Talk:Philosophy/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 5


  • Larry Sanger & Chris talked about duplicate content in overview- and more specialized articles, coming to the conclusion that a healthy amount of duplication should be part of Wikipedia, and that an automation of this might be useful.
  • LMS, Tejano & others talked about whether 'non-academically recognized' philosophers (Ryan, Korzybski, Hubbard ..) should be included in the article and how.
  • ksmarthers suggested a split of the main page into sections like myth, religion, western-, eastern- and popular philosophy to not limit philosophy to a strict definition of academia. [1]
  • Simon J Kissane asked about the difference of philosophical movements and school, and didn't get a reply.
  • somebody wrote about Murphys Law, and asks about linking it into popular philosophy
  • LMS wonders about the stated division between philosophers in "the 'meaning of live' vein' and the 'a priori' vein. SA and somebody else join in, but no conclusion
  • Larry Sanger notifies about structural changes
  • Dominique Michel replies to [1]
  • JoaquinMiller asks about the difference between dialog and dialectic. Sam Manilla and Larry Sanger answer.
  • Larry Sanger and kwertii argue about the focus on western philosophy and how it's eastern counterpart should be integrated in the article
  • Rotem, as a student of mathematics, opposes the idea, that philosophy is far more accessable to an educated non-specialist than mathematics. no response.
  • 2 people oppose the idea of western philsophy being more religion-independent than its eastern counterpart. no response
  • Evercat notifies about structural changes. people approve.
  • somebody replaces a quotation with something more pleasent. no objections.
  • Mike suggests a devision of the article in philosophers that allow 'an immaterial spiritual soul in man' and those who do not. A fierce rejection by somebody.
  • SLR says something about the introduction being too narrow. I don't understand it, noone replied.
  • RK, Cimon Avaro and argue about how accessable philosophy is to the scientific method, and whether there is a fundamental difference between theories in philosophy and other sciences.
  • Sam asks clarification about the part on the source of the term "philosophy". answers.
  • Tejano questions the existence and NPOV of "economic philosophy" and removes it from the article. No complaints.
  • asks: "How can you qualify to have a quote on Wikipedia and this Philosophy article?". No response.
  • Mitch questions the definitions of ontology and metaphysics proposed in the article. No response.
  • Fabiform asks for help editing philosophy related topics. No replies.
  • Somebody demands for Socrates to be mentioned somewhere. It doesn't become clear from the context.


The paragraphs giving the definition of philosophy, which open the philosophy article, are taken from the definition of philosophy. Please help keep those two articles mutually consistent.

Moreover, the paragraphs giving an outline of western philosophy are taken from history of philosophy, and the list of philosophical subdisciplines is from philosophical subdisciplines; please help keep those articles consistent as well.

--Larry Sanger

Use the 'once and once only' rule. Move a paragraph to its own page, then have links to that page rather than a copy of it. --Chris

I didn't write "how?" after each paragraph above. Please don't change talk page comments. That's misleading ("I didn't write that") and rude.
Frankly, I really don't care much (really!), but I doubt a "once and once only" rule (this is the first I've heard of it) is a good idea. The goal of a good encyclopedia article is to give a comprehensive, self-contained introduction to a subject. Of course, for details, the reader is referred to more specialized articles. But the generalities essential to writing an article on a subject (like "Philosophy") will necessarily be details that can also be found in other articles. If you depend on people clicking through to the other articles, in order to understand what you're talking about, then you will in many cases end up with a very difficult-to-read, and in some cases incoherent article.
It's worth remembering that the exercise here in writing encyclopedia articles is not merely to catalog information and shove it into its appropriate categories; it is, in addition, to give an exposition of the subject that is clear and accessible to the reader who actually needs the exposition. So, an article called "Philosophy" should be accessible to the person who is (1) generally educated enough to be able to understand what philosophy generally is, but (2) doesn't know what philosophy generally is. To make it accessible, some expository "padding" could, possibly, be lifted straight from articles on subtopics is a perfectly good idea.
For these reasons I think Wikipedia probably should contain a healthy amount of repetition, even if it occasionally means duplication of effort and even inconsistency. --Larry Sanger (hi all)

I see what you mean. Some wiki implementations let you have your cake and eat it. MoinMoin wiki for example lets you include one page from another. Maybe there is a suggestion box around here somewhere. --Chris

Ayn Rand was also in this category, with her rationalist philosophy of Objectivism.

I can sympathize with your desire to put that sentence into the history of philosophy section, so let me explain why I removed it. First, Ayn Rand, as she herself would strongly insist, was not an analytic philosopher. Second, she also was not a rationalist, in the sense in which this term is ordinarily used (and in which Rand herself used the term); see rationalism. Finally, and most importantly, I'm sorry, but in terms of historical influence and importance in the world of philosophy--as distinguished from the culture at large, perhaps--Ayn Rand simply does not have the stature of the other people mentioned. This is not to pass judgment on the quality of her philosophizing or the truth of her views, but to make a statement about her influence and stature in the field.

Now, if you were to include Rand, then I would suggest that, in the philosophy article, you should also include such people as Alfred Korzybski, R. Buckminster Fuller, L. Ron Hubbard, and a number of other such people who have done philosophy of a sort, but who are not widely regarded by academic philosophers as important philosophers. This isn't to say that Rand, or these other people, were unimportant hacks--please be clear on what my claim is. Perhaps what is needed is a separate paragraph on "popular and influential philosophers among nonphilosophers" or something like that. The list would also have to include Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, though, because they too were popular and influential philosophers among nonphilosophers (still are, to some extent). --LMS

yes, all absolutely true, but Rand has a special claim to fame as the best known moral rationale of capitalism and its inherent opposition to environmentalism - which led to the reconciliation called Natural Capitalism (neoclassical economics applied to optimize energy use). This is quite important - in political economy.
likewise, Popper is still a major philosopher of science, Russell of politics, and so this group of three (Russell, Popper, Rand) had a serious influence on "neoclassical" law, science and economics - what we live under.
on the other hand, Alfred Korzybski, R. Buckminster Fuller, L. Ron Hubbard could all be considered to belong to the opposition party - since they all sought unifying notions that were opposed to falsifiability
I hate to be the one that breaks your Randian bubble but your statement "best known moral rationale of capitalism" is a fallacy: argumentum ad numerum. You don't know how many people have been influenced by her writings or the level of which they were influenced. Arguably, Murray Rothbard or Ludwig von Mises were just as influential in their writings on free-trade, libertarian thought and non-interventionism as Alice Rosenbaum was. Additionally, I doubt Rand would consider environmentalism to be the apex diametrically opposed to her philosophy, it's just one of many pieces of "statism" that she supposedly disdained.
Unless you live in Gault's Gulch, today's "America" is hardly a model of economic libertarianism. In fact, deficit spending continues to increase, the warfare-welfare State continues to grow (if measured by spending, subsidies, etc.) and business regulation is still the order of the day. So if by influence you mean, walking the path of liberalism as espoused by Rand in either one of her tomes, I would have to disagree.
Lastly, you miss Larry's point regarding Alfred Korzybski, R. Buckminster Fuller and L. Ron Hubbard -- regardless as to what they espoused, they have had the same amount of measurable influence (based upon cult followings, book sales, etc.) as Rand did and does. --Tejano

I would recommend splitting the top level philosophy page into appropriate sections including possibly

  • myth
  • religion
  • western philosophy
  • eastern philosophy
  • popular philosophy

That Ayn Rand hasn't had much impact on academic thought is unimportant if someone came to the wiki looking for information on Objectivism. (I would put her under popular philosophy though.) The distinction you draw between influential and popular, and that popular philosophers don't belong here, is IMHO a slippery slope. -- ksmathers

There are in fact courses taught on Objectivism in some places. If it is a matter of impact or professional opinion on the matter then Whitehead would be counted out as well!!

How does a 'Philosophical Movement' differ from schools of philosophy, like Platonism or Scholasticism for instance? Are they the same thing? Are they different? -- Simon J Kissane

I've just written a (very short, and highly incomplete) article on Murphys Law. Does it belong in the "popular philosophy" section?

There is a tendency to line up the continental philosophers with the 'meaning of life' vein in philosophy and the analytical with the 'a priori' vein. It is not clear how justified this move is.

I removed this. I think the person who wrote this is onto something, but the point is not well expressed at all. Analytic philosophers think about the "meaning of life" and continental philosophers engage in at least as much "a priori" philosophizing as anyone else. More importantly, it's not clear to me (and is unlikely to be very clear to anyone else) just what "the meaning of life vein" and "the a priori vein" mean. I would try to reword this, but really, I don't know how... --LMS

I'd like to see some evidence for the following, in the form of examples of philosophers in each "tradition":

There are two basic veins in philosophical work. One takes the role of philosophy to be purely the study of the a priori (literally, "before experience") and philosophers who work in this vein are involved in the analysis of various concepts, language, mathematics, epistemology, etc. The other role philosophy has taken to have is to decipher 'the meaning of life' or what one 'ought to do'. Philosophers who work in this vein tried to understand our experience, prescribe ethical behavior, etc. Philosophers, especially those in that first tradition, argue that philosophy studies the kind of knowledge that is not given to us in experience.

As a trained philosopher, I've never heard of such a division in philosophy. I imagine that, perhaps, Thoreau and other essayists might be firmly in the second tradition, but very many other major philosophers who are called by the name would be in both camps, it seems to me. --LMS

LMS -- I don't mean to but in, but I once read a book by someone named Guthrie called The Greek Philosophers and I think in the introduction he says philosophy, or perhaps just Greek philosophy, or perhaps even just Greek philosophy at a certain stage in its development, has/had two distinct strands, the metaphysical and the ethical. I am not a philosopher and hardly even a dilettant, so maybe I am misunderstanding the issue or this book by Guthrie is too popular or out of date, but is it possible that this is the distinction your above interlocutor is refering to? SR
that seems to me like the division between philosophy and theology - they overlap in ontology but take different paths otherwise - philosophy considers ontology a branch of metaphysics, theology sees it as a methodology for reaching God - a full study in itself and including about half of what philosophers call ethics - which theologians would use to structure their ontology not based on 'what they find' but what they 'ought to do' as you say. then there's cosmology but that's a whole nother kettle of fish.

I made a general update of the philosophy page but nothing terribly important. Someone had put details of the etymology of the term before the definition of the term. In my opinion, we should give definitions first, always (or almost always). Famously, the etymology of "philosophy" does not really shed terribly much light on what philosophy is. I moved Hegel off the list of "modern philosophers" because he's listed as a "nineteenth-century philosopher." I moved "axiology" off the philosophical subdiscipline list, because the term usually used now for that is "value theory," and I added "value theory." --Larry Sanger

I apologise for my english that is not so god, i hope at it will be understandable. I fully agree with the suggestion of ksmathers to do more categories like western philosophy, eastern philosophy and so on. Before Plato and Aristote, it was no philosophy of the being in the world. This have done a real secession between the Occident and all the rest of the world and this secession is still alive and that even if the Occident have colonized a big part of the world. It can seams like a political issue but it's much more as that, it's about the meaning of life that is not the same for an occidental, for an asiatic, for an african and for an amerindian. The other conceptions have a lot more in commun as what the occidental vue of the life after the grecks can have in commun with the other philosophal conceptions in the world. Dominique Michel

Moved from dialectic:

at present, this page is not a page on dialectic. instead it is a footnote to the article, Philosopy.

There, it is written: "... formulating problems carefully, offering solutions to them, giving arguments for the solutions, and engaging in dialectic about all of the above ..."

now, this may be just what the author intended. However, i suggest it would be better to have simply used 'dialog.'

"engaging in dialog about all of the above"

   -- JoaquinMiller

A dialectic is a process in which a synthesis is reached based on the discourse between a particular position or point and it's counter-point.

  -- Sam Manila

There is a well-established sense of "dialectic" in philosophy according to which dialectic is, more or less, the rational exchange of opinions. Hegel's notion of dialectic was just one notion. --Larry Sanger

This article should be written so as to be a suitable introduction to all sorts of philosophy, not just Western. Hence it is inappropriate, I think, to begin the article with a notice that it concerns Western philosophy.

I personally dislike all such notices. I think "see alsos" should virtually always come at the beginning of the article or else be worked into the text itself; barring that, a disambiguation page is in order.

(I also don't much like disambiguation page notices at the top of the pages, BTW. Maybe someday I'll start a big controversy about that!  :-) ) --Larry Sanger

"Philosophy", as used in this article, means Western philosophy. This is perfectly fine -- this is a Western encyclopedia. Most of the principles and theories outlined in "Philosophical subdisciplines", "philosophical theories", "philosophical issues and problems", "philosophical movements" (and certainly the entire "history of philosophy"), are grounded wholly in Western philosophical traditions. Most of these theories and ideas would be either obvious, nonsensical, or irrelevant if viewed from an Eastern philosophical framework (much as, in reverse, most ideas of Eastern philosophy could be considered obvious, nonsensical, or irrelevant viewed from the perspective of Western philosophy.) Eastern philosophy and Western philosophy are two very different animals, two entirely different paradigms for viewing and talking about the world.

This article needs to point that fact out somewhere and include a link to the "Eastern philosophy" article. The problem is... how to work this in?

Later on I'll give it a go when I have more time.... --kwertii

You're absolutely right that the article at present concerns Western philosophy. But as I see it, it should concern all kinds of philosophy. We should not make the article titled "philosophy" officially about Western philosophy; that would simply be inaccurate. If we want to restrict the topic to Western philosophy, we can do that on a page called "Western philosophy."

It is simply wrong to say that Western and Eastern philosophy cannot be treated together in the same article. If the issues are totally different, then we'll have sections about Eastern phil issues. But the issues in fact aren't totally different--at least as long as we are in fact talking about Eastern philosophy as opposed to Eastern religion.

There is a temporary link to the Eastern phil article just after the opening paragraph of this article. --Larry Sanger

Comment removed from article:

(This article currently has not been revised so as to include information about eastern philosophy: please see Eastern philosophy and help revise this article appropriately.)

Enchanter 13:06 Jan 18, 2003 (UTC)

Another way to distinguish philosophy from mathematics is this. Math, beyond a certain basic level, requires some extremely specialized knowledge, which can be obtained only by dint of extremely hard labor and concentration. It is not the sort of discipline that can be pursued with the knowledge that the average educated person has. Philosophy usually does require hard labor and concentration, but at least a philosopher can often explain his question, without too much difficulty, to an intelligent nonphilosopher in under ten minutes.

This is a very subjective paragraph and I doubt it is suitable for an encyclopedia. As a student of mathematics, I'll say that some mathematical concepts can be expressed well if done with good analogies, and imagination. Take for example popular science books like "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking or "Fermat's Last Theorem" by Amir D. Aczel, although the first is related mostly to physics, there are some very complicated underlying mathematics involved. -- Rotem

The idea that Western philosophy is free of religious ideas, while non-Western philosophies are not, is simply incorrect. Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Hume and Berkeley all have elements of Christian themes and metaphysics in their philosophical writing.

Additionally, schools of philosophy such as the Kyoto school (NISHIDA Kitaro being its most well-known proponent) work directly in the Western tradition - particularly the phenomenology of Husserl - while availing themselves of Buddhist epistemological tendencies. While the philosophical traditions may have grown up in isolation, at this point they've become part of the same conversation.

I would say vice versa as well, for instance Heidegger's "On the Way to Language"

The history bit could do with being moved to History of philosophy. Objections? Evercat 23:19 May 9, 2003 (UTC)

Oh, none at all, I get a bit twitchy when huge tracts of text are removed by an IP without any explanation at all, that's all. -- John Owens 23:29 May 9, 2003 (UTC)
Yeah, but it wasn't me who did that. Nevertheless, I was just looking at the change and thought it would be a good idea.

I think it's unpleasant to have the article start off with a quotations containing the word "hate." There are plenty of other short, witty descriptions of philosophy that would serve this purpose. I'm going to use two, by Russell and Wittgenstein; if anyone's terribly attached to the line by James they might resurrect it on the (rather disornaized) philosopher article.

[Mike] A Radical Suggestion: Divide all philosophical writings between two: Those that allow for the existance of an immaterial spiritual soul in man and those that do not.

A fairly moronic suggestion. It's not a very well-defined plan, because many philosophers make no reference to such a question and it's far from clear what "immaterial spiritual soul" means in any case. Furthermore it's not an appropriate undertaking since the question itself isn't of central philosophical importance either for most philosophers or within most philosophies.

Maritain [True Humanism, Notre Dame Press] quoted Aristotle that to exclude man from the spiritual, does violence to man:

"To propose to man only the human, he [Aristotle] remarked, is to betray man and to wish his misfortune, because by the principal part of him, which is the spirit, man is called to better than a purely human life. On this principle (if not on the manner of applying it), Ramanuja and Epictetus, Nietzsche and St. John of the Cross are in agreement."

No, they're not. That's a gross over-simplification. Philosophy, to the extent that it deserves study, lies in the details of these people's theories, not in the superficial resemblances and analogies that appear when people try to summarize them in a sentence or two.

The above remark of Aristotle is it humanist, or is it antihumanist? Whichever, it does simplify much in that arguements based on one view may all be ignored by those that belive the other. And, life can be simple and peaceful again, in spite the wishes of many philosophers.

Oooh! Deep!!

The current introduction is unacceptable. Arguably, it excludes Nietzsche and perhaps Wittgenstein (his critique of logic and positivism) and perhaps Heidegger. I realize that the article wants to make clear that philosophy is not bullshit, but the current introduction is too narrow and also inacurately assumes that anythign that is not scientific or logical is faith, which is not true. SLR

I have removed the current introduction, because (a) it contains many false statements, and (b) no philosophy book in the world has such a bizarre definition. Anyone who majors in philosophy would find much of this article unrecognizable. RK 23:35, 31 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Claim: Philosophy is the study of the meaning and justification of beliefs about the most general, or universal, aspects of reality. Rebuttal: No, it isn't. No philosophy book has such a definition.

Neutral judgment: I think you may be right on the substantive point, atleast to the extent that the definition is quite fuzzy. However, I wouldn't make such a sweeping statement about all philosophy books, there are quite a lot of them, you know. I am sure there are many philosophy books which have fuzzy definitions of the subject matter.

Claim: It is a study which is carried out, as is science, by careful observation, analysis, and experimentation. Rebuttal: Is this a joke? This seems to be vandalism, a joke, right?

Neutral judgment: I am sorry, but now you have totally lost me. I have frankly absolute difficulty in seeing what definition of "vandalism" this could possibly fall under. If it is a joke, I missed it. My guess would be, that what we have here is a garden variety difference of opinion. I could be wrong. With the utmost of respect -- Cimon Avaro on a pogo-stick 01:31, 1 Sep 2003 (UTC)
How can science prove that vanilla ice creams tastes better than chocolate? It can't; its a personal, subjective matter of taste. How can science prove whether or not one should follow Kant's categorical imperative? It can't. How can a scientific experiment "prove" that evil exists, or that evil is a social convention? It can't. Science has no ability whatsoever to answer any question, except for questions about the physical world in which we live. It doesn't and cannot answer questions of right and wrong; it doesn't and cannot answer questions of meaning. It provides us with hard data about the world in which we live; what we do with this data is up to us. Every philosopher and scientist all agree that no scientific experiment can prove the validity and untruth of a philosophical position. RK 13:29, 1 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Please let me correct your correction; there is no hard data provided by science. Science has a point of origin in models based on reality and not reality itself. Thanks to the worldwide acknowledgement of axioms of these sorts, man will have to search deep to find something truly real and not based on some theory which works in a model of our world - a world modified to suit our needs and answer or (probably hopeless) theories of all kinds. You can, however, do a statistical reasearch and base your entire study on that, which is the case of Emile Durkheims Le Suicide, a work that has later gone into history as a pretty important foundation of sociology. In addition, I could mention psychology's Sigmund Freud whos psychoanalysis wasn't and isn't based on any facts at all. Yet these are truths to us. - I hope you understand my point and the significance of understanding it. Thank you. 20:21, 1 Sep 2003 (UTC)

The introduction of the term "philosophy" was ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras (see Diogenes Laertius: "De vita et moribus philosophorum", I, 12; Cicero: "Tusculanae disputationes", V, 8-9). This ascription is certainly based on a passage in a lost work of Herakleides Pontikos, a disciple of Aristotle. It is considered to be part of the widespread Pythagoras legends of this time. In fact the term "philosophy" was not in use long before Plato.

Can someone clairfy this paragraph a bit? Why is the "certainly" necessary in the second sentence? What is "the widespread Pythagoras legends"? I realise that Plato came slightly before Aristotle, being his teacher, but that cronology is not obvious to people who haven't studied philosophy. What is this paragraph, in essense, trying to say?! -- Sam 19:58, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

You're right about that. But the three, great greeks: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle always comes in that order. Not just because they were eachother's teacher/student, but because Plato adds the metaphysical ideas to Socrates' philosophy, while Aristotle develops physical ideas from that again. The build upon each other. The last sentence: "In fact the term "philosophy" was not in use long before Plato." seems rather unnecessary to me. - 21:12, 8 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I removed this part from the Philosophy homepage: * Economic philosophy: The branch of philosophy that addresses issues of economic distribution, equality, justice, poverty and progress, from the standpoint of first principles.

In all my years of reading history, economics and philosophy (that's what my BA is in) I've never heard of this branch (that is not to say that it does not exist). Using Google, the first 2 results were that of Henry George (of the "Single Tax" fame) and Karl Marx. Not to do a guilt by association, but if that branch actually exists, it is esoteric tilted towards the "socialism" or "communism" side of things and therefore should be named as such.

I could myself hijack that term and simply state: "The branch of philosophy that addresses issues of economic intervention, market distribution, statism and libertarianism from the standpoint of classical economists."

But that would be openly biased and a POV. --Tejano 20:04, 31 Dec 2003 (UTC)

How can you qualify to have a quote on Wikipedia and this Philosophy article? - 15:28, 3 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The distinction between ontology and metaphysics implied by this article is idiosyncratic, to say the least. They are, for most purposes, the same thing. And the characterization of "metaphysics" provided sounds more like epistemology. --mitch, not yet a user, 17 Jan 2004

Hi, I just added moral character to the "Philosophical issues, theories, and movements" section. It was listed on cleanup (you can see what it originally consisted of here). I tried to create a reasonable stub, but it desperately needs people who know about philosophy to work on it. I don't even know if what I wrote is fair and true, and if it could be described as a consensus of opinion/knowledge on the subject. It is also crying out for a "history of thought on the subject" section. Philosophy is not my forte, help! Fabiform 03:59, 30 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Socrates deserves mention here

That sense of the word arose from the example of Socrates' detachment in the face of impending execution. The Stoics were among the groups in the classical world thta saw themselves as continuing the Socratic legacy. I'm going to make this change to the article but preserve the original passage here in case anyone wants to dispute the point.

"For example, reacting to a tragedy 'philosophically' commonly means abstaining from passionate reactions in favor of intellectualized detachment. That particular definition, which arose from the particular tenets of Stoic philosophy and its tremendous cultural influence in ancient Rome and early modern Europe, is only a rather distant relation of the proper academic usage."