Introduction to philosophy

Introduction to philosophy
Dr. sabri Mohamed khalil khairi
Associate professor –department of philosophy- faculty of arts –university of Khartoum – Sudan
Definition of philosophy
There are different definitions given by philosophers to the meaning of philosophy.
• The earliest and famous definition of philosophy is defined it as “Love of wisdom”. this definition is inflicted from the word (The philosophy) as it combined of two words in greek language, ”philo” which means “love” and “sophia” which means” wisdom”.
• It is also defined as “comprehensive knowledge” philosophy aims at giving a total interpretation of cosmos.
• “Philosophy is an interpretation of the world in order to change it.”(Karl Marx).
• “Philosophy begins in wonder” (Plato).
• “The object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts”. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. The result of philosophy is not a number of ‘philosophical propositions’, but to make propositions clear (Wittgenstein).
• thinking about thinking” philosophy use the concepts that structure our thinking.
• “philosophy is critical thinking” philosophy examines the beliefs we take from granted .
• “philosophy means theories of philosophers, their schools approaches and methods” but it is not aprecide definition because all philosophers do not believe in one philosophical set.
1. Quinton, Anthony; ed. Ted Honderich (1996). “Philosophy”. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy.
2. Will Durant, Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers, Pocket, 1991, ISBN 0671739166, ISBN-13978-0671739164.
Epistemology or theory of knowledge
Epistemology is the philosophical study of interesting questions about the possibility, the nature, sources, means, and limitations of knowledge.
1- The Possibility of knowledge: the first question is whether knowledge of any kind is possible?
a-the first answer is that knowledge is not possible:
abslute doubt: This answer is given by the Scepticism for example the sophists: protagoras said that man is the measure of all things. georgeas wrote a book about ontology whose main issues are: nothing exists.
if it did exist it cannot be known.
if it exist and can be known it cannot be communicated to others.
b-and the second answer is that knowledge is possible:
i-relative(methodological) doubt: it is assuming doubt to reach at facts (descartes in his book “the meditations” and el ghazali.
ii-dogmatism: it is not assume any sort of doupt to reach at facts
2-means of knowledge: the second question is knowledge is possible via: senses(empiricism), mind(rationalism) or intuition (intuitionism).
3-nature of knowledge: the third question is will it be objective knowledge (public) (objectivism)? or it will be subjective knowledge (that varies from an individual to another) (subjectivism).
4-sources of knowledge : and the last quistion is what is the source of this knowledge :the real world (Empiricists: Locke, Hume, Mill.. .)or a priori ideas. (Rationalists: Kant, Descartes, Espinoza, Leibniz…) or metaphysic world (intuitionist: Plato…)
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (8 vols.) edited by Paul Edwards; in 1996, a ninth supplemental volume؟
The ontology or theme of existence
ontology is the philosophical study of questions about nature of existence and oneness and multiplicity.
1-question of nature of existence:
is existence has spiritual nature (idealism) or material nature(materialism).
2- Question of oneness and multiplicity:
i- material oneness(natural philosophers): The natural philosophers concerned with the origin of the cosmos referred the multiple objects in the cosmos to .. one origin ( thales said that the water is the origin of the cosmos ,aneximene the air, hereglitus the fire).
ii- spiritual oneness( Pantheism): consider the god and the cosmos as one entity( spinosa).
I- material multiplicity: cosmos originated of multiplicity materialistic elements (atomism).
i- spiritual multiplicity: lebintz referred cosmos to monads (spiritual atoms).
The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy by Robert Audi.
The history of Western philosophy
The history of Western philosophy is often divided into four periods: Ancient philosophy, Medieval philosophy, Modem philosophy, and Contemporary philosophy.
1-Ancient Greek philosophy: it may be divided into:
a. The pre-Socratic period: Important pre-Socratic philosophers include Thales, Anaxirnander, Anaximenes, Democritus, Heraclitus.
b. The Socratic period: The Socratic period is named in honor of Socrates, this period include Plato and Aristotle.
c. The post-Aristotelian: include philosophers as Epicurus…
2- Medieval philosophy: Medieval philosophy is the philosophy of Western Europe and the Middles East during what is now known as the Middle Ages, roughly extending from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance period..
3-modern philosophy:
a. Early modern philosophy (c. 1600 – c. 1800): Important Early modem philosophers include Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
b. Later modern philosophy (c. 1800 – c. 1960): Later modern philosophy is usually considered to begin after the philosophy of Immanuel Kant at the beginning of the 19th- century (Hegel, marx…)
4-Contemporary philosophy (c. 1960 – present) Important Contemporary philosophers include Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Dewey, Derrida. ..)
1. Russell, Bertrand (1946/1961). A History of Western Philosophy. Great Britain: Allen & Unwin.
2. Copleston, Frederick (1946/1975). A History of Philosophy. Great Britain: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-6948-5.
Branches of philosophy
Philosophy can be divided into many branches:
Epistemology: the philosophical study of interesting questions about the possibility, the nature, sources, means, and limitations of knowledge.
Ontology: the philosophical study of questions about nature of existence and oneness and multiplicity.
Metaphysics: the term emerged because in later editions of Aristotle’s works the book on what is now called metaphysics came after Aristotle’s study of physics. He calls the subject “first philosophy” (or “wisdom”).The modern meaning of the term is any inquiry dealing with the ultimate nature of what exists.,
Ethics, ’moral philosophy’: is concerned with questions of how man should act.
Philosophy of Religion: is to understand God’s existence and nature, relation between faith and reason, the nature of religious language, the relation of religion and morality.
Philosophy of Science: Philosophy of science is usually divided into philosophy of the natural sciences and philosophy of the social sciences. It has recently been divided further, into philosophy of (physics, biology, psychology, economics, and other sciences).
Philosophy of science clarifies the logic of scientific evidence; the nature of scientific laws, explanations, and theories; and the possible connections among the various branches of science.
Blackburn, Simon (1994). “Philosophy”, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Philosophical doctrines
Idealism : Idealism refers to any philosophy that argues that reality is dependent upon the mind.
Materialism: Materialism is the idea that everything is either made of matter or is dependent upon matter for its existence and nature.
Existentialism: Existentialism is a philosophical movement that rejects any pre-determined role for human beings. Unlike tools, which are designed in order to fill some essence (for example, a knife’s essence is to cut) human beings are capable of deciding their own essence. (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre).
Logical Positivism : Developed by the ‘Vienna Circle’ during the 1920s and 30s, For logical positivists, the entire discipline of philosophy was centered one task: to clarify the meanings of concepts and ideas.
Pragmatism: Pragmatism is an American philosophy from the early 20th century. According to Pragmatism, the meaning of an idea lies in its practical consequences.
1. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy edited by Ted Honderich
2. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (10 vols.) edited by).
Logic, from Classical Greek logos (the word. the reason).there are different definitions given to the concept of logic, and we defined it as “The science, as well as the Art, of the laws and the patterns of discursive thought.
Laws of Thought:
The three classic laws of thought are attributed to Aristotle and were foundational in scholastic logic. They are:
• law of identity (A is A).
• law of noncontradiction (A is not not-A).
• law of excluded middle (A is either A or not-A).
Traditional logic: Aristotle’s collection of writings on logic is called the Organ on (which meant “tool’ or “instrument”). Aristotle first system of logic is the theory of the syllogism. A syllogism is a type of argument such as this:
All (a) is (b),
All (b) is (e),
Consequently, all (a) is (e).
Aristotle analyzed basic syllogisms involving 3 statements, 3 terms (such as a, b, e) and quantifier words such as “all”, “no” and “some”.
Symbolic logic: Boole (1815-1864), considered the founder of symbolic logic, used symbols to depict arguments.
Logic in contemporary period: the development of non Euclidean geometry, many- valued logics, proof theory and systems theory, and of course computers and information technology have had far-reaching impact and significance for logic.
1. The Development Of Logic, Kneale and Kneale, Oxford Univ. Press, 1962.
2. The Encyclopedia of philosophy (article on “The History of Logic)”.
3. Elementary Logic, by Benson Mates, Oxford University Press, 1965, Chapter 12 entitled” A Brief Outline of the social Philosophy.

Philosophy, Religion and Science
• Science is the methodical study of the universe in its various aspects (physical, chemical, biological, social, mental).
• Science deals with questions that can be decided by experiment and observation.
• Science dealing with the structure of matter.
• Deals with those fundamental questions that lay ground for scientific concepts. Examples: Where I am coming from? What is the meaning of life? what is time?
• Philosophy is a critical activity of human mind.
• Its aim is not to uphold any set of beliefs but rather to undermine everything that tends to get inculcated in the mind
• Religion is grounded on a revealed truth.
• The aim of Religion is to strengthen our convictions and to give us an overarching sense of life.
• Religious beliefs do not need to be derived from controlled experience.
Social philosophy
Social philosophy is the philosophical study of interesting questions about social behavior. Social philosophy addresses a wide range of subjects, from individual meanings to legitimacy of laws, from the social contract to criteria for revolution, from the functions of everyday actions to the effects of science on culture.
Sub disciplines
Social Philosophy: the application of moral principles to the problems of freedom, equality, justice and the state.
Relevant issues in social philosophy
Some of the topics dealt with by social philosophy are:
• The will to power
• Individualism
• Rights
• Authority
• Free will
• Ideologies
Social philosophers include:
• Plato
• Thomas Hobbes
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau
• John Locke
• Karl Marx
• Emile Durkheim
• Max Weber
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, rights, law and authority.
Western political philosophy has its origins in ancient Greek society, when city-states were experimenting with various forms of political organization including monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, and democracy. One of the first, extremely important classical works of political philosophy is Plato’s The Republic, which was followed by Aristotle’sin which he Notable for the theories that humans are social animals, and that the polis (Ancient Greek city state) existed to bring about the good life.
Medieval political philosophy in Europe was heavily influenced by Christian thinking, the most influential political philosopher of the medieval period was St. Thmas Aquinas who helped reintroduce Aristotle’s works, another influential work of this period is Augustine’s The City of God also preached that one was not a member of his or her city, but was a citizen of the City of God.
During the Renaissance secular political philosophy began to emerge.. One of the most influential works during this period was Niccolٍ Machiavelli’s The Prince, Machiavelli presents a pragmatic and somewhat teleological view of politics, whereby good and evil are mere means used to bring about an end.
During the Enlightenment period, new theories about human nature led to new questions what right do people form states; and what the best form for a state could be. and insights by such thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who Analyzed the social contract as an expression of the general will, and Montesquieu who Analyzed protection of liberty by a “balance of powers” in the divisions of a state. and John Locke who described a social contract theory based on citizens’ fundamental rights in the state of nature he argued for a government with power limited to the protection of personal property.
Karl Marx and his theory of Communism proved to be one of the most influential political ideologies of the 20th century. In large part, marx added the historical dimension to an understanding of society and Analyzed the fundamental nature of class as a mechanism of governance and social interaction.
1. Ernest Geliner, Plough, Sword and Book (1988), p. 239
3. http://www.political-theory . org


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