Introduction to Philosophy/The Branches of Philosophy

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The Branches of Philosophy[edit]

Western philosophy can be divided into six branches that have assumed various importance over time. Traditionally metaphysics sets the questions for philosophy. Epistemology asks how do we know? Ethics and politics have to do with action and quality of life. Aesthetics or value theory has to do with beauty, balance, and harmony. Logic has to do with the relations of things. Epistemology sometimes replaces metaphysics these days, because it has fewer religious overtones. Among Eastern European and continental philosophers, philosophy tends to be the study of politics. Logic is critical for analytic philosophers, who are deeply suspicious of ethics, politics, and metaphysics.

Understanding philosophy in the 6th century b.c. involves taking into account different priorities than those of the 19th century a.d. However, these division remain helpful for identifying what's at stake. Metaphysics, which studies the nature of existence is closely related to Epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we know what we do about the world around us. Ethics, the study of how (wo)men should act depends on Epistemology, because we need knowledge to make good choices. Politics studies human interaction. Aesthetics studies the value of things. Logic is about the symbolic representation of language and thought processes. Once the domain of Aristotle, the foundation of the exact sciences must now take into account relativity, uncertainty and incompleteness. 5/17


The theory of knowledge, from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech), is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin, scope and possibility of knowledge. Dealing with nature, is one of the branches of philosophy. But before anything is done, the meaning of philosophy should be understood. A philosopher of religion must be objective. Anyone who is ready to study philosophy should be able to attack and defend. It is not attacking other religions and defending his own.


Metaphysics however (derived from the Greek words "ta meta ta physika biblia") - meaning 'the book that follows the physics book'. It was the way students referred to a specific book in the works of Aristotle, and it was a book on First Philosophy. (The assumption that the word means "beyond physics" is misleading) Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the study of "first principles" and "being" (ontology). In other words, Metaphysics is the study of the most general aspects of reality, pertaining to subjects such as substance, identity, the nature of the mind, and free will. In other words it is a study of nature and the nature of the world in which man lives.


Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος (logos), originally meaning the word, or what is spoken, but coming to mean thought or reason) is most often said to be the study of arguments. Logic is the study of correct reasoning. However, the subject is grounded, the task of the logician is the same: to advance an account of valid and fallacious inference to allow one to distinguish


Ethics is a general term for what is often described as the "science (study) of morality". In philosophy, ethical behaviour is that which is "good" or "right". The Western tradition of ethics is sometimes called moral philosophy.

Other Branches[edit]

Philosophy of Education: Fairly self-explanatory. A minor branch, mainly concerned with what is the correct way to educate a person. Classic works include Plato's Republic, Locke's Thoughts Concerning Education, and Rousseau's Emile.

Philosophy of History: Fairly minor branch (not as minor as education), although highly important to Hegel and those who followed him, most notably Marx. It is the philosophical study of history, particularly concerned with the question whether history (i.e. the universe and/or humankind) is progressing towards a specific end? Hegel argued that it was, as did Marx. Classic works include Vico's New Science, and Hegel and Marx's works.

Philosophy of Language: Ancient branch of philosophy which gained prominence in the last century under Wittgenstein. Basically concerned with how our languages affect our thought. Wittgenstein famously asserted that the limits of our languages mark the limits of our thought. Classic works include Plato's Cratylus, Locke's Essay, and Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

Philosophy of Law: Also called Jurisprudence. Study of law attempting to discern what the best laws might be, how laws came into being in the first place, attempting to delimit human laws from natural laws, whether we should always obey the law, and so on. Law isn't often directly dealt with by philosophers, but much of political philosophy obviously has a bearing on it.

Philosophy of Mathematics: Concerned with issues such as, the nature of the axioms and symbols (numbers, triangle, operands) of mathematics that we use to understand the world, do perfect mathematical forms exist in the real world, and so on. Principia Mathematica is almost certainly the most important work in this field.

Philosophy of Mind: Study of the mind, attempting to ascertain exactly what the mind is, how it interacts with our body, do other minds exist, how does it work, and so on. Probably the most popular branch of philosophy right now, it has expanded to include issues of AI. Classic works include Plato's Republic and Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, although every major philosopher has had some opinion at least on what the mind is and how it works.

Philosophy of Politics: Closely related to ethics, this is a study of government and nations, particularly how they came about, what makes good governments, what obligations citizens have towards their government, and so on. Classic works include Plato's Republic, Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Two Treatises, and J.S. Mill's On Liberty.

Philosophy of Religion: Theology is concerned with the study of God, recommending the best religious practises, how our religion should shape our life, and so on. Philosophy of religion is concerned with much the same issues, but where Theology uses religious works, like the Bible, as it's authority, philosophy likes to use reason as the ultimate authority.

Philosophy of Science: It is the Study of science concerned with whether scientific knowledge can be said to be certain, how we obtain it, can science really explain everything, does causation really exist, can every event in the universe be described in terms of physics and so on. Also popular in recent times, classic works include Hume's Treatise on Human Nature, Kripke's Naming and Necessity, Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions.