Art and Culture/Philosophy

From Quiz Revision Notes


Theodor Adorno (1903 – 1969) was a member of the Frankfurt School. Works include Dialectic of Enlightenment and Negative Dialectics

Antisthenes (c. 445 – c. 365 BC) was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Later writers regarded him as the founder of Cynic philosophy

St Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) was born in North Africa. Influenced by Bishop Ambrose in Milan. Best known works are Confessions and The City of God

St Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225 – 1274) was an Italian philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis. He is the foremost classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of the Thomistic school of philosophy, which was long the primary philosophical approach of the Roman Catholic Church. The work for which he is best-known is the Summa Theologiae. Also wrote Summa contra Gentiles

Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) was a German political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she always refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with ‘man in the singular’. Her most influential work was The Human Condition (1958). Also wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. Aristotle, Socrates and Plato transformed Pre-Socratic Greek philosophy into the foundations of Western philosophy. Among his most important works are Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, De Anima (On the Soul) and Poetics. He founded the Lyceum, which became known as the peripatetic school from his custom of walking round while he lectured. He was the first person to classify living things, and introduced the term genus

Meteorologica – Aristotle, 340 BC

With the Prior Analytics, Aristotle is credited with the earliest study of formal logic. In Prior Analytics, Aristotle defines syllogism as ‘a discourse in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so’

Posterior Analytics – Aristotle

Aristotle proved that the Earth was spherical

Ether – fifth element proposed by Aristotle

Sense and Sensibilia – Aristotle

Aristotle taught that bodies have gravity or levity

Aristotle is the earliest natural historian whose work has survived in some detail. Aristotle certainly did research on the natural history of Lesbos, and the surrounding seas and neighbouring areas. The works that reflect this research, such as History of Animals, Generation of Animals, and Parts of Animals, contain some observations and interpretations, along with sundry myths and mistakes. The most striking passages are about the sea-life. Supported the idea of spontaneous generation

Ibn Sina, also known as Avicenna (c. 980 – 1037) was a polymath of Persian origin and the foremost physician and philosopher of his time. Wrote The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine

Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (1910 – 1989), better known as A. J. Ayer was a British philosopher known for his promotion of logical positivism, particularly in his books Language, Truth and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956)

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561 – 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman and essayist. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. Bacon's works include his Essays as well as the Colours of Good and Evil and the Meditationes Sacrae, all published in 1597. His famous aphorism, ‘knowledge is power’, is found in the Meditations

Novum Organum is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon published in 1620. The title translates as ‘new instrument’. This is a reference to Aristotle's work Organon which was his treatise on logic and syllogism. In Novum Organum, Bacon details a new system of logic he believes to be superior to the old ways of syllogism

Francis Bacon supposedly died after catching a cold while stuffing a chicken with snow as part of an experiment in refrigeration

Francis Bacon was elected MP for Bossiney, Devon, in a by-election in 1581. In 1584, he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorset, and in 1586 for Taunton

Roger Bacon (1214 – 1294), also known as Doctor Mirabilis, was one of the most famous Franciscan friars of his time. He was an English philosopher who placed considerable emphasis on empiricism, and has been presented as one of the earliest advocates of the modern scientific method in the West

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) is best known for her 1949 treatise Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism. Known as the ‘Grand Dame’ of existentialism. Wrote Ethics of Ambiguity. Had a relationship with Sartre. Buried at Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris

Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism and animal rights who influenced the development of liberalism. He was made an honorary citizen of the French Republic in 1792. As requested in his will, his body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet, termed his ‘Auto-Icon’, at University College, London. The Auto-Icon has always had a wax head, as Bentham's head was badly damaged in the preservation process. Bentham stated that society’s aim should be ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Bentham’s most famous work is An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Panopticon – type of prison designed by Jeremy Bentham. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe all inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not

George Berkeley (1685 – 1753), also known as Bishop Berkeley, was an Irish philosopher whose primary philosophical achievement is the advancement of what has come to be called subjective idealism, summed up in his dictum, ‘Esse est percipi’  (‘To be is to be perceived’). The theory states that individuals can only directly know sensations and ideas of objects, not abstractions such as ‘matter’. He wrote Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710)

The Analyst – Bishop Berkeley. A direct attack on the foundations and principles of the infinitesimal calculus, specifically on Newton's notion of fluxions and on Leibniz's notion of infinitesimal change

Elan vital was coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941) in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, in which he addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things in an increasingly complex manner. Bergson was awarded the 1927 Nobel Prize in Literature ‘in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented’

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c. 480 – 524) was a Christian philosopher. Boethius's best known work is the Consolation of Philosophy, which he wrote most likely while in exile under house arrest or in prison while awaiting his execution, but his lifelong project was a deliberate attempt to preserve ancient classical knowledge, particularly philosophy

Buridan's Ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will. It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other. The paradox is named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan (c. 1300 – after 1358). A common variant substitutes two identical piles of hay for both hay and water and advances that the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger alone

Judith Butler (born 1956) is an American post-structuralist philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of feminist philosophy, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics

Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) was an Algerian-French author and philosopher. Though often associated with the school of existentialism, Camus preferred to be known as a man and a thinker, rather than as a member of a school or ideology. He was sometimes referred to as a philosopher of the absurd. Wrote The Myth of Sisyphus

Auguste Comte (1798 – 1857) was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism. He may be regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term. Comte coined the terms sociology and altruism

System of Positive Politics – Comte

Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2004) is known as the founder of deconstruction. His voluminous work had a profound impact upon continental philosophy and literary theory. Derrida’s philosophical work aims at what he called in On Grammatology the ‘exorbitant’, i.e. outside the normal ideas of western philosophy

Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) has been dubbed the ‘Founder of Modern Philosophy’ and the ‘Father of Modern Mathematics’. He set out to destroy Aristotelian philosophy. In his Meditations on First Philosophy he attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt. To achieve this, he employs a method called methodological skepticism: he doubts any idea that can be doubted in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge. Hence ‘cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am). Author of Discourse on Method

Descartes regarded the pineal gland as the principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed

Rene Descartes died in 1650 in Stockholm, where he had been invited as a teacher for Queen Christina of Sweden

Diogenes (c. 412 – 323 BC) ‘the Cynic’ was born in Sinope (in modern day Sinop, Turkey) and died at Corinth. Diogenes believed that human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog, which lives in the present without anxiety. He lived in a tub

Epictetus (55 – 135) was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in Greece for the rest of his life. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses

Epicurus (341 – 270 BC) was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. For Epicurus, the highest pleasure (tranquility and freedom from fear) was obtained by knowledge, friendship, and living a virtuous and temperate life

Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984) was associated with the structuralist movement in the 1960s. Works include Madness and Civilization, The Archaeology of Knowledge, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Georg Hegel (1770 – 1831) introduced for the first time in philosophy the idea that history and the concrete are important in getting out of the circle of philosophia perennis, i.e., the perennial problems of philosophy. Also, for the first time in the history of philosophy he realised the importance of the Other in the coming to be of self-consciousness. Hegel published only four books during his life: Phenomenology of Spirit (or Phenomenology of Mind), Science of Logic (which included a full description of Hegel’s dialectic), Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and Elements of the Philosophy of Right

Hegelian dialectic comprises three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis

Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976) was an influential German philosopher, best known as the author of Being and Time (1927). It is a touchstone of Continental philosophy, a ground-breaking investigation of the concepts of Being and Dasein (literally ‘existence’). Heidegger failed to assume philosophical leadership of Nazism

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) was an English philosopher, whose famous 1648 book Leviathan set the agenda for nearly all subsequent Western political philosophy. In Leviathan, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of societies and legitimate governments. This became one of the first scholarly works on Social contract theory

Thomas Hobbes was born in Malmesbury

David Hume (1711 – 1776) believed that all human knowledge comes to us through our senses. Our perceptions, as he called them, can be divided into two categories: ideas and impressions. Best known work is An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)

A Treatise of Human Nature, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion – David Hume

The History of England – David Hume

Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) is considered the founder of phenomenology.  Believing that experience is the source of all knowledge, he worked on a method of phenomenological reduction

Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) was a philosopher from Konigsberg in East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Kant’s early publications were on astronomy. He is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. Kant is known for his theory that there is a single moral obligation, which he called the ‘Categorical Imperative’, and is derived from the concept of duty. It is from the Categorical Imperative that all other moral obligations are generated, and by which all moral obligations can be tested. In Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals (1785), Kant enumerated three formulations of the categorical imperative which he believed to be roughly equivalent – Formula of Universal Law, Formula of Humanity and Formula of Autonomy. Other works include Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of Judgment. Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by Kant

Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) was a Danish philosopher, generally recognized as the first existentialist philosopher. He bridged the gap that existed between Hegelian philosophy and what was to become Existentialism. His final years were taken up with a sustained, outright attack on the Danish State Church. Wrote Either-Or

The use of the term ‘angst’ was first attributed to Kierkegaard

Thomas Kuhn (1922 – 1996) is most famous for his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) in which he presented the idea that science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but instead undergoes periodic revolutions which he calls paradigm shifts, in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. Paradigm shift is sometimes known as extraordinary science or revolutionary science

Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716) argued that the world was composed of an infinite number of units called monads, the highest of which was God, in The Monadology. Leibniz also developed calculus independently of Newton

John Locke (1632 – 1704) has often been classified as a British Empiricist, along with David Hume and George Berkeley. He is equally important as a social contract theorist, as he developed an alternative to the Hobbesian state of nature and argued a government could only be legitimate if it received the consent of the governed through a social contract and protected the natural rights of life, liberty, and estate. If such consent was not given, argued Locke, citizens had a right of rebellion. Locke is one of the few major philosophers who became a minister of government.

In Locke's philosophy, tabula rasa was the theory that the (human) mind is at birth a ‘blank slate’ without rules for processing data, and that data is added and rules for processing are formed solely by one's sensory experiences

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding – John Locke, 1689

Two Treatises of Government – John Locke

The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979) is a short but influential philosophy book by Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924 – 1998) in which he analyses the epistemology of postmodern culture

Mencius (possibly 372 – 289 BC) was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) was an advocate of utilitarianism, the ethical theory that was systemised by his godfather, Jeremy Bentham, but adapted to German romanticism. It is usually suggested that Mill is an advocate of Negative liberty. In 1851, Mill married Harriet Taylor. On Liberty (1859) is one of the founding texts of liberalism. The book The Subjection of Women (1869) is one of the earliest written on women’s liberation by a male author

Utilitarianism, On Representative Government, System of Logic – John Stuart Mill

Thomas Nagel (born 1937) is an American analytic philosopher. He is well known for his critique of reductionist accounts of the mind in his essay What Is It Like to Be a Bat?. Born in Belgrade

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) produced critiques of religion, morality, contemporary culture, and philosophy, centering on what he viewed as fundamental questions regarding the life-affirming and life-denying qualities of different attitudes and beliefs. Works include The Birth of Tragedy, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Antichrist, The Dawn, Daybreak and Ecce Homo

Superman – term first coined by Nietzsche

Nietzsche was inspired by Goethe and Schiller

Pascal's Wager (or Pascal's Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662) thought that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because so living has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Pascal wrote Pensees (or Thoughts, 1670) which commended Christianity to sceptics

Plato (c. 427 – c. 347 BC), whose real name is believed to have been Aristocles, was an influential ancient Greek philosopher, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens where Aristotle studied. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Socrates. Plato's dialogues are a collection of conversations that Socrates has with a great variety of male characters, young and old, obscure and well-known, foreign and Athenian. The Republic written in approximately 360 BC, is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue

In The Republic, Plato argues that the soul is composed of three parts: the appetitive, the rational, and the spirited. These three parts of the soul also correspond to the three classes of a just society

The Last Days of Socrates – Plato

Plotinus (204 – 270) was the founder of Neoplatonism. His work survives as the Enneads, edited and published by Porphyry. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul

Karl Popper (1902 – 1994) was born in Vienna. Works include The Logic of Scientific Discovery. In it, Popper argued that science should adopt a methodology based on falsification, because no number of experiments can ever prove a theory, but a single experiment can contradict one. Falsifiability (or refutability or testability) is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment. Some philosophers and scientists, most notably Karl Popper, have asserted that a hypothesis, proposition or theory is scientific only if it is falsifiable

The Open Society and its Enemies – Karl Popper

Hilary Putnam (born 1926) is an American philosopher, mathematician and computer scientist, who has been a central figure in analytic philosophy since the 1960s, especially in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) was a Genevan philosopher of the Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism. The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right (1762) is the book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society which he had already identified in his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754). It helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. Other works include Confessions, an autobiographical book

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) is generally recognised as one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Works include The Problems of Philosophy (1912), A History of Western Philosophy (1945) and Principia Mathematica (with Alfred North Whitehead)

The Philosophy of Logical Atomism – Bertrand Russell

Why I Am Not a Christian, Marriage and Morals, In Praise of Idleness – Russell

Russell’s teapot is an analogy first coined by Bertrand Russell to illustrate the idea that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion. Russell wrote that if he claimed that a teapot were orbiting the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it would be nonsensical for him to expect others not to doubt him on the grounds that they could not prove him wrong

John Stuart Mill was Russell’s secular godfather

Gilbert Ryle (1900 – 1976) is principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase ‘the ghost in the machine’. Some of his ideas in the philosophy of mind are referred to as ‘behaviourist’. Ryle's best known book is The Concept of Mind (1949)

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. The basis of Sartre's existentialism is found in The Transcendence of the Ego (1937). Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (sometimes subtitled A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology) is a 1943 philosophical treatise that is regarded as the beginning of the growth of existentialism in the 20th century

Existentialism and Humanism, Nausea – books by Sartre

‘Existence precedes essence’ – Sartre

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) was a German philosopher, born in Danzig, known for his atheistic pessimism and philosophical clarity. Aged 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the fundamental question of whether reason alone can unlock answers about the world. Schopenhauer's most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, emphasized the role of man's basic motivation, which Schopenhauer called will. His analysis of will led him to the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled

John Duns Scotus (c. 1266 – 1308) was a theologian, philosopher, and logician. He was one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages, nicknamed ‘Doctor Subtilis’. Duns Scotus is a realist (as opposed to nominalist), in that his metaphysics deals with things rather than with concepts. Scotism is the name given to the philosophical and theological system or school named after John Duns Scotus

Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD) was known as the ‘Rhetorician’. Stoic philosopher

Socrates (470 – 399 BC) could be said to be the founder of moral philosophy. He was sentenced to die by drinking hemlock. His most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic (answering a question with a question) method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method or method of elenchos. Xanthippe was the wife of Socrates and mother of their three sons

Benedictus de Spinoza or Baruch de Spinoza (1632 – 1677) was a Dutch philosopher, considered one of the great rationalists and, by virtue of his magnum opus the posthumous Ethics (1677), one of the definitive ethicists. He is now recognized as having laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment, and as a founder of modern biblical criticism. Spinoza was expelled from the Jewish community for heresy

The Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, The Theologico-Political Treatise – books by Spinoza

Otto Weininger (1880 – 1903) was a Christian Austrian philosopher. In 1903, he published the book Sex and Character, which gained popularity after his suicide at the age of 23

Alfred North Whitehead (1861 – 1947) worked with Bertrand Russell. His metaphysical views emerged in The Concept of Nature (1920) and were expanded in Science and the Modern World (1925)

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) was an Austrian philosopher who contributed several ground-breaking works to contemporary philosophy, primarily on the foundations of logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of mind. He published only one philosophical book in his lifetime, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in 1921. Wittgenstein threatened Popper with a poker in Cambridge in 1946

Zeno of Citium (333 – 264 BC) was a Hellenistic Stoic philosopher from Citium, Cyprus. His teachings were the beginnings of stoicism

Pre-Socratic philosophy

The Pre-Socratic philosophers were active before Socrates. The popularity of the term originates with Hermann Diels' work The Fragments of the Pre-Socratics, 1903. They rejected traditional mythological explanations for the phenomena they saw around them in favor of more rational explanations

Epimenides of Knossos (Crete) was a semi-mythical 7th or 6th century BC Greek seer and philosopher-poet. Epimenides paradox reveals a problem with self-reference in logic, e.g. ‘All Cretans are liars’

Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BC) most famous belief was his cosmological doctrine, which held that the world originated from water. He is credited with introducing basic geometry into Greece, and predicted a solar eclipse

Anaximander (c. 610 – c. 546 BC) lived in Miletus, a city of Ionia. He joined the Milesian school where he received the teachings of its master Thales. He succeeded him and became the second master of that school where he counted Anaximenes and Pythagoras amongst his pupils

Pythagoras (582 – 507 BC) was born on the island of Samos

Pythagoreans were well known in antiquity for their vegetarianism, which they practised for religious, ethical and ascetic reasons, in particular the idea of metempsychosis – the transmigration of souls into the bodies of other animals

Xenophanes of Colphon (c. 570 – c. 475 BC) was a Greek philosopher, theologian, poet and social and religious critic. Xenophanes' life was one of travel, having left Ionia at the age of 25

Heraclitus (535 – 475 BC) was one of the earliest dialectical philosophers with his acknowledgment of the universality of change and development through internal contradictions. Heraclitus was known as ‘the weeping philosopher’. Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice”

Parmenides (early 5th century BC) was the founder of the School of Elea

Zeno of Elea (c. 490 – c. 430 BC) was a member of the Eleatic School founded by Parmenides. Called by Aristotle the inventor of the dialectic, he is best known for his paradoxes. Zeno's paradoxes are a set of problems devised to support Parmenides' doctrine that ‘all is one’ and that, contrary to the evidence of our senses, the belief in plurality and change is mistaken, and in particular that motion is nothing but an illusion. Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise – in a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead

Empedocles (c. 490 – 430 BC) was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for being the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four Classical elements. He died by throwing himself into an active volcano (Mount Etna in Sicily)

Purifications, On Nature – Empedocles

Protagoras (490 – 420 BC) Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of virtue. His most famous saying is: "Man is the measure of all things”

Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BC) was known as “the laughing philosopher”. He is best remembered for the atom theory, whereby the world consists of an infinite number of everlasting atoms

Schools and Ideas

Anatytical philosophy – a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century

Conceptualism – a philosophical theory that explains universality of particulars as conceptualized frameworks situated within the thinking mind. Intermediate between Nominalism and Realism, the conceptualist view approaches the metaphysical concept of universals from a perspective that denies their presence in particulars outside of the mind's perception of them

Cyrenaics – an ultra-hedonist Greek school of philosophy founded in the 4th century BC, supposedly by Aristippus of Cyrene

Deconstructionism – a process by which the texts and languages of (particularly) Western philosophy appear to shift and complicate in meaning when read in light of the assumptions they suggest about and absences they reveal within themselves. Jacques Derrida coined the term in the 1960s, and found that he could talk more readily about what deconstruction was ‘not’ than about what it ‘was’

Determinism – a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen

Empiricism – a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from sense experience

Epicureanism – a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 BC

Epistemology – the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity

Frankfurt School – a school of neo-Marxist interdisciplinary social theory. Members included Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin

Gymnosophists – the name (meaning ‘naked philosophers’) given by the Greeks to certain ancient Indian philosophers who pursued asceticism to the point of regarding food and clothing as detrimental to purity of thought

Hedonism (Greek: hedone ‘pleasure’) – focuses on increasing pleasure. John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham established the fundamental principles of hedonism through their ethical theory of Utilitarianism

Historicism – refers to philosophical theories that include one or both of two claims:

1. That there is an organic succession of developments, a notion also known as historism, and/or; 2. That local conditions and peculiarities influence the results in a decisive way.

It can be contrasted with reductionist theories, which suppose that all developments can be explained by fundamental principles (such as in economic determinism)

Hyperreality – an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced post-modern societies. Theorists of hyperreality include Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco

Idealism – argues that the nature of reality is based only in our minds or ideas

Inductive reasoning – reasoning from a specific case or cases to a general rule

Metaphysics – the philosophical study of being and knowing. Also ‘the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct’

Moore's paradox – concerns the absurdity involved in asserting a first-person present-tense sentence such as “It's raining but I don't believe that it is raining”. The first author to note this apparent absurdity was G.E. Moore

Naturalism – the viewpoint that laws of nature (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe

Neo-Platonism – the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus

Nihilism – argues that the world, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value

Nominalism – asserts that only individuals or particulars exist and deny that universals are real

Ontology – the study of being or existence. A controlled vocabulary that describes objects and the relations between them in a formal way. An ontological argument for the existence of God attempts the method of a priori proof, which uses intuition and reason alone. The argument examines the concept of God, and states that if we can conceive of the greatest possible being, then it must exist

Phenomenology – the philosophical study of human consciousness

Positivism – the philosophy that the only authentic knowledge is knowledge that is based on actual sense experience. The concept was first coined by Auguste Comte

Problem of universals – an ancient problem in metaphysics about whether universals exist. Universals are general or abstract qualities, characteristics, properties, kinds or relations, such as being male/female, solid/liquid/gas or a certain colour, which can be predicated of individuals or particulars or that individuals or particulars can be regarded as sharing or participating in. There are three main positions on the issue: realism, idealism and nominalism. The realist school claims that universals are real

Queer theory – focuses on ‘mismatches’ between sex, gender and desire

Realism – the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc

Reductionism – a philosophical position which holds that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents

Relativism – the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration

Scepticism – the theory that certain knowledge is impossible. Scepticism goes back at least as far as Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360 – c. 270 BC)

Sophism – a method of teaching. Sophists were not a philosophical entity, but travelled around selling intellectual skills such as rhetoric, grammar and ethics

Solipsism – the idea that only one's own mind is sure to exist. Solipsism is an epistemological or ontological position that knowledge of anything outside one's own specific mind is unjustified. The external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist. Solipsism has served as a sceptical hypothesis

Stoicism – founded by Zeno of Citium, which became the foremost popular philosophy among the educated elite in the Greco-Roman Empire. It teaches that self-control, fortitude and detachment from distracting emotions, sometimes interpreted as an indifference to pleasure or pain, allows one to become a clear thinker, level-headed and unbiased. Beginning at around 301 BC, Zeno taught philosophy at the Stoa Poikile (i.e., ‘the painted porch’), from which his philosophy got its name

Teleology – the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes. The philosophical study of design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in nature or human creations. Watchmaker analogy is a teleological argument for the existence of God. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer. The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe. The most famous statement of the teleological argument using the watchmaker analogy was given by William Paley in his work Natural Theology

Utilitarianism – an ethical framework which posits that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest utility for the greatest number of people. Founded by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill

Vienna Circle – an association of philosophers gathered around the University of Vienna in 1922, chaired by Moritz Schlick, also known as the Ernst Mach Society. Kurt Godel was a student at the University of Vienna at this time. He was allowed to participate in the meetings, but was not a member of the Vienna Circle