Philosophical Theories and Ideas
The idea of a self plays a central role in Western philosophy as well as in the Indian and other major traditions. Three main types of views of the self can be discerned. One moves from Kant’s conception of rationally autonomous self, another from the so-called homo-economicus theory, of Aristotelian descent. Both those types of views theorize...
What Is Beauty?
The nature of beauty is one of the most fascinating riddles of philosophy. Is beauty universal? How do we know it? How can we predispose ourselves to embrace it? Nearly every major philosopher has engaged with these questions and their cognates, including the great figures of ancient Greek philosophy such as Plato and Aristotle.
Liberalism is one of the principal doctrines in Western political philosophy. Its core values are typically expressed in terms of individual freedom and equality. How these two ought to be understood is a matter of dispute so that they are often differently declined in different places or among different groups. Even so, it is typical to...
The idea of a West was initially also a geographic idea, when first used by the ancient Greeks to indicate the societal structure and culture of those societies that stood West of Persia. Later adopted also to describe the societies falling under the Roman influence, it has since been utilized by early and late medieval Christians, Europeans,...
Truth is a topic of major significance within any philosophy branch. Virtually every philosophers has to come to terms, in one way or another, with the nature of truth. Because of this, the array of positions regarding truth is as wide as that of philosophical schools and theories that have been proposed. In this article we will review the main...
Humanism was a cultural movement that developed in Europe starting from the second half of thirteen hundreds. It reached its peak in fourteen and fifteen hundreds, most remarkably in Florence (Italy), during that period which goes under the label of Renaissance. Humanism affected all the arts and sciences as well as politics, religion, and...
Empiricism is the philosophical stance according to which the senses are the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals rationalism according to which reason is the ultimate source of knowledge. In a form or another, empiricism features in most philosophical tradition. In Western philosophy, empiricism boasts a long and distinguished list of...
Enlightenment, or the Age of the Enlightened, was an intellectual movement most fertile between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in central Europe (France and Germany most distinctly) as well as in Russia and North America. The movement converged around the (at times unconditional) belief in the light of reason, regarded as the best gift...
Consequentialism is perhaps the most developed view of ethics, according to which the ethical worth of an action is proportional to its consequences. In particular, consequentialism holds that among all the possible courses of action, an agent should pursue the one that, overall, brings about the greatest amount of good – or, in jargon, the one...
At the center of human agency lies a terrifically simple question: "Am I free?" The problem of free will is the problem of providing an answer to such question that seems able to stand on its feet. The history of philosophy, in all its traditions, written and oral, is rich in attempts at solving the problem of free will. Here we shall survey...
The Philosophy of Humor
What is humor and how is it used among humans to enhance or hinder their relationships? Plenty of philosophers have asked this question, trying to come up with a theory of humor that could also separate such a state from mere laughter as well as good from bad quality humor.
Past, Present, and Future
Time is a central and classical theme in philosophy. It can be taken up from several angles, including epistemology (how do we know of the existence of a past or a future?), phenomenology (the time lived and perceived as opposed to external time), philosophy of language (the relevance of tenses in communication), philosophy of mind (e.g. time...
Problems for Nominalism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics. Here we shall review the problems with nominalism, that are no less hard than...
Philosophy of Hunting
The philosophy of hunting is a subfield of the philosophy of food, which deals most importantly with the ethical, environmental, and evolutionary aspects of the practice of hunting. Among its central questions: can hunting ever be regarded as morally good? Which methods for hunting are most ethical? Is hunting for sport rather than for food,...
Philosophy as a Form of Literature
Is philosophy ever literature? That is, if you were to make a list of some valuable samples of literature, would you be inclined to include any philosophical text? If you would, which criteria should you follow for inclusion in the list?
Problems for Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics. Here we shall review the problems with realism, that are no less hard than...
Rhetoric and Exemplification in Philosophy
To what extent is the use of rhetorical figures in philosophical writing, such as metaphors and analogies, the mark of a weakness on the part of the author? Can we sort out different styles of philosophizing, such as analytic and continental, based on their use of rhetorical devices?
Rationalism is the philosophical stance according to which reason is the ultimate source of human knowledge. It rivals empiricism according to which the senses suffice in justifying knowledge. In a form or another, rationalism features in most philosophical tradition; in the Western one, it boasts a long and distinguished list of followers,...
Philosophy of Authenticity
Each one is unique and, more often than not, would like to believe that her life has something special to it, that her contribution to humankind is unprecedented. "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken," recites an unsourced saying often attributed to Oscar Wilde. Unfortunately, such expectation is often disavowed by the opinion of others....
Relativism is not one philosophical school or movement, but rather a philosophical stance. It is indeed the stance maintaining that a given claim holds relative to a parameter. The parameter can be dependent or independent. Belong to the first category all those aspects who are part of the "output" of the stance – we have a relative truth, a relative perspective on reality, a belief relative to a factor, a relativistic ethics; belong instead to the category of independent parameters all those aspects that prompt the relativistic stance, such as time, location, upbringing, gender, race, political view, religion, culture, or emotional state.
“Pleasure is a human right because it is physiological; we cannot fail to feel pleasure when we eat.” Thus claims Carlo Petrini on page 50 of his Slow Food Nation (2007), while arguing for the importance of the hedonistic dimension of eating. Petrini’s position, which is exemplar of gastronomic hedonism, stands in direct opposition to...
Philosophy of Honesty
While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding to the rules, this may turn out to be overtly simplistic. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done...
Nominalism and Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental structure of reality. According to realists claim that all entities divide up into two major groups: particulars and universals; Nominalists instead argue that there are only particulars.
Alternatives to Nominalism and Realism
Nominalism and Realism are the two most distinguished positions in western metaphysics dealing with the fundamental categories of reality. From the millenary debate between supporters of those two opposed camps spurred some of the most puzzling problems in metaphysics, both for nominalism and for realism. Because of those problems, some authors...
Have you ever been ill to the point that you eat just to gain sustenance for your body, when you really have no hunger? That’s exactly how a gastronomic purist – in opposition to gastronomic hedonists – would wish to approach every encounter with food: take it in like a medicine, as you would swallow a pill. Despite its apparent radicalness,...
The Idea of Nature
The idea of nature is one of the most widely employed in philosophy, and by the same token one of the most ill-defined. Authors such as Aristotle and relied on the concept of nature to explain the fundamental tenets of their views, without ever attempting to define the concept. Even in contemporary philosophy, the idea is oftentimes employed, in...
Philosophy of Education
Education is a key component of cultural processes. Every process of acculturation can indeed be regarded as a process within which an individual, or a group, is educated to act or behave in a given manner. Although education is often thought in relation to the school system, by no means educational processes are restricted to what is imparted...
Arguments Against Relativism
Sure enough there is plenty of evidence favoring the genuineness of a relativistic attitude in a wide variety of situations. Cultural relativism, religious relativism, linguistic relativism, scientific relativism, relativism moving from different historical perspectives or miscellaneous social positions: these is just the beginning of a list of sources motivating the genuineness of contrasting perspectives on a specific topic at hand. And yet, in some occasions, one may want to resist the idea that the relativistic stance is the best theoretical option: in some case, it just seems that one of the contrasting views should get it more right than the others. On what grounds could such a claim be made?
Beauty and Truth
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all | Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. Thus ends the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" that John Keats wrote in 1819. Is that the case? What is the relationship between beauty and truth? Does an artist have to tell the truth in order to create a piece of aesthetic value? These and cognate questions lie...
Arguments for Relativism
What reasons in favor of relativism can be brought forward? That people tend to have different views with respect to a same issue seems to be a platitude. Generational gaps, differences in social status, upbringing, religion, scientific perspectives can all contribute, at one time or other, to form contrasting opinions. Some people take these...
The Varieties of Necessity
Necessity and possibility are intimately related: to say that a scenario is possible is to say that it is not necessary that it is not possible, while to say that a scenario is necessary is to say that it is not possible that it fails to be the case. Such type of relation is more thoroughly investigated by that branch of logic that goes under...
Descartes's Proofs of God's Existence
René Descartes (1596-1650) famously produced some original arguments to prove God’s existence. The arguments played a key role in his Meditations on First Philosophy, as they allowed him to conclude that something beyond himself existed. Here goes a reconstruction of the arguments, as found in the third meditation.
What is a desire? Such notion is often taken for granted in contemporary analytic philosophy. But to provide an answer to that question is all but straightforward. There are several important nodes to be untied before having a viable notion of desire. Let’s see seven of them.
Philosophy of Progress
The tendency to devise patterns of progress seems to be deeply eradicated within human beings. Just ponder your recent past: how many times have you been led to believe, or at least hope, you made progress over the past few years, be it at riding a bike, understanding matters of finance, loving your loved ones? Statesmen aim for the progress of their people, coaches for the progress of their teams, scientists for the progress of their insight into worldly phenomena...
The Enigmas of Possibility
Possibility is a central topic in contemporary and classical metaphysics. It is often taken up along with necessity. Since the two of them represent two modes of existence of an entity, possibility and necessity are also said modalities – to be more exact, they are alethic modalities, that is they are those modalities that pertain to truth and falsity.
Pleasure occupies a central role in the history of philosophy; on pleasure have been based some of the most important philosophical theories, and reflection on pleasure has kept busy the most brilliant philosophical minds. Moreover, each human being is called to deal with her own longing for pleasures of one sort or another. So, what is pleasure...
The Nature-Culture Divide
Nature and culture are often seen as opposite ideas: what belongs to nature cannot be the result of human intervention and, on the other hand, cultural development is achieved against nature. However, this is by far the only take on the relationship between nature and culture. Studies in the evolutionary development of humans suggest that...
Confronted with the problem of explaining change, Aquinas borrows from Aristotle three notions, that he calls principia (principles): matter, privation, form. Briefly put, form is whatever quality a substance possesses; the acquisition of such quality may have happened either at the very moment in which the substance was created, or during the...
Philosophy of Culture
The ability to transmit information across generations and peers by means other than genetic exchange is a key trait of the human species; even more specific to humans seems the capacity to use symbolic systems to communicate. In the anthropological use of the term, "culture" refers to all the practices of information exchange that are not genetic or epigenetic. This includes all behavioral and symbolic systems.
Philosophy of Conversion
The word "conversion" is reserved for a class of events that includes some of the most intimate and transformative experiences that human beings are capable of going through. Key to any conversion is that someone experiences some dramatic change of mindset, so that you cannot really have a conversion you are unaware of. Yet, while it is often relatively easy to spot that a conversion took place, it is far more difficult to pin down what is it that one converted to and to prove it to others ...
Cheerfulness and Happiness
What’s the difference between cheerfulness and happiness? Trying to offer an answer to this question may help to shed light on a number of important aspects of ethics, politics, and practical living. In this article I will offer a few remarks on how a philosophy encompassing both cheerfulness and happiness may be developed.
Best Friendship Quotes
What is friendship? How many types of friendship can we recognize and in what degree shall we seek each of them? Several of the greatest philosophers have addressed those questions and neighboring ones. Let’s see some illustrations of their work.
Food and Art: Three Encounters
Can food be art? This question may be declined in two ways: the first, centered on art objects, asks whether there are any edible items that can be regarded as works of art; the other, which I regard as more sound, asks whether there are gastronomic experiences that may be regarded as artistic experiences. Of course, the way the question is answered will depend also on the specific aesthetic perspective we assume; here, however, I wish to draw a distinction between three forms of ways in which art can encounter food, following a parallel distinction drawn by Nicola Perullo.
Creativity poses some important philosophical questions pertaining the relationship between brain and mind, the understanding of rationality, the importance of freedom and risk in human development, and the role of creativity in evolution. Several of these questions have received increasing attention in recent years, although many still await a more thorough scrutiny.
Philosophy of Hunger
Hunger is one of the most surprisingly interesting philosophical topics. It’s a state that typically does not fall under our attention. We are born hungry. We have been hungry well before we can remember being alive or gained self-consciousness of our own pleasures. Hunger is a landmark of our longing for change, for that which we are not. Satisfaction of hunger is one of the most complex ecological relationships we part take. And yet, what is it? And what philosophical lessons can we learn from hunger?
Empathy is a topic of philosophical discussion linked especially to fundamental issues in philosophy of mind and ethics. Let’s review some of the main issues pertaining to this topic.
Philosophical Quotes on Beauty
Beauty is one of the most intricate and fascinating topics of philosophical discussion. It has been discussed in relationship to a host of other subjects, such as truth, the good, the sublime, and pleasure. Here is a selection of quotes on beauty, divided into different themes.
Beauty and Love
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever | Its loveliness increases; it will never |Pass into nothingness; but still will keep | A bower quiet for us, and a sleep |Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." Those three lines of John Keats sum up one of the most romantic positions about the relationship between beauty and love: beauty is love. To have an aesthetic experience means to indulge into some sort of pleasure.
Beauty and Justice
What is the relationship between beauty and justice? Should we treat all those things and events that appear beautiful, but conflict with some principle of morality, as non-beautiful because of such a conflict?
Some Philosophical Remarks
When is it that someone is lying? In many scenarios, a definition like the one appearing on the Oxford English Dictionary would do: "To lie is to make a false statement with the intention to deceive." However, there are several circumstances that apparently involve lying yet do not fit the definition. Let’s review them, along with the four...
The Four Conditions of Lying and Their Troubles
Lies are peculiar sorts of entities: while we often encounter them during our day, be it in the media or an acquaintance, they are actually hard to pin down. With time, scholars have individuated four standard conditions that seem to be required for lying. It turns out that each of them is problematic. Let ‘s see why.
Can Food Be Art?
Can food be art? This is a question that has received increasing attention over the past few decades in aesthetics; in this article we shall deal with the main reasons that have been brought forth against the palatability of gastronomic experiences being, in some instances, forms of ultimate artistic experiences.
Paradoxes of Eubulides
A large collection of paradoxes has been collected throughout the history of philosophy. Along with Zeno of Elea, the ancient Greek philosopher Eubulides of Miletus (fourth century B.C.) is perhaps the most re-known discoverer of logical paradoxes. To him are attributed four of the most discussed arguments: the liar’s paradox, the sorites...
What We Can't Know
We often tend to emphasize how much we know, rather than what we don’t know. Yet there are some facts, even quite basic, that we cannot at present time know. This article is dedicated to an examination of some of those facts.
Persistence of Things in Time
How is it that something persists in time? How can one and the same thing be found at different times, with different properties, and yet be identical throughout the change? Take for example a cherry tree. It was a month ago brown and wet; today it’s dry and full of flowers; in another few weeks it will be full of cherries. Is it really the same...
Zeno of Elea V century B.C.
Zeno’s philosophy is one of the clearest examples of the power accorded to rational argumentation by Ancient Greek philosophers: by reasoning alone (hence without relying on any specific observation) humans can prove that the world has a certain structure. This is a radical methodology, which by and large diverges from the methods of inquiry...