Introduction to Philosophy/The Branches of Philosophy
The Branches of Philosophy
In order to narrow the aims of discussion philosophy was broken into branches. Traditionally philosophy has been broken into four main branches; however we would like to add a fifth branch in our text
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Epistemology, or the Introduction to the Five Branches of Philosophy?
Philosophy can be divided into five branches which address the following questions:
Metaphysics Study of Existence What's out there? Epistemology Study of Knowledge How do I know about it? Ethics Study of Action What should I do? Politics Study of Force What actions are permissible? Esthetics Study of Art What can life be like?
There is a hierarchical relationship between these branches as can be seen in the Concept Chart. At the root is Metaphysics, the study of existence and the nature of existence. Closely related is Epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we know about reality and existence. Dependent on Epistemology is Ethics, the study of how man should act. Ethics is dependent on Epistemology because it is impossible to make choices without knowledge. A subset of Ethics is Politics: the study of how men should interact in a proper society and what constitutes proper. Esthetics, the study of art and sense of life is slightly separate, but depends on Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics.
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.
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.
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.