In previous article (What Is Philosophy?), I tried to make a relation between you and this weird subject. But I did not give any special definition for Philosophy. Actually, defining philosophy is also a philosophical problem itself because Philosophy is a subject of unlimited ideas and unlimited issues. If you want to understand what Philosophy is then you have to understand its wide range of ideas, issues, methods, dimensions and its relation with other disciplines. Yes, philosophy is connected with each and every discipline directly or indirectly. Philosophy pursues questions and provides methods to answer those questions in every field of study. It is a critical way of thinking, establishes standards, resolves conflicts, evaluates ideas, and examines concepts. It is a large task. So, it will easy to understand Philosophy in parts. Here parts mean subfields of Philosophy.
Traditionally, there are five central subfields of Philosophy which are followings:
- History of Philosophy
These five subfields are widely treated as core areas in teaching of Philosophy. I will provide a very short introduction to every field here so we can go further.
- Epistemology – The meaning of Epistemology in simple words is “Study of Knowledge”. It is concerned with human knowledge. It is a systematic study of Nature, Origin, Scope and Limitation of Knowledge. It addresses the following questions.
Nature – What is knowledge?
Origin- How is knowledge acquired? What are the sources of knowledge? How do we collect or gain it?
Scope – How knowledge is connected to other notions and what are the scopes of knowledge in different fields and disciplines.
Limitation – What are the limitations of human knowledge?
- Ethics – Ethics is concerned with morality on different levels and in different situations. Under this field we study that what is morality, why it is necessary, how can we apply moral values in different situations, what are the principles of an ideal moral value, how to define and make a difference between good and bad, justice and crime, right and wrong etc.
- Logic – Logic is a formal and systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Simply it is an act of process of forming opinions based on what we already know about that. Under this field we find out all possible opinions based on facts for a specific problem, question or argument. We examine, which opinions are valid and which are not. We leave invalid opinions and continue this process again with valid opinions and facts. And in last we reach to a final conclusion or solution.
- Metaphysics – Our mind uses some kind of fundamental notions to understand the world. It means these fundamental notions are mediators between our mind and world. More powerful mediators can provide us better understanding of what is all around. Metaphysics is a study of these fundamental notions so we can find possibilities for better understanding and we can see the world and everything as they really are. So metaphysics is concerned with these notions like existence, objects, cause and effect, possibility, space and time etc.
- History of Philosophy – This is not a branch of History but a branch of Philosophy. Its exact name should be Philosophical Study of History of Philosophy. Under this field we examine the work of major philosophers, the influence of one philosopher on other philosophers, importance of works of philosophers, contribution in development of philosophy by different philosophers, their relations and values. It provides a better understanding of all the philosophical ideas and theories.
I hope this much explanation is enough to understand what philosophy is and what are its subfields. We will discuss every subfield in more details in future articles. Thank you.