Definition and 4 Main Branches of Philosophy


Definition and 4 Main Branches of Philosophy

In this article you will be introduced briefly to the general meaning of philosophy as the basis of knowledge, and also to the specific definition of philosophy and 4 Main Branches of Philosophy as it relates to a discipline/profession. You will also learn that philosophy evolves through change of values. Values in turn are affected by certain factors.


What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a word you will have come across at one time or the other. Can you define “philosophy”? The original meaning of philosophy as conceived by the Greeks is as follows: Philein – meaning love Sophia – meaning wisdom i.e. philein, Sophia crystallized into “Love of wisdom”, where wisdom means the ability to relate the facts from various forms of knowledge to experience.

Philosophy is diverse. Philosophy is defined as:

The study of nature and meaning of the universe and of the human life. The Greeks considered anyone who attained knowledge in any area to be a philosopher. Thus, philosophy once encompassed nearly everything that counted as human knowledge. That is why the highest degree in any field (Mathematics, Arts, Social, Physical, Biological, Political Sciences) is the Ph.D. (Doctorate of Philosophy).

A particular set of system of beliefs resulting from search for knowledge about life and the universe. You may have heard philosophy being referred to as a discipline just as “Science” is a discipline of reason. Areas of philosophical knowledge include analytical philosophy, moral and political philosophy, and philosophy of religion.

A set of beliefs or an attitude to life that guides somebody’s behaviour. In the context of a profession or area of discipline like Home Economics the third definition of philosophy as given above is most applicable.

That is to say that the philosophy of a profession or discipline is the fundamental belief or knowledge-attitude that guides that profession or area of discipline. Philosophy in this context can also be viewed as the value-judgment of the discipline since ones values evolve into ones philosophy.

4 Main Branches of Philosophy

To understand the foundations of philosophies, it’s necessary to first examine philosophy’s four main branches. Understanding educational philosophy will contribute to the understanding of how these foundations have given rise to what is commonly practiced and believed in the classroom today.

The four main branches of philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and logic.

1. Metaphysics: Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that considers the physical universe and the nature of ultimate reality. It asks questions like, What is real? What is the origin of the world? What is beyond the stars? Your consideration of reality as an external creation or an internal construct can influence your metaphysical beliefs and perspectives and your teaching. Regardless of your definition of reality, the exploration and categorization of the physical universe form the foundation of several school subjects.

2. Epistemology: Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that considers how people come to learn what they know. Derived from the Greek word episteme, meaning knowledge or understanding, epistemology refers to the nature and origin of knowledge and truth. Epistemology proposes that there are four main bases of knowledge: divine revelation, experience, logic and reason, and intuition. These influence how teaching, learning, and understanding come about in the classroom.

3. Axiology: Axiology is the branch of philosophy that considers the study of principles and values. These values are divided into two main kinds: ethics and aesthetics. Ethics is the questioning of morals and personal values. Aesthetics is the examination of what is beautiful, enjoyable, or tasteful. In axiology education is more than just about knowledge but also quality of life.

4. Logic: Logic is the branch of philosophy that seeks to organize reasoning. Students of logic learn how to think in a structurally sound manner. Logic has two types: deductive and inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning involves examining a general case, deducing a general set of rules or principles, and then applying these rules to specific cases. Inductive reasoning involves taking specific examples and considering the general principles, rules, or cases that caused them.


What is Value?

A value is a measure of worth placed on something. Your value represents your belief or view or feelings of what is good, important or desirable. Values cannot be seen, but are recognized in behaviour e.g. peace, comfort, health, popularity, honesty, security, knowledge etc e.g. if you value health, you spend more money on nutritionally adequate diet than on varieties of clothing.


Types of Value

1.  Intrinsic Values – Those that are good for their own sake e.g. love, freedom, truth, aesthetics etc.

2.  Instrumental Values (higher values) – Those that are sought as means of attaining the higher values e.g. orderliness in sitting room arrangement as a means to achieve aesthetics.

Some values can be both intrinsic and instrumental e.g. knowledge is intrinsic and instrumental to power; health is intrinsic and also instrumental to wealth. Now let us examine the relationship of values and other factors that affect evolvement of philosophy of a discipline.

These factors are; goals, standards, needs and likes/dislikes.

1. Let us recall that values are reasons why we do what we do (i.e. primary reasons for our actions).

2. Now, based on our values we set goals, goals being objectives we want to achieve.

3. We set living standards which act as measures for our goals and values– i.e. a measure of how well we have attained our goals based on our values.

These could be fixed/rigid standards e.g. as imposed by religion, or culture, or as standards of living (tangible things e.g. goods and services desired by the person or society).

4.  Needs could be defined as the gap between where we are or what we want and where we want to be or what we want to have.

Maslow ranks these five basic needs in hierarchy (order of importance) starting from the first to the last: i.e. physiological needs (needed to maintain life e.g. food, shelter, sleeps, and breathing, elimination of waste, sleep and rest), safety, love, esteem and self-actualization needs. Our values are modified by our needs.

Conclusion on Definition and 4 Main Branches of Philosophy

The dictionary meaning of “philosophy” is diverse, but philosophy as a set of beliefs or attitude that guides a discipline is the one appropriate in our context. Philosophy can also evolve from changing values, which themselves are affected by goals, living standards, and needs.

In this article we have learnt the Divers dictionary meanings of the word “philosophy” and have adopted the beliefs and attitude guides for a discipline as applicable meaning of philosophy in our context.  Philosophy evolves as a result of change in values, which in turn are affected by goals, living standards and needs.

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