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Philosophy

The Thinker, a statue by Auguste Rodin, is often used to represent philosophy.

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

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

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

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

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Selected article

Phrenology (from Greek: φρήν, phrēn, "mind"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is a theory which claims to be able to determine character, personality traits, and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head (reading "bumps"). Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall around 1800, and very popular in the 19th century, it is now discredited as a pseudoscience. Phrenology has however received credit as a protoscience for having contributed to medical science the ideas that the brain is the organ of the mind and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions.

Its principles were that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that mind has a set of different mental faculties, each particular faculty being represented in a different part or organ of the brain. These areas were said to be proportional to a given individual's propensities and importance of a mental faculty, and the overlying skull bone to reflect these differences.

Phrenology, which focuses on personality and character, is to be distinguished from craniometry, which is the study of skull size, weight and shape, and physiognomy, the study of facial features. However, these fields have all claimed the ability to predict traits or intelligence. They were once intensively practised in anthropology/ethnology and sometimes utilized to "scientifically" justify racism. While some principles of phrenology are well-established today, the basic premise that personality is determined by skull shape is almost universally considered to be false.

Did you know...

Portrait of Francisco de Vitoria

Sebastian Petrycy's tomb effigy in Kraków

Rāmabhadrācārya meditating on the banks of Mandakini river during a Payovrata. He is seated in the Sukhasana pose with fingers folded in the Chin Mudra.

  • …that Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya (pictured), a blind Hindu religious leader, has observed nine Payovrata, a six-month diet of only milk and fruits, per the fifth verse of the Dohāvalī composed by Tulasidāsa, which says that chanting the name of Rāma subsisting on a diet of milk and fruits for six months will result in all the auspiciousness and accomplishments in one's hand?

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Academic Branches of Philosophy

Philosophy ponders the most fundamental questions humankind has been able to ask. These are increasingly numerous and over time they have been arranged into the overlapping branches of the philosophy tree:
  • Aesthetics: What is art? What is beauty? Is there a standard of taste? Is art meaningful? If so, what does it mean? What is good art? Is art for the purpose of an end, or is "art for art's sake?" What connects us to art? How does art affect us? Is some art unethical? Can art corrupt or elevate societies?
  • Epistemology: What are the nature and limits of knowledge? What is more fundamental to human existence, knowing (epistemology) or being (ontology)? How do we come to know what we know? What are the limits and scope of knowledge? How can we know that there are other minds (if we can)? How can we know that there is an external world (if we can)? How can we prove our answers? What is a true statement?
  • Ethics: Is there a difference between ethically right and wrong actions (or values, or institutions)? If so, what is that difference? Which actions are right, and which wrong? Do divine commands make right acts right, or is their rightness based on something else? Are there standards of rightness that are absolute, or are all such standards relative to particular cultures? How should I live? What is happiness?
  • Logic: What makes a good argument? How can I think critically about complicated arguments? What makes for good thinking? When can I say that something just does not make sense? Where is the origin of logic?
  • Metaphysics: What sorts of things exist? What is the nature of those things? Do some things exist independently of our perception? What is the nature of space and time? What is the relationship of the mind to the body? What is it to be a person? What is it to be conscious? Do gods exist?
  • Political philosophy: Are political institutions and their exercise of power justified? What is justice? Is there a 'proper' role and scope of government? Is democracy the best form of governance? Is governance ethically justifiable? Should a state be allowed? Should a state be able to promote the norms and values of a certain moral or religious doctrine? Are states allowed to go to war? Do states have duties against inhabitants of other states?

Related Academic Fields

Selected philosopher

Søren Kierkegaard

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855), a 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian, is generally recognized as the first existentialist philosopher. He bridged the gap that existed between Hegelian philosophy and what was to become Existentialism. Kierkegaard strongly criticised both the Hegelian philosophy of his time, and what he saw as the empty formalities of the Danish church. Much of his work deals with religious problems such as the nature of faith, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with existential choices. Kierkegaard's work resists definite interpretation, since he wrote most of his early work under various pseudonyms, and often these pseudo-authors would comment on and critique the works of his other pseudo-authors.


Lists

Task Forces

Things to do

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WikiProject Philosophy task list

  • Optimism should have a separate page that focuses on the philosophical idea of optimism and distinguishes the philosophical view from "positive thinking" and other everyday uses of the word.
  • Philosophy of social science, has some okay points but requires elaboration on Wittgenstein and Winch, perhaps other linguistic critiques, whether logical positivist or postmodernist.
  • Exchange value needs to be redone, it shouldn't be under 'Marxist theory'- although it's an important component of Marxist theory it's also vital for all economics. That said the article's weight on Marx is also absurd.
  • German Idealism and the articles related to it may need to be rewritten or expanded to avoid undue weight on Arthur Schopenhauer.
  • Protected values first section confuses right action and values and needs a copy edit, moving and wikifying
  • Quality (philosophy) needs a more clear explanation.
  • Socratic dialogues could do with some tidying and clarification. See the talk page for one suggested change.
  • Problem of universals: The introductory definition is (perhaps) fixed. But, the article is poor. Check out the German version.
  • Teleology: the article is shallow and inconsistent.
  • Existentialism: the quality of this article varies wildly and is in desperate need of expert attention.
  • Analytic philosophy This is a very major topic, but still has several sections which are stubs, and several topics which are not covered.
  • Lifeworld A philosophical concept that seems to have fallen exclusively into the hands of the sociologists. Could use some attention; it's a major and complex issue in phenomenology.
  • Amorality This page needs great attention as it is currently totally uninformative and, in my opinion, risks more to confuse readers than inform them, as most people will come here with no knowledge of amoralism and worse, often with huge bias against it.
  • Perception Needs the attention of philosophically minded Wikipedians. This is only the start of an overhaul of perception and related articles.

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