Portal:Philosophy

Portal:Philosophy

Portal:Philosophy


The Philosophy Portal

A portal for Wikipedia's philosophy resources  18,016 articles in English
The Thinker, a statue by Auguste Rodin, is often used to represent philosophy.

Philosophy (φιλοσοφία, 'love of wisdom', in Ancient Greek) is a systematic study of general and fundamental questions concerning topics like existence, reason, knowledge, value, mind, and language. It is a rational and critical inquiry that reflects on its own methods and assumptions.

Historically, many of the individual sciences, such as physics and psychology, formed part of philosophy. However, they are considered separate academic disciplines in the modern sense of the term. Influential traditions in the history of philosophy include Western, Arabic–Persian, Indian, and Chinese philosophy. Western philosophy originated in Ancient Greece and covers a wide area of philosophical subfields. A central topic in Arabic–Persian philosophy is the relation between reason and revelation. Indian philosophy combines the spiritual problem of how to reach enlightenment with the exploration of the nature of reality and the ways of arriving at knowledge. Chinese philosophy focuses principally on practical issues in relation to right social conduct, government, and self-cultivation.

Major branches of philosophy are epistemology, ethics, logic, and metaphysics. Epistemology studies what knowledge is and how to acquire it. Ethics investigates moral principles and what constitutes right conduct. Logic is the study of correct reasoning and explores how good arguments can be distinguished from bad ones. Metaphysics examines the most general features of reality, existence, objects, and properties. Other subfields are aesthetics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of history, and political philosophy. Within each branch, there are competing schools of philosophy that promote different principles, theories, or methods.

Philosophers use a great variety of methods to arrive at philosophical knowledge. They include conceptual analysis, reliance on common sense and intuitions, use of thought experiments, analysis of ordinary language, description of experience, and critical questioning. Philosophy is related to many other fields, including the sciences, mathematics, business, law, and journalism. It provides an interdisciplinary perspective and studies the scope and fundamental concepts of these fields. It also investigates their methods and ethical implications. (Full article...)

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Selected philosopher of the week

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.


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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.

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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?

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