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Philosophical Perspectives

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#1 Darkademic

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 10:23 am

A (mostly) twentieth-century approach that emphasizes the primacy of individual existence over any presumed natural essence for human beings. Although they differ on many details, existentialists generally suppose that the fact of my existence as a human being entails both my unqualified freedom to make of myself whatever I will and the awesome responsibility of employing that freedom appropriately, without being driven by anxiety toward escaping into the inauthenticity or self-deception of any conventional set of rules for behavior, even though the entire project may turn out to be absurd. In simpler terms, the idea that one can make of himself whatever he wants, without being subject to "natural" rules, regulations or behaviour. Prominent existentialists include Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Jaspers, Beauvoir, Sartre, and Camus.

Reliance on experience as the source of ideas and knowledge. More specifically, empiricism is the epistemological theory that genuine information about the world must be acquired by a posteriori means, so that nothing can be thought without first being sensed. Prominent modern empiricists include Bacon, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Mill. In the twentieth century, empiricism principles were extended and applied by the pragmatists and the logical positivists.

Reliance on reason as the only reliable source of human knowledge. In the most general application, rationalism offers a naturalistic alternative to appeals to religious accounts of human nature and conduct.

More specifically, rationalism is the epistemological theory that significant knowledge of the world can best be achieved by a priori means; it therefore stands in contrast to empiricism. Prominent rationalists of the modern period include Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz.

Belief that only particular things exist, as opposed to realism. Nominalists hold that a general term or name {Lat. nomine} is applied to individuals that resemble each other, without the need of any reference to an independently existing universal. Prominent representatives of this view include Ockham, Berkeley, and Goodman.

Belief that universals exist independently of the particulars that instantiate them. Realists hold that each general term signifies a real feature or quality, which is numerically the same in all the things to which that term applies. Thus, opposed to nominalism.

Belief that some or all human knowledge is impossible. Since even our best methods for learning about the world sometimes fall short of perfect certainty, skeptics argue, it is better to suspend belief than to rely on the dubitable products of reason. Classical skeptics include Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus. In the modern era, Montaigne, Bayle, and Hume all advocated some form of skeptical philosophy. Fallibilism is a more moderate response to the lack of certainty.

Complete rejection of the existence of human knowledge and values or denial of the possibility of making any useful distinctions among things. Absolute skepticism.

Objectivism includes rational selfishness in ethics, Individual Rights in politics, Laissez-Faire Capitalism in economics, and Romanticism in esthetics. The philosophy of Ayn Rand. Objectivism is a closed and complete philosophy. It states that knowledge is reliably based on observed objects and events. Reality is objective and external to the mind.

Normative theory that human conduct is right or wrong because of its tendency to produce favorable or unfavorable consequences for the people who are affected by it. The hedonistic utilitarianism of Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick maintains that all moral judgments can be derived from the greatest happiness principle. The ideal utilitarianism espoused by G. E. Moore, on the other hand, regarded aesthetic enjoyment and friendship as the highest ethical values. Contemporary utilitarians differ about whether the theory should be applied primarily to acts or rules.

Belief that individual human beings are the fundamental source of all value and have the ability to understand, and perhaps even to control, the natural world by careful application of their own rational faculties. During the Renaissance, humanists such as Bruno, Erasmus, Valla, and Pico della Mirandola helped shift attention away from arcane theological disputes toward more productive avenues of classical study and natural science.

Belief that only things of a single kind exist. In its most extreme form, monism may lead to Spinoza's conviction that only a single being is real or the idealist's supposition that everything is comprised by the Absolute. Contemporary philosophers more commonly suppose that many distinct things exist, each of them exhibiting both mental and physical properties.

Belief that mental things and physical things are fundamentally distinct kinds of entities. As a solution to the traditional mind-body problem, dualism derives especially from Descartes and his followers in the seventeenth century. Variations on this theme (including interactionism, parallelism, and epiphenomenalism) arise when dualists try to explain why events in the supposedly separate realms of mind and body seem so well-coordinated with each other.

Belief that only mental entities are real, so that physical things exist only in the sense that they are perceived. Berkeley defended his "immaterialism" on purely empiricist grounds, while Kant and Fichte arrived at theirs by transcendental arguments. German, English, and (to a lesser degree) American philosophy during the nineteenth century was dominated by the monistic absolute idealism of Hegel, Bradley, and Royce.

Belief that only physical things truly exist. Materialists claim (or promise) to explain every apparent instance of a mental phenomenon as a feature of some physical object. Prominent materialists in Western thought include the classical atomists, Hobbes, and La Mettrie.

An indigenous American philosophical theory that explains both meaning and truth in terms of the application of ideas or beliefs to the performance of actions that have observable practical outcomes. Prominent pragmatists in the tradition include Peirce, James, Mead, Addams, and Dewey. More recently, such analytic philosophers as Quine, Putnam, and Rorty have expressed sympathy with various portions of the pragmatic program.
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