7 junio, 2024

The 14 main philosophical disciplines and what they study

The philosophical disciplines They are each and every one of the branches of study that are in charge of analyzing a specific problem or a part of the whole studied in philosophy, which is nothing more than the search for answers to the main questions of the human being.

Some of these questions are as decisive as its existence, its raison d’être, morality, knowledge and many other transcendental topics, always analyzed under a rational gaze.

This rational look distances philosophy from religion, mysticism or esotericism, where arguments of authority over reason abound. Also, and although philosophy is often referred to as a science, it is not such, since its studies are not empirical (based on experience).

In this way, one could quote Bertrand Russell who affirms that “philosophy is something intermediate between theology and science.

Like theology, it consists of speculations on subjects that hitherto knowledge has not been able to reach; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than authority.

Main philosophical disciplines

1- Logic

Logic, although it is a formal and non-empirical science, is also considered a fundamental discipline of Philosophy. The term comes from the Greek Lógos, which means thought, idea, argument, principle or reason.

Logic is, then, the science that studies ideas, therefore, it is based on inferences, which is nothing more than conclusions from certain premises. These inferences may or may not be valid, and it is logic that allows them to differentiate from each other based on their structure.

Inferences can be divided into three groups: inductions, deductions, and abductions.

Since the 20th century, Logic has been associated almost exclusively with mathematics, giving rise to the so-called «Mathematical Logic» applied to solving problems and calculations and being of great application in the field of computing.

2- Ontology

Ontology is in charge of studying which entities exist (or not) beyond mere appearances. Ontology comes from the Greek «Onthos» which means to be, so Ontology analyzes being itself, its principles and the different classes of entities that can exist.

According to some scholars, Ontology is considered part of Metaphysics, which studies knowledge in its ontological sphere regarding the subject and the more general relationships between subjects.

Metaphysics studies the structure of nature to achieve a greater empirical understanding of the world. Try to answer questions like What is being? What is there? why is there something and rather than nothing?

Perhaps you may be interested in the 50 best books on metaphysics.

3- Ethics

Ethics is the philosophical discipline that studies morality, the principles, foundations and elements of moral judgments. It is derived from the Greek “ethikos” which means character.

Ethics, therefore, analyzes, defines and differentiates what is good and what is bad, what is obligatory or permitted regarding a human action. In short, it determines how the members of a society should act.

An ethical sentence is nothing more than a moral judgment. It does not impose punishments but it is a fundamental part in the drafting of legal regulations in a rule of law. That is why Ethics is commonly understood as the set of norms that direct human behavior within a group, community or society.

About Ethics is, perhaps, what philosophers and various authors have written the most about throughout time, especially because it raises the dilemma of what is good, from whose perspective, in what situation and many other questions.

In this sense, the German philosopher Immmanuel Kant was the one who wrote the most on the subject, trying to give a sufficient explanation to matters such as moral limits and freedom.

4- Aesthetics

Aesthetics is the philosophical discipline that studies beauty; the conditions that make someone or something perceived as beautiful or not. It is also called Theory or Philosophy of Art, since it studies and reflects on art and its qualities.

The term comes from the Greek «Aisthetikê» which means perception or sensation. Already from this first approximation, Aesthetics -like Ethics- falls into the field of subjectivity, because the study of beauty also implies the study of aesthetic experiences and judgments.

Is beauty objectively present in things or does it depend on the look of the individual who qualifies it? What is beautiful, from whose perspective, in what place or historical moment, are questions that mean that «what is beautiful» cannot be definitively determined.

Although the concept of beauty and harmony have been present throughout history and has been the subject of study by many philosophers from Plato onwards, the term «Aesthetics» was only coined in the mid-18th century, thanks to the German philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who brought together all the material on the subject.

5- Epistemology

The word epistemology comes from the Greek «episteme» which means knowledge. Therefore, Epistemology is the study of knowledge, dealing with the historical, psychological and sociological facts that lead to obtaining scientific knowledge, as well as the judgments by which they are validated or rejected. It is also known as the Philosophy of Science.

Epistemology studies the different types of possible knowledge, its degrees of veracity and the relationship between the subject who knows with the known object. It deals with the contents of thought, but also with its meaning.

Until the middle of the last century, Epistemology was considered a chapter of Gnoseology (also called Theory of Knowledge), since by then ethical, semantic or axiological problems had not yet come into conflict in scientific research.

Now Epistemology has gained importance not only within philosophy itself, but also in the conceptual and professional area within the sciences.

6- Epistemology

The term comes from «Gnosis», which in Greek means knowledge, which is why it is also defined as Theory of Knowledge. Gnoseology studies the origin of knowledge in general, as well as its nature, foundations, scope and limitations.

Basically, the difference between Gnoseology and Epistemology is based on the fact that the latter is specifically dedicated to the study of scientific knowledge, while Gnoseology is a broader term. In part, the confusion of terms may be due to the fact that, in the English language, the word «Epistemology» is used to define Gnoseology.

Gnoseology also studies phenomena, experience and its different types (perception, memory, thought, imagination, etc.). This is why it can also be said that Phenomenology is a philosophical branch derived from Gnoseology.

Gnoseology basically raises three premises: «know what», «know how» and properly «know».

On the subject of knowledge surrounds most of the philosophical thought and they do so from various conceptions or angles, depending on the historical moment and the predominant philosophers in each one, so it is worth briefly describing each of these doctrines or positions:

Dogmatism. Man acquires universal knowledge that is absolute and universal. Known things as they are.
Skepticism. He opposes dogmatism and argues that firm and secure knowledge is not possible.
Criticism. It is an intermediate position between dogmatism and skepticism. He argues that knowledge is possible, but does not accept that, in and of itself, this knowledge is definitive. All truth is open to criticism.
Empiricism. Knowledge lies in intelligible reality in consciousness. Experience is the foundation of knowledge.
Rationalism. Knowledge lies in reason. He leaves consciousness to enter the evidence.
Realism. Things exist, regardless of the conscience or reason of the subject. In fact, it poses knowledge as an exact reproduction of reality.
Gnoseological Idealism. It does not deny the existence of the external world, but it states that it cannot be known through immediate perception. The known is not the world, but a representation of it.
Relativism. Defended by the sophists, it denies the existence of an absolute truth. Each individual has his own reality.
Perspectivism. It states that there is an absolute truth, but that it is much bigger than what each individual can appreciate. Each one has a small part.
constructivism. Reality is an invention of whoever builds it.

7- Axiology

Axiology is the philosophical discipline that studies values. Although the concept of value was the subject of profound reflections by ancient philosophers, the term as such was used for the first time in 1902 and it was from the second half of the 19th century when Axiology began to be formally studied as a discipline.

The Axiology tries to distinguish the «being» of the «worth». Value was commonly included in being and both were measured by the same yardstick. Axiology began to study values ​​in isolation, both positive and negative (anti-values).

Now, the study of values ​​presupposes value judgments, with which, once again, subjectivity is presented, the personal appreciation of the subject who studies the value of the object and which is given by his moral, ethical and aesthetic concepts, his experience, their religious beliefs, etc.

The values ​​can be divided into objective or subjective, permanent or dynamic, they can also be categorized based on their importance or hierarchy (what is called “value scale”). As a philosophical discipline, Axiology is closely linked to ethics and aesthetics.

8- Philosophical Anthropology

Philosophical Anthropology focuses on the study of man himself as an object and at the same time as a subject of philosophical knowledge.

Kant, in his «logic» is credited with the conception of anthropology as first philosophy, when his questions «What can I know?» (epistemology), “what should I do?” (ethics) and “what can I expect?” (religion) all refer to a great question: «what is man?».

Philosophical anthropology differs from Ontology in that it studies «being» in its essence of being, while anthropology analyzes the most differential and personal aspects of being, which determines the rational and spiritual condition of man.

9- Politics

The philosophical discipline of politics is responsible for answering fundamental questions about governments and their derived concepts such as laws, power, justice, property, types of governments, etc.

It is closely linked to philosophical subdisciplines such as Law and Economics and has a strong link with ethics.

Some of the philosophers who developed this discipline were John Locke, Karl Marx,…

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