Literally ‘love of wisdom’, a subject which deals with the most general questions about the universe and our place in it. Is the world entirely physical in its composition and processes? Is there any purpose to it? Can we know anything for certain? Are we free? Are there any absolute values? Philosophy differs from science, in that its questions cannot be answered empirically, by observation or experiment; and from religion, in that its purpose is entirely intellectual, and allows no role for faith or revelation. Philosophy tends to proceed by an informal but rigorous process of conceptual analysis and reasoning. Its major branches are metaphysics, epistemology (or theory of knowledge), ethics, and logic (especially the theory of meaning, formal logic now being regarded more as part of mathematics). Philosophy is thus concerned with the common core of human knowledge and experience but also with the concepts, modes of argument, and foundations of other special subjects, so that there are, for example, philosophies of science, history, art (aesthetics), politics, and religion.
Western philosophy is conventionally divided into several overlapping periods or traditions: Greek and Roman, from the 6th Century BC to the 6th Century AD, with Plato and Aristotle setting the agenda for almost all that follows; Mediaeval, from Augustine in the 4th Century to the 15th Century , a period when Muslims, Jews, and Christians all tried to relate the classical inheritance, particularly from Aristotle, to their different religious traditions; Renaissance, the humanism of the 14th Century to the 16th Century ; Early Modern, 16th Century and 17th Century , when such figures as Descartes, Locke, and Leibniz began to work out the philosophical implications of the scientific revolution; Enlightenment, the consequent liberalism and empiricism of the 18th Century ; and Modern, the 19th Century and 20th Century , marked by the separation from philosophy of separate sciences, such as logic and psychology, and the professionalism of the subject around the core questions of epistemology, metaphysics, and the theory of meaning. There are of course other non-Western philosophical traditions, some of which intersected at various points with Western philosophy (Islam, Judaism) and some of which take quite separate paths (Indian, Chinese).
Read more at the Credo Reference Philosophy Topic Page
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