Expounded by: Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Aristotelianism is a Greek philosophy that stressed on virtue as a mean or
mid-way between two extremes. Aristotle classified everything in a
‘ladder of nature’, with man at the top and inanimate at the bottom.
Philosophical features of Aristotelianism include a methodology which
takes a critical approach to existing or hypothetical doctrines, and an
emphasis on knowledge that can be acquired by natural means through
the senses and the exercise of reason. Aristotelian metaphysics places the
individual at the center of the realm of existence.
In the philosophy of nature, Aristotelianism portrays a perfect and
economic organization of the natural world, in which heavenly, geocentric
spheres driven by intelligent movers carry the stars, the Sun, the planets,
and the Moon, in circular movements, and influence the “sublunary”
world. From its beginnings, Aristotelianism incorporated the concept of
gravity, in which light bodies rise away from the center of the earth and
heavy bodies move naturally toward it with a speed related to their
Aristotelian aesthetics hold that poetry and literature are an imitation of
what is possible in real life; and that tragedy in drama and literature can
achieve purification (katharsis) through artificially constructing a situation
which evokes fear and pity. Aristotelian ethics emphasize intellectual
activity as the primary path to happiness, followed by the practice of
virtue. Virtue is characterized as moderation and conscious self-control.
Aristotelian political theory considers the state as a self-sufficient society,
necessary to provide the social structure and order in which men can
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Expounded by: Diogenes (400-325 BC)
Cynicism is a Greek philosophy of a simple self sufficient life as the ideal
way towards happiness.
The classical Greek and Roman Cynics regarded virtue as the only
necessity for happiness, and saw virtue as entirely sufficient for attaining
happiness. Classical Cynics followed this philosophy to the extent of
neglecting everything not furthering their perfection of virtue and
attainment of happiness, thus, the title Cynics, derived from the Greek
word κύων, ("dog" in English) because they allegedly neglected society,
hygiene, family, money, etc, in a manner reminiscent of dogs.
They sought to free themselves from conventions; become self-sufficient;
and live only in accordance with nature. They rejected any conventional
notions of happiness involving money, power, or fame, to lead entirely
virtuous, and thus happy, lives.
The ancient Cynics rejected conventional social values, and would criticise
the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing
suffering. Emphasis on this aspect of their teachings led, in the late 18th
and early 19th century, to the modern understanding of cynicism as "an
attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the
integrity or professed motives of others." This modern definition of
cynicism is in marked contrast to the ancient philosophy, which
emphasized "virtue and moral freedom in liberation from desire."
Expounded by: Georg Hegel (AD 1770-1831)
According to this school of thought method of discovering the truth by
proceeding from an assertion or thesis to a denial (antithesis) and
reconciling the two (synthesis), e.g., Mankind is basically good (thesis),
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mankind is basically bad (antithesis), man is both good and bad
(synthesis). The theory is known as dialectical materialism.
Dialectic (also called dialectics or the dialectical method) is a method of
argument, which has been central to both Eastern and Western
philosophy since ancient times. The word "dialectic" originates in Ancient
Greece, and was made popular by Plato's Socratic dialogues. Dialectic is
rooted in the ordinary practice of a dialogue between two people who hold
different ideas and wish to persuade each other. The presupposition of a
dialectical argument is that the participants, even if they do not agree,
share at least some meanings and principles of inference.
Dialectics is based around three (or four) basic metaphysical concepts:
1. Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time
2. Everything is made out of opposing forces/opposing sides
3. Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes
the other (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
4. Change moves in spirals (or helixes), not circles. (Sometimes
referred to as "negation of the negation")
Within this broad qualification, dialectics has a rich and varied history. It
has been stated that the history of dialectic is identical to the extensive
history of philosophy. The basic idea is perhaps already present in
Heraclitus of Ephesus, who held that all is in constant change, as a result
of inner strife and opposition. Only fragments of his works and
commentary remain, however.
The aim of the dialectical method is resolution of the disagreement
through rational discussion, and ultimately the search for truth. One way
to proceed — the Socratic method — is to show that a given hypothesis
(with other admissions) leads to a contradiction; thus, forcing the
withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth. Another way of
trying to resolve a disagreement is by denying some presupposition of
both the contending thesis and antithesis; thereby moving to a third
(syn)thesis or "sublation". However, the rejection of the participant's
presuppositions can be resisted, which might generate a second-order
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Expounded by: Francis Bacon (1561-1626), John Locke (1632-
1704), David Hume (1711-76)
It is a British philosophy of the 17th century. According to it all knowledge
is derived from sensory experience, by observing and experimenting.
In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which asserts that
knowledge arises from sense experience. Empiricism is one of several
competing views about how we know "things," part of the branch of
philosophy called epistemology, or "the Theory of Knowledge". Empiricism
emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory
perception, in the formation of ideas, while discounting the notion of
innate ideas (except in so far as these might be inferred from empirical
reasoning, as in the case of genetic predisposition).
In the philosophy of science, empiricism emphasizes those aspects of
scientific knowledge that are closely related to evidence, especially as
discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific
method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against
observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori
reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be
methodologically empirical in nature.
Expounded by: Epicurus (241-270 BC)
Description: It is an Athenian philosophy which states that good was
pleasure and that evil was pain.
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of
Epicurus. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of
Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition
and divine intervention. Epicurus believed that the greatest good was to
seek modest pleasures in order to attain a state of tranquility and
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freedom from fear as well as absence of bodily pain through knowledge of
the workings of the world and the limits of our desires. The combination
of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest
In the Epicurean view, the highest pleasure (tranquility and freedom from
fear) was obtained by knowledge, friendship and living a virtuous and
temperate life. He lauded the enjoyment of simple pleasures, by which he
meant abstaining from bodily desires, such as sex and appetites, verging
on asceticism. He argued that when eating, one should not eat too richly,
for it could lead to dissatisfaction later, such as the grim realization that
one could not afford such delicacies in the future. Epicurus did not
articulate a broad system of social ethics that has survived.
Expounded by: Dane Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55) (1889-1976)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80), Albert Camus (1913-60)
It believes that there is freedom of human beings to make choices, and to
assume responsibility for the consequences, in a world where there are no
absolute values outside man himself.
A central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence,
which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes what
could be called his or her "essence" instead of there being a
predetermined essence that defines what it is to be a human. Thus, the
human being - through his consciousness - creates his own values and
determines a meaning to his life.
It is often claimed in this context that a person defines himself, which is
often perceived as stating that we can "wish" to be something —
anything, a bird, for instance — and then be it. According to most
existentialist philosophers, however, this would be an inauthentic
existence. What is meant by the statement is that a person is (1) defined
only insofar as he or she acts and (2) that he or she is responsible for his
or her actions. For example, someone who acts cruelly towards other
people is, by that act, defined as a cruel person. Furthermore, by this
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action of cruelty such persons are themselves responsible for their new
identity (a cruel person). This is as opposed to their genes, or 'human
nature', bearing the blame.
Expounded by: Georg Hegel (1770-1831), Bishop George Berkeley
According to this school of thought matter is an illusion and that the only
reality is that which exists mentally.
Idealism is any philosophy which argues that the only things knowable
are consciousness or the contents of consciousness - not anything in the
outside world, if such a place actually exists. Indeed, idealism often takes
the form of arguing that the only real things are mental entities, not
Idealism is the philosophical theory that maintains that the ultimate
nature of reality is based on mind or ideas. It holds that the so-called
external or "real world" is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or
perception. In the philosophy of perception, idealism is contrasted with
realism in which the external world is said to have a so-called absolute
existence prior to, and independent of, knowledge and consciousness.
Epistemological idealists (such as Kant), it is claimed, might insist that the
only things which can be directly known for certain are just ideas
In the philosophy of mind, idealism is contrasted with materialism, in
which the ultimate nature of reality is based on physical substances.
Idealism sometimes refers to a tradition in thought that represents things
of a perfect form, as in the fields of ethics, morality, aesthetics, and
value. In this way, it represents a humanly perfect being or circumstance.
In the ancient philosophy of the Vedas, idealism refers to the dynamic
consciousness of living beings that emanates from the divine cosmic
source. In much the same way, idealism has spread throughout the
world. Individual societies have inspired and grown their own specific set
of idealism, but they all have these generalities in common.
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Idealism is a philosophical movement in Western thought, and names a
number of philosophical positions with sometimes quite different
tendencies and implications in politics and ethics.
Expounded by: Karl Marx (1818-83), Friedrick Engels (1820-95)
Based on Hegelian Dialectical Materialism, Marxism Propounds that the
conflict between the thesis and the antithesis produces a new synthesis,
where economic history is interpreted as a struggle between opposing
economic forces. The ultimate result of this struggle is the emergence of a
class less society or a communist state.
The fundamental ideology of communism, it holds that all people are
entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labour but are prevented from doing so
in a capitalist economic system, which divides society into two classes:
non-owning workers and nonworking owners. Marx called the resulting
situation “alienation,” and he said that when the workers repossessed the
fruits of their labour, alienation would be overcome and class divisions
would cease. The Marxist theory of history posits class struggle as
history’s driving force, and it sees capitalism as the most recent and most
critical historical stage—most critical because at this stage the proletariat
will at last arise united. The failure of the European Revolutions of 1848
and an increasing need to elaborate on Marxist theory, whose orientation
is more analytical than practical, led to adaptations such as Leninism and
Maoism; in the late 20th century the collapse of the Soviet Union and
China’s adoption of many elements of a free-market economy seemed to
mark the end of Marxism as an applicable economic or governmental
theory, though it is still appreciated as a critique of market capitalism and
a theory of historical change.
Marxism is the system of socialism of which the dominant feature is public
ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
Under capitalism, the proletariat, the working class or “the people,” own
only their capacity to work; they have the ability only to sell their own
labor. According to Marx a class is defined by the relations of its members
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to the means of production. He proclaimed that history is the chronology
of class struggles, wars, and uprisings. Under capitalism, Marx continues,
the workers, in order to support their families are paid a bare minimum
wage or salary. The worker is alienated because he has no control over
the labor or product which he produces. The capitalists sell the products
produced by the workers at a proportional value as related to the labor
involved. Surplus value is the difference between what the worker is paid
and the price for which the product is sold.
An increasing misery of the proletariat occurs as the result of economic
recessions; these recessions result because the working class is unable to
buy the full product of their labors and the ruling capitalists do not
consume all of the surplus value. A proletariat or socialist revolution must
occur, according to Marx, where the state (the means by which the ruling
class forcibly maintains rule over the other classes) is a dictatorship of the