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Philosophy as an Academic Discipline

Description of Discipline / Subject Matter

Philosophy concerns itself with the study of problems fundamental to the existence of humanity and understanding of phenomena that is sometimes beyond regular human comprehension. The problems are general and may sometimes be connected to the questions and regarding existence, language, value, and reason. More often than not, philosophy demands critical thinking in the approaches to solve these fundamental problems (TEXTBOOK: Lipset, 2001, p. 99).

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The most basic underpinning principle that informs philosophy is a rational argument that all philosophers use to explain the fundamental problems. There are fundamental problems that all humanity shares and to which many philosophers have applied generally agreed rational approaches. However, the diversity that exists among human beings breeds different backgrounds that have since time immemorial given rise to fundamental questions unique to different people.

Many of the philosophical questions in the world today are based on different people’s traditions. For instance, Eastern philosophy displays chronological organization based on the periods the regions have gone through. Western philosophy on the other hand divide philosophy to their period namely, ancient, medieval, and modern philosophy periods (TEXTBOOK: Jammer, 2009, p. 78).

Sub-disciplines of Philosophy

Philosophy is a very mature and developed discipline that has over the years developed various sub-disciplines that touch on almost every area of life. The sub-disciplines include logic, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of language political philosophy, philosophy of law, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics. This section will analyze some of the sub-disciplines above for clarity (TEXTBOOK: Lycan, 2008, p. 187).

Some scholars regard logic as the biggest and most diverse of all the sub-disciplines of philosophy. Philosophy is an argumentative discipline. Logic on the other hand deals with the analysis of argument validity. The study of arguments involves the study of correct inference and reasoning. It’s important to note that logic is also considered a sub-discipline of mathematics. However, in philosophy, it concerns itself with examination soft the general direction or arguments; whether they are valid or fallacies.

Another sub-discipline of philosophy is ethics. Ethics is also referred to as moral philosophy. Ethics seeks to help human beings lead the best life. More importantly, ethics concerns itself with answering any question of how best a human being can live. Ethics through its sub-disciplines gives an insight into the human ways of life. Metaphysics deals with the nature of ethical thought while normative ethics deal with finding answers to questions on how a man should act. Applied ethics deal with the real application of ethics in everyday practice. For instance applied ethics is very much applied in debates such as the legalization of Marijuana (TEXTBOOK: Warfield, 2003, p. 56).

Epistemology on the other hand is concerned with knowledge and its application. Through its tenets, all perspectives of knowledge are examined. Some of the most basic concepts of epistemology are the examination of skepticism, and the interrelationship between truth, belief, and justification in everyday life (TEXTBOOK: Lipset, 2001, p. 104).

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Besides the above disciplines, there are others like metaphysics with branches like cosmology and ontology that deal with the examination of reality and particularly the workings behind mind and body, substance and accident, and causation and events. There is also a philosophy of language that deals with the various aspects of different languages such as their origin, nature, and use. Political philosophy deals with the examination of government and the relationship that exists between the state and the elements of the state. Various concepts exploring questions like the application and justice, law, and individual rights and freedoms belong to this branch of philosophy (TEXTBOOK: Russell, 2010, p. 43).

Concepts in philosophy

There are many concepts of philosophy that mainly fall under the various sub-branches of the discipline. However, for purposes of analysis, this section will focus on the concept of morality which falls under ethics, and paradoxes that fall under logic.

The concept of morality is diverse and can be analyzed through its application in religion, social settings, and the legal system. When referred to, morality denotes the acceptable code of conduct that exists among a group of people. The application of morality in a philosophical sense supersedes all the other levels described above. Morality belongs to the ethics sub-discipline of philosophy that concerns itself with making the right choices and living as righteously as one can. The concept, therefore, applies philosophical thinking to any situation in human life in pursuit of good ethics (TEXTBOOK: Warfield, 2003, p. 60).

Paradoxes on the other hand are statements that breed contradiction hence creating a situation or situations that defy logic. One of the enduring characteristics of paradoxes is the absence of resolutions especially when the premises in statements are examined. Through analysis can sometimes resolve paradox statements, an absolute resolution is normally unachievable (TEXTBOOK: Jammer, 2009, p. 85).

Theories of philosophy

As philosophy has developed so have its theories. There are numerous and concrete theories that underlay the foundation of philosophy. They include theories of existentialism, phenomenology, pragmatism, idealism, rationalism, and empiricism, and skepticism. It’s important to note that these theories help in explaining phenomena in the various sub-disciplines of philosophy.


This is a philosophical attitude mainly applied in the philosophical sub-branch of epistemology that seeks to question the possibility of any attainment of knowledge (TEXTBOOK: Lycan, 2008, p. 18). The theory emphasizes and promoted the principle of doubt through the articulation that everything can be doubted except perhaps appearances. Skepticism is used in philosophy in the achievement of a specific end. Some scholars allude that skepticism is a challenge to the principle of dogmatism that emphasizes the truth. Through skepticism, appearances, judgments, and perceptions are put into question. In a nutshell, skepticism aims at sowing the seeds of doubt in every activity human beings do. Skepticism comes in to plague the shortfalls that are cases by human imperfectness (TEXTBOOK: Christian, 2008, p. 66).


Like skepticism, idealism is also a concept fronted through the philosophical sub-branch of epistemology. According to idealism, there is nothing outside the mind of human beings that can be directly known (TEXTBOOK: Lycan, 2008, p. 25). There are variations of idealism based on the origin of the tenets. However, this theory is more influenced by western philosophy than eastern. Idealism according to western philosophy seeks to compare what human beings know through the mind and the senses. Western philosophy asserts that whatever human beings know through the mind is more reliable than what they learn through the senses.

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The theory of pragmatism was mainly fronted by William James. The motivation behind pragmatism was the need to find the concept of truth based on science and that minimally depends on human insight into the realms of metaphysics (TEXTBOOK: Lycan, 2008, p. 30). In essence, the meaning of pragmatism is the judgment of truth by human beings through its effect on everyday actions. Additionally, pragmatism theorists assert that truth should only be true if it has been agreed on by people through a scientific inquiry. Despite its wide acceptance among scholars the interpretations of the tenets of the theory have been the subject of controversy for some time.


In the theory of phenomenology, the principle of conscious experience comes to the fore. To explain the principle Edmund Husserl employs the concept of intentionality through which he asserts that all conscious actions are always directed at something. Phenomenology is underpinned by the assumption that all objective judgments are based on the conscious experience TEXTBOOK: Warfield, 2003, p. 54).


The theory of existentialism involves the works of many philosophers who throughout its development had various differences. However, there was consensus that the human subject is the genesis of all philosophical thinking (TEXTBOOK: Warfield, 2003, p. 81). According to existentialism, the existential attitude is included feelings of confusion and a sense of disorientation brought by all the problems one faces in the world breed inform many of the theoretical tenets of this theory. In its examination of the philosophy, the theory regards the traditional academic philosophy as backward and remote and little attention as far as concrete human experience is concerned.


Christian, L. (2008). Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering. NY: JohnWilley Publishing

Jammer. M. (2009). Concepts of Mass in Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. London: Sage Publications.

Lipset, M.S. (2001). Political philosophy: theories, thinkers, concepts. NY: McGraw Hill.

Lycan, W.G. (2008). Philosophy of language: a contemporary introduction. Chicago: Jones & Bartlette Publishing.

Russell, B. (2010). The Problems of Philosophy. London: Sage Publications.

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Warfield, T & Stich, S. (2003). The Blackwell guide to philosophy of mind. NY: Routledge.

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