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A philosophical movement is either the appearance or increased popularity of a specific school of philosophy, or a fairly broad but identifiable sea-change in philosophical thought on a particular subject. Major philosophical movements are often characterized with reference to the nation, language, or historical era in which they arose.
Talk of a philosophical movement can often function as a shorthand for talk of the views of a great number of different philosophers (and others associated with philosophy, such as historians, artists, scientists and political figures). On the other hand, most philosophical movements in history consisted in a great number of individual thinkers who disagreed in various ways; it is often inaccurate and something of a caricature to treat any movement as consisting in followers of uniform opinion. More often the defining ideas of any philosophical movement are templates on which individual thinkers develop their own particular ideas.
In contrast to the idea of a philosophical movement, the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Romanticism are broader cultural "movements" that happened to be characterized by fairly distinctive philosophical concerns: although they are movements with philosophical cores, they extend beyond the field of philosophy into art and culture more broadly, hence are not specific enough to philosophy to be considered movements within it.
Like specific doctrines and theories, movements are often given names with "ism" suffixes. What makes a movement identifiable and interesting as distinct from a specific theory is simply that a movement consists in a large flourishing of intellectual work on one or more ideas, in a fairly specifiable time and place. Following is short list of major philosophical movements, in rough chronological order:
See Eastern philosophy for a list of Asian philosophical movements. See African philosophy for a list of African philosophical movements.
Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begins in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years; some can be found in the Yi Jing, an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China: Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism, arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians.
Political philosophy, also known as political theory, is the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of laws by authority: what they are, if they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect, what form it should take, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.
Belief is the attitude that something is the case or true. In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to personal attitudes associated with true or false ideas and concepts. However, "belief" does not require active introspection and circumspection. For example, few ponder whether the sun will rise, just assume it will. Since "belief" is an important aspect of mundane life, according to Eric Schwitzgebel in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a related question asks: "how a physical organism can have beliefs?"
Eastern philosophy or Asian philosophy includes the various philosophies that originated in East and South Asia including Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy which are dominant in East Asia and Vietnam, and Indian philosophy which are dominant in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Mongolia.
Modern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law with the secular, modern world.
Analytic philosophy is a tradition of philosophy that began around the turn of the 20th century and continues to today. Like any philosophical tradition it includes many conflicting thinkers in a broad umbrella with its own particular lineage and history and so is resistant to a clean-cut summary. Some aspects generally found are a fascination with modern scientific practices, an attempt to focus philosophical reflection on smaller problems that lead to answers to bigger questions, and valuing clarity and rigor in one's philosophical thoughts and arguments.
Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.
New Confucianism is an intellectual movement of Confucianism that began in the early 20th century in Republican China, and further developed in post-Mao era contemporary China. It is deeply influenced by, but not identical with, the neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming dynasties. It is a neo-conservative movement of various Chinese traditions and has been regarded as containing religious overtones; it advocates for certain Confucianist elements of society – such as social, ecological, and political harmony – to be applied in a contemporary context in synthesis with Western philosophies such as rationalism and humanism. Its philosophies have emerged as a focal point of discussion between Confucian scholars in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States.
Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school, although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.
20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy.
Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the early 20th century with the increasing professionalization of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy.
African philosophy is the philosophical discourse produced by indigenous Africans and their descendants, including African/Americans. African philosophers may be found in the various academic fields of philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. One particular subject that many African philosophers have written about is that on the subject of freedom and what it means to be free or to experience wholeness. Philosophy in Africa has a rich and varied history, some of which has been lost over time. One of the earliest known African philosophers was Ptahhotep, an ancient Egyptian philosopher. In the early and mid-twentieth century, anti-colonial movements had a tremendous effect on the development of a distinct African political philosophy that had resonance on both the continent and in the African diaspora. One well-known example of the economic philosophical works emerging from this period was the African socialist philosophy of Ujamaa propounded in Tanzania and other parts of Southeast Africa. These African political and economic philosophical developments also had a notable impact on the anti-colonial movements of many non-African peoples around the world.
Japanese philosophy has historically been a fusion of both indigenous Shinto and continental religions, such as Buddhism and Confucianism. Formerly heavily influenced by both Chinese philosophy and Indian philosophy, as with Mitogaku and Zen, much modern Japanese philosophy is now also influenced by Western philosophy.
Communicative rationality or communicative reason is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication. In particular, it is tied to the philosophy of German philosophers Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas, and their program of universal pragmatics, along with its related theories such as those on discourse ethics and rational reconstruction. This view of reason is concerned with clarifying the norms and procedures by which agreement can be reached, and is therefore a view of reason as a form of public justification.
This glossary of philosophy is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to philosophy and related disciplines, including logic, ethics, and theology.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to humanism:
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?
A philosophical theory or philosophical position is a set of beliefs that explains or accounts for a general philosophy or specific branch of philosophy. The use of the term theory here is a statement of colloquial English and not reflective of the term theory. While any sort of thesis or opinion may be termed a position, in analytic philosophy it is thought best to reserve the word "theory" for systematic, comprehensive attempts to solve problems.
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history. Work in the history of ideas may involve interdisciplinary research in the history of philosophy, the history of science, or the history of literature. In Sweden, the history of ideas and science or Idé- och lärdomshistoria has been a distinct university subject since 6 November 1932, when Johan Nordström, a scholar of literature, was appointed professor of the new discipline in a ceremony at Uppsala University. Today, several universities across the world provide courses in this field, usually as part of a graduate programme.
Critical theory is the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture by applying knowledge from the social sciences and the humanities to reveal and challenge power structures. It argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. Critical theory has origins in sociology and also in literary criticism. The sociologist Max Horkheimer described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them".