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Philosophy (literally 'love of wisdom', from the Ancient Greek word φιλοσοφία (philosophía), which comes from φίλος (phílos) and σοφία (sophía), meaning friend/lover and wisdom respectively) is an academic discipline concerned with the most fundamental and general concepts and principles involved in thought, action, and reality. Philosophy progresses according to various methods of rational inquiry.

Philosophy is accurately described as both the first science and the "Queen of the Sciences". Until the late 19th century, what is now called "science" was subsumed under Natural Philosophy.

Philosophy in the West has its origins in Ancient Greece, ca. 600 B.C. After the fall of the Roman Empire, much of Greek philosophy was lost to the West, preserved only in the Arab world until the time of the Crusades and the Moorish conquest of Spain. Contact with Arab philosophers (especially al-Ghazali, who developed a version of the Cosmological argument and wrote more than 70 books, ibn Rushd, and ibn Sina) kick-started the largely dormant philosophical tradition in Europe, beginning the "Academic period", which ended with Descartes and the beginning of the Enlightenment. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a major split between Analytic philosophy (or Anglophone philosophy) and Continental philosophy. This divide can be traced back to the late 19th century and a split in focus between Gottlob Frege and the intellectual descendants of Friedrich Hegel.

The main branches of philosophy are Metaphysics, which is (broadly speaking) the study of what-is; Ethics, the study of correct action; Logic, the rules (both formal and informal) of reason; Epistemology, the study of knowledge, and Aesthetics, the study of the nature of beauty and the artistic criteria of judgment. Notable sub-branches include Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of Religion, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of mind.


Branches of Analytic Philosophy

Rubens. The Four Philosophers.

Broadly speaking, there are a number of topics one would expect to fall under the title Philosophy:

  • Logic: The analysis of terms, propositions and the principles of reasoning
  • Metaphysics: The analysis of concepts which transcend physical science, including the Philosophy of mind.
  • Epistemology: The analysis of the nature of knowledge, how we know, and what we can and cannot know.
  • Ethics: The analysis of the nature of morality and morals, how and why we determine right from wrong.
  • Political Philosophy: The analysis of the nature of the human public sphere, which one may consider the ethics of the way society is arranged.
  • Philosophy of Science: The analysis of scientific concepts and methodology, which concerns itself mostly with the foundations of science, and interdisciplinary areas.
  • Aesthetics: The analysis of the nature and experience of art and beauty.

Eastern Philosophy

Eastern Philosophy comprises mainly the thought of: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islamism and Jainism. Some scholars include Babylonian philosophy and Korean philosophy.

See also

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