Ometeotl was the unity that underlies the universe. Ometeotl forms, shapes and is, all things. Even things in opposition—light and dark, life and death—were seen as expressions of the same unity, Ometeotl, comprising a unity with dualistic expressions.[87] Aztec priests were panentheists, while the popular Aztec religion maintained polytheism. Priests saw the different gods as aspects of the singular and transcendent unity of teotl, but the masses were allowed to practice polytheism without understanding the true, unified nature of the Aztec gods.[87]


Main article: Ethiopian philosophy

Ethiopian philosophy is the philosophical tradition of present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. It was preserved via an oral tradition and in written form through Ge'ez manuscripts. This philosophy occupies a unique position within African philosophy. It arises from the confluence of Greek and Patristic philosophy with traditional Ethiopian modes of thought. Ethiopian thinkers were also influenced by Arabic thought. The literature developed under these circumstances is the result of a twofold effort of creative assimilation. Orthodox Christianity combined with Greek pagan and early Patristic thought into an Ethiopian-Christian synthesis. The moral reflection of religious inspiration was prevalent and the use of narrative, parable, apothegm and rich imagery outweighed the use of abstract argument. This literature includes adaptations of Greek texts, including the Physiolog (cca. 5th century A.D.), The Life and Maxims of Skendes (11th century A.D.) and The Book of the Wise Philosophers (1510/22). In the 17th century, Ethiopians' religious beliefs were challenged by King Suseynos' adoption of Catholicism and by the subsequent presence of Jesuit missionaries. The attempt to forcefully impose religion inspired further development of Ethiopian philosophy during the 17th century. Zera Yacob (1599–1692) was the most important exponent. His treatise Hatata (1667) is often included in the canon of universal philosophy.

Modern philosophy

The early modern era of Western philosophy occupied the 17th and 18th centuries.The 18th century is often referred to as the beginning of the Enlightenment, when reason became celebrated as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, along with the ideals of liberty, equality, tolerancefraternityconstitutional government and limits on the power of the church over the state.[88] Modern philosophy separated from traditional authorities such as the Church, academia and Aristotle.[89][90] One new focus was on the foundations of knowledge and metaphysical system-building.[91][92] Experimentation and the scientific method became the center of natural philosophy.[93] Other central topics in this period include the nature of the mind and its relation to the body, the implications of the natural sciences for traditional theological topics such as free will and God and the emergence of a secular basis for moral and political philosophy.[94] These trends first coalesce in Francis Bacon's call for a new, empirical program for expanding knowledge and found influential form in the mechanical physics and rationalist metaphysics of René Descartes.[95]

Thomas Hobbes was the first to apply this methodology systematically to political philosophy and is the originator of modern political philosophy, including the modern theory of a "social contract" among citizens and governments.[96][97] The canon of early modern philosophy generally includes Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant,[98][99][100] Other thinkers include Galilei, Gassendi, Pascal, Malebranche, Newton, Wolff, Montesquieu, Bayle, Reid, d'Alembert and Smith. Rousseau was a seminal figure in initiating reaction against the Enlightenment. The approximate end of the early modern period is most often identified with Kant's systematic attempt to limit metaphysics, justify scientific knowledge and reconcile both of these with morality and freedom.[91][101][102]

19th-century philosophy

Later modern philosophy began with the 19th century.[103] German philosophers exercised broad influence in this century, owing in part to the dominance of the German university system.[104] German idealists, such as Fichte, Hegel and Schelling, transformed the work of Kant by maintaining that the world is constituted by a rational or mind-like process and as such is entirely knowable.[105] Schopenhauer's identification of this world-constituting process as an irrational will to live influenced later thinking, such including Nietzsche. After Hegel's death in 1831, 19th-century philosophy largely turned against idealism in favor of varieties of philosophical naturalism, exemplified by Comte (positivism), Mill (empiricism) and Marx (materialism). Logic made significant advances, as increasing mathematical understanding opened fields of inference to formalization in the work of Boole and Frege.[106] Other philosophers who initiated lines of thought that would continue to shape philosophy into the 20th century include Sidgwick (ethics), Peirce and James (pragmatism) and Kierkegaard (existentialism and post-structuralism).

20th-century and 21st-century philosophy

In the twentieth century, philosophy became a professional discipline practiced within universities. It became less general and more specialized. In the view of one prominent recent historian: "Philosophy has become a highly organized discipline, done by specialists primarily for other specialists. The number of philosophers has exploded, the volume of publication has swelled and the subfields of serious philosophical investigation have multiplied. Not only is the broad field of philosophy today far too vast to be embraced by one mind, something similar is true even of many highly specialized subfields."[107] Briggle and Frodeman argued that this professionalization has negatively affected the discipline.[108]

In the English-speaking world, analytic philosophy dominated much of the 20th century. In the first half of the century, it was a cohesive school, shaped strongly by logical positivism, united by the notion that philosophical problems could and should be solved by attention to logic and language. Russell was a model for its early development, moving from a rejection of the idealism dominant in late 19th-century British philosophy to a neo-Humean empiricism, strengthened by the conceptual resources of modern mathematical logic.[109][110][111] In the latter half of the 20th century, analytic philosophy diffused into a wide variety of disparate views.

After World War 2 the analytic program developed an interest in ordinary language as a way of avoiding or redescribing traditional philosophical problems and to a naturalism that sought to dissolve philosophical puzzles via progress in the natural sciences (such as cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology). Wittgenstein's attack on traditional philosophy as a linguistic misunderstanding of normal forms of life, was the most influential.[112][113] The later work of Russell and of Quine are influential exemplars of the naturalist approach.[114][115][116][117] The diversity of analytic philosophy from the 1970s onward defies generalization: the naturalism of Quine and his followers led to a "new metaphysics" of possible worlds, as in the work of Lewis.[118][119] The experimental philosophy movement sought to reappraise philosophical problems through social science research techniques.

In continental Europe, no school dominated. Fleeing fascism and communism, the logical positivists left central Europe, diminishing philosophical interest in natural science. Instead an emphasis on the humanities, broadly construed, figured prominently in continental philosophy. 20th-century movements such as phenomenology, existentialism, modern hermeneutics, critical theory, structuralism and poststructuralism are included within this loose category. Phenomenology founder Husserl sought to study consciousness as experienced from a first-person perspective,[120][121] while Heidegger drew on the ideas of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Husserl to propose an existential approach to ontology.[122][123]

In the Arabic-speaking world, Arab nationalist philosophy such as Ba'athism dominated, involving philosophers such as Aflaq, Zaki al-Arsuzi, Salah al-Din al-Bitar and Sati' al-Husri.

Western history

"History of Western Philosophy" redirects here. For the book by Bertrand Russell, see A History of Western Philosophy.

Jaspers termed the intense period of philosophical development from the 7th-3rd century BCE an Axial Age in human thought. Western philosophy arose contemporaneously with science, mathematics, mythology, art, religion and political society.

Western philosophy is conventionally divided into four eras – Ancient, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary. The Ancient era runs through the fall of Rome. The Medieval period runs until roughly the late 15th century and the Renaissance. The "Modern" period then began and continued to the end of the 19th century, when contemporary philosophy began.

Ancient philosophy

Main article: Ancient philosophy


Ionia, source of early Greek philosophy, in western Asia Minor

Western Philosophy began in the Greek cities of western Asia Minor (Ionia) with Thales of Miletus, who was active around 585 B.C. and crafted the opaque dictum, "all is water." His most noted students were respectively Anaximander (all is apeiron (roughly, the unlimited)) and Anaximenes of Miletus ("all is air").

Pythagoras, from the island of Samos off the coast of Ionia, later lived at Croton in southern Italy (Magna Graecia). Pythagoreans hold that "all is number," giving formal accounts in contrast to the previous material of the Ionians. They also believe in metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls (reincarnation).

Zeno's Paradox, Achilles and the Tortoise

The first true philosophic dialectic occurs between the "becoming" of Heraclitus of Ephesus ("all is fire", "everything flows," all is chaotic and transitory") and the "being" of Parmenides of Elea (all is One, change is impossible). His student Zeno argued against motion with his famous paradoxes. Heraclitus also introduced the concept of logos.

In response to Parmenides on the impossibility of change, Anaxagoras used pluralism to describe the world as a mixture of primary imperishable ingredients, where material variation was reflected the relative preponderance of one ingredient over other ingredients.[124] He introduced the concept of Nous (Mind) as an ordering force, which moved and separated out the original mixture, which was homogeneous, or nearly so.

The Four Elements

Empedocles proposed powers called Love and Hate that would act as forces to bring about the mixture and separation of the elements, more discrete than in the mixture of Anaxagoras. Empedocles is best known as the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four classical elements, earth, air, wind and fire. Empedocles is the last Greek philosopher to record his ideas in verse. More of his work survives than of any other Presocratic philosopher.

Democritus (laughing) & Herakleitos (crying) by van Haarlem

The Sophists became known for claiming that truth was no more than opinion and for teaching people to argue fallaciously to prove whatever conclusions they wished. Most famous them of was Protagoras who stated, "man is the measure of all things".

Another school was the atomists such as Leucippus and Democritus, wherein the world is a composite of innumerable interacting parts.


Philosophical inquiry gradually became more concentrated in Athens, which had become the dominant city-state in Greece. Orators influenced Athenian history (possibly even causing its failure). The city used slave labor to farm and perform other tasks, freeing the citizens to engage in inquiry and other pastimes. Skillful oratory was necessary to influence the democratic Athenian Assembly and thereby gain respect and wealth. Many sophists maintained schools of debate, with paying students, leading to increasingly refined methods of debate.

Bust of Socrates

Socrates was the key figure in transforming Greek philosophy into a unified and continuous project. He studied under the Sophists. Following a visit to the Oracle of Delphi he began questioning anyone in Athens who would engage him, attempting to disprove the oracular prophecy that no man would be wiser than Socrates. Through these live dialogues, he examined common concepts that lacked clear or concrete definitions, such as beauty, truth and the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage and justice. Socrates' awareness of his own ignorance allowed him to discover errors in his own thinking as well as in others. He wrote nothing, but inspired many disciples, including many sons of prominent Athenian citizens (including Plato). His influence led to his trial and execution in 399 B.C. on the charge that his philosophy and sophistry were undermining the youth, piety and moral fiber of the city. He was offered a chance to flee from his fate but chose to remain in Athens, abide by his principles and drink a poisonous tea made of hemlock.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave suggests that what we observe is no closer to reality than shadows on a cave wall are to the objects they reflect.

Socrates' most important student was Plato, who founded the Academy of Athens and wrote a number of dialogues that applied the Socratic method of inquiry to examine philosophical problems. In the later dialogues Socrates figures less prominently, although Plato had already begun putting his own thoughts into Socrates' mouth.

His theory of forms holds that the mind is imbued with an innate capacity to understand and contemplate concepts from a higher-order preeminent world. These concepts are more real, permanent and universal than the things we observe directly, which are changing and temporal.

He argued that the immortal soul is superior to the body; that evil was simple ignorance of truth; that true knowledge leads to true virtue; that art, including music, should be subordinate to moral purpose.

He argued that the society of the city-state should be governed by a meritorious class of property-less philosopher kings. These philosopher kings would have no permanent wives or paternity rights over their children and be protected by an athletically gifted, honorable, duty-bound military class. In his most famous work, The Republic, Plato critiques democracy, condemns tyranny and proposes a three-tiered merit-based structure of society, with workers, guardians and philosophers in an equal relationship. There no innocents would ever be put to death, citing the philosophers' relentless love of truth and knowledge of the forms or ideals, concern for general welfare and lack of propertied interest as causes for their suitability as governors.


Plato's outstanding student was Aristotle, perhaps the first systematic philosopher. Aristotelian logic was the first type of logic to attempt to categorize every valid syllogism. A syllogism is a form of argument that is guaranteed to be accepted, because it is known (by all educated persons) to be valid. A crucial assumption in Aristotelian logic is that its subjects are real objects. Two of Aristotle's syllogisms are invalid to modern eyes. For example, "All A are B. All A are C. Therefore, some B are C." This syllogism fails if set A is empty, but there are real members of set B. In Aristotle's syllogistic logic you could say this, because his logic applied only to things that exist ("no empty classes").

Plato (left) and Aristotle

The application of Aristotelian logic is preceded by having the student memorize syllogisms. Each syllogism had a name, for example: modus ponens had the form of "If A is true, then B is true. A is true, therefore B is true." Memorization proceeded from diagrams, or learning a key sentence, with the first letter of each word reminding the student of the names of the syllogisms. Most university students of logic memorized Aristotle's 19 syllogisms that concerned two subjects, permitting them to validly connect a subject and object. A few logicians developed systems with three subjects, or described a way of elaborating the rules of three subjects.


Other pupils of Socrates aside from Plato founded schools, such as Euclid of Megara. The Hellenistic period included the Cyrenaics of Aristippus and Cynics of Antisthenes resolving themselves in the Epicurean and Stoic schools. Skepticism also originated in this period.

Medieval philosophy

Further information: Medieval philosophy

The history of western medieval philosophy is generally divided into the early medieval period (mid-4th to 13th centuries) and the high medieval period. The early period started with St. Augustine. The latter period began when a great bulk of Aristotle's works that had been lost in the West were discovered and translated into Latin from Arabic and Greek. It lasted one century and a half compared to the nine centuries of the early period. It ended around the time of William of Ockham in the middle of the 14th century.

Medieval philosophy was primarily concerned with reconciling the Christian faith with philosophical reason, thereby "baptizing" it. Early medieval philosophy was influenced by Stoicism, neo-Platonism, but, above all, Platonic reasoning.

The dominant figure of this period was St. Augustine, who adopted and Christianized Plato's thought. His influence was diminished with the rediscovery of Aristotle's texts. Augustinianism was the preferred starting point for most philosophers (including St. Anselm of Canterbury) until that discovery. Towards the end of the early period and throughout the high period, the nature of God and the application of Aristotle's concept of logic and thought to every area of life were prime concerns. Attempts were made to reconcile them by means of scholasticism. One continuing interest was to prove the existence of God, through logic alone, if possible. The point of this exercise was not to justify belief in God, deemed self-evident, but to elevate classical philosophy, with its pagan origins, to a respectable position in a Christian context.

One monumental effort to overcome mere logical argument was to follow Aristotelian demonstration by starting from effects and reasoning up to their causes. This took the form of the cosmological argument, conventionally attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. The argument roughly is that every phenomenon has a cause and that each cause in turn must be caused by something else. But since the chain of causes cannot stretch infinitely into the past, there must have been an uncaused "first cause" that was posited to be God. Aquinas adapted this argument to prove the goodness of God. Everything has some goodness and each cause is better than the thing it causes. Therefore, the first cause is the best possible thing. Similar arguments were used to prove God's power and uniqueness.

Another important argument for the existence of God was the ontological argument, advanced by St. Anselm. Basically, it claimed that God is that than which nothing greater can be thought. Nothing that exists only in the mind can be said to be greater than something that exists outside the mind. Hence the greatest thing that the mind can conceive of must exist in reality. Therefore, God exists. This argument was used in different forms by philosophers from Descartes forward. Other important thinkers from the medieval period include Scotus, Boëthius and Abélard.

In medieval times, any research other than theology or medicine was called "philosophy", hence the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is a scientific journal dating from 1665, the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree covers a wide range of subjects from the humanities to the sciences and the Cambridge Philosophical Society, which is actually concerned with what would now be called science and not modern philosophy.

Renaissance philosophy

Contemporary philosophical historiography emphasizes a gap between Medieval and modern thought. This "gap" defines the "modern" in "modern philosophy". In Western history, if Columbus' 1492 voyages symbolically ended the Middle Ages. This boundary does not fit the evolution of philosophy well. Between High Scholasticism (13th and part of the 14th centuries) and the empiricist-rationalist disputes characterizing modern philosophy (17th century onward) transitional systems emerged. One focus was on emancipating the humanities, including aesthetics, rhetoric and the beginning of natural observations from theology. Philosophy had its own rebirth during the Renaissance.

Two circumstancial events helped liberate philosophy: the Protestant Reformation and the adoption of vernacular languages instead of Latin in treatises and public discussions.

Most medieval philosophers were priests and monks, while Renaissance philosophers were more heterogeneous, including rhetoricians, magicians and astrologues, early empirical scientists, poets and philologists. One common theme among Renaissance thinkers was a concern for humanity (and the humanities) and the search for human uniqueness. The study of humanae litterae (human writings) overcame that of divinae litterae (divine writings) and opened the way for modern skepticism and science.

Santi di Tito – Niccolò Machiavelli's portrait

Renaissance philosophers diversified the approaches and topics of their predecessors. Those oriented towards empiricism and rationalism, such as Galileo and Machiavelli, qualify as modern philosophers. By contrast, those influenced by esoteric traditions (Mirandola, Ficino, Nicholas of Cusa and Bruno) are better described as Medieval philosophers. Thinkers who do not clearly fall into either category and epitomize Renaissance philosophy, including Montaigne, Campanella, Telesius, Erasmus and More.

Modern philosophy

Main article: Modern philosophy

The term "modern philosophy" has many definitions. One common usage is to date modern philosophy to the "Age of Reason", where systematic philosophy became common, marking Hobbes (writing in the 17th century) as the first modern philosopher. The grounding of philosophy in problems of knowledge, rather than problems of metaphysics, dominates the era, exemplified by Descartes.[125]

Another definition starts from the Renaissance. Also, philosophy has its own "lumpers/splitters" debate, namely that some historians split history into more periods than others e.g., by attaching "early" and "late" to larger eras. The following considers modern philosophy century by century.


17th-century philosophy organized philosophy on rational, skeptical, logical and axiomatic grounds, such as the work of Descartes, Pascal and Hobbes. This approach attempted to integrate religious belief into philosophical frameworks. It rejected atheism or other skeptical beliefs, by adopting the idea of material reality and dualism between spirit and material. The monism of Berkeley (idealism) contrasts with Spinoza (dual aspect theory). During this century empiricism was developed as an alternative to skepticism by Locke, Berkeley and others. Also, Locke and Hobbes developed their political philosophies during this time.


18th-century philosophy centers on the rise of systematic empiricism, following Newton's natural philosophy. If offered thinkers including Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu and political philosophies who influenced the American Revolution and American Enlightenment, such as Beccaria. Kant sought a systematic reconciliation of rationalism and empiricism with his claim that the mind structured experience.

Other major figures included Hume and Smith, who joined Hutcheson and Reid as the primary philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment. The American Enlightenment was defined by Paine and Jefferson. Burke was influenced by Hume's skepticism and reliance on tradition and the passions. While supporting the American Revolution based on the established rights of Englishmen, he rejected both the Enlightenment's "natural rights" claims and the rationalism of the French Revolution. Mary Wollstonecraft was an advocate of women's rights best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

19th century

The 19th century took the radical notions of self-organization and intrinsic order from Goethe and Kantian metaphysics and proceeded to a long elaboration on the tension between systematization and organic development. Foremost was the work of Hegel, whose Logic and Phenomenology of Spirit produced a "dialectical" framework for ordering of knowledge. Schopenhauer affirmed the "will", and drew parallels to Eastern philosophy, influencing Nietzsche.

Kierkegaard took philosophy in a new direction by focusing less on abstract concepts and more on the notion of an existing individual. His work provided impetus for 20th century philosophical movements, including existentialism. Developments in science arose from and then challenged philosophy: most importantly Darwin's theory of evolution, which adapted the idea of organic self-regulation found in philosophers such as Smith.

Contemporary approaches

The three major contemporary approaches to academic philosophy are Analytic philosophy, continental philosophy and pragmatism.[126] They are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. The 20th century experienced upheavals produced by a series of conflicts over the basis of knowledge, with classical certainties overthrown and new social, economic, scientific and logical problems. Multiple thinkers attempted to reform and preserve/alter or abolish, older knowledge systems. Seminal figures include Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sartre and Husserl. Since the Second World War, contemporary philosophy mostly settled into analytic and continental traditions; the former carried in the English speaking world and the latter on the continent of Europe. The perceived conflict between these schools remains prominent. Knowledge and its basis has been a central concern, as in Russell, Moore, Popper and Lévi-Strauss.

The philosophy of the 21st century is difficult to characterize due to its youth. Surviving 20th century philosophers who have (re)established themselves in the 21st include Chomsky, Kripke and Habermas. New topics have occupied analytic philosophy, providing much of contemporary discourse in ethics. New inquiries consider the ethical implications of new media and information exchange. Such developments rekindled interest in the philosophy of technology and science. Enthusiasm increased for specialized areas in philosophy of science, such as in the Bayesian school of epistemology.


Main article: Analytic philosophy

Analytic philosophy comprises philosophical methods that stress detailed argumentation, attention to semantics, use of classical and non-classical logics and clarity of meaning. One dispute is over whether philosophical problems arise through misuse of language/misunderstandings of its logic or through philosophical problems. Dummett[127] makes the case that Frege's The Foundations of Arithmetic is the first analytic work, on the grounds that Frege took the "linguistic turn", analyzing philosophical problems through language. Russell and Moore are often counted as founders of analytic philosophy, based on their rejection of British idealism, their defense of realism and the emphasis they laid on the legitimacy of analysis.

Russell's classic works The Principles of Mathematics,[128] On Denoting and Principia Mathematica with Whitehead, promoted the use of mathematical logic in philosophy. They set the research program in the early stages of the analytic tradition. They emphasized problems such as the reference of proper names, whether 'existence' is a property, the nature of propositions, the analysis of definite descriptions, the discussions on the foundations of mathematics; and explored issues of ontological commitment and metaphysical problems regarding time, the nature of matter, mind and persistence and change. Russell and Moore's philosophy developed as a critique of Hegel and his British followers in particular and of grand systems of speculative philosophy in general. Taylor is one analytic philosopher who rejects neither Hegel nor speculative philosophy. Logical positivism and ordinary language were both influenced by Russell and Wittgenstein's development of logical atomism, the former positively and the latter negatively.

In 1921, Wittgenstein published his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which gave a rigidly "logical" account of linguistic and philosophical issues. At the time, he found most of the problems of philosophy to be mere puzzles of language, which could be solved by investigating and then observing language's logical structure. Later, he reversed some positions he set out in Tractatus, for example in his second major work, Philosophical Investigations (1953). Investigations was influential in the development of "ordinary language philosophy," which was promoted by Ryle, Austin and others.

Quine had a major influence in the US, with Two Dogmas of Empiricism. Quine criticized the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements, arguing that a clear conception of "analyticity" was unattainable. He argued for holism, the thesis that language, including scientific language, is a set of interconnected sentences, none of which can be verified on its own. Instead he argued that sentences depend on each other for their meaning and truth conditions. A consequence of this approach is that language as a whole has only a thin relation to experience. Some sentences that refer directly to experience might be modified by sense impressions, but as language is theoretical, for the whole language to be modified, more than this is required. However, most of the linguistic structure can in principle be revised, even logic, in order to better model the world. Notable students of Quine include Davidson and Dennett. The former devised a program for giving a semantics to natural language and thereby answer the philosophical conundrum "what is meaning?". A crucial part of the program was the use of Tarski's semantic theory of truth. Dummett, among others, argued that truth conditions should be dispensed with in the theory of meaning and replaced by "assertability conditions". Some propositions, on this view, are neither true nor false and thus such a theory of meaning entails a rejection of the law of the excluded middle. This, for Dummett, entails antirealism, as Russell himself pointed out in An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth.

By the 1970s renewed interest in many traditional philosophical problems was evident in the younger of analytic philosophers. Lewis, Kripke, Parfit studied traditional metaphysical problems, which they began exploring with logic and the philosophy of language. Among those problems were: free will, essentialism, the nature of personal identity, identity over time, the mind, causal laws, space-time, the properties of material beings and modality. Analytic philosophers continued to consider these questions in the 2010s. They are also interested in the methodology of analytic philosophy. Williamson wrote The Philosophy of Philosophy on that topic. Influential figures include Lewis, Searle, Nagel, Putnam, Dummett, Inwagen, Kripke and Patricia Churchland. Analytic philosophy has been accused of not contributing to the political debate or to traditional questions in aesthetics. However, with the appearance of Rawls' A Theory of Justice and Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia, analytic political philosophy gained respect. Analytic philosophers also considered aesthetics, led by Scruton, GoodmanDandanto.


Frege grounded of philosophy in logic rather than knowledge, a radical change from philosophy since Descartes.[125] Frege helped Boole and others overturn Aristotle's logic, which had held sway for millennia. He developed predicate logic, which allowed a much greater range of sentences to be parsed into logical form than was possible using the ancient Aristotelian logic.


The logicist project to ground mathematics in logic dominated the era, although it received a serious setback from Russell's Paradox and was defeated utterly by Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. During his early career, he was much influenced by Like Frege. Russell along with collaborator Whitehead, attempted to show that mathematics is reducible to logical fundamentals in The Principles of Mathematics (1903). Later, his book, also written with Whitehead, Principia Mathematica (1910–13), encouraged many philosophers to renew their interest in the development of symbolic logic. Additionally, Russell adopted Frege's predicate logic as his primary philosophical method, thinking that could expose the underlying structure of philosophical problems, most famously in his analysis of definite descriptions in "On Denoting".[129]

An important aspect of British idealism was logical holism—the opinion that the aspects of the world cannot be known wholly without also knowing the whole world. Inspired by developments of modern logic, Russell's early work claimed that the problems of philosophy could be solved by showing the simple constituents of complex notions.[130] This is closely related to the opinion that relations between items are actually internal relations, that is, properties internal to the nature of those items. Russell, along with Wittgenstein, in response promulgated logical atomism and the doctrine of external relations— the belief that the world consists of independent facts.[131]


A basic principle of analytic philosophy is conceptual clarity,[130] in the name of which Moore and Russell rejected Hegelianism, which they accused of obscurity.[132][133]

In Husserl's 1891 book Philosophie der Arithmetik, he adduced "psychologism" in an attempt to show that the concept of the cardinal number derived from psychical acts of grouping objects and counting them.[134] Instead, Frege sought to show that mathematics and logic have their own validity, independent of the judgments or mental states of individual mathematicians and logicians. Frege further developed his philosophy of logic and mathematics in The Foundations of Arithmetic and The Basic Laws of Arithmetic where he provided an alternative to psychological accounts of the concept of a number. Husserl later gave his own devastating critiques of psychologism.

Late 19th-century English philosophy was dominated by British idealism.


Wittgenstein saw all philosophical problems as language problems. Early Wittgenstein and the logical positivists saw language as reducible to logical terms, perhaps exemplified in Russell's theory of definite descriptions. Wittgenstein shifted later, presenting language as a social phenomenon, not reducible to logical terms. Quine and others rejected the logical positivists. This was supported by the theory of implicature and in Austin's theory of performative utterance.

Frege denied that terms have meaning in virtue of the objects to which they refer. Much of Kripke's fame comes from disputing Frege on this point. Kripke made influential contributions to logic, especially modal logic. His work has profoundly influenced the analytic tradition. His principal contribution was a semantics for modal logic, involving possible worlds as described in Kripke semantics.[135] Notable Quine student Lewis is probably best known for his controversial modal realist stance that all possible worlds exist; with our world as but one among them. That is, when you say "It is possible you could jump over the moon" an actual world exists wherein that could happen.


Continental philosophy comprises 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions developed in mainland Europe. This term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to European traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.

Phenomenologically oriented metaphysics undergirded existentialism (Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Camus) and poststructuralism (Deleuze, Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida). Continental philosophy was largely rejected by the Anglosphere. E.g., Quine labeled Derrida's work as "pseudophilosophy". Rorty argued that these and other schools of 20th century philosophy, including his own, oppose classical dualism that is both anti-essentialist and anti-metaphysical.[136] The psychoanalytic work of Freud, Lacan, Kristeva and others influenced continental thought. Gadamer and MacIntyre independently revived Aristotelianism.

Postcolonial theory, was developed in the late 20th century by theorists such Spivak and Bhabha. Žižek synthesized Lacanian, Hegelian and Althusserian Marxist thought in discussions of popular culture and politics. Žižek attempted to escape postmodernism and the linguistic turn of the 20th century. Key contributors to this movement are Badiou and the speculative realists, including Meillassoux and Brassier. Butler offered close readings of language, gender, subjectivity, corporeality, kinship, war and non-violent ethics, attracting criticism from Žižek, Nussbaum and radical Zionists.

German idealism

Main article: German idealism
Immanuel Kant (seated on the left, holding the paper) and a group of friends.

Idealism informed philosophy again from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Kant's transcendental idealism described limits on what can be understood, since objective judgment cannot encompass every phenomenon.His Critique of Pure Reason (1781–1787) attempted to reconcile rationalism and empiricism and to reestablish metaphysics. Kant's intention was consider what we know and identify what must be true about it, as a logical consequence of the way we know it. One major theme was that fundamental features of reality evade direct knowledge because of limits to human faculties.[137] Kant held that objective knowledge of the world required the mind to impose a conceptual or categorical framework on sensory data—a framework including space and time. He maintained that things-in-themselves exist independently of perceptions and judgments. Thereafter, Fichte and Schelling dispensed with belief in the independent existence of the world and created a thoroughgoing idealist philosophy.

The most notable work of this tradition was Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, of 1807. Hegel admitted his ideas were not new. He claimed that previous philosophies were incomplete and attempted to complete them. Hegel asserted that the twin aims of philosophy are to account for contradictions apparent in human experience (such as the supposed contradiction between "being" and "not being") and to resolve them by showing their compatibility at a higher level of examination ("being" and "not being" are resolved with "becoming"). This program of acceptance and reconciliation of contradictions became known as the "Hegelian dialectic".

Philosophers influenced by Hegel include Feuerbach (who coined the term "projection" to describe our inability to recognize external objects without envisioning qualities of ourselves in them), Marx, Engels, and the British idealists, notably Green, McTaggart and Bradley. Unlike idealism, Hegelian dialectic and Kant's "Copernican Turn" remain important philosophical concepts.


Husserl's phenomenology was an attempt to give an account of the structure of conscious experience.[138] He attempted to show that all conscious acts are directed at or about objective content, a feature that Husserl called intentionality.[139] In the first part of his two-volume work, Logical Investigations (1901), he launched an extended attack on psychologism. In the second part, he developed descriptive phenomenology, attempting to show how objective judgments are grounded in conscious experience. He was not speaking of the first-person experiences of particular individuals, but in the properties essential to any such experience.[138] He also attempted to identify the essential properties of any act of meaning.[clarification needed] He developed the method further in Ideas (1913) as transcendental phenomenology, proposing to ground experience and thus human knowledge, in the structure of consciousness of an ideal, or transcendental, ego. Later, he attempted to reconcile his transcendental standpoint with an acknowledgement of the intersubjective life-world in which real subjects interact. Husserl published only a few works, which treated phenomenology mainly in abstract methodological terms; but he left many unpublished concrete analyses. Husserl's work was immediately influential in Germany, with the creation of phenomenological schools in Munich and Göttingen. Phenomenology later achieved international fame through the work of such philosophers as Heidegger (formerly Husserl's research assistant), Merleau-Ponty and Sartre. Via Heidegger and Sartre, Husserl's focus on subjective experience influenced existentialism.


Main article: Existentialism

Existentialism[140][141] is the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living individual.[142] In existentialism, the individual's starting point is called "the existential attitude", or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless/absurd world.[143] Many existentialists regarded traditional philosophy, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete experience.[144][145]

Although they did not use the term, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are widely regarded as the fathers of existentialism.[146][147][148] The main target of Kierkegaard's writings was Hegel's idealist philosophical system that he thought ignored or excluded the inner subjective life of living human beings. Kierkegaard conversely held that "truth is subjectivity", arguing that what is most important to a subject deal with the subject's inner relationship to existence. Kierkegaard, a Christian, believed that the truth of religious faith was a subjective question to be wrestled with passionately.[149][150]

Although Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were among his influences, the extent to which Heidegger can be considered an existentialist is debatable. In Being and Time he presented a method of rooting philosophical explanations in human existence (Dasein) to be analysed in terms of existential categories (existentiale). This led many commentators to treat him as an existentialist. However, in The Letter on Humanism, Heidegger explicitly rejected Sartre's existentialism. Sartre became the tradition's best-known proponent, exploring it in theoretical works such as Being and Nothingness, and in plays and novels. Sartre, along with de Beauvoir, represented an atheistic branch of existentialism, now more closely associated with their ideas of nausea, contingency, bad faith and the absurd than with spiritual angst. The individual's responsibility for the authenticity of his or her existence is common to all these thinkers.

Structuralism and post-structuralism

Inaugurated by linguist Saussure, structuralism sought to clarify systems of signs through analyzing the discourses they define. Saussure conceived of the sign as delimited by the other signs in the system and that ideas could not exist prior to linguistic structure, which articulates thought. This led continental thought toward the "decentering" of the speaker: language is no not spoken to express a true inner self: instead language "speaks" the speaker. Structuralism sought the imprimatur of a hard science, but its positivism soon came under fire by poststructuralists, some of whom were former structuralists.

Structuralists believed they could analyze systems from an external, objective standing, but the poststructuralists argued that structures cannot transcend and thus analysis is determined by the object of analysis. While the distinction between the signifier and signified was treated as unambiguous by structuralists, poststructuralists asserted that every attempt to comprehend the signified results only in more signifiers, ever deferring meaning, ultimately defeating interpretation. Structuralism dominated continental philosophy throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, encompassing Lévi-Strauss, Barthes and Lacan. Post-structuralism dominated from the 1970s onwards, including thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze and even Barthes.


Main articles: Pragmatism and Instrumentalism

Pragmatism asserts that the truth of beliefs consists in their usefulness and efficacy rather than their correspondence with reality.[151] Peirce and James were its co-founders and it was later modified by Dewey as instrumentalism. Since the usefulness of any belief at any time might be contingent on circumstance, Peirce and James conceptualised final truth as something established only by the future, final settlement of all opinion.[152]

Pragmatism attempted to find a scientific concept of truth that does not depend on personal insight (revelation) or reference to some metaphysical realm. It interpreted the meaning of a statement by the effect its acceptance would have on practice. Inquiry taken far enough is thus the only path to truth.[153]

For Peirce commitment to inquiry was essential to truth-finding, implied by the idea and hope that inquiry is not fruitless. The interpretation of these principles has been subject to discussion ever since. Peirce's maxim of pragmatism is, "Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object."[154]

Critics accused pragmatism falling victim to a simple fallacy: that because something that is true proves useful, that usefulness is an appropriate basis for its truthfulness.[155] Pragmatist thinkers include Dewey, Santayana, Quine and Lewis. Pragmatism was later worked on by Rorty, Lachs, Davidson, Haack and Putnam.

Instrumentalism is named for its premise that theories are tools or instruments identifying reliable means-end relations found in experience, but not claiming to reveal realities beyond experience.[156] Its premises and practices were most clearly and persuasively stated by Dewey and Popper. Independently, they defined the school quite similarly, but their judgments of its premises were irreconcilable.

Other approaches

A variety of other academic and non-academic approaches have been explored.


Main article: Thomism

Largely Aristotelian in its approach and content, Thomism is a philosophical tradition that follows the writings of Thomas Aquinas. His work has been read, studied and disputed since the 13th century, especially by Roman Catholics. Aquinas enjoyed a revived interest beginning in the late 19th century, among both atheists (Philippa Foot) and theists (Elizabeth Anscombe).[157] Thomist philosophers tend to be rationalists in epistemology, as well as metaphysical realists and virtue ethicists. The claim that humans are rational animals whose good can be known by reason that can be achieved by the will. Thomists (e.g., Aristotle) argue that soul or psyche is real and immaterial but inseparable from matter in organisms. Soul is the form of the body. Thomists accept Aristotle's causes as natural, including teleological or final causes. In this way, although Aquinas argued that whatever is in the intellect begins in the senses, natural teleology can be discerned with the senses and abstracted from nature through induction.[158]

Contemporary Thomism encompasses multiple variants, from Neo-Scholasticism to Existential Thomism.[159]

The so-called new natural lawyers like Grisez and George applied Thomistic legal principles to contemporary ethical debates, while Freeman proposed that Thomism's cognition as most compatible with neurodynamics. Analytical Thomism (Haldane) encourages dialogue between analytic philosophy and broadly Aristotelian philosophy of mind, psychology and hylomorphic metaphysics.[160] Other contemporary Thomists include Stump, MacIntyre and Finnis.

Applied philosophy

The ideas conceived by a society have profound repercussions on what actions the society performs. Weaver argued that ideas have consequences. Philosophy yields applications such as those in ethicsapplied ethics in particular—and political philosophy. The political and economic philosophies of Confucius, Sun Tzu, Chanakya, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Taymiyyah, Machiavelli, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. have been used to shape and justify governments and their actions. Progressive education as championed by Dewey had a profound impact on 20th century US educational practices. Descendants of this movement include efforts in philosophy for children, which are part of philosophy education. Clausewitz's political philosophy of war has had a profound effect on statecraft, international politics and military strategy in the 20th century, especially around World War II. Logic is important in mathematics, linguistics, psychology, computer science and computer engineering.

Other important applications can be found in epistemology, which aid in understanding the requisites for knowledge, sound evidence and justified belief (important in law, economics, decision theory and a number of other disciplines). The philosophy of science discusses the underpinnings of the scientific method and has affected the nature of scientific investigation and argumentation. As such, philosophy has fundamental implications for science as a whole. For example, the strictly empirical approach of B. F. Skinner's behaviorism affected for decades the approach of the American psychological establishment. Deep ecology and animal rights examine the moral situation of humans as occupants of a world that has non-human occupants to consider also. Aesthetics can help to interpret discussions of music, literature, the plastic arts and the whole artistic dimension of life. In general, the various philosophies strive to provide practical activities with a deeper understanding of the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of their fields.


Main article: Marxism

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis, originating from Marx and Engels. It analyzes class relations and societal conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and a dialectical view of social transformation. Marxist analyses and methodologies influenced political ideologies and social movements. Marxist understandings of history and society were adopted by academics in archaeology, anthropology, media studies, political science, theater, history, sociology, art history and theory, cultural studies, education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical psychology and philosophy.

Philosophy and society

Some of those who study philosophy become professional philosophers, typically by working as professors who teach, research and write in academic institutions.[161] However, most students of academic philosophy later contribute to law, journalism, religion, sciences, politics, business, or various arts.[26][162] For example, public figures who have degrees in philosophy include comedians Steve Martin and Ricky Gervais, filmmaker Terrence Malick, Pope John Paul II, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bryer and vice presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.[163][164]

Role of women

Main article: Women in philosophy
American philosopher of mind and philosopher of art Susanne Langer (1895–1985).

Although men have generally dominated philosophical discourse, women have engaged in philosophy throughout history. Women philosophers have contributed since ancient times–notably Hipparchia of Maroneia (active ca. 325 BC) and Arete of Cyrene (active 5th–4th century BC). More were accepted during the ancient, medieval and modern eras, but no women philosophers became part the Western canon until the 20th and 21st century, when some sources indicate that Susanne Langer, Hannah Arendt and Simone de Beauvoir entered the canon.[165][166]

In the early 1800s, some colleges and universities in the UK and US began admitting women, producing more female academics. Nevertheless, U.S. Department of Education reports from the 1990s indicate that few women ended up in philosophy, and that philosophy is one of the least gender-proportionate fields in the humanities.[167] In 2014, Inside Higher Education described the philosophy "...discipline’s own long history of misogyny and sexual harassment" of women students and professors.[168]Jennifer Saul stated in 2015 that women are "...leaving philosophy after being harassed, assaulted, or retaliated against." [169]

In the early 1990s, the Canadian Philosophical Association noted a gender imbalance and gender bias in the academic field of philosophy.[170] In June 2013, a US sociology professor stated that "out of all recent citations in four prestigious philosophy journals, female authors comprise just 3.6 percent of the total."[171] Susan Price argues that the philosophical " remains dominated by white males—the discipline that...still hews to the myth that genius is tied to gender."[172] According to Saul, "[p]hilosophy, the oldest of the humanities, is also the malest (and the whitest). While other areas of the humanities are at or near gender parity, philosophy is actually more overwhelmingly male than even mathematics."[173]

Popular culture

In 2000, the Open Court Publishing Company began publishing a series of books on philosophy and popular culture. Each book consists of essays written by philosophers for general readers. The books "explore the meanings, concepts and puzzles within television shows, movies, music and other icons of popular culture"[174] analyzing topics such as the TV shows Seinfeld and The Simpsons, The Matrix and Star Wars movies and related media and new technological developments such as the iPod and Facebook. Their most recent publication (as of 2016) is titled Louis C.K. and Philosophy; its subject is the comedian Louis C.K..

The Matrix makes numerous references to philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, existentialism and nihilism. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, Descartes's evil demon, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", Marxist social theory and the brain in a vat thought experiment. Many references to Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appear in the film, although Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation.[175]

See also

Main article: Outline of philosophy


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  4. ^ The definition of philosophy is: "1. orig., love of, or the search for, wisdom or knowledge 2. theory or logical analysis of the principles underlying conduct, thought, knowledge, and the nature of the universe". Webster's New World Dictionary (Second College ed.). 
  5. ^ Jenny Teichmann and Katherine C. Evans, Philosophy: A Beginner's Guide (Blackwell Publishing, 1999), p. 1: "Philosophy is a study of problems which are ultimate, abstract and very general. These problems are concerned with the nature of existence, knowledge, morality, reason and human purpose."
  6. ^ A.C. Grayling, Philosophy 1: A Guide through the Subject (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 1: "The aim of philosophical inquiry is to gain insight into questions about knowledge, truth, reason, reality, meaning, mind, and value."
  7. ^ Adler, Mortimer J. (28 March 2000). How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9412-3. 
  8. ^ Quinton, Anthony, The ethics of philosophical practice, p. 666, Philosophy is rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value). Each of the three elements in this list has a non-philosophical counterpart, from which it is distinguished by its explicitly rational and critical way of proceeding and by its systematic nature. Everyone has some general conception of the nature of the world in which they live and of their place in it. Metaphysics replaces the unargued assumptions embodied in such a conception with a rational and organized body of beliefs about the world as a whole. Everyone has occasion to doubt and question beliefs, their own or those of others, with more or less success and without any theory of what they are doing. Epistemology seeks by argument to make explicit the rules of correct belief formation. Everyone governs their conduct by directing it to desired or valued ends. Ethics, or moral philosophy, in its most inclusive sense, seeks to articulate, in rationally systematic form, the rules or principles involved.  in Honderich 1995.
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  113. ^ "Wittgenstein, Ludwig" in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and regarded by some as the most important since Immanuel Kant."
  114. ^ Thomas Baldwin, Contemporary Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 90: "[Quine] has been, without question, the most influential American philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century."
  115. ^ Peter Hylton, "Quine", in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Quine's work has been extremely influential and has done much to shape the course of philosophy in the second-half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first."
  116. ^ Bailey,, Andrew (2004). First Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality. Broadview Press. p. 274. Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) was uncontroversially one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century. 
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  118. ^ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, David Lews: "David Lewis (1941–2001) was one of the most important philosophers of the 20th Century. He made significant contributions to philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, decision theory, epistemology, meta-ethics and aesthetics. In most of these fields he is essential reading; in many of them he is among the most important figures of recent decades. And this list leaves out his two most significant contributions."
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  126. ^ Nicholas Joll,
  127. ^ Origins of Analytical Philosophy
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  129. ^ Russell, Bertrand (1905). "On Denoting". Mind 14: 473–93. 
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  131. ^ Baillie, James, "Introduction to Bertrand Russell" in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy, Second Edition (Prentice Hall, 1997), p. 25.
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Further reading

General introductions

Topical introductions




Historical introductions


  • Knight, Kelvin. Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre. ISBN 978-0-7456-1977-4



  • Existentialism: Basic Writings (Second Edition) by Charles Guignon, Derk Pereboom
  • Curley, Edwin, A Spinoza Reader, Princeton, 1994, ISBN 978-0-691-00067-1
  • Bullock, Alan, R. B. Woodings, and John Cumming, eds. The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thinkers, in series, Fontana Original[s]. Hammersmith, Eng.: Fontana Press, 1992, cop. 1983. xxv, 867 p. ISBN 978-0-00-636965-3
  • Scruton, Roger. A Short History of Modern Philosophy. ISBN 978-0-415-26763-2


Reference works

  • Chan, Wing-tsit (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01964-9. 
  • Huang, Siu-chi (1999). Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-26449-X. 
  • Honderich, T., ed. (1995). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0. 
  • The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi
  • The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by Edward Craig, Luciano Floridi (available online by subscription); or
  • The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy edited by Edward Craig (an abridgement)
  • Edwards, Paul, ed. (1967). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan & Free Press. ; in 1996, a ninth supplemental volume appeared that updated the classic 1967 encyclopedia.
  • International Directory of Philosophy and Philosophers. Charlottesville, Philosophy Documentation Center.
  • Directory of American Philosophers. Charlottesville, Philosophy Documentation Center.
  • Routledge History of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by John Marenbon
  • History of Philosophy (9 vols.) by Frederick Copleston
  • A History of Western Philosophy (5 vols.) by W. T. Jones
  • History of Italian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Eugenio Garin. Translated from Italian and Edited by Giorgio Pinton. Introduction by Leon Pompa.
  • Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies (8 vols.), edited by Karl H. Potter et al. (first 6 volumes out of print)
  • Indian Philosophy (2 vols.) by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
  • A History of Indian Philosophy (5 vols.) by Surendranath Dasgupta
  • History of Chinese Philosophy (2 vols.) by Fung Yu-lan, Derk Bodde
  • Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-ming by Chan, Wing-tsit
  • Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy edited by Antonio S. Cua
  • Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion by Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber, Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Kurt Friedrichs
  • Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy by Brian Carr, Indira Mahalingam
  • A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy: Sanskrit Terms Defined in English by John A. Grimes
  • History of Islamic Philosophy edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman
  • History of Jewish Philosophy edited by Daniel H. Frank, Oliver Leaman
  • A History of Russian Philosophy: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Centuries by Valerii Aleksandrovich Kuvakin
  • Ayer, A.J. et al., Ed. (1994) A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations. Blackwell Reference Oxford. Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd.
  • Blackburn, S., Ed. (1996)The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Mauter, T., Ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy. London, Penguin Books.
  • Runes, D., Ed. (1942). The Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, The Philosophical Library, Inc.
  • Angeles, P.A., Ed. (1992). The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy. New York, Harper Perennial.
  • Bunnin, Nicholas; Tsui-James, Eric, eds. (15 April 2008). The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-99787-1. 
  • Hoffman, Eric, Ed. (1997) Guidebook for Publishing Philosophy. Charlottesville, Philosophy Documentation Center.
  • Popkin, R.H. (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. New York, Columbia University Press.
  • Bullock, Alan, and Oliver Stallybrass, jt. eds. The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. xix, 684 p. N.B.: "First published in England under the title, The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought." ISBN 978-0-06-010578-5
  • Reese, W. L. Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1980. iv, 644 p. ISBN 978-0-391-00688-1

External links