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10 schools of philosophy and why you should know them

Rationalism

Rationalism is the idea that knowledge must come from reason and thought, rather than empirical evidence. Socrates, Rene Descartes, and Spinoza argued for rationalism.

Today, most thinkers combine rationalist notions with empirical data.

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10 schools of philosophy and why you should know them

10 schools of philosophy and why you should know them

https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/10-schools-of-philosophy-and-why-you-should-know-them

bigthink.com

10

Key Ideas

Nihilism

Nihilism means "nothing." It is the lack of belief in meaning or substance in an area of philosophy.

  • Moral nihilism argues that moral facts cannot exist.
  • Metaphysical nihilism argues that we cannot have spiritual facts.
  • Existential nihilism is the idea that life cannot have meaning and nothing has value.

Nietzsche was not a nihilist but wrote about the dangers posed by this philosophy.

Existentialism

Existentialism originates from Soren Kierkegaard and Nietzche. It focuses on the problems produced by existential nihilism. For instance:

  • What is the point of living if life has no inherent purpose? 
  • How do we face the knowledge of our inevitable demise?

Existentialism emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice.

Stoicism

Stoicism was popular in ancient Greece and Rome and is practiced by many in high-stress environments.

Stoicism focuses on how to live in a world where things don't go as planned. The idea is to accept all the things beyond your control and to focus on what you can control.

Hedonism

Hedonism is the idea that pleasure and happiness are the keys to a good life. Modern philosophers would say that pleasure is a kind of happiness, but not the only happiness.

Epicurus tied hedonism to a virtue ethics system based around moderation and self-discipline.

Marxism

Marxism is based on the collected ideas of Karl Marx, the German philosopher. He critiqued capitalism. Main ideas:

  • The capitalist mode of production alienates us from the results of our labor;
  • The tendency of capitalism to overproduce and crash as a consequence;
  • The labor theory of value. 

Famous Marxists include Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Slavoj Zizek.

Logical Positivism

It is focused on the idea of verifications. It is trying to base all knowledge on either empirical data or logical tautologies.

The underlying principle of verificationism cannot be shown to be true, making it unsolvable.

Taoism

Taoism is based around the Tao Te Ching, written by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. It is based around ideas of:

  • humility
  • the 'Way'
  • a focus on the individual
  • simplicity
  • naturalness

Taoist thought later fused with Buddhism and formed Zen. 

Rationalism

Rationalism is the idea that knowledge must come from reason and thought, rather than empirical evidence. Socrates, Rene Descartes, and Spinoza argued for rationalism.

Today, most thinkers combine rationalist notions with empirical data.

Relativism

Relativism is the idea that views are relative to the perspective. This idea can be applied to morality or truth, where some argue that there are no moral facts or absolute truths.

Cultural relativism is the idea that the morality of two different cultures cannot be compared.

Buddhism

Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha. Although Buddhism has a diverse range of thought, it is bound together by the idea that suffering has a cause.

Buddhism believe suffering can be overcome by: meditation, following the eightfold path and contemplation of sutras.

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How we perceive philosophy
How we perceive philosophy

When most people think of philosophy, they believe philosophers simply argue about arguing. Philosophy is viewed as impractical and irrelevant to current issues.

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Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell

"Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don’t know."

Defining philosophy

Philosophy is examining our understanding of reality and knowledge. Philosophy consists of three major branches:

  1. Metaphysics - What is true about existence.
  2. Epistemology - How we can know that it is true. Epistemology has given us science, logic/reason, economics, psychology, and other theories of knowledge.
  3. Ethics - What actions we should take as a result of this knowledge. Ethics contains concepts such as democracy, human rights, the treatment of animals, and the environment.

When you order your thoughts into a coherent belief system, you are engaging in philosophy. To criticize philosophy, you must rely on philosophy.

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One of the reasons why Stoicism is enjoying a revival today is that it gives concrete answers to moral questions.
Aristotle gave us an alternative conception of happiness

It cannot be acquired by pleasurable experiences but only by identifying and realizing our own potential, moral and creative, in our specific environments, with our particular family, friends and colleagues, and helping others to do so. 

Hedonism: The Reality
Hedonism: The Reality
  • Long being associated with frivolity, mindless pleasure-seeking, gluttony and danger, hedonism was initially a fairly simple concept in ancient greek philosophy.
  • Hedonism ...
The Good Life

Philosophy Professor Catherine Wilson talks about pleasure being fundamental in our ability to live a good life, and how a fine balance has to be maintained between current pleasure(indulgence) and future pleasure, which is life planning.

If we work ourselves endlessly, trying to hoard wealth, life will be over in a blink of an eye.

Hedonism Reloaded

Apart from a more justified and gender-neutral definition of hedonism, the definition of luxury and pleasure itself is changing. What was once enjoyable seems like a waste of time now, while economic instability and low wages do not allow for a hedonistic lifestyle to be a reality for many of us.

Pleasure seeking needs to be viewed as a positive, life-giving pursuit in these times where everyone is striving hard to make ends meet.

Workaholism

Far too many people spend 80% of their waking hours slogging away at a desk and view any break from this routine as a naughty deviation from duties.

Workism, where people worship their work, ...

Workaholism: factors

Many people cannot choose a reasonable work schedule:

  • They're underpaid and dependent on overtime wages for the survival of their families.
  • Many high-status workers who can afford a break, opt instead to toil continually.

This widespread workaholism, in part, reflects the misguided notion that having fun is somehow an over-indulgence.

Working less to produce more

Many people across the world take six weeks of vacation a year and still manage to produce functioning companies and political systems.

Working more than 55 hours a week produces diminishing returns of productivity.

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Stoicism asserts that we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

At the very root of Stoicism there is a very simple, though not easy, way of living: Take obstacles in your life and turn them into your advantage, control what you can and accept what yo...

At the very root of Stoicism there is a very simple, though not easy, way of living: Take obstacles in your life and turn them into your advantage, control what you can and accept what you can’t.

“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where wil...

“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.”  -  Epictetus:

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The Universal God

Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy(1945) is an extraordinary work of synthesis, introducing global (particularly eastern) spirituality into mainstream western culture.

The Phi...

Fresh Take On Religion
  • Modern society has been described as the Age of Noise, and an Organized Lovelessness.
  • Advertising is revealed to be an organized effort to extend and intensify craving.
  • People in the modern age worship progress, technology, and their nation-state, all of which can be described as a 'religion'.
  • The dogma of such religions was profoundly criticized in the classic books, while paving the way towards newer ways to find God, like meditation.

The Author and Philosopher's fresh take on religion, shaping it as an 'empirical spirituality' was a huge influence in the 1960s and which has since then led to more people (now 27% in the US) being 'Spiritual but not Religious'

Constructing One's Reality

Aldous Huxley was heavily criticized after his death by newer philosophers who didn't subscribe to the Perennial Philosophy.

While the author insisted that the ultimate mystical experience is the moment of pure oneness with God where the concepts of 'I', language, image and culture are dissolved, his critics argued that all religions are true and some of them are truer than the others.

One of the critics states that human beings construct reality using their bodies, rituals, words, actions and cultures.

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Finding meaning above happiness
Finding meaning above happiness

For many people, the pursuit of happiness is the meaning of life itself.

However, Friedrich Nietzsche saw the pursuit of happiness as a pointless waste of human life. He was instead dedicate...

The key to good living

Psychology agrees that the key to good living is to find meaning. For Nietzsche, those who do great things suffer greatly. Those who do small things suffer trivially.

Herein lies the paradox of happiness. Activities directly focused to increase pleasure are unlikely to have a high payoff. Happiness is a side effect.

Travelling And Philosophy

Recreational and exploratory travel has two main motivations; travel for 'change' for new experiences, leading to inner transformation, and travel to 'show', which revolves aroun...

The Same Journey

Travelers and philosophers are pushing the limits of their knowledge, seeing how the world works. There is an undeniable link in exploring the oceans and even other planets, and in crafting radically new questions delving into the mind's uncharted territory.

The tools may be different, but the essential journey is the same, with travelers affecting philosophy and philosophers affecting travel.

Nihilism

Nihilism is a thought process that argues that all aspects of life lack a specific meaningful essence.

Apart from life, Nihilism rejects meaning in beliefs, value structures, state power, or...

The Origins of Nihilism
  • Nihilism originated during 300 B.C.E. where certain discussions by the Buddha related to our actions having no meaning or consequences in this world.
  • The Greek statesman Demosthenes also contributed to its origins.
  • The modern understanding of nihilism is associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, who said all aspects of life are subjective, not objective, also adding that this belief will lead to the destruction of all value structures.
Types of Nihilism

  1. Moral Nihilism says true morality does not exist, and that good or bad actions are not different by the law of nature, but only by our understanding.
  2. Existential Nihilism says all goals, aspirations, influences and actions ultimately become meaningless.
  3. Metaphysical Nihilism tells us that the physical world is an illusion, and our senses just manipulated sensations and signals going into our brain.
  4. Political Nihilism goes against all kinds of political establishments and government laws.

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Athens during the Classical era
Athens during the Classical era
  • The city-state of Athens (5th and 4th centuries BCE) valued intellectual pursuits and open inquiry. That lead to the development of philosophy (the love of wisdom).
  • The an...
Athens: The intellectual center
  • In the 5th century BCE, Athens housed a significant number of geniuses and innovators, such as the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, the physician Hippocrates, and philosophers Socrates and Plato.
  • Socrates is known for the Socratic method of inquiry, which uses questions to draw out critical thinking. Plato became the father of idealism and is often thought to be the father of Western political philosophy.
  • By the 4th century BCE, philosopher Aristotle was added to the luminaries of Athens. Athens also became home to the forerunners of modern universities, such as Plato's Academy, an institution of higher learning, and the Lyceum, a temple that served as a center for education, debate, and scholarship.
The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis is a distinctive feature of today's Athens that was built in the 5th century BCE. It is a cluster of buildings on a rocky outcrop. The famous Parthenon temple on the Acropolis was built to honor Athena and to serve the city's treasury.

Athens during the 5th century BCE was lively. The heart of Athens was its marketplace, or Agora (a place where people gather.) The structures surrounding the Agora's market stalls included stone benches, various altars, and temples, a building named the Aiakeion where laws and legal decisions were displayed, and various stoas or covered porticos.

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