Tag Archives: philosophical

Philosophy #34: Continental Philosophy

Continental philosophy refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. Continental philosophy includes the following movements: German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, and some other branches of Western Marxism. Continental philosophers generally reject scientism, the view that the natural sciences are the best or most accurate way of understanding all phenomena. Continental philosophers often argue that science depends upon a “pre-theoretical substrate of experience, and that scientific methods are inadequate to understand such conditions of intelligibility.” Continental philosophy usually considers the conditions of possible experience as variable: determined at least partly by factors such as context, space and time, language, culture, or history. Continental philosophy typically holds that conscious human agency can change the conditions of possible experience: “if human experience is a contingent creation, then it can be recreated in other ways.” Thus continental philosophers tend to take a strong interest in the unity of theory and practice, and tend to see their philosophical inquiries as closely related to personal, moral, or political transformation. This tendency is very clear in the Marxist tradition (“philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”), but is also central in existentialism and post-structuralism. Continental philosophy has an emphasis on metaphilosophy. In the wake of the development and success of the natural sciences, continental philosophers have often sought to redefine the method and nature of philosophy. In some cases, such as German idealism or phenomenology, this manifests as a renovation of the traditional view that philosophy is the first, foundational, a priori science. In other cases, such as hermeneutics, critical theory, or structuralism, it is held that philosophy investigates a domain that is irreducibly cultural or practical. And some continental philosophers, such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Derrida, doubt whether any conception of philosophy can be truly coherent.

Philosophy #25: Scientism

Scientism refers to a belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints. Scientism describes the dogmatic endorsement of scientific methodology and the reduction of all knowledge to only that which is measurable.

Philosophy #24: Romanticism

Romanticism was an artistic revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. Romanticism placed new emphasis on such emotions as trepidation, horror, terror, and awe – especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature. Romanticism was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which prized intuition and emotion over Enlightenment rationalism.

Philosophy #23: Realism

Realism is the belief that reality is independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Philosophers who profess realism state that truth consists in the mind’s correspondence to reality. Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality.

Philosophy #22: Rationalism

Rationalism is any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification. In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive. Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge, to the more extreme position that reason is the unique path to knowledge.

Philosophy #21: Physicalism

Physicalism is a philosophical position holding that everything which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties; that is, that there are no kinds of things other than physical things. According to physicalism, the language of physics is the universal language of science and, consequently, any knowledge can be brought back to statements on the physical objects. In contemporary philosophy, physicalism is most frequently associated with the mind-body problem where it holds that all that has been ascribed to “mind” is more correctly ascribed to “brain” or the activity of the brain.

Philosophy #20: Pragmatism

Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice. Pragmatism is based on the premise that the human capability to theorize is necessary for intelligent practice. Theory and practice are not separate spheres; rather, theories and distinctions are tools or maps for finding our way in the world. Pragmatism holds that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that unpractical ideas are to be rejected.

Philosophy #19: Postmodern Philosophy

Postmodern Philosophy is a philosophical direction that is critical of the foundational assumptions and structures of philosophy. Postmodern philosophy is skeptical or nihilistic toward many of the values and assumptions of philosophy that derive from modernity, such as humanity having an essence that distinguishes humans from animals, or the assumption that one form of government is demonstrably better than another. It is usually associated with the following philosophical trends: nihilism and relativism, neo-marxism, neo-pragmatism, and neo-existentialism.

Philosophy #18: Positivism

Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that in the social as well as natural sciences, data derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive source of all authentic knowledge. Obtaining and verifying data that can be received from the senses is known as empirical evidence. Society operates according to laws like the physical world. Introspective and intuitional attempts to gain knowledge are rejected.

Philosophy #16: Naturalism

Naturalism is the philosophical viewpoint that natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond this natural universe, or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know. Followers of naturalism assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behaviour of the universe, that the universe is a product of these laws, and that the goal of science is to discover and publish them systematically. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no “purpose” in nature.

Philosophy #15: Moral Relativism

Moral Relativism describes the way things are, without suggesting a way they ought to be. It seeks only to point out that people frequently disagree over what is the most moral course of action. Moral Relativism holds the position that the truth or falsity of moral judgments is not objective. Justifications for moral judgments are not universal, but are instead relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of an individual or a group of people. The moral relativist might say, “It’s moral to me, because I believe it is.” Moral Relativism holds that because there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others, even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.

Philosophy #11: Idealism

Idealism is the family of views that asserts reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Idealism maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on the mind or ideas. Epistemological idealists might insist the only things that can be directly known for certain are ideas.

Philosophy #10: Humanism

Humanism is an approach in philosophy that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanism is a perspective that affirms some notion of human nature. Secular humanism is a secular ideology that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making. Secular humanism contrasts with religious humanism, which is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.