Talk:Philosophy/Archive 7

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I worked on this article up until about a month ago, when a couple of people began making a large number of major edits without discussion. At that point, it became clear than any time I spent on the article would be wasted, and so I did other things.

I hoped that when I returned, the article would be in fine shape.

It isn't.

To mention just one problem --

"In the modern context, it (philosophy) is used both formally and informally to refer to debates concerning knowledge, reason, logic, and belief in their most elemental and abstracted forms."

No. Philosophy is not used to refer to "debates". Nobody on their way to a debate says, "I'm going to a philosophy." And nobody who says, "This is my philosophy." is understood to be saying, "This is my debate."

I am going to attempt a cautious edit. If you do not like what I write, please replace it with something better, not something worse. Rick Norwood 23:06, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

I always appreciate your contributions, and agree that Mel's phrasing is off-base, but I don't like how you've hedged the point about argumentation and reason. Reason really is something that even a nihilist would agree is characteristic of philosophy, even though they might characterize "reason" and "debate" as mere passion accompanied by stubborn egos and fancy words. Lucidish 02:24, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
I'm afraid that I reverted the changes. The summary was changed to read:
"As, over time, knowledge has become more specialized, philosophy has come to mean the study of those ideas which are, in some sense, ultimate. What is the nature of reality? What is truth? What is the best way to live? What is the meaning of life? Because of its inclusive nature, any subject that is not trivial and is not already claimed by some other specialized discipline is fair game for philosophy.
"Informally, a "philosophy" is just a way of thinking. Thus one hears about the "philosophy" of golf. A person not overcome by grief is said to have a "philosophical" outlook. And any curmudgeon is called a "crackerbarrel" philosopher.
"One main tradition in philosophy, especially in the West, is characterized by debate, as in the dialogues of Plato, and by logic, as in the writing of Aristotle. (A contrary tradition exists that expresses doubt both of the desirability of logic and of the ability of humans to be logical.)"
The first paragraph is mostly simply false; philosophy is concerned with much, much more than "ultimate ideas" (whatever they are). Moreover, knowledge hasn't become more specialised (though academic disciplines have). Trivial subjects are also open to philosophical discussion, as are subjects dealt with by other disciplines, and the phrase "fair game for philosophy" is surely inappropriate, especially in the summary.
The second paragraph tries to cram too many things into too short a space, so that it's understandable only by someone who already knows what it's referring to (for example: someone who has just won the lottery isn't overcome by grief, so is she philosophical?). The last sentence is at best parochial (I have no idea what it means, to be honest).
The claimed "two traditions" aren't; there's no significant philosophical tradition that denies either logic or humans' logical ability.
With regard to the message above:
"In the modern context, it (philosophy) is used both formally and informally to refer to debates concerning knowledge, reason, logic, and belief in their most elemental and abstracted forms."
No. Philosophy is not used to refer to "debates". Nobody on their way to a debate says, "I'm going to a philosophy." And nobody who says, "This is my philosophy." is understood to be saying, "This is my debate."
This is simply to misunderstand the use of English. That an abstract term is used to refer to various activites doesn't mean that the names for those activities can be replaced by the abstract term. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:27, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Ah, well, so be it. I find it strange to argue that not everyone agrees with something that I personally believe. But if even nehilists, and presumably also postmodernists, Zen-Buddhists, Taoists, and Sufis, all agree that rational thought is best, who am I to argue. Rick Norwood 13:50, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

(This is, presumably, a reply to my post, not to Mel's). I don't think they would say it is "best", and would probably place a great deal of scrutiny upon reason etc. But they certainly have room to recognize that philosophers engage in argument and reasoning as a matter of practice. Lucidish 20:02, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Here are the main two sentences I have problems with:

"Philosophical literature is characterized by its conviction that the use of reasoning and argument is the essential method by which one may come to sound conclusions."

"It is generally agreed that philosophical enquiry is guided by reasoning."

Now, I'm a mathematician for goodness sake. I am convinced that reasoning and argument is essential. I believe that enquiry is guided by reasoning.

But to say that "philosophical literature" is "characterized" by its "conviction" about reasoning. That it is "generally agreed"... . These statements are simply false. The only way you can make them true is to take a large number of philosophers -- Lao Tze, Rumi, the Zen Buddhists -- and place them beyond the pale, because their writing is not characterized by this conviction about reasoning, and because they do not join in this "general" agreement.

I'm bending over backward here to keep Wikipedia honest, even at the expense of a cause I believe in. Rick Norwood 20:28, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Fair enough. Thanks for your attention to detail. It should read that reason and argument are essential features of philosophical literature. Whether such facts are in turn recognized as legitimate or useful or whatever by the philosophers themselves, is of no concern to us. (By this, I mean a very light-hearted kind of 'reasoning', as in "I believe this, because of this.") Lucidish 22:49, 11 February 2006 (UTC)
  1. (Re Lucidish) What kind of scrutiny might be applied to the rôle of reason? Rational scrutiny? Then it's self-defeating. Irrational scrutiny? Whatever that might be, it would be question-begging.
  2. (Re Rick Norwood) Religious writers such as Rumi and Zen Buddhists aren't philosophers. Laozi doesn't reject, but uses reason. The implication that those who disagree with you aren't honest, however unintentional, is really best avoided. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:00, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
It's not self-defeating, because we're not necessarily interested in their opinions on the status of reason; we're only interested in whether or not they necessarily use it. Lucidish 22:49, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

It is never my intention to suggest that anyone is not honest. One can be honest and still mistaken. You say, "Rumi and Zen Buddhists aren't philosophers". This is from the Wikipedia article on Rumi, "To many modern Westerners, his teachings are one of the best introductions to the philosophy and practice of Sufism. " This is from the Wikipedia article on Zen Buddhism: "Though considered simply a practice by most of its practitioners, Zen is also considered a religion or a philosophy by some."

I understand that you and others sincerely maintain that any school of thinking that does not use logic is not philosophy. But you go to far when you say that this is a subject on which there is "general agreement". It only took me a minute to find two Wikipedia articles that do not join in this general agreement. Rick Norwood 00:10, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm not intending to add more fuel to the fire, but it seems to me that this involves a fairly simple confusion of concepts, specifically, the multiple uses of the term "philosophy" (and, of course, the difficulty of defining this term in some sort of cross-cultural way). The paragraph after the paragraph in dispute states that "'philosophy' may refer to a general world view or to any specific ethic, belief, ritual, doctrine, or claim which is characterised in terms of abstraction and self-reflection" -- let us leave aside the merits of this particular formulation. It points us towards an understanding that philosophy can be understood in a much more informal sense, that is, as a "world-view" than the sense that (generally) constitutes this article, the sense of "academic philosophy". -- I suppose it is of some interest to determine which direction to take this article in, but, speaking from personal experience, I am aware of nothing besides, perhaps, a dictionary which pays significant attention to the "informal" definition.

It can be no rejection of historical figures that they are somehow "religious figures" -- just because they are involved in "religion" doesn't seem to exclude them from philosophy (and whether Taoism or Zen qualify as a religion in any meaningful sense of the term is a contested issue). One would simply have to discard such seminal figures in the history of (western) philosophy as Augustine, Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kierkegaard, and arguably parts of Descartes and Hegel.

There is also the question of what qualifies as the use of reason itself. We might quite easily point to two basic uses: "reason" as the expression of some sort of rationalist doctrine, that is as a human faculty which is able to grasp all of reality, and reason in the sense of validly arguing from a set of premises to a definite conclusion. Now the former sense is fairly obviously objectionable (I am not claiming that it is false, but simply that it is possible for some one to claim it is false). The later sense, that is, the movement from accepted premises to a conclusion, is hardly questionable without presenting an unintellible "philosophy".

I'm sorry that this has gone on for so long and really said so little, so let me come out to a definite conclusion: I think it is wrong to say that Philosophy is "characterized by its conviction that the use of reasoning and argument is the essential method by which one may come to sound conclusions" (emphasis added). However, philosophy is characterized by the use of reason (in the second sense) to form arguments. Ig0774 06:18, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments; I agree with you on most points. With regard to the identification of philosophers, one can be a religious figure and a philosopher, only a religious figure, or only a philosopher. Of the people that you list, only Augustine and Aquinas fit into the first category, surely; the others wrote about religion (except for Descartes, strictly speaking, who merely used religious concepts in his philosophy), but were clearly philosophers. Rick Norwood is, as you say, confusing the loose, informal sense of "philosophy" as either world-view or (as he himself wrote in the revision of the article about which we're talking) the philosophy of golf with the subject of the article.
I also agree that the sentence in question is rather clumsy and inaccurate (as I've said further up the page, that unfortunately applies to much of the article). It's also inaccurate; philosophy is distinguished from some areas of human thought and activity (mainly religious) by its use of reason, but not from others (such as the sciences). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:30, 11 February 2006 (UTC)
My recent comments are, it seems, completely in line with lg's comments. Though I'm not sure there has ever been any confusion, here, over the difference between formal and informal definitions, rather there has been confusion between use and conviction (brought on by someone's insensitive edit to the article to change "use" to "conviction"). Lucidish 04:00, 12 February 2006 (UTC)\
As I hoped to make clear, most of my comments are directed at the position that Rick Norwood seems to have adopted in this particular discussion. Other than that, I do reject Mel Etitis' apparent notion that, e.g. Laozi and Zen Buddhists necessarily represent "religious" as opposed to "philosophical" thinkers -- this is not to say that Zen Buddhism or Taoism are not religious, but rather that they have elements to them that are recognizably philosophical. Thus, for example, many of Dogen's comments, where they are not definably "Zen", in a religious sense, are, I think, philosophical in nature. However, if Zen (and Taoism too) are taken in this way, they do not reject "reason" (in the second sense I laid out), even if they accept certain "non-rational" claims as inherently true (e.g. the nature of the Tao and the nature of Zen, as it is understood within those traditons).
I suppose I should also point out that the definition I proposed rejected not just the term "convictions" but also the explicit mention of "sound conclusions" which seems, to me, to be a phrase too heavily rooted in the Analytic tradition of philosophy.Ig0774 06:20, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
In fact I specifically didn't place Laozi in the category of non-philosophers, but that Zen Buddhists don't count is pretty uncontroversial. Taoism was a philosophical system before it was degraded to a popular religion, and the philosophical and religious continued to exist side by side, with some overlap. As philosophy is a process, a way og thinking and reasoning, then strictly speaking comments and ideas aren't philosophical; what counts is how one gets to them. Zen Buddhism explicitly rejects the esential activities of philosophy.
While being inclined to agree that most Continental philosophers aren't really worried about the soundness of their conclusions, I'm not sure that they'd agree... --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 11:53, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
It is evident to me that the informal/formal distinction has not been a problem here. So, no.
However, I am not sympathetic to tactics which dismiss even Zen Buddhism from the category of philosophers, since presumably they address issues that philosophy traditionally deals in. For instance, that old saw, "if a tree falls in a forest...", while perhaps meant to provoke the confusion and disorientation that's associated with skepticism, is also quite simply a question of epistemology (and which can nowadays be answered by philosophers with some ease). Lucidish 17:11, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Philosophy doesn't lie in the question or the answer, but in how the question is approached, thought about, and answered. "Are unicorns possible?" might be answered in terms of biology, or it might be answered philosophically; the two answers will be very different, though the words used in the question are the same.

Why do you talk about "dismissing", though? To say that something isn't philosophy isn't to make a value judgement; physics, maths, history, thrology, philology, etc., are all not philosophy, but that's not to dismiss them. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 18:15, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me that philosophical literature can pull out at least two themes: the methods in coming to answers, as you suggest, and kinds of questions, those rooted in the conventional branches of philosophy.
I can't imagine leaving out the latter; it's too conventional. But I know that objections have been raised about it, because, for example, philosophy is interested in theories of knowledge, but is not interested in knowing about turnips; and those seem to be conflicting sentiments. The "second order nature" clause, I suppose, is meant to resolve that dilemma.
But conflicting sentiments do not make conflicting propositions. While the study of turnips (or gluons, or galaxies, or cells, or societies) may be instrumentally interesting to theorizing about knowledge, none of them are necessarily interesting. For in the end the locus of concern is knowledge itself, and not its applications.
The issue is about whether or not to consider "x" a philosopher, or their works philosophical. That's not to say anything about judgment of their worth, sure. But it is a matter of dismissing them from, or admitting them into, the philosophical pantheon.
The "tree falls in the forest" example is one instance where Zen Buddhism seems quite epistemological, since it engages with our theorizing about the nature of knowledge, and not just a particular instance of knowledge. Maybe it is at the periphery, since it fails to offer reasoning. But the convention really is that topics and subject matter (such as epistemology) play some role in the nature of philosophy. Lucidish 19:32, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
I think you're last comment about the "epistemological" nature of "tree falls in the forest" shows something quite difficult about the whole process of "defining" philosophy (if such a thing can be done, which I am hopeful it can be). Here's what interests me, while koans such as "tree" can have a certain epistemological "sense" (and this particular example has been used in the West as such), this is not its use, as I understand it, within the Zen tradition itself where it is, in fact, used to eliminate "epistemological" questions (according to the tradition, there is no particular "answer" the koan, it is a "gate" to some kind of inexpressible truth).
On the other hand, I do object to the categorical exclusion of particular tradition as "not philosophy", if that ignores the possibility of philosophically interesting material in the tradition itself (see for example Nishitani Keiji's Religion and Nothingness, which is, admittedly, philosophical, but has its roots in Zen Buddhism). There is a distinction to be made between what is really philosophical and what is not philosophical (in brief, I agree for the most part with Lucidish's comment above).
As it stands, however, the introduction and definition sections are, I think, as good an outline as can be expected (which is not to say I agree entirely or that they are complete, but it does, hopefully serve as a basic skeleton which is, I think, all that is needed).
Finally, about the formal/informal distinction -- that was only really aimed at Rick Norwood's comments. I don't think it has actually crept into the article proper. Ig0774 06:04, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
One can, of course, acknowledge the philosophical interest of some subject matter without saying that it is itslef part of philosophy. More importantly, in a general article on the nature of philosophy, it's confusing to bring in peripheral material (though this can be dealt with in more specialised articles). We don't need to cram everything into this this one introduction. In other words, I still deny that Zen Buddhism is philosophical (it's almost anti-philosophy), but in so far as it has philosophical interest, it doesn't belong in this article. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:11, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
I can agree to that. Lucidish 23:07, 13 February 2006 (UTC)
Bit late to jump back at this discussion, but I rather agree with that too. My point wasn't so much to argue that "We must include a mention of Zen Buddhism on this page", but simply point to raise of problem with the explicit exclusion of a particular tradition. In other words, the page should not contain a sentence like "Zen Buddhism is not philosophy". Ig0774 05:38, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
If the tree koan is traditionally used to put an end to thought, then that might seem like evidence (on the face of things) to dismiss it as unphilosophical. So fair enough. But what I'd like to re-examine is the similarity that Zen Buddhism, in this respect, has with ancient skepticism. The aim of both seems to be, roughly, a kind of ataraxia. (Though there are differences between ataraxia and enlightenment, of course. In the former, one is comfortable with their own ignorance, IIRC, and in the latter, they have achieved, I suppose, an understanding independent of thought.) And both use a thought-experiment as their means.
The critical difference between the two seems to be the use of reasoning. In skepticism, verbal argument is key; in Zen, it presumably isn't. Lucidish 17:23, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

use of 'modern' in regard to history of philosophy

This really needs to be cleared up, or at least the inconsistencies need to be explained. Does 'modern' mean everything after medieval philosophy, or does it end at the beginning of the 20th century, to be replaced by 'contemporary' as in History of philosophy? WhiteC 19:50, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

In normal philosophical usage "modern" starts with Descartes and reaches to today. Although not much used in philosophy (though this seems to be changing), the term "Renaissance philosophy" covers the end of the mediæval period to Descartes (confused a little by the Iberian scholastics such as Francisco Suárez).
Of course, "mediæval" means something different in non-European history, such as that of China. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 23:38, 11 February 2006 (UTC)


  • JA: A true philosopher is someone who thinks that Wff means "warm fuzzy feeling". & dat's da truth! Jon Awbrey 19:20, 14 February 2006 (UTC)


I'm working on this. Please don't upset it until you can see I've gotten to the end of the article. KSchutte 19:27, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

No, no — I appealed for help because I wanted knowledgeable people to get together and reach consensus on how the article should be changed, as is supposed to be done in Wikipedia. Individuals coming and making unilateral changes wasn't the idea, especially when that involves such changes as the one from the accurate reference to fundamental notions to the perplexing and inaccurate reference to atomic notions (not to mention the change from British to U.S. English). I'd avoided doing that myself (though I can see a number of places where I'm tempted).
Could people discuss what's wrong here, and then how it can be rectified? See next section. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:47, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Article-improvement project

Could editors enter their thought in the sections below? There'll probably not be immediate agreement in either case, but with any lucjk discussion will lead to consensus. Please join in the process rather than simply diving in and making extensive changes. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:47, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

What's wrong with the article as it stands (14 February 2006)

  1. Frankly, I think it's just horrible as is. I'll be putting my draft at User:KSchutte/Philosophy and I expect to be done working on it in the next day or so, and people can decide then if it is better than this draft. It's not that I think what I come up with won't be improvable. I just think it's got to be better than this. KSchutte 22:23, 14 February 2006 (UTC)
    That's not very helpful. I'm sure that I could write something better than this (I have done, in fact, for print-based publications); the trouble is that many other people obviously think the same. That's why I'm trying to get consensus for change, rather than have one person – whoever it is – produce a fait accompli. Could you say what you think is "horrible", and perhaps how in general you think that it could be improved. Just the main things to start with; we can go into more detail as we progress. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:35, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

Here, for whatever its worth, are my thoughts:

  1. Definition Section: this section needs to be a little better linked together -- each paragraph seems a completely separate item, and actually seems to be trying to reintroduce the subject matter all over. Plus, it leaves out hugely important issues: i.e. methodology and objectives.
  2. Branches of Philosophy: this section is quite good until the last paragraph, which looks like something which has been edited so far that it sticks way out of context. While there may be something valuable in it, it needs to be worked into the rest of the flow of the section.
  3. History of Philosophy: This section is a total mess. This is not, of course, the place for a detailed discussion of the history of philosophy, but right now it is a laundry list of vaguely important figures. Not only do most of the paragraphs fail to really say anything, but they are incomprehensibly opaque to any one not already familiar with the figures mentioned. It would be must better to sketch a trajectory through the main figures of philosophy (e.g. Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Kant certainly belong on this list, but others as well e.g. Hegel and perhaps a few figures from the 19th century as well. Some names, e.g. Issac Newton and Samuel Clarke do not belong within a piece this short).
  4. Philosophical Traditions: first of all, the title is wrong. This section only deals with contemporary philosophical traditions. An overview of "philosophical traditions", if Wikipedia is to have one, belongs as a separate article. The "definitions" of Analytic Philosophy and Continental Philosophy are shallow to the point of absurdity. For example, analytic philosophy does not just rest on the assumption that philosophical error arises from error in language. Philosophical error can also arise e.g. from a false belief. Finally, the attempt to reconcile the poorly-defined "philosophical traditions" is misguided. Not that they are irreconcileable, but just that it is, for the most part wrong.
  5. Other traditions: This section is painfully under-done. It should, at the very least, link to pages on other philosophical traditions (e.g. Jewish Philosophy).
    Western and Eastern Philosophy: This section should probably be renamed "Eastern Philosophy" and mention the division of traditions (which, by the way, can be traced by before Russell to certain theosophical writings, etc). Similarly, some mention should be made of the fact that "Eastern Philosophy" is a very broad term which encompasses a multitude of extremely different traditions. Also, at the very least, some mention should be made of Buddhist philosophical schools, given that Buddhist philosophy is studied in large parts of the Asian continent. It would also be great if there were some introduction to other non-Western philosophical traditions, even if many of the thinkers in these traditions draw from Western philosophical ideas.
    Applied Philosophy: This belongs as its own major section as most of the areas of "applied philosophy" mention utilize elements of different philosophical traditions, and is not, in itself, a separate tradition. Also, as I understand it, "applied philosophy" is a more specific notion than just the "philosophy of..." (although most applied philosophical texts can fit into a philosophy of...). Thus, the philosophy of law might include ontological questions such as "What is law?", as well as more practical, applicable questions such as "What is the best approach to reduce crime?" (and, yes, most of these sort of questions are not distinctly philosophical in themselves, but rather in how they are approached).
  6. Links: It might be best to eliminate the links to the history of philosophy. They are already in that section of the page, and seem out of place in what is otherwise a general set of links.
  7. Finally, I think it would be worthwhile to add a section about what makes philosophy interesting or relevant as a field of study -- what sort of things might philosophy do? This is, I think, a major question for non-philosophers out there. Ig0774 01:38, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

P.S. I glanced over User:KSchutte/Philosophy and while I agree with Mel Etitis that this is probably not the right approach in general, I have to say that I like the direction it is moving in.

Mel and Iggy, go have another look at it. I've done it up to but not including the "other traditions" part. (Frankly, I have no idea what to do with that.) I also think that the "Bibliography and External Links" section, which currently takes up nearly half of this article, ought to be moved to a new article (perhaps Resources in philosophy or Philosophy resources) and we should just put a link to that in the see also section. KSchutte 02:47, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
(#2) Could you say a bit more about the "branches of philosophy" section's last paragraph? A quick readthrough and it seemed fine with me. Lucidish 18:58, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
I don't know how helpful it was, but I tried to clean up the paragraph. Lucidish
The edit does maybe help a bit, but primarily my concern with that paragraph is that the part about Socrates probably belongs at the beginning of the section — on second thoughts, having played around with editing it, I am unsure about where it belongs, if it belongs there at all. I didn't mind so much about the things you cut out, though I think perhaps a bulleted list like the one used for the "five areas" of philosophy might have been helpful. I.e. to point out the difference between logic as a branch of philosophy and logic as a philosophical approach. — Ig0774 11:10, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
What bugged me in my past edit were the bracketed items that seemed to meander from the subject. I just performed another edit, maybe it'll make the Socrates reference seem more obviously salient. I also added a sentence on contemporary branches of philosophy, which raises the question: should the "applied philosophy" section be merged with the "branches of philosophy" section? Lucidish 21:31, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for your efforts editing this section. They have seriously cleaned up that paragraph. In general, the "applied philosophy" section is alright; as I understand the term most of the actual content is relevant and actually the subject of applied philosophy. I think merging the links into the "branches of philosophy" section, while, in principle, a good idea, would add too much irrelevant text. The main page should be about philosophy in general, and this would seem to add way too many links to that section. I have moved them to the "see also" section where they seem to be most appropriate. Ig0774 00:51, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
(#1) I agree that the definition section is fragmented, and probably should be re-integrated back into the intro when the time seems right. But it does (very briefly) give treatment to all three subjects in the intro paragraph. Lucidish 19:20, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
(#3) Did some work on the History section. Not stellar material, and doesn't discuss the relevant ideas enough, but I hope it improves the emphasis upon the "periods" to get rid of that laundry-list feeling. Will work on the "trajectory" plan. Lucidish 19:03, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

How it can be improved

I agree with Mel's position. Indeed I argued last December that we should stop working on the article and create a draft page somewhere. My problem then, and still is, that this article doesn't have enough qualified philosophers working on it. I am prepared to work with a bunch of people who have studied it or teach it in a reputable institution, but not with anyone who writes stuff like this

"It [philosophy] spans the nature of the universe, the mind, and the body; the relationships between all three, and between people."

"In the modern context, it is used both formally and informally to refer to concepts in knowledge, reason, logic, and belief in their most elemental and abstracted forms."

or who claims that philosophy is a kind of alchemy or whatever. Mel, I put you in the first category, and there are are few others. But not many.

I looked at the Schutte version. It's not bad, but filled with ungrammatical or plain bad things like

"The mid-twentieth century for the English-speaking world is less united behind a major philosophical trend than it had been in the past"

" During the same period, much great Western philosophy was coming from philosophers with non-Christian backgrounds"

However, this article follows a largely historical plan, and because we haven't worked out a plan for the article, we don't know yet whether we should put stuff like this in History of philosophy which we reference in a brief paragraph or whether we put the whole lot in.

Nonetheless, this version is the first to step back from the obsession with the Introduction, and look at the content.

I agree with Mel that we should step back. Agree an overall 'size' for the article, agree what the main sections should be, agree at the same time what to do with the overlapping articles History of philosophy, History of Western philosophy, Western philosophy.

Also, we should think about what the major articles 'underneath' should be. The point of the 'top' article should be to draw the reader into the main subject areas underneath. Thus the history bit would draw the reader to the three eras of classical philosophy, 'medieval' philosophy (everything from Augustine to Suarez), 'modern' philosophy (or however you want to carve it up). Dbuckner 08:58, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Necessary Copyediting

I hope nobody minds, but I have been doing some much needed copyediting on this page. I will do my absolute best to keep authorial intent, but if you notice something change drastically, let me know and I will fix it. The biggest problem throughout the first half of the article was mainly verbs, with ineffective sentence structures coming up second.

Copy-editing is greatly appreciated, the article does need it ;-). Ig0774 05:01, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Inherent bias

An issue mentioned by no one here, as it is implicitly assumed to be insignificant or the correct approach, is that the article is wholly West-centric. The article is about philosophy, not about Western philosophy, which already has the lion's share of philosophy articles on Wikipedia. It is not enough to merely put up token sections on Eastern philosophy, the article itself must attempt to reach a balance by using the broadest definitions of Philosophy that encompass various historical traditions instead of simply repeating the insularity and narrow-mindedness of typical Western introductory coursebooks. These points came up before, a long time ago. You can visit the achives to review the discussions. At that time the article did not reach a suitable final form, but it did at least begin to reach a point where the POV was not as overt and offensive. Take a look at this edit for example - these parts have rather conveniently disappeared:

In Ancient Greek philosophy, these five broad types of questions were respectively called analytical or logical, epistemological, ethical, metaphysical, and aesthetic. They are not the only ones, and Aristotle, who was the first to use this classification, also considered politics, modern day physics, geology, biology, meteorology, and astronomy some of the other branches of philosophical investigation. The Greeks, through of the influence of Socrates and his method, developed a tradition of analysis, dividing a subject into its components to understand it better.
Other traditions did not always use such labels, or emphasize the same themes. Though Hindu philosophy has similarities with Western philosophy, there was no word for philosophy in Japanese, Korean or Chinese until the 19th century, despite the presence of philosophy there over millennia. Chinese philosophers in particular had a different conception of categories from the Greeks, and their definitions were not based on common features, but were usually metaphorical and referred to several subjects at once [1]. However, there are no distinct boundaries between categories even in Western philosophy, and since at least the 19th century, Western philosophical works have more often addressed a nexus of questions without sorting them into distinct areas.

Or these links:

Also, in speaking of modern philosophy, there is a tendency to overemphasize Anglo-American aspects and denigrate Continental philosophy as much as possible, which is partly understandable given that most English Wikipedia editors come from the same background and the majority of Philosophy departments in English speaking countries are fairly ignorant of or self-righteous about anything slightly outside the mainstream. However, until the inherent POV among the article's editors is reduced, the article will stay unsatisfactory and biased. -- Simonides 05:03, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Responses to "bias"

I understand your objection and I see your point, but musn't we ultimately admit that this is the English language wikipedia, and so users of this encyclopedia are going to be interested most in how "philosophy" is used in this language? Ought we to assume there can be some kind of language-independent meaning of a term? I'm fairly sure that standard semantical theories don't allow that. KSchutte 06:11, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

No. Issues of Anglo/Americentrism have been discussed extensively before, particularly in reference to the News section, the strongest argument being that the total number of English speakers (not the even broader category of users of English) far exceeds the total population, the cultural confines, etc of the typical industrialized English-speaking Western country (Australia, Canada, England, NZ, US, etc.) which are themselves constituted of very diverse peoples. If you are curious I can dig out some of the links for you, though you can also do so yourself (I don't have much time right now), but there is overwhelming recognition of the fact that Wikipedia is inherently a POV project and it is in its own interests to counter it as much as possible. This is reflected strongly on articles which attempt to describe a cross-cultural subject. Philosophy is only one example, there are many others, and in the end a biased article is not only limited in scope, but also irritates, offends, invites major overhauls, etc all of which can be avoided by simply acknowledging the importance of widely accepted academic views other than those one is schooled in. -- Simonides 10:17, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

P. S. Did you look at my draft? I think I made it pretty clear that the analytic/continental distinction is all hype. KSchutte 06:14, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Only briefly, but in my opinion, the essential lack of breadth remains the same. -- Simonides 10:17, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

That's part of the problem; it's intensely PoV. It's not just that I disagree with you (it seems clear to me that the distinction is real, the divide deep), but that we shouldn't be commenting on the distinction in any way; we should present the facts, and let them speak for themselves. That's not easy; there are some pretty odd ideas about both analytic and continental philosophy out there.
With regard to Simonides' points, they have some merit, but it's not just a matter of clicking one's fingers and saying: "OK, let's give an accurate, full, and clear account of other traditions", as if the only thing stopping us before was lack of will. Unless one takes a very patronising view of non-Western traditions, one has to concede that writing such introductions requires expertise and skill. I've contributed to articles on, for example, Indian, Chinese, Arab, Pakistani, and African philosophers, and am one of the main contributors to African philosophy, so I don't think that I can be accused of being wholly parochial in my approach, or ignorant of other traditions, but again, co-operation and consensus is needed, not just one person taking over and writing a piece that other's then have to comment on. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:24, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
As I wrote earlier, I am not saying this will be easy. Neither am I claiming that an absolute neutrality is possible - in fact that's precisely what I'm arguing againt, the notion of neutrality that stems from strong ethnocentric thinking. Neither did I mean to accuse anyone particularly of bias (though of course Dbuckner made his own very evident). I also admit that I don't have a one-package solution. All I'm proposing is that everyone here be conscious of at least two things and edit accordingly
  1. philosophy is not Western philosophy
  2. Western philosophy is not Analytic/ other Anglo-American philosophy.
Further, although it's true that there are no well-defined boundaries between Anglo-American & Continental philosophy (certainly not geographical), it would be absurd to suggest the approaches are similar and that the differences are superficial, paltry or 'hype'. It's easy to see that the former prefers some sort of scientistic approach while the latter is almost a wholly different tradition in its subject matter, acceptance and queries of materials and texts outside philosophy and emphasis on different philosophical authors, creative writing styles, etc etc.
And as I also explained, being conscious is more than merely including more material, it means thinking of a new way to present the material. -- Simonides 00:51, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
I agree with Mel. Unless one takes a very patronising view of non-Western traditions, one has to concede that writing such introductions requires expertise and skill.
And I wish you wouldn't say my view is a 'bias'? All I have said is that there are many definitions of 'Philosophy', and that a good article will stick to one of the definitions. Dbuckner 08:51, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
This merely sounds like a cop-out. One more time, no one said writing articles, or this article, ought to be a breeze - our aim here is to write an article worthy of the title, not merely a 'doable' one. Or we can just open ourselves to overhaul galore. -- Simonides 12:09, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me that the basic issue here is not one of POV, but simply a lack of knowledgable editors to contribute to the sections on non-Western traditions. Even if such knowledgable editors were found, their efforts would be better spent expanding many of the woefully inadequate articles you point to:Chinese Philosophy, Russian philosophy, Czech philosophy, and the entirely absent article on Japanese Philosophy. Even Buddhist philosophy doesn't fare so well, despite the rich amount of material that is available in English. The articles on Hindu Philosophy, Jewish Philosophy, and Islamic Philosophy look pretty good (though I am by no means an expert), but for whatever reason, those editors seem to be entirely ignoring this page. Worse still Eastern Philosophy seems to be actively competing with this page for editors who could contribute to these subjects. Unfortunately, this seems built in to the way that the Wikipedia articles on Philosophy have structured themselves.
That said, there seems a consensus among the editors of this page that it is in need of a serious overhaul (as it fairly obviously is). This would, therefore, be the perfect time to bring in constructive suggestions for how such an integration is possible. This is not, in itself, an easy question to answer, since, historically, we are dealing with concepts that have "grown-up" in different cultures and only comparatively recently been integrated. So, for example, can we go about creating an article on aesthetics that also integrates rasa? -- Not that there isn't scholarly work on this subject, but there is, as yet, no well-defined approach to such an integration.
I don't intend this to be an attack on your view. Much of what you say is valid: the question is, how to we overcome this deficency? Ig0774 11:01, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Ah, if I'd read this before I'd commented above, I'd not have bothered; you said it all. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:24, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for the carefully considered response. The reason I called it Point Of View editing, not just a deficient article, is mentioned in passing below - it's not simply a matter of what or how much to include but of how to present the material ie not merely appropriating Western philosophy as Philosophy and cheapening everything else as an 'Other Tradition' , a minority view, secondary, etc. In the example quoted above, for instance, there's an attempt to explain why categories that we have come to accept as 'standard' or 'fundamental' in Western philosophy are not always applicable.

Unfortunately, yes, there is a dearth of knowledgeable editors on many subjects in Wikipedia. I've created innumerable stubs on a variety of authors and some other humanities-related topics on WP, in fact I started the Russian Philosophy article when I was shocked to find nothing about it here, but I have not been able to expand on it since. Most of my spare time spent on Wikipedia is sucked up in pointless edit wars and debates on political articles. To make matters worse, as you mentioned, some editors are perfectly content to contribute to their area of specialization and leave other things alone. Which creates more room for 'consensus' that is inherently slanted, groupthink, etc, things that are much more exacerbated on political articles than they are here - the greater room there is for generalization and opinion, the more rubbish creeps in. But since we're considering an overhaul, I think we should go to the root of the problem, ie the approach, rather than the specifics of style/system which one hopes will fall into place.

The only suggestion that I can come up with at this point is an article that avoids the easy route of definition-history-branches-further explication-other issues... and one that tries to explain the various traditions as an organic whole that differ in places. In brief, philosophy as an overall human effort from its early, unscientific or often religious efforts, without being condescending in any way to these efforts, to later distillations along the way of schools, concepts, topics etc, something like a history of philosophy that is more philosophy than history in its emphasis on the variety of concepts, results, and so on. I hope that makes sense. -- Simonides 11:41, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Every traditions understands and defines "other" from its own standpoint; given the unattainability of a view from nowhere, I don't see what alternative there is. Your suggestions in your last paragraph presuppose an understanding of the nature of philosophy that is itself PoV (and with which I disagree, though that's less important). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:24, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
  1. There are no pre-defined choices here, but that doesn't mean the typical route is the best/wisest/most preferable choice.
  2. Yes, my approach is POV, but the current one is much more so, in not even acknowledging its own biases - we are aiming for the best compromise, not 'absolute truth' (please also see my responses above.)
  3. I'm open to other suggestions so long as my points are taken into consideration; in fact we should all propose something besides merely rehashing Western philosophy, History of Western philosophy etc which already do everything that Kschutte/Dbuckner suggest, and do it better. -- Simonides 00:51, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Simonides wrote: "An issue mentioned by no one here, as it is implicitly assumed to be insignificant or the correct approach, is that the article is wholly West-centric."
On the contrary, this issue has been mentioned by many of us. It was the reason for the destruction of the old article and the creation of the article as it currently stands. A small number of very determined people argued, essentially, that Western philosophy is the only philosophy, and removed from the article any mention of Eastern philosophy. Attempts to restore philosophy that is not in the Western tradition were promptly reverted, with the stern injunction, "That's NOT philosophy." One person went so far as to argue that nobody considers Confucius a philosopher.
After months of this, I just gave up. If you ever have any success in getting this article into non-Eurocentric shape, I'll be happy to join in again. Good luck! Rick Norwood 23:24, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

Dbuckner's opinions

(cute and paste from original post above)

There is also the Eastern Western question. I proposed via my 29 Dec 2005 edit that we recognise many senses of the word 'philosophy', in order to exclude them. Otherwise we get an unfocussed messy dog's breakfast of an article that wanders all over the place. 'Philosophy' has a well-defined meaning of a certain tradition that you can trace from Aristotle through Arabic, Jewish and Islamic routes through to medieval Europe (and, as Mel says, via Salamanca and other places). Let's have an article about that. No problem by the way in including 'Continental' philosophy – that is very much part of the single tradition in question. I just couldn't find anyone who would write about it. -- Dbuckner 08:43, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Firstly, your emphasis on what is a 'well-defined tradition' exemplifies what I mean by inherent bias/POV editing. The first step to fixing it is recognizing it, or what it is. It doesn't entirely go away, of course. Neither is there much reason why it should if you always intend to work within certain specific Anglo-American confines. However, by choosing to dictate to the general reader what is or is not 'philosophy' you immediately step outside of your confines and begin to impose your particular ideas, no matter how large a community is behind those ideas (since it's not the only large community).
Ask a philosopher specializing in certain aspects of Russian, Jewish, Hindu etc philosophy and they will provide you with an equally 'well-defined' tradition that you are simply ignorant of. There are entire schools of Ancient Hindu philosophy that parallel or are comparable to Ancient Greek/ Roman Philosophy, Ontology, Logic, etc that developed very far without any reliance on Western or recent philosophers, and they are as if not much more rigorous/profound/etc as any unimaginative addition to epiphenomenalism or whatever. That you or your particular circle of co-workers/enthusiasts/etc in philosophy continually refer to a certain limited body of work and find a similar community beyond your circle, does not automatically relegate everything else to irrelevance.
Secondly, there are an immense number of articles (good or not is besides the point here) on Western philosophy and also main articles for its history, etc, as you yourself recognize. The task here is to talk about philosophy in its most inclusive sense, not in its most esoteric sense - not only what it means to career philosophers in various fields, but also to the lay person first approaching philosophy, from whatever background. An understandably challenging task, but the whole point of writing an encyclopedia.
Thirdly, there are many people fluent in a variety of aspects of Continental philosophy on Wikipedia (since CP is not monolithic, obviously, there are different editors for different thinkers, schools, etc.) We only have to solicit their help through relevant pages. -- Simonides 10:17, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

> An issue mentioned by no one here, as it is implicitly assumed to be insignificant or the correct > approach, is that the article is wholly West-centric.

This has actually been mentioned many times. If I am writing an article about Frege or Aristotle or Kant, why am I being West-centric? If I am writing an article about a tradition that includes such philosophers as these, why am I being West-centric? I will need to include just those writing in the tradition. So include Suarez, Maimonides, Averroes. Dbuckner 08:43, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

  1. No one is stopping you from writing about Frege et al and no one accused of being West-centric for the same. Let's not descend into hyperbole here.
  2. You are not writing about a single tradition in this article, you are writing about a whole subject.
  3. It is not merely about including or excluding this and that. It's about using an approach that tries to understand what philosophy is and has been, over time, across the globe, its current manifestations or self-definitions, etc. Nobody is asking you or any other editor to write an article on your personal idea of philosophy, or what you were taught, or what titles are in the Great Books program, and so on (Wikipedia is not a blog); we are trying to provide basic, broad and accurate information for the layman. -- Simonides 10:17, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

User Simonides has already appeared here Talk:Philosophy/Archive 3. He is a known crank (sorry, it has to be said). The whole problem of Wikipedia is, as we know, that it is a magnet for cranks. An established writer has everything to lose by appearing in this company. The crank hopes he (or she, mostly he) will gain. You only have to look at Controversy over Cantor's Theory to see that. Dbuckner 11:43, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Firstly, please be careful in editing a Talk page to make sure that you do no delete others' comments. It might be considered vandalism, particularly if you happen to disagree with that person.
Secondly, you bring nothing to the table with your ad hominem which is against WP policy (granted, I resort to them myself sometimes, but there isn't even a heated debate or provocation of any sort going on here.)
Users are also welcome to look at Talk:Philosophy/Archive 2 where I entered these debates. Feel free to remark on all the 'crank' comments you can find.
Your evasion of all the points I brought up does not bode well for the article - your POV is blatant and reflects on your ignorance of the areas under discussion. Only in my opinion of course.
-- Simonides 11:57, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, the dialogue with RK is evidence of just that. RK is an authoritative writer who clearly has all the credentials to help with something like this. Indeed, I asked him for help some time ago. But why should he? His name will not appear in the article. The instant he writes it, some half-wit will replace his elegant prose by "In the modern context, it is used both formally and informally to refer to concepts in knowledge, reason, logic, and belief in their most elemental and abstracted forms.", and worse, some colleague will see his user name in the article history, and jump to the wrong conclusions. Good writers have a disincentive to go near this. The crank, by contrast, has every incentive. The crank will never get published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, for obvious reasons. But he (or she, mostly he) will get published in Wikipedia. Go for it, cranks! Dbuckner 11:51, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

RK is the very definition of crank. That you consider his writing authoritative says a terrible lot about your capacity for judgement. -- Simonides 11:57, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
I invite everyone to ignore my opinion and judge for themselves, not only through the Talk pages but also by trying to make sense of DBuckner's juvenile vehemence by perusing these pages: Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/RK, meta:RK, meta:RK/notes, meta:RK/notes_2, Wikipedia:Requests for comment/RK, Wikipedia:Requests for comment/RK2 - there is a panoply of other Talk pages linked to those as well. -- Simonides 12:03, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Well then it's one more crank. I was basing it on the paragraph below, which is perceptive and good. dbuckner

RK wrote ... there is an inherent flaw in Simonides' way of categorizing philosophical traditions. He is confusing ways of approaching philosophical problems (such as "Analytic philosophy" and "Continental" philosophy",) with bodies of an ethnic group's literature. Let me explain: Analytic philosophy refers to a way that a philosopher would approach a philosophical problem. "Islamic philosophy", "Hindu Philosophy" or "Jewish philosophy", however, does not refer to a way that one would approach such a problem. Those latter terms simply refer to the body of philosophical literature that has been created over the centuries by those respective peoples. For instance, "Jewish philosophy" simply refers to the collective body of literature on philosophy written by Jews over their history; it does not refer to a specific way of approaching philosophical problems! In fact, much of medieval rationalist Jewish philosophy is a direct predecessor to analytic philosophy, while other parts of Jewish philosophy are what we now recognize as continental philosophy. The same is true for Hindu and Islamic philosophy. There is no one "Jewish method" of philosophy, no one "Hindu method" of philosophy, etc. The very idea is ludicrous. But since Simonides is hysterically reacting against what he perceives to be persecution from "the west" he is creating out of thin air "non Western" ways of thinking. Frankly, that's racist. Human beings from all cultures and nationalities have developed the same wide array of approaches to problem solving. When we have a section on philosophical problem solving, we need to discuss the many approaches, and leave race and ethnicity out of it. RK 13:34, Jul 30, 2004 (UTC)

Curious how you missed my response: Actually, you are confused between the summary of traditions and the occasional foray into a discussion of methods. Secondly, it's ethnocentric (and potentially racist - using words with care helps) to suggest that there is a default way of thinking and all cultures converge on it sooner or later/ one way or another; all this article does is account for the presence of non-Western traditions because some of them have distinct histories. - frankly, with your 'philosophical skills', you ought to know better than to quote out of context; not to mention you still have no response to any of the points I brought up, preferring instead to argue with, repeat or defend your ad hominem.

Here's a sample, for convenience, of RK's eloquent and authoritative editing on this article that DBuckner champions; or try this longer one -- Simonides 12:30, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

These seem pretty good edits to me (though he has left the occasional spelling mistake and bad paste. We all do that. Dbuckner 12:40, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for revealing a total lack of credibility, so that the rest of us can move on to constructive criticism. -- Simonides 12:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Hi, Debuckner. Are we having fun yet? Rick Norwood 14:07, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Ah hello Rick. I remember these little gems well
  • For this purpose, [philosophers] develop methods of thinking, including logic, introspection, and meditation.
  • The predecessor and complement of science, pondering those questions which are beyond the scope of science. Dbuckner 15:56, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Folks, please keep the bullshit off the talk page. This section of this wiki is a waste of internet. Lucidish 02:17, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

If someone could come up with a clear definiton of the difference between bullshit and philosophy, half of the problems with this article would be solved. Rick Norwood 15:42, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
For my purposes, personal attacks and the sliming of other editors constitutes "bullshit". Lucidish 21:22, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

Let's try this again

Yeah, Mel. It seems you're right. It is going to be nearly impossuble to get this to work with all the varied opinions and furthermore all the people who will view this page as fodder for pseudo-argumentative entertainment. I liked your attempt to get people to respond to the good and bad qualities in this article, and I regret not structuring my reply in a useful way to conform to your request.

Still, I think we should take a step back from this draft or any other draft and try to figure out independently a good overall structure of this article, what to cover and in what order, with less emphasis on how. (I think if we can ever cooperate, we can get to the how question later.) KSchutte 15:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

Proposals for a structure to the whole page

Please, everyone, just add your own bullet here as to your general idea of what the best structure to the article would be. No more than a paragraph (as succinct as possible) expressing your view about how to write the article. I'd like to keep this list readable, so don't reply to any proposals here. Wait until we get a good list of proposals, and then we can talk about it. KSchutte 15:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)


  • I think the article should: 1. begin with a good explanation of what the word philosophy means in the Western tradition, as it is used by experts, 2. then the article should give the standard Western divisions (and maybe some historical divisions) of the basic questions, mostly just to get the questions out in a way other than an arbitrarily long, arbitrarily organized list. 3. that should be followed with major historical approaches to philosophy-as-a-whole, (Western and non-Western) approaches to the totality-of-the-questions-deemed-important-by-the-western-concept-of-philosophy. (As can be seen by my draft at User:KSchutte/Philosophy, this may involve a compartmentalizing of the majority of analytic philosophy. So be it.) 4. I think we need a section describing the "analytic/continental divide" just to keep this debate separate from the historical part of the article, and 5. we need some section of see also/links, but not the enormous one we have here. KSchutte 15:44, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Don't get me wrong. I agree, grammar and spelling details aside, with your proposals for this article. And I agree without reservation with anything Mel agrees to, because I have seen a lot of his work and it is good. Is that more helpful? I will broadly support anything on these lines. Except the introduction, as Mel says, is still, well, a bit nasty. Dbuckner 16:02, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
In fact, I will go beyond this. I will unconditionally support your version of the article in the interests of getting a stable version, on condition that Mel supports this idea too. Evidence suggests that there is less vandalism and silliness on an established version than on one which is under development. Go for it. Dbuckner 16:10, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
I broadly agree with KSchutte's draft, but... I think that Eastern philosophy, and Abrahamic philosophy should at least be mentioned as other traditions/conceptions of philosophy, although it should be acknowledged that they aren't mentioned in this article in depth. And I still feel that something should be said about the modern/contemporary divide. WhiteC 21:03, 15 February 2006 (UTC)
Sadly Mel did not agree that a single, radical rewrite should replace this version. Since I agreed to stand by whatever he said on this matter, I no longer support this idea. I would support gradually replacing the current article with bits of the Schutte version. We might start by replacing the links section, since most people seem to agree that this is messy (and I would add that few of the existing links point to authoritative sources). Dbuckner 08:28, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Overall, I think KSchutte's draft looks good. In line with the popular trend, I agree that the intro could use a little work, but that seems to historically be an extremely contentious part of the article so I won't go into it until we have a stable version. The biggest improvement I can foresee being made to the draft is that the history section doesn't place enough emphasis on the general concepts and milestones achieved by the respective periods. The ideas are presented and briefly described, but often not linked in a way that shows the historical progression of the tradition. I disagree with dbuckner that it is a "radical rewrite." Much of the new draft directly inherited material, content or format from the original. Still, replacing the article peicewise would be a perfectly adequate solution, since it would permit us to concentrate more fully on improving each individual section. If we are to go about it this way, we need to decide on the article's organization ahead of time, so let's see some mroe proposals!. Shaggorama 11:07, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Actually it was Mel who talked about 'unilateral rewriting' of the page. But as you point out, it is not so radical. As I've pointed out above, there are some grammatical errors & 1066-ish passages that could be cleaned up, but why not go step by step, as you say? I also feel the history section should be as summarised as possible, and the bulk of this article moved to the History of philosophy page. This is a near duplicate of History of Western philosophy, which I propose be deleted. Note I also have another history section I wrote here. but i'm agreeing with you Dbuckner 13:59, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Dbuckner, is this what you would have it look like or is this just some small editing of what we've got here? I'm unclear on this. Please add your own proposal to the list. KSchutte 19:18, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
  • My own view is that the summary should explain that the term "philosophy" is used differently by different traditions, with brief signposting to what's going to be explained later in the article or in other articles, but giving the Western notion in detail. (I'm not sure what WhiteC means by "Abrahamic philosophy", but the Western notion includes Jewish and Islamic philosophy.) A section on the main branches is fine, though we need to discuss some of the contents (for example, "metaphysics" isn't the same as "ontology"; the latter is the main branch of the former). Once we've got those sorted out, we could go on to discuss what happens next. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:59, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
Mel, could you be more clear on what you mean or maybe give me an example of how different traditions have used the term "philosophy"? It seems to me that "philosophy" describes a western tradition that has expanded and included material from other traditions (historical and contemporary) based on its own conception of what philosophy is. I'm not sure what it would be like to have philosophy originating in largely different traditions and then somehow converging into one.
As a separate point, I'm not really sure I see the value in mentioning all the contents of all the branches. Wouldn't it be better just to get those in the articles on the branches? I thought this article was supposed to be about philosophy as a whole, not about every single possible way of dividing up its subject matter. Clarification? Comments? KSchutte 19:18, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
On the first point, the English word "philosophy" (and cognate words in other languages) is used to refer to what was or is seen to be a similar activity in other cultures — sometimes accurately, sometimes not; that's the same for any word, though; the words "temple", "god", "priest", etc., as applied to India, China, et al. People in other cultures use these words when talking about their activities, buildings, etc., to English people, and sometimes (as in India) among themselves. The use of the same word can disguise important differences, but it's important not to let that fact lead us into thinking that there are no significant similarities.
I don't think that "philosophy" is tied to a particular history; if I speculate that some catastrophe in the Greek world set speculative thought back 500 years, so that philosophy was first developed much later and by some other civilisation, I'd not be misusing the word.
In an earlier discussion on this very subject, I gave the example of a disaster (perhaps Aristotle getting killed) and Greek philosophy getting no further than Thales, and where Chinese philosophy has an Aristotle, and develops in the usual way &c. And now (in this parallel world) there's a discussion group in the equivalent of Wikipedia, patronisingly going on about 'Western philosophy', meaning Thales and all that stuff. And suppose in fact we had caught up some years ago and were doing some fine work in 'Eastern philosophy' such as philosophy of language, mathematical logic and all that (as some mf my chines friends are now doing – the structure of chinese gives some very good insights to plural reference, e.g.) , and were now very pissed off because these 'Eastern philosophers' imagine we are stuck in the stone age of philosophy. The fact is that the word 'philosophy' is unfortunate. It is a bit like 'priest' or 'temple' as you say, and that is a very good analogy. But it is also a bit like 'Wesleyan Methodist' or 'Mormon', whence the difficulty. How do you capture the difference between 'essential predication' on the one hand, and 'analytic propositions' on the other, some understanding & appreciation of which is essential to the understanding of early modern philosophy, in 'Chinese philosophy'? Dbuckner 14:02, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
On the second pint, I don't think that the contents of all the branches should be mentioned; I meant that the contents should be discussed here, as some misunderstandings had crept into the article and the suggested alternatives. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:53, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
Did you mean to say 'On the second pOint'? Or was your mind on something else ... Dbuckner 14:02, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
Guinness never crossed my mind, I assure you (...drool...). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 15:02, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
  • intro: brief, general description of uses of the term, eventually ending at the desired meaning for the article's purposes. Divisions: within the major divisions should be included some of the common questions investigated as a means of contextualization. Applied disciplines could be included here. History: Given the arguments arising from this section, it might be best if we gave each philosophical tradition its own brief history, focusing more on the achievements of each period than who contributed to them. An excellent but potentially challenging addition to the history section could be a timeline illustrating how the development of philosophical theories influenced the world at large. The achievements of each period should each have their own subsection within the period; this approach would facilitate navigation. current/contemporary: a short section shold be devoted to presenting the issues/theories that are currently being investigated (e.g. representationalism, functionalism, non-cognitivism). My latter recommendations run the risk of making the article fairly long, but if we make it easy to navigate it should work out. Shaggorama 11:07, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
  • For reference, Anthony Quinton's article in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy takes the following progression: 1. Definitions are controversial. 2. Brief description of branches (he gives three: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics). 3. History of metaphysics (1.5 pages) 4. History of epistemology (1.5 pages) 5. History of ethics/value (1 page) 6. Brief paragraph about there being no limit to the extent of philosophy. KSchutte 19:18, 16 February 2006 (UTC)
It should be noted that the Concise Routledge Encyc. of Phil.. The Cambridge Dict. of Phil., the Internet Encyc, of Phil., and the Stanford Encyc. of Phil. all manage to avoid having an article titled "philosophy". I wish we could be so lucky. KSchutte 19:28, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online

There are some good free articles at the link below. For people completely ignorant of the various meanings of philosophy outside a single tradition, it's a fairly good start. If you are a student or a staff member at a University, you can also probably access the subscription-only articles:

Hopefully these articles from an acclaimed philosophy encyclopedia (rather than some general one) will give us some pointers on how to write a good introduction that differentiates itself from articles already on Wikipedia. Comments, thoughts, suggestions etc welcome. -- Simonides 01:04, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I wrote Definition of philosophy in an attempt to show where other reference works agree or disagree in the definition of philosophy. No definition given here should be radically different from those ones. It should not necessarily be the same of course. Dbuckner 08:23, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

I didn't bring up the link as an extra source of definitions, but as a guide to how good articles on areas both outside and within the Anglo-American tradition can be written: concise, informative summaries that relate to academic philosophy, avoid condescension, and also make sense to the layman. -- Simonides 12:13, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

A modest proposal.

The latest rewrite is awful. It tries to cram three sentences worth of ideas into a single sentence. But it is no more awful than dozens that have gone before. A number of intelligent, informed people who write well have worked on this article. Fragments of what they have written remain, here and there, in the motley that the article has become, due to extensive rewrites on almost a daily basis for months. But most of the good writers are gone, because this is one of the few places were the wiki way seems to fail, where bad writing drives out good. There are too many tenured professors of philosophy who, after teaching their classes, have hours to spend. Wiki, with no referee to refuse to publish what they write, must seem an ideal way to pass an otherwise dull afternoon.

So, here is my suggestion. Everything must be footnoted. If it isn't footnoted, out it goes. That won't help the prose, but at least the content should improve. Thoughts? Rick Norwood 19:04, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

On second thought, bad idea. Never mind. Rick Norwood 20:54, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

On bullshit

To disagree with someone's point of view, even to disagree strongly, is not a personal attack. Nor is it a personal attack to critize a piece of prose. The only point where things went too far in the area of name calling that I recall was the whole "dog's breakfast" episode -- which I think we can now all see left the article in much worse shape than it was before. But even "dog's breakfast" was an attack on the article, not on the people writing it.

It seems to me that the biggest problem here is those of us willing to write a thousand words when a smaller number of well chosen words would be much more effective. Rick Norwood 23:31, 16 February 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, but you seem have a problem with the well chosen words. Dbuckner 12:39, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
Heh, after that episode I'm leaving this article well alone. Infinity0 talk 00:13, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
That was the intended outcome. Dbuckner 12:39, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
Not in that section. The reference to Simonides as a "crank" is what I was referring to. Lucidish 00:26, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Oh, you mean Dbuckner. That's just his way. Rick Norwood 00:45, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Dog's breakfast incident

The phrase "dog's breakfast" was introduced by Banno on 9 December 2005 (UTC). I agreed with his assessment. The whole article was peppered with phrases like "Insight gained through meditation", "It spans the nature of the universe, the mind, and the body; the relationships between all three, and between people.", "the writings and teachings of profound thinkers from many culture throughout history", there was no structure, stuff was plopped down just anywhere, history mixed with etymology mixed with exegesis mixed with lists.

The article was a complete mess by then. I came in on 16 December to 'revert to literate version'. I did not persist with the reverts, and I never reverted without an explanation on the talk page, as is good practice. My comments are there in the relevant archive. My view is that the perpetrators of this crime were Infinity0 and GoForit. Aided and abetted by Rick Norwood, as the following comment in the archive makes plain.

  • The article continues to improve. I have a few minor changes to make. Rick Norwood 15:27, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

and also by the nature of Norwood's revisions. For example, in a revision as of 20:00, 4 December 2005, Norwood changes "Methods include logic, meditation, speculation, fabulation, and inspiration." to "Methods include logic, meditation, speculation, fabulation, inspiration, observation, and criticism.". Now, anyone with any knowledge of the subject matter would have seen straight away that this list was a load of nonsense, and would have deleted it rather than add to it. In another revision as of 23:44, 9 February 2006, Norwood adds "Informally, a "philosophy" is just a way of thinking. Thus one hears about the "philosophy" of golf. A person not overcome by grief is said to have a "philosophical" outlook. And any curmudgeon is called a "crackerbarrel" philosopher.". Which is immediately reverted by Mel Itis. Since I know and trust (most of) Mel's work, and since what was removed was obvious nonsense, I make the obvious conclusion.

My comments to date have consisted in sometimes abrasive criticisms of the article itself, and not of individuals, except for my remark about Simonides, for which I unreservedly apologise. Dbuckner 12:36, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Yet more evidence here:

the question of "existence" clearly cannot be addressed without starting from a list of the major theories of existance, which would include the idea that all existance occurs in the mind of some god, the idea that existance is subjective and has no objective reality, as well as the idea that I hold (which I would guess that you share) which is that existance is objective.

written by Rick Norwood, 23:14, 21 December 2005 (UTC). Would-be contributors to articles on set theory or real analysis are discouraged if they plainly have little or no knowledge of set theory. The same principle applies to philosophy. That would include the spelling of the word 'existence', as I pointed out to Norwood at the time. Dbuckner 14:11, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Dbuckner might hesitate to suggest that spelling indicates competency if he realized that such reasoning would completely disqualify him from posting to English Wikipedia after he made the grammar and spelling errors in this post with the quasi-sentence And suppose in fact we had caught up some years ago and were doing some fine work in 'Eastern philosophy' such as philosophy of language, mathematical logic and all that (as some mf my chines friends are now doing – the structure of chinese gives some very good insights to plural reference, e.g.) , and were now very pissed off because these 'Eastern philosophers' imagine we are stuck in the stone age of philosophy.. ;-) The Rod 17:28, 17 February 2006 (UTC)
My dear Dbucker, my comment about you was on the subject of calling someone a name, nothing to do with the "dog's breakfast" remark I had discussed earlier. I thought you and I were working toward a reasonable article when Banno came along.
I have made my point so often that it seems hard to believe you still misunderstand it, but I will try again. I am not saying that I believe that meditation and inspiration lead to valid philosophy. I am saying that some philosophers believe this, and that this article should not state that no philosophers are of this opinion. Rick Norwood 21:51, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

You need to say, first, who these philosophers are, secondly, what you mean by "philosopher", and thirdly, what you (and they) mean by "meditation" and "inspiration". As the usual meanings of "philosophy" explicitly distinguish it from such activities (which have no element of truth-confirmation), your claim is understandably viewed with some disbelief. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:37, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

Here we go again. I'll start with Lao Tze "The word that can be spoken is not the true word", then Zen Buddhism, where the goal of meditation is to end thought, then the "Socrates" of Plato's Republic, who claimed to have a "genius" who told him infallable truths. How many do you want? The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rick Norwood (talk • contribs) 2006-02-18 17:40:31 (UTC)

The Laozi quotation doesn't back up your point. Zen Buddhism has already been discussed; it isn't philosophy, and it doesn't claim that "meditation and inspiration lead to valid philosophy". You've badly misread Plato. How many do I want? One real one would be a start. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 18:35, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

Zen Buddhism has been discussed, with the result being a disagreement. Zen has striking similarities to skepticism -- perhaps not enough similarities to make it obviously philosophical, but enough to present grounds for argument. If there is any agreement, at least on my end, it would be to leave out reference to Zen until the matter has seen more treatment by the philosophical community. Lucidish 18:56, 18 February 2006 (UTC)
Mel,If the word that can be spoken is not the true word, then we cannot arrive at truth through reason, since we reason using words. If Zen is a practice rather than a philosophy, then it is at least a philosophical question whether the deliberate supression of reasoning is a good thing or a bad thing. And, if Plato did not mean what he said when he had Socrates say his genius (speaking of something outside himself) made him infalable, maybe someday you'll find the time to explain to me what he did mean.
If you want more examples, there is old Khayyam, (if you'll forgive the Fitzgerald)
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
Then there's is Kant, a lover of reason, who ultimately concluded that reason was not sufficient. There is Kurt Gödel, another lover of reason, who used reason to prove that there are truths that reason cannot discover.
But, enough of this. Mel, are you seriously maintaining that no philosopher has ever argued against the use of reason? Not one? Not ever? Come now. Rick Norwood 00:42, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
It would be quite interesting to see how such an argument is maintained. To a certain extent, of course, some "philosophical" traditions have held to views that cannot be entirely "justified by reason" (e.g. Yogacara, Thomas Aquinas, etc.). Even extremely "rational" interpretations, like Kant's rely on a ground that is, in some way, beyond the realm of reason (the thing in itself). Nevertheless, a distinction does have to be made between the ground that a philosophy begins from and the methods by which it develops. I don't think it is too great a leap to call this method "reason" — unless, perhaps, you can point to a specific text which maintains that "reason", broadly understood, is not the grounds for estabilishing philosophical propositions. Ig0774 05:17, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Talking about Philosophy


Firstly, I haven't started editing on this article myself because a) I respect the fact that everyone's having a discussion on it; it's more civil than some of the other Talk pages I participate on, anyway; b) edits I make would probably affect the whole article, so c) I don't want some editors to think I'm pissing on their work and being arbitrary, hence my long, preliminary justifications.

Next, I of course accept dbuckner's apology, I'm happy to put these silly episodes behind, but I am not retracting any of the impersonal points I brought up regarding the slant of the article and the fact it reproduces much that can be found on other articles.

Thirdly, I think it's a bit disappointing that all of us here, who have some relation or the other to philosophical texts, reasoning etc aren't analysing the roots of the problem well enough, and that our solutions aren't constructively creative enough. Let me give a few examples of thorny areas, all of which relate to my points about Philosophy not being the Philosophy predominant in Anglo-American academia:

1) The use of categories, themes etc is itself problematic. While these were well-defined areas about two centuries ago, they don't have a lot of relevance to the way philosophy comes about in some European schools of thought - there isn't so much of a philosophy of (some subject - law/etc) as a philosophy applied to a variety of subjects. For example, even though writers like Foucault, Barthes and Bourdieu did not call themselves and were not professionally designated as 'philosophers' (unlike Lyotard, Deleuze, Derrida and others) no contemporary philosopher in the Continental tradition would ignore their work, and they are widely considered 'philosophy' despite their specializations in other areas, although they are of peripheral interest if at all to 'philosophers' in Anglo-American traditions ; the same would go for thinkers like Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard from the 19th century. Most or all of these writers were not interested in developing a 'system' or adding to an existing one. While their work may be seen as a unified whole and thus a 'system' to the extent that it is self-consistent, approaches problems in a particular way, or creates a new subset or framework of thought, they aren't 'formal' or 'tabular' in the way certain works on logic are, or as Spinoza's and Kant's books, etc were. To say 'philosophy can be subdivided into the philosophy of mathematics/politics/ethics etc' creates a false picture of philosophical work being the extension of some well-defined, foundational system of confirmable truths the way science is.

2) The idea that there is a single tradition called Philosophy 'in the West' itself relies on two abstractions - a general agreement on what philosophy is (which doesn't exist, as hinted above) and that there is a clear notion of what constitutes 'the West.' It's generally assumed that what is not Eastern is Western, or that what is Anglo-American-European is Western, when, for instance, there are traditions within Europe itself that aren't grouped as part of 'Continental' philosophy. First I have to clear up something - nowhere have I written or insisted as RK complained there is a 'national' or 'ethnic' way of thinking, this was his own strawman to provoke reverts, etc, unimportant here - rather, I've always mentioned 'traditions' or 'authors' whose work is not confined by geography. There are some interrelated issues with respect to any discussion of tradition:

  • Unfortunately, such authors or traditions may only be remembered best or studied seriously in certain geographical areas, which leads to their geographical categorisation. What do I mean by this? Simply that, for example, the religious, social or political problems raised by some East European philosophers have for numerous reasons - barriers of language, or political alienation, etc - been ignored, forgotten, or never emphasized by academics who insist on their own, narrowest ideas of philosophy. Are these works less philosophical or important simply because they are not known? Of course not. There are usually a variety of factors contributing to their lack of recognition outside a certain (sufficiently large) community.
  • Not mentioning them leads to the false idea that there is no interest or serious work done outside of the countries where the 'major philosophers' lived, worked etc in and to the nonsensical ideas criticised above, ie that there are 'national'/'ethnic' ways of thinking, or at least 'predispositions'/lack thereof towards philosophy. This is not to deny, of course, that where a set of cultural norms/ ethnic groups, and body of philosophy coincide, there is a reason to speak of a certain 'national' tradition, ex. China.
  • A certain 'tradition' itself is not an exclusive strain, like a rare biological species; rather,
  1. there is a great deal of osmosis, at least from one predominant cultural tradition to another, especially where a 'reverse' osmosis might not exist. For instance, since many Indians speak English, an Indian philosopher is likely to study a great deal of both Anglo-American and Indian Analytic philosophy and use comparable concepts from both; however, an American Analytic philosopher may never be interested in the work of the former, or anything in the Indian tradition.
  2. the fact that such osmosis exists doesn't mean that the tradition is open to or open-minded about other competing traditions. The Indian philosopher, again, may not be interested in similar work done in Japan which uses elements of Japanese and Anglo-American Analytic philosophy.
  3. a 'tradition' always ends up being a hybrid, ex. Latin American philosophers whose core references may all be to European philosophy, but whose specialised areas of study are the works of other Latin American philosophers. Their philosophy is not less important/interesting/innovative etc, it simply doesn't receive the same kind of attention in, say, the UK that a UK philosopher might.

This is why the 'narrowest definitions' of a tradition are inherently false, condescending and detrimental. It's not that only certain countries or ethnic groups engage in such narrow definitions, it's common to the majority.

Essentially, traditions have to be talked about not as 'secondary areas' or 'geographical variations' but simply differing approaches to philosophy (their degree of difference being another issue). Understandably, this brings us back to being broad-minded about the definition of philosophy itself, and writing an article that is respectful of all these differences. That is not to suggest that there is a 'default', 'median', 'standard', etc philosophy, simply that philosophy itself is a kind of aggregate, with certain defining but not always essential features in common.

3) The idea that contemporary religious philosophy, Eastern or Western, is 'unphilosophical'. I happen to be an atheist, but I don't think religious philosophy is worthless, and the works of Levinas, for ex., are among the most highly praised philosophical pieces of 20th century European philosophy; and people too easily forget that most European philosophy until the mid-19th century could be classified under 'religious philosophy', no matter how secular its methods and conclusions were. This creates the problem of distinguishing philosophy from non-philosophy, because religious philosophy begins from the very assumption of ideas, of faiths, that have no confirmable value - yet we're also aware that 'religious philosophy' can be confused with any mystical or evangelical nonsense that is a favourite domain of religious nutjobs; some compromise has to be found between dismissing all religious thinking as inherently unphilosophical, and accepting all religious belief or practice as a 'branch of philosophy' (which is false).

In addition:

4) The difficulty of separating something that is superficially 'like' philosophy (ex. Ayn Rand) from what most critical people accept it as. Or the work of certain popularisers, etc. - all of these people may have impressive credentials, and their publications may be intelligent and perceptive, without being philosophy, so credentials, popular acceptance etc are themselves are not a good source of credibility.

5) Generally speaking, there is also a problem of historical perspective:

  1. most people tend to overevaluate work (in any field) that is recent or contemporary, comparing it favourably with past work of a much higher stature.
  2. they will also redefine past work according to current paradigms regardless of nuances, the philosopher's own claims, etc; for ex., after the popularity of Existentialism, a great deal of work which is not really so has been tagged with the term; the same with the label 'Postmodernist' which does not actually apply to Derrida, for ex., but is constantly used in this sense both popularly and by some people either in academia or its fringes, giving it the semblance of appopriateness.

6) Let's not get too hung up on definitions or the intro. The less spoken of the better, so we can go straight to the problems, varieties etc of philosophy.

Forgive me if this is preaching to the choir. I just think such issues aren't sufficiently addressed, even if they have come up before. -- Simonides 12:07, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

This is a very clear elucidation of some of the major problems we have to tackle here. Any ideas on how we might approach them? KSchutte 22:34, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

As confessed earlier, there is no bulleted programme I have in mind. We simply have to be conscious of these issues when writing; creating too many restrictions will also create unnecessary arguments, although if everyone agrees on the basic pretext for such edits, there shouldn't be much of a problem. I'll be happy to try my hand at the article, but I just don't want to enter into a potential revert war and resistance at every step (not the same as constructive collaboration, of course). -- Simonides 07:58, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Radical changes without consensus

I see that my hope to improve the article gradually by consensus were ridiculously optimistic. The imposition of a large change (on the basis, apparently, that few people had actively objected to it when it was in User space) is bad enough in itself; that it's riddled with poor English (verbs moving from past, to conditional, to historic present, purplish prose, etc.) and peculiar claims ("There is also now some focus being put on defining and delineating a subsequent era, the post-modern period." [odd English too, making the sentence virtually incomprehensible], "Quineanism neo-pragmatism"? new?) just makes things worse. I'm on the verge of giving up on the article. Perhaps philosophy just isn't one of the things that Wikipedia can cover adequately. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:41, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Mel, I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. It just seemed like common consensus that a history of philosophy section oughtn't go from the ancients to Aquinas to Descartes to Husserl and nothing much else. I fully support radical re-editing of what I've written (after all, history of philosophy isn't my area of research) and if parts of it seem ridiculous or badly stated or horrible, then we can fix it. I just thought it was important to not stand by doing nothing while people might actually be reading this thing. You seem to be more focused on how each little point is stated than on what the article as a whole states. For all I know, we might decide that a history of philosophy section doesn't belong in an article this broad, and I was just trying to put in a stopgap because for the moment we do have such a section, and it shouldn't be dismal. KSchutte 21:17, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
I put editing this article on hold during the "dog's breakfast" edit, but please don't give up. It is too important a subject. For Wikipedia to allow an article this bad to stand is to open itself to ridicule.
I continue to try to think of some way to bring the article up to encyclopedic standards. But the brick wall I run into is the insistnece of some posters that philosophy is strictly a Western tradition. A philosophy article that does not consider Confucius a philosopher is not going to last.
You and I strongly disagree on several points, so it occurs to me that if we could come up with an introduction that was acceptable to the two of us, we could put in place and take turns keeping it there by reverting hasty, badly written, or inaccurate rewrites. I'm willing to try if you are.
Here is what I think needs to go above the toc. First, everyone seems to like the sentence on the origin of the word. The only other thing that needs to be in the intro is some sort of list of the major subject matter studied by philosophy. Maybe ontology, teleology, epistemology, logic, and ethics? Or a series of "big" questions. If you are willing to try this, it just might work. I don't insist that Eastern philosophy be mentioned in the introduction, only that the introduction not contain anything that rules out the possibility of Eastern philosophy. Rick Norwood 14:31, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

More specifics are required in order to take action. I think K's edit, though not perfect, improves upon the "laundry list" complaint made earlier by tracing the development of ideas in the History section. Lucidish 20:31, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

My present concerns:

  1. Description of modern philosophy, New Way of Ideas is required
  2. Has the "traditions" section become redundant?
  3. Should the subsections of modern philosophy be reduced down to "early modern" and "late modern" categories? I get the impression that early modern philosophy ended with Kant at latest; when did the late modern period end? Lucidish 20:36, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
My modest proposal refers only to the opening paragraph. If we continue to edit piecemeal, the article will always be a hash. If Mel doesn't want to propose an introductory paragraph, perhaps you would like to. Rick Norwood 21:20, 19 February 2006 (UTC)
I had hoped that people would be willing to stop rewriting for at least a little while, but that is clearly not going to happen. I've rewritten the introduction. Every word is backed up by an accepted authority. If someone replaces this with original research, I will revert. If you want to change this, you better have a source to back you up. I will not make any other changes today. Rick Norwood 00:01, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
Clear and to the point. Let me try to get some consensus for an idea that practically suggests itself from the article. When I have students who want to tell me that some arbitrary person is a philosopher, I propose a test that has them examine what that person says, to see if he or she has given some consistent system of thought -- addressed the questions posed by ethics, logic, metaphysics, and so forth. The great philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Augustine, Aquinas) all pass easily. Nice people who aren't philosophers in the public mind (Jerry Fodor's Granny, let's say) all fail easily. This also allows us to divide the Western from the Eastern, without some idea of descent from Thales, which does seem a bit racist. Drewarrowood 00:53, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
Your test would fail a large number of 'great philosophers' from the West. Yet you teach the subject - this is a good example of why the article stays the way it does. -- Simonides 05:20, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
I really think that the attempt to define "philosophy" is bound to fail. The definition I wrote, as poorly-phrased and inadequate as it was, was at least an attempt to give some sort of notion of what goes on in philosophy. The "definition" as it stands right now is wholly inadequate: "things that are ultimate"? "The most general causes and principles"? What is worse, however, is that the entire discussion of how to structure the page seems to have evaporated into pettier arguments (and I am, I think, more to blame than anyone else, since I do tend to loose sight of the forest for the trees).
So, to give something that perhaps a little more useful, here are some faintly radical suggestions:
  • History of Philosophy: There is a page called history of philosophy, and another one called history of western philosophy. Let's leave the history to those pages. I realize this is an extreme change from this article, and the way my previous comments have pointed, but, in all honesty, it seems the only way to keep this page to the point, and would (hopefully) circumvent most of the useless ventilating about "the place of non-Western traditions". Sadly, there is no work I know of which gives a remotely adequate overview of "the history of philosophy" or even "philosophy" itself, so, instead of producing a whole page that is, in some sense, "original research", let's keep it relatively simple.
  • Contents: So, then, what's left for the page to do?
    • Definition of philosophy: Here it is better, I think, to point to major characteristics (on which we can hopefully agree, at least for the most part) rather than to attempt to perform the succinctly define something as nebulous as "philosophy"
    • Branches of philosophy: It is true that the various divisions offered may be biased towards Western views, nevertheless, something like this section helps to get across some of the idea of what the contents of philosophy are, provided it is made clear that these "branches" are just a way to conceptualize what philosophy is, rather than a definition of the subject (something which I think the current section does fairly well). I don't think anyone could seriously claim that philosophy is "logic, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics and anything else is not philosophy".
    • Links: to more specialized areas of philosophy.
These suggestions would, I think, enable us to write an article that is a brief introduction to the subject while hopefully getting rid of the arguments of what gets counted as philosophy and what doesn't.
Well, if nothing else, this should hopefully get some people riled up enough to start a discussion of the overall format of this page... Ig0774 06:14, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Hi Ig,

  • I agree completely that the history sections have no place here. A historical outline, yes, whole historical summaries, no.
  • I think we can do without any definitions. Circumvent them somehow, or keep the barest one.
  • I don't want to not mention the branches philosophy is usually divided into - only, like you said, make it clear that such divisions in themselves don't constitute philosophy and they're not the same everywhere.
  • Links, yes, essential.
  • We agree on several things, but it seems we collectively draw a blank where actual edits are concerned. Should we bother continue pushing for consensus at all or simply go back to the usual Wiki editing?. -- Simonides 06:26, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps the article could do without the history section (not supporting its removal per se, just admitting that it might not be necessary to the article), but there is no way we could go without some sort of definition. The article is about philsoophy, so it necessarily must describe to some extent what philosophy is, especially given that we've already established here that the term has different uses. Shaggorama 06:53, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Ig0774 says, "The "definition" as it stands right now is wholly inadequate: "things that are ultimate"? "The most general causes and principles"?" If the Oxford English Dictionary, the most respected dictionary in the English language, is wholly inadequate, then naturally we must ignore authority and, if we ignore authority, what is left to fall back on but original research. College professors (and I am one, so I know) tend to have absolute authority in their own classrooms. But that authority does not translate to wiki, where a bright kid can challenge a learned Ph.D., provided she cites her sources. In other words, here on wiki it is not enough to say that in your opinion the Oxford English Dictionary is "wholly inadequate". You need to find an outside source that says that. Rick Norwood 13:45, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Just to clairify: It is not that I don't respect the fact that the OED is a recognized authoritative source. I called the definition "inadequate" because it refers to such empty, ambiguous phrases as "things that are ulimate" (compare, OED "ultimate reality"). Anyway, I don't want to belabor the points I already made. Ig0774 21:44, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
I personally like the introductory paragraph in the History of philosophy article. Perhaps that should just be copied over (with suitable links to History of philosophy) in place of the current history sections in this article. Then, people who don't like the "history of philosophy" will know that it is described for the most part in one main article in the Wikipedia, and can make suitable complaints/edits over there. (By the way, that is where the concept of 'Abrahamic philosophy' came from... it just links to Western religious philosophies.) WhiteC 15:54, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

I rather like the inclusiveness of the History of philosophy introduction. On the other hand, I was glad to learn, from the OED, about the historical use of philosophy as distinct from religion. Rick Norwood 20:38, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Actually, the suggestion of moving that paragraph over might not be a bad one. Of course, the etymology of philosophy is worth keeping, too. Ig0774 21:51, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

I am entirely happy with the subjects-so-and-so/method-of-reason/motivated-by-curiosity definition for the purposes of this article. I am also confident that, contrary to claims made above, many Eastern thinkers meet this robust outline. None of the above criteria are alien to the philosopher, so I'm further confident that this research is deeply unoriginal. Lucidish 23:21, 20 February 2006 (UTC)

Introduction revision

Hello, I didn't like the intro - here's a re-write. Commments?

The term philosophy comes from the ancient Greek word "Φιλοσοφία" (philo-sophia). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the original meaning of the word involved "the love, study, or pursuit of wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical" (From: OED (1989 Edition)). What is considered part of the discipline has changed over time as aspects of philosophy split off and became subjects in their own right. For example science was originally called "natural philosophy". At present, in it's widest sense, philosophy is understood to be the study of the general principles of a particular area of knowledge, experience, or activity.

(Fabulist 21:12, 20 February 2006 (UTC))

Needs more on the subjects of philosophy, and use of reason and/or argument. Lucidish 23:21, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
I like Fabulist's introduction just fine. Question: can we quote the (copyrighted) OED or only paraphrase.
Lucidish, we're going to get into the question of to what extent philosophy uses reason and/or argument in the very first section after the introduction.
I can think of two possible statements and I would like to know which one Lucidish believes.
1) All philosophers in all places and at all times use reason and/or argument. No philosopher has ever expressed any doubt about the usefulness of reason and argument.
2) Most philosophers use reason and/or argument, but some philosophers maintain that reason does not work or state their philosophies without argument. The question of the usefulness of reason and argument is itself a philosophical question.
Rick Norwood 23:49, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
To be clear: all philosophers, insofar as they are philosophers, make use of reasoning, including nihilists (at least of the Gorgias sort). That is a bonefide necessary criterion for philosophizing. Whether or not so-and-so believes in reasoning is irrelevant, in the same way that it does not much matter whether I believe in the hammer in my hand, so long as it works for whatever purposes I design.
However, the only evidence that we tend to have of someone being a philosopher is when they make use of reasoning through argument: i.e., a hermit may reason elegantly, and may be a philosopher, but unless he pulls a Zarathustra and comes down from the mountain, we'll never know of it. So it is reasoned argument which provides us with a very good reason, on the face of it, to believe a person to be philosophical.
Still, while this may be sufficient for ad hoc honorific naming of someone "philosopher", it falls short of the kind of certainty that would impress the most myopic commentator. In which case, one needs to picture in their mind the prototypical case of a philosopher, one who shares the above characteristics, and also has certain attributes that are obviously philosophical. As far as I'm concerned, those extra attributes include: someone who a) has a curiousity about things, and b) is curious especially with respect to certain subject matter already discussed.
But it's controversial, and this is the sort of thing that so-called metaphilosophy is about. Everything I present above is, I think, adequate, at least as a bare-bones sort of picture. Wittgenstein and all the rest can air their gripes in a more convienient article.
Or so it seems to me. Lucidish 04:47, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

What you are attempting to do, it seems to me, is to win an argument by changing the definition. If a philosopher claims (for example) that the study of the human mind is best carried out by introspection rather than reason, instead of trying to answer his claim you can just say, "You're not a philosopher." Of course, you are right that the question of what counts as philosophy is metaphilosophy. But to claim that this metaphilosophical problem has been settled to everyone's satisfaction is your own original research. Rick Norwood 13:44, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm not "changing" the definition. I'm formulating my understanding into argument.
I never claimed that everyone agrees. People disagree about everything. My claim is that what I've provided is reasonable, and (at least in terms of the necessity of reason) enjoys consensus or near-consensus status among the informed. The only attempt to show otherwise I see here is to claim that introspection is somehow exclusive from reasoning. First: the latter is a species of the former. Second: indeed, introspection without reasoning is not remotely philosophical. If you disagree, fine: but that is what is original research, since it is not at all difficult to find professional entries on philosophy which emphasize the use of reason. Lucidish 17:27, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Hi Rick, I wondered the copyright/paraphrase issue - in the end there is a good way of saying something, it's a shame that it's often bound by law to a particular context.

The use of reasoned argument is a methodlogical issue (perhaps there are better ways to come to the truth?) and your claim, Lucidish, as a normative claim would in my opinion be better placed elsewhere - as it requires justification. As a descriptive claim I think it's questionable and so, again, I beleive it would be best left out of the introductory passage. Basdically: philosophers love wisdom, how they come to this wisdom, how they chose to discover it, is another matter. (Fabulist 14:20, 21 February 2006 (UTC))

When we're dealing with what "should" or "should not" be put in an article, then absolutely, every single claim that is made by anyone ever is going to be normative. The question is whether it is also descriptive, and to what extent.
In order to provide justification, I would need to know what exactly you disagree with. Use of reason? Subject matter? Argument? Reason is a staple of philosophy, observable in nihilists and postmodernists and whatever you like. Subject matters are again conventional. Argument - a typical condition, perhaps not a necessary or sufficient one.
To say it is "questionable" is a vacuous observation; all claims are questionable. Lucidish 17:33, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Hi Fabulist. I don't know if we can quote the OED or not, but I paraphrased instead of quoting just to be on the safe side.

As I've mentioned before, I agree with Lucidish that reason (and observation) are the best methods for discovering truth. I disagree with Lucidish on the question of whether all philosophers agree with the two of us on that subject. (My impression is that philosophers will stand in the rain and argue about whether it is really raining or not.) Rick Norwood 14:38, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

You're right in one sense, but it seems true to me that reason and observation aren't necessary conditions for the acquisition of truth. It's a contingent fact (about us) that this is the case - there could be possible worlds in which philosophers use different means. So while I disagree with you two about this it should still be in the article. The question for me is 'where' - and since there is disagreement on this my crap answer is 'not in the intro'. (Fabulist 15:00, 21 February 2006 (UTC))
Who cares what they believe (in this context)? The point is what they do: argue, reason. Lucidish 17:34, 21 February 2006 (UTC)


I've started a new heading, in hopes of moving on to the next section of the article. I would really like to see this article in good shape before the Spring term ends.

The article Definition of philosophy is, unlike this one, full of actual research. I think the definition section here would benefit by simply summarizing the research there. Rick Norwood 15:09, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

How it looks now

Once again, I ask you to contrast the definition given here with the standard ones I listed and categorised in Definition of philosophy. We should justify why Wikipedia (now a standard reference work) is departing in any radical way from other standard reference works.

  • The definition here mentions etymolology, so that ticks at least one box
  • Some of the standard definitions mention the fact that the original meaning of the word (which word - philosophy or wisdom?) 'encompassed all knowledge'.
  • But the idea that it gained the more specialised meaning of 'knowledge of the world' is not a standard idea, nor I think is it correct, vague as it is.
  • The sentence ' Science was originally called "natural philosophy"' is correct, but does not hang together with the rest.
  • 'The most modern meaning', which is what readers will be most interested in, mentions only 'the study of things that are ultimate'. This is not as clear as "the fundamental reasons or causes of all things", nor "the most general questions about our universe and our place in it", which other reference works give.
  • There is no mention of the goals of philosophy, nor of its critical nature, nor the use of reason "without reference to sensible observation and experiments".
  • There is no mention of its "generally second-order character".

Note the sentence ' The most modern meaning of the word is the study of things that are ultimate, and with the most general causes and principles' is ill-formed. What does 'with' agree with here? Should that be 'of'? This was written by Rick Norwood (Revision as of 23:57, 19 February 2006). Norwood claims to be a lecturer at some college. Clearly not in English, or Philosophy.

I've come back to this article after a couple of days trying to ignore it. I thought the consensus before was that Kschutte's draft should not be included, at least until the grammatical errors and purple passages had been cleaned up. There are still plenty of purple passages there (e.g. ' In response to the popularity of rationalism, John Locke would write in 1689 …', ' The mid-twentieth century for the English-speaking world was not as united behind a major philosophical idea as it had been in the past'). Apologies if this is not Schutte's version, but in case the verdict is: still a dog's breakfast.

The main virtue of Schutte's version as I saw it was the removal of the linkfest at the end. But that is still with us I see. Oh well. The talk page is at least quite good, perhaps we should keep put that in its place. Dbuckner 15:22, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

we have been discussing a re-wording of the intro. Perhaps it makes sense to have a skeleton definition of philosophy (similar to what is presently here) and a link for the fuller description that Dbuckner has put together. That would be my vote anyway. (Fabulist 15:27, 21 February 2006 (UTC))
The Oxford English Dictionary is a standard reference work. It gives quotations to support the points on which Dbuckner expresses doubt. I'm a professor of mathematics, by the way, and that "claims to be" is beneath you, Dbuckner. The sentence you quote is a paraphrase of the OED, which I did not quote for fear of infringing their copyright. I agree, "of" is better. I'll make the change. Rick Norwood 15:58, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
I've been thinking over Dbuckner's comment on the fact that the sentence about science being called natural philosophy breaks the flow. I'm going to see if a semicolon improves matters. Rick Norwood 16:54, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
The semicolon didn't really work, so I put "for example" to make it clear that science being called natural philosophy is an example of philosophy being knowledge of the world as contrasted with knowledge of the divine. I suspect that philosophers put forth this distinction in hopes of protecting themselves from accusations of heresy. Rick Norwood 16:58, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
The concise Oxford Dictionary says 'the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality, esp. of the causes and nature of things and of the principles governing existence, the material universe, perception of physical phenomena and human behaviour'. That is a good definition, though there are better ones (see my Definition of philosophy).
The definition you have given by contrast, focuses mostly on earlier meanings of the word that bear little relation to the current meaning, and moreover misses some of the other key words that we like to hear such as critical, reason, systematic, fundamental, causes, ultimate, general, concept, reality, abstract &c &c. I.e. it has too much of the one, and not enough of the other. There's not a huge amount wrong with it (though it still lacks flow), but if you are given 100 words in which to define philosophy, is that how you would define it? Dbuckner 17:19, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

I don't like our approach. What are we even doing trying to define 'philosophy'? We are not going to agree on it. Citing the OED isn't really any help because that's like asking an authority on words to tell us what a boson is. They simply aren't going to do as good a job as a quantum physicist. In Anthony Quinton's article (mentioned above) in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, his very first sentence is "Most definitions of philosophy are fairly controversial, particularly if they aim to be at all interesting or profound." (He then goes on to provide increasingly controversial definitions.) I think we ought to take a similar approach in our introductory section. Some few things are relatively uncontroversial: that the domain of philosophy is all sensible questions, that the method of philosophy includes considering possible answers to (and possible ways to answer) those questions, and the goal of philosophy is to come to some agreement on those answers and methods. Maybe we ought to say only that much and leave the more substantial question to the second part of our article, Definition. --KSchutte 17:36, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Whether or not people agree is immaterial. What matters is whether or not people agree with reasons. Lucidish 17:51, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
My view of the introduction is that it gives a layman's picture of philosophy, which is what the OED does. Then, below the toc, we give the philosopher's definition. This has worked in math articles; I don't see why it wouldn't work here. Rick Norwood 19:32, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
I'd like to go on record as saying that I am vehemently opposed to this approach. Giving a bad definition and following it up with a section titled "definition" is not clearly better (and I think is much worse) than just explaining that it is hard to define and that there are some very few things that all definitions might imply. (Something tells me that the OED's definition of 'addition' isn't nearly as controversial as its definition of 'philosophy'.) I'm starting to get as frustrated as Mel; I don't see why we're doing things that don't make sense. (Evidence that this definition is clearly bad: "...meaning encompassed all knowledge...". What the hell would it be for a meaning to do that?) --KSchutte 04:14, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
I'm not quite sure how an emphasis upon reasoning and argumentation is beyond the layman. Lucidish 23:09, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
It's not, of course. Any moderate statement on that subject would be fine, backed up with a source, which is easy to find in Definition of philosophy. If that had been in the OED I would have put it in the introduction. This whole brouhaha was caused by a couple of people (I don't think you were one of them) who insisted that a) Confucius was not a philosopher and b) no philosopher ever questioned the utility of logic. The dog's breakfast guy (I forget now who that was) then rewrote the whole article from top to bottom, a rewrite that was hasty, ungrammatical, and opinionated. Then came a reversion war which I bowed out of, contributing nothing to the article during the period when there were thirty or forty rewrites or reversions every day. I seem to remember you deciding not to get involved in that, either. Anyway, now I plan to work through the article at a rate of three or four sections a week, making sure everything is referenced, that we stick to the same tense throughout, that subject and verb agree, and that the end of the article does not contradict what it said in the beginning. A modest goal, don't you think, for an article as important as this one. I'm sure you will make major contributions to the project. We really do agree on most subjects. Rick Norwood 23:36, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, I defended the classification of Confucius as a philosopher. Not only that, but I defended Zen Buddhism as a possible candidate for a philosophical school (though far from being an airtight case). However, I also emphasized, and continue to emphasize, the distinction between use and advocacy of reason (as lg did). Obviously some philosophers don't advocate reasoning, let alone logic; the point is that they use reasoning, so their pleas are moot.
I have mostly become involved in the talk page when it became clear that otherwise informed persons weren't being reasonable. One must always be careful in not confusing judgments which arise from a sense of territoriality with judgments made out of genuine expertise. I am impressed that an exhaustively referenced article will take strides toward ensuring the latter. That's part of why it is important to keep "reason" in: you'll find it mentioned all over the place, in terms of philosophical entries. Lucidish 00:37, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Lucidish, you force me to role play a character I dispise. Actually, to keep things short and to the point, I'm going to role play a composite of about half a dozen people I've argued with over the years. Let us assume this composite character is the Chair of the Philosophy department at Wassamatta U. has 27 papers published in refereed journals, and is the author of the best selling book, Why Rational Argument is Just the White Man's Way of Putting down Women and People of Color. He would answer your statement above something like this. "I assert that what you call reason is just your way of pretending that you are superior and other people are inferior. There is no such thing as reason. I hold this view because it came into my head and I liked it. I have never given it any thought and never will. And I am right and you are wrong because I have tenure and you don't." Sad to say, there are people like this. I've met them. And, since they have a Ph. D. in philosophy and more papers published in that field than I have, I can't really argue that they are not "philosophers". I can argue that they are assholes, but that is another subject entirely. Rick Norwood 19:26, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
This sort of argument might be advanced, but this seems to rely on a equivocation in the meaning of "reason" itself. In the sense of that (hypothetical) author, "reason" most likely seems to refer to a specific intellectual tradition. Reason also has a much broader sense (to quote the OED): "A fact or circumstance forming, or alleged as forming, a ground or motive leading, or sufficient to lead, a person to adopt or reject some course of action or procedure, belief, etc." Realizing, of course, that this is forcing you into an argument you would not yourself make, let me offer this: reason, in a narrower sense, i.e. when Kant claims that reason implies a duty to the categorical imperative is a controversial subject; however, in the broader sense offered above, reason is a component of philosophy (our hypothetical professor would never be published unless he provided some reasons for his argument, some argument that could, in some sense be compelling). Ig0774 20:20, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
That paragraph was hilarious. Anyway the thing is, a person like that wouldn't be able to publish in any respectable journal of philosophy if they didn't produce any argument. At worst, they would publish, ala the Sokal hoax, an incomprehensible argument. What I think is a more fair litmus test would be actual philosophers who push the line of sophistry. Lucidish 01:58, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

My personal belief is that if these people really didn't reason, they wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning. (But then I look at George W. Bush, and I wonder -- maybe it really is possible to act without any conscious thought at all.) But that's not the point. The point is that they hold academic positions in departments of philosophy (Columbia and UCLA come to mind) and they maintain that reason is nothing but rationalizing the position of whoever has hegemony. ("Hegemony" is one of their buzz words and it is a fair bet that anyone who uses the word "eigenvalue" but isn't a physicist or mathematician belongs to their camp. I asked one to define "eigenvalue" once -- you should have heard him hem and haw. Then he asked me to define eigenvalue, and I did.) As long as postmodern philosophers make this (incorrect) claim, you cannot say that "all" philosophers agree that reasoned argument is the method of philosophy. Of course, the Sokal hoax is a good demonstration that these people are full of it. Nevertheless, they exist. Rick Norwood 15:25, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

The thing is, every philosopher will engage in unphilosophical behavior at one time or another. What we want to know about is the philosopher as a philosopher. The only way for you to show that such persons are being unreasonable and still are academic philosophers is to provide evidence. Anecdote won't suffice, because they might've been having a bad day, or whatever. Lucidish 16:41, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

History section

It seems to be a general consensus that we eliminate any protracted lengthy history in this section of the article. Despite my controversial edit, I completely agree. I recommend replacing it with this template, but I should like to have a similar template with Eastern philosophy topics to put alongside it. I'm willing to design such a template, but I'd like to get some feedback before I undertake such a project. --KSchutte 17:52, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

I like the idea of a template. To end this article with a lot of lists does not seem a good substitute for a template. The history section is important, but should be a brief overview with links to longer articles on each topic.
In passing, let me ask, why does the picture cover up part of one word of the introduction. I haven't seen that happen in other articles. Rick Norwood 19:40, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
I support removing history from the article in general. The template seems to be a good solution, since the histroy will probably pop its head back up eventually if we don't patrol this properly in the future (once we finally get it to the desired standard). Perhaps we could summarize non-western philosophy in another template, since it is probably somewhat less rigorously organized. Shaggorama 10:35, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Comparison with other Wikipedia articles on general topics show that an outline of the history of the subject is almost always a part of the article. Rick Norwood 13:51, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Yes, that looks like a good way of removing text which would duplicate bits from other articles on history of philosophy. WhiteC 18:17, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

I rather like this idea although I might think it would be better if it had fewer links, but that's only my opinion. While I realize that, in general, Wikipedia articles do have a section on history, I advocated its removal only because "philosophy", as the term is now used, refers to a wide range of styles of thinking in a variety of contexts that include wildly divergent (and, at times, intersecting) histories. It is on these grounds that I favor dividing the discussion of the "history" of philosophy into several different pages. These, of course, obviously need to be referenced by this page, and something like this template seems a good approach to doing this. Ig0774 20:47, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

AfD on Omnibenevolence

There is currently an AfD for Omnibenevolence.

My thoughts are that the articles on arguments about god need something to link to to explain the concept of (omni)benevolence, and benevolence is currently about a totally unrelated subject. Infinity0 talk 19:33, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

It seems to me the article God is the place to discuss omnibenevolence. Rick Norwood 19:41, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Branches of philosophy

The main thing needed in this section are references. Which of Aristotle's works contain this classification. What book by Christian Wolff should be referenced.

The last paragraph is clearly original research, and the assertion that in phylosophy there are no specialists is unsupported. Rick Norwood 22:57, 21 February 2006 (UTC)

Reading the article on Wolff, it seems that his classification of the branches of philosophy was quite different from what is given here. References? Rick Norwood 14:18, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Aristotle's works were not published by Aristotle--they were divided up into different books by later thinkers, based on notes from his lectures (See Corpus Aristotelicum and a comprehensive list of his works in the bibliography section of Aristotle). So even the question of exactly how they got divided up the way they did is a historical question, where answers have changed according to the historian. To sum up, "Aristotelian classification" comes from both Aristotle and the people who came after him, organizing his works (and adding ones of their own under his name). WhiteC 18:33, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the information, but I think you misunderstood my question. I've read roughly half of all the works of Aristotle that still survive, and I cannot recall any work in which he divides philosophy into three branches as he is said to do in this article. Using the current titles for his work, is this division of philosophy into three branches in, say "Politics", or is it just an impression someone has gathered from his work as a whole? Rick Norwood 19:18, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

This division of philosophy into several categories has a long history, but it is not directly traceable to any of Aristotle's (extant) works. That said, there are certain phrases in Aristotle's works that hint at how he may have conceived the structure of philosophy (though, rather unhelpfully, commentators disagree on what this structure might be...). I am, however, unsure where this specific division of Aristotle's works originates (though it is fairly obvious which works it stresses). Ig0774 20:26, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

That's good to know. How about Christian Wolff? Are his divisions as stated in this article or in stated in the article Christian Wolff? Rick Norwood 21:03, 22 February 2006 (UTC)

See below but in direct reply, further research suggests the article Christian Wolff is correct. Dean Buckner

I originally wrote the branches of philosophy section (now somewhat changed – what is the bit at the bottom doing? I do have a reference for the claim that the modern division originated with Wolff, but in any case the claim is clearly inaccurate.

On Aristotle's division, that comes from an old Thomist book of mine. But as CWhite pointed out, these divisions were imposed by later editors.

I'm not sure of a good approach to this section. But I'm pleased to see less of the piecemeal editing approach & a rational discussion about how to put the article together. Altogether more promising & I will contribute to the discussion when I have more time next week. Dbuckner 08:52, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

I've done a rewrite based on the comments above, keeping only what is referenced, and what agrees with the article it references.

Looking ahead to the next section, which I would like to begin work on next week: it starts well, but quickly expands from a brief history to a discussion of the ideas of certain major modern philosophers. I suggest the following split -- first, a brief history of philosophy with links to longer articles on each period: ancient, medievel, and modern. Followed by a "major philosophers" section, giving a brief summary of the thoughts of a few (less than a dozen?) philosophers, again with links to longer articles about each individual.

Thoughts? Comments? Rick Norwood 22:16, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

This article fails to observe the Use-mention distinction. This is wikipedia, not wiktionary. We should be talking about the subject area philosophy, not the word 'philosophy'. KSchutte 14:34, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

Generally, I agree with KSchutte here. I would like to see something like "The definition of philosophy is a difficult matter, but..." and then a discussion of what philosophy is, trying to avoid an etymology of the word 'philosophy' except as needed to differentiate between contemporary and earlier uses of the word. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean I can think of a good, brief replacement for the OED definition. I do like the end of the 1st paragraph and the 2nd paragraph of the introduction, though. WhiteC 16:03, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
Am I the only one who thinks that using the term 'modern philosophy' to refer to all philosophy since Descartes is out of step with academic practice? I think several authors would not use 'modern philosophy' to refer to anything after 1900. WhiteC 16:18, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
This is any area in which there seems to be no universal agreement among academics; some say we are still in the "modern" age, others disagree (you might note that this article equivocates on the use of this term as well). I am not sure that there is a satisfactory way to deal with this other than to carefully contextualize each use. Ig0774 17:04, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

The standard philosophical usage is to use "modern" to refer to philosophy from Descartes onwards. Sometimes the term "early modern" is used to distinguish the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. No philosopher with any self respect uses "post-modern", of course. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 17:29, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

"Post-modern", despite being a relatively unenlightening and horrible term, is used by respectable scholars (i.e., Chuck Levine and Jim Cote) to describe a particular kind of philosophical apathy and anomie in advanced technological societies, especially with respect to issues relating to politics and personal identity. The difference between the quacks and those who are genuinely concerned about this sort of thing can be drawn between those who defend "postmodernity" (like Kenneth Gergen) and those who don't. Having said that, yeah, "postmodern" is a lousy term. IIRC Cote and Levine suggest "high modern" instead. Lucidish 20:05, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

"Postmodern" is cute, and has attracted a lot of attention that the movement would not have gotten otherwise. I tend to like cleverness but I am aware that many philosophers do not. It is a good thing that most philosophy classes start with Plato. If they started with Aristotle, we wouldn't have any philosophy majors at all. Aristotle is never, never cute. Rick Norwood 20:58, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

I prefer "contemporary" to "postmodern", and I think "contemporary philosophy" lacks cuteness, but I am not sure how widespread its usage is to refer, approximately to philosophy of 20th century and later. I would like to see an explanation of the difficulties/disagreements in defining "modern" philosophy mad explicit somewhere in the article, even if it is a footnote. WhiteC 18:59, 28 February 2006 (UTC)