Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Philosophy 101

This is going to be a blog about philosophy. As such, it is appropriate to begin with a general philosophical framework. This framework will serve as a guide for all future posts.

I take philosophy to be concerned with asking questions about us and our relationship to the world (if indeed there is a world beyond us).

In particular, I take philosophy to be concerned with asking three types of questions.

1. Ontological Questions
Ontological questions are about the nature of existence. What kinds of things exist? How do they work? How did they get here? What will things be like in the future?

2. Ethical Questions
Ethical questions are about conduct. What kinds of activities should I engage in if I want to live a meaningful and fulfilling life? And how should I treat other people?

3. Epistemological Questions
Epistemological questions are concerned with the nature of knowledge. It is easy to make claims about the nature of existence or the nature of ethics, but which claims are true and which are false? We need to have some sort of quality control. Epistemology attempts to establish this quality control by developing appropriate methods of inquiry.

This framework is illustrated below (click to embiggen).

In future posts I will be exploring these philosophical questions in many different domains. For the most part, this will take the form of reference guides and summaries of the work of others. However, I will occasionally present some original analyses.


  1. Great diagram -- I love diagrams, as you do.
    On my post today, I talk about Luke's attempt at a taxonomy of philosophy. I did not know where one puts "Philosophy of Mind" or "View of Self" (so crucial in Buddhist Philosophy). Would you put it under Epistemology? Thoughts?

  2. I would generally not put one area, like philosophy of mind, into these categories. Instead, I would say philosophy of mind has epistemological and ontological (and maybe ethical) components to it. I would say the same for philosophy of religion or philosophy of law (something I deal with).

    Particular questions that are asked within those disciplines will then be primarily ontological, epistemological or ethical. For example, "is the mind physical or is it non-physical?" is an ontological question.

    The location of the self within all this is problematic because it straddles the borders of all three: you act, and become involved in ethics; you exist, and so must have some ontology; and you inquire, so must have some epistemic strategy.

  3. I am starting in Philosophy and found this amazing blog. Going to begin in order. Hope being a different person once I finish it. Having, by then, a good basis to continue my process of being someone new every day.

  4. Also, I will be posting in the comments about what I have learned so that, hopefully, the authors will guide me through it all.

  5. By the way, Sebastian Ramirez Hernandez. From now on, S.R.H.