Philosophy info articles

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A brief history of philosophy, part 1: Thales to Socrates

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Thales of Miletus

The way that we think nowadays didn’t just fall from the sky – it’s not ‘common sense’ and it hasn’t always been the same. We’re not born with a worldview – it’s something that we develop from what’s gone before. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 2: Socrates, Plato & Aristotle

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Socrates

After the natural philosophers, the main focus of philosophy was changed by Socrates – probably the most famous philosopher of them all. His position was that you begin to become a philosopher when you admit that you know nothing. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 3: Augustine reconciles Christianity with Plato

St. Augustine

Augustine (354-430) was a bridge between the classical world and the medieval, Christian world. He reconciled Christianity with Plato, and his immaterial world of forms – a much easier task than reconciling Aristotle, with his scientific outlook and emphasis on reason. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 4: Aquinas reconciles Christianity with Aristotle

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Thomas Aquinas

Last week we saw how Augustine reconciled Plato with Christianity; but Aristotle, with his logic and his empiricism, was difficult to reconcile with a book that already claimed to have all the answers, and so that didn’t happen until 900 years later. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 5: roots of Renaissance

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Meister Eckhart

By reconciling the two giants of ancient philosophy with Christianity, Augustine and Aquinas, although culpable in the torture and murder of many thousands of innocent people, were world-changers who allowed us to eventually start to break away from myth again Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 6: Reformation and Scientific Revolution

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Nicolaus Copernicus

What happened next was a revolution that rocked the Church and turned our view of the universe on its head – a scientific revolution that hinged on the work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 7: the re-birth of philosophy

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René Descartes

Philosophy is for doing, not for studying – I know, sorry. But the way that we think nowadays didn’t just fall from the sky – it’s not ‘common sense’ and it hasn’t always been the same. We’re not born with a worldview – it’s something that we develop from what’s gone before. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 8: empiricism vs. rationalism

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John Locke

The 17th century saw the beginnings of one of the most important epistemological debates in the history of philosophy, that ran well into the 18th – between empiricists and rationalists. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 9: Enlightenment

Immanuel Kant

The Enlightenment was a time of great political as well as philosophical change. Much was written about how society should be organised. Locke’s vision of a society that protects and promotes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was cemented in the US Declaration of Independence, and the culmination of the Enlightenment – the French Revolution, after which meritocracy trumped aristocracy in Europe. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 10: Romanticism, utilitarianism and the dialectic

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), sometimes called the father of Romanticism, is often attributed with the phrase ‘noble savage’, although he never actually said it. What it implies is some golden age when humans lived in a ‘state of nature’ – in harmony with ecology and with each other. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 11: the splintering of philosophy

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Friedrich Nietzsche

Hegel represented the end of huge, speculative, metaphysical systems. After Hegel, philosophy started to splinter into many ideas vying for dominance – none of which could be said to represent the growing tip, only the branches. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 12: socialism, utopianism and anarchism

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is possibly the most studied philosopher in history. He said that the point of philosophy is not to understand the world, but to change it – and change it he did, with an idea, although he never saw the effects of his idea after its interpretation and implementation by others after his death. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 13: continental vs. analytic philosophy

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Bertrand Russell

Twentieth century philosophy split very roughly into ‘analytic’ (mainly in the English-speaking world) and ‘continental’ (mainly in mainland Europe), and was influenced heavily by contributions to the way we think about ourselves and the rest of existence from two non-philosophers: Freud and Einstein. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 14: the rise and fall of postmodernism

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Michel Foucault

By the 1980s, a new way of thinking began to be applied to academic philosophy with almost a religious fervour that caused quite a bit of acrimony within academia, but which has now faded. Read more …

A brief history of philosophy, part 15: what next?

This is the final article in this series. Over the past 15 weeks I’ve tried to highlight the times in history where philosophy has helped, along with technology and events, to change the direction in which we’re moving. Read more …

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