Introduction to Moral Reasoning/Traditions in Philosophy

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Traditionally philosophy was divided between two 'traditions': those of Western Philosophy, which is commonly considered to have started in Ancient Greece and its colonies; and Eastern Philosophy, which is said to have originated from the regions of India and China, and is centred around the teachings of three philosophical schools which in many ways are like religions, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

In the west the study of philosophy has always been bound up with the study of physics and of logic, whilst in the east it tended to be centered around morality and political philosophy (which are also important in the west).

However such a division of philosophy may be a crude one. 'The east' is a huge area from which many different schools of philosophy emerged, and many more came from the middle east and other civilized and 'uncivilised' areas. Furthermore, many religions contain treatises on morality and politics, similar in nature to those of 'eastern philosophy', thus anybody who wishes to define philosophy into traditions must at least consider Semitic, Islamic and Christian philosophies as well as 'Eastern' philosophy when considering competing philosophies to those of the ancient Greeks.

Arthur Schopenhauer started a kind of synthesis between the Eastern and Western traditions by mixing Kantian ideas with Buddhist philosophy.

Since the early 20th century, Western philosophy has been divided into the analytic Anglo-American and continental European traditions. In the 1700s, the English-language philosophers were empiricists, and people in continental Europe were rationalists. Somewhere along the line, this has got twisted over. Bertrand Russell was inspired by the German logician Frege and Russell's student and colleague Wittgenstein came to England from Austria. The British logical positivist A.J. Ayer was inspired by the Vienna Circle, which was finally broken up by nazism. So by then, logic-centred analytic philosophy had made its home in Britain. Meanwhile, phenomenology and existentialism, which are experience-centred, were rising in Germany and then France with the work of Husserl, Heidegger and Sartre.