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Historically, philosophy encompassed all bodies of knowledge and a practitioner was known as a philosopher. \"Natural philosophy,\" which began as a discipline in ancient India and Ancient Greece, encompasses astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Isaac Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. Since then, various areas of investigation that were traditionally part of philosophy have become separate academic disciplines, and namely the social sciences such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.
Today, major subfields of academic philosophy include metaphysics, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of existence and reality; epistemology, which studies the nature of knowledge and belief; ethics, which is concerned with moral value; and logic, which studies the rules of inference that allow one to derive conclusions from true premises. Other notable subfields include philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.
In one general sense, philosophy is associated with wisdom, intellectual culture, and a search for knowledge. In this sense, all cultures and literate societies ask philosophical questions, such as \"how are we to live\" and \"what is the nature of reality\". A broad and impartial conception of philosophy, then, finds a reasoned inquiry into such matters as reality, morality, and life in all world civilizations.
While our knowledge of the ancient era begins with Thales in the 6th century BCE, little is known about the philosophers who came before Socrates (commonly known as the pre-Socratics). The ancient era was dominated by Greek philosophical schools. Most notable among the schools influenced by Socrates' teachings were Plato, who founded the Platonic Academy, and his student Aristotle, who founded the Peripatetic school. Other ancient philosophical traditions influenced by Socrates included Cynicism, Cyrenaicism, Stoicism, and Academic Skepticism. Two other traditions were influenced by Socrates' contemporary, Democritus: Pyrrhonism and Epicureanism. Important topics covered by the Greeks included metaphysics (with competing theories such as atomism and monism), cosmology, the nature of the well-lived life (eudaimonia), the possibility of knowledge, and the nature of reason (logos). With the rise of the Roman empire, Greek philosophy was increasingly discussed in Latin by Romans such as Cicero and Seneca (see Roman philosophy).
According to the assyriologist Marc Van de Mieroop, Babylonian philosophy was a highly developed system of thought with a unique approach to knowledge and a focus on writing, lexicography, divination, and law. It was also a bilingual intellectual culture, based on Sumerian and Akkadian.
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. Epistemologists examine putative sources of knowledge, including perceptual experience, reason, memory, and testimony. They also investigate questions about the nature of truth, belief, justification, and rationality.
Philosophical skepticism, which raises doubts about some or all claims to knowledge, has been a topic of interest throughout the history of philosophy. It arose early in Pre-Socratic philosophy and became formalized with Pyrrho, the founder of the earliest Western school of philosophical skepticism. It features prominently in the works of modern philosophers René Descartes and David Hume and has remained a central topic in contemporary epistemological debates.
Metaphysics is the study of the most general features of reality, such as existence, time, objects and their properties, wholes and their parts, events, processes and causation and the relationship between mind and body. Metaphysics includes cosmology, the study of the world in its entirety and ontology, the study of being, along with the philosophy of space and time.
Methods of philosophy are ways of conducting philosophical inquiry. They include techniques for arriving at philosophical knowledge and justifying philosophical claims as well as principles used for choosing between competing theories. A great variety of methods has been employed throughout the history of philosophy. Many of them differ significantly from the methods used in the natural sciences in that they do not use experimental data obtained through measuring equipment. The choice of one's method usually has important implications both for how philosophical theories are constructed and for the arguments cited for or against them. This choice is often guided by epistemological considerations about what constitutes philosophical evidence, how much support it offers, and how to acquire it. Various disagreements on the level of philosophical theories have their source in methodological disagreements and the discovery of new methods has often had important consequences both for how philosophers conduct their research and for what claims they defend. Some philosophers engage in most of their theorizing using one particular method while others employ a wider range of methods based on which one fits the specific problem investigated best.
Methodological skepticism is a prominent method of philosophy. It aims to arrive at absolutely certain first principles by using systematic doubt to determine which principles of philosophy are indubitable. The geometrical method tries to build a comprehensive philosophical system based on a small set of such axioms. It does so with the help of deductive reasoning to expand the certainty of its axioms to the system as a whole. Phenomenologists seek certain knowledge about the realm of appearances. They do so by suspending their judgments about the external world in order to focus on how things appear independent of their underlying reality, a technique known as epoché. Conceptual analysis is a well-known method in analytic philosophy. It aims to clarify the meaning of concepts by analyzing them into their fundamental constituents. Another method often employed in analytic philosophy is based on common sense. It starts with commonly accepted beliefs and tries to draw interesting conclusions from them, which it often employs in a negative sense to criticize philosophical theories that are too far removed from how the average person sees the issue. It is very similar to how ordinary language philosophy tackles philosophical questions by investigating how ordinary language is used.
Constructivism is an important learning theory that educators use to help their students learn. Constructivism is based on the idea that people actively construct or make their own knowledge, and that reality is determined by your experiences as a learner. Basically, learners use their previous knowledge as a foundation and build on it with new things that they learn. So everyone's individual experiences make their learning unique to them.
Social. Social constructivism focuses on the collaborative nature of learning. Knowledge develops from how people interact with each other, their culture, and society at large. Students rely on others to help create their building blocks, and learning from others helps them construct their own knowledge and reality. Social constructivism comes from Lev Vygotsky, and is closely connected to cognitive constructivism with the added element of societal and peer influence.
The distinction between rationalism and empiricism is not withoutproblems. One of the main issues is that almost no author falls neatlyinto one camp or another: it has been argued that Descartes, forinstance, who is commonly regarded as a representative rationalist (atleast with regard to metaphysics), had clear empiricist leanings(primarily with regard to natural philosophy, where sense experienceplays a crucial role, according to Clarke 1982). Conversely, Locke,who is thought to be a paradigmatic empiricist, argued that reason ison equal footing with experience, when it comes to the knowledge ofcertain things, most famously of moral truths (Essay,4.3.18). In what follows, we clarify what this distinction hastraditionally been taken to apply to, as well as point out its (bynow) widely-recognized shortcomings.
The dispute between rationalism and empiricism takes place primarilywithin epistemology, the branch of philosophy devoted to studying thenature, sources, and limits of knowledge. Knowledge itself can be ofmany different things and is usually divided among three maincategories: knowledge of the external world, knowledge of the internalworld or self-knowledge, and knowledge of moral and/or aestheticalvalues. We may find that there are category-specific conditions thatmust be satisfied for knowledge to occur and that it is easier or moredifficult to shape certain questions and answers, depending on whetherwe focus on the external world or on the values. However, some of thedefining questions of general epistemology include the following.
An important wrinkle for using this classification scheme in thehistory of philosophy is that it leaves out discussions ofphilosophical figures who did not focus their efforts on understandingwhether innate knowledge is possible or even fruitful to have.Philosophy in the early modern period, in particular, is a lot richerthan this artificial, simplifying distinction makes it sound. There isno clear way of grouping Hobbes with either camp, let alone Elizabethof Bohemia, Anne Conway, George Berkeley, Émilie duChâtelet, or Mary Shepherd. This distinction, initially appliedby Kant, is responsible for giving us a very restrictive