Western philosophy

School of Athens: Epicurus, Averroes, Pythagoras Parmenides, Socrates, by Raphael (School of Athens: Epicurus, Averroes, Pythagoras Parmenides, Socrates, by Raphael)

Western philosophy refers to philosophical thought and its elaboration in the West, thus distinguishing itself from Eastern philosophy or other diverse tendencies observed among many indigenous peoples.

The term is recent and is coined to refer to the philosophical thinking of Western civilization from its Greek roots in ancient Greece, including North America and Australia. There are disputes about including also the territory of North Africa, certain areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and so on. This tendency argues with a general approach that there is no philosophy in the East, Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China and India.

An understanding of philosophy in antiquity and in the writings of (at least some) ancient philosophers included the problems of philosophy that exist at the present time, but at the same time many other disciplines were covered, such as: pure mathematics and natural sciences (physics , astronomy , biology). For example, Aristotle wrote essays on all these subjects.

Some of the main philosophers that developed the Western philosophy tradition can be listed as follows: Heraclitus , Pythagoras , Anaxagoras , Cicero , Parmanides , Democritus , Epicurus , Socrates , Plato , Aristotle , Thomas Aquinas , Augustinus , Montaigne , Dekart , Francis Bacon , George Berkeley , David Hume , John Locke , Spinoza ,Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Kant , Hegel , Marx , Arthur Schopenhauer , Friedrich Nietzsche , Henri Bergson , Bertrand Russell , Edmund Husserl , Ludwig Wittgenstein , Martin Heidegger , Hannah Arendt , Albert Camus , Maurice Merleau-Ponty , Jean-Paul Sartre , Simone Bovaire , Theodor W. Adorno , Jacques Derrida , Willard Von Forest Quine , Karl Popper.

In its contemporary sense, Western philosophy refers to the two contemporary traditions of philosophy: analytic philosophy and continental philosophy.

Sub-disciplines of Western philosophy

Western philosophers are usually divided into several major areas, which distinguishes the field of research. In Antiquity , the division of philosophy proposed by the Stoics, logic, ethics and physics (the study of nature, including both natural sciences and metaphysics), was widespread . In modern philosophy, specialization is usually the following: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics . Logic is sometimes included in the main sections of philosophy, sometimes considered a separate interdisciplinary science.

Within these voluminous sections of today philosophy there are numerous sub-disciplines. There is a most general division, in particular in English-speaking countries, of analytical and continental “traditions.” Interest in specific sub-disciplines can increase or decrease over time.

  • Aesthetics : examines what art and beauty are .
  • Ethics : specifically examines moral problems and the theoretical principles on which they can be based.
  • Epistemology : The field of philosophy about the nature, source and validity of knowledge.
  • History of philosophy : The philosophy section which focuses on the development of philosophy from a certain beginning date.
  • Logic : examining and presenting the structure of logical arguments.
  • Meta-philosophy : The nature of philosophy method and discipline on the nature of philosophy theories. It is seen as the philosophy of philosophy.
  • Metaphysics : The study of basic concepts such as existence, truth, causality.
  • Philosophy of history : Study on the methods and theories of history analysis.
  • Philosophy of language : Study on truth and analam in language structure.
  • Philosophy of mathematics
  • Philosophy of physics: Philosophical study on the basic concepts of physics (space, time, etc.).
  • Philosophy of psychology : Study on basic concepts and methods of psychology and psychoanalysis.
  • Philosophy of religion : The study of the meaning of the concept of God and the rational or non-existent ways of proving the existence of God.
  • Philosophy of science : Scientific method , scientific knowledge and philosophical study on the meaning of scientific theories.
  • Political philosophy : Philosophical study on areas such as power, state, political freedom, political justice, the nature of law.
  • Philosophy of value : Philosophical study on the concept of value. Conducts a philosophical investigation on the subject of value in aesthetic and political fields.

Philosophy and other disciplines

Natural history

Originally the term philosophy was applied to all the sciences of nature. Aristotle was occupied with questions that at present can be correlated with biology, meteorology, physics, cosmology, together with his metaphysics and ethics. Even in the XVIII century, physics and chemistry were classified as “natural philosophy”, that is, a philosophical study of nature. Today these areas of knowledge are related to the sciences and formally separated from philosophy. However, such a division is ambiguous: some philosophers argue that science is still inextricably linked with philosophy.

More recently, psychology, economics, sociology and linguistics have been part of the field of philosophers’ scientific activity, but at the present time there is a weak relationship. One should understand the difference between the philosophy of science and science.

Theology and religious studies

Like philosophy, most religious studies are not experimental. The field of study of theology overlaps with the philosophy of religion. Aristotle regarded theology as a branch of metaphysics, and many philosophers prior to the twentieth century paid much attention to theological issues. Therefore, theology and philosophy of religion are not unrelated. Nevertheless, in its methodology, the philosophy of religion is closer to history and sociology than to theology.

In the empirical tradition of modern philosophy, religious research is often considered outside the realm of knowledge. In the philosophy of the XX century, much less philosophers seriously engaged in theology.


Mathematics uses very specific and rigorous methods of proof, which philosophers sometimes (or rarely) try to imitate. Most philosophical works are written in prose and usually do not reach the level of mathematical clarity. As a result, mathematicians do not often agree with the conclusions of philosophers, in turn philosophers do not often agree with the results of mathematicians, nor with their methods.

The philosophy of mathematics  is a division in the philosophy of science, but mathematics has a special relation to philosophy: logic is considered a division of philosophy and mathematics is a paradigmatic example of logic. In the late XIX – early XX centuries, logic made a tremendous breakthrough in development, and pure mathematics as it was proved is reduced to logic. In turn, the use of formal logic in philosophy is akin to the use of mathematics in science.

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