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The Philosophy Portal
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Introduction to Philosophy

The Thinker, a statue by Auguste Rodin, is often used to represent philosophy.

Philosophy (from Greek: , philosophia, 'love of wisdom') is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some sources claim the term was coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 - c. 495 BCE), others dispute this story, arguing that Pythagoreans merely claimed use of a preexisting term. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation.

Historically, philosophy encompassed all bodies of knowledge and a practitioner was known as a philosopher. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics.

In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. Since then, various areas of investigation that were traditionally part of philosophy have become separate academic disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Today, major subfields of academic philosophy include metaphysics, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of existence and reality; epistemology, which studies the nature of knowledge and belief; ethics, which is concerned with moral value; and logic, which studies the rules of inference that allow one to derive conclusions from true premises. Other notable subfields include philosophy of science, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. (

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Maitreyi (Sanskrit: ) ("friendly one") was an Indian philosopher who lived during the later Vedic period in ancient India. She is mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as one of two wives of the Vedic sage Yajnavalkya; he is estimated to have lived around the 8th century BCE. In the Hindu epic Mahabharata and the G?hyas?tras, however, Maitreyi is described as an Advaita philosopher who never married. In ancient Sanskrit literature, she is known as a brahmavadini (an expounder of the Veda).

Maitreyi appears in ancient Indian texts, such as in a dialogue where she explores the Hindu concept of Atman (soul or self) in a dialogue with Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. According to this dialogue, love is driven by a person's soul, and Maitreyi discusses the nature of Atman and Brahman and their unity, the core of Advaita philosophy. This Maitreyi-Yajnavalkya dialogue is the topic of Sureshvara's varttika, a commentary. (Full article...)

Selected article of the week

Yin and Yang symbol.svg

Tao or Dao (pronounced "ta?" or "da?") refers to a Chinese character that was of pivotal meaning in ancient Chinese philosophy and religion. Tao is central to Taoism, but Confucianism also refers to it. Most debates between proponents of one of the Hundred Schools of Thought could be summarized in the simple question: who is closer to the Tao, or, in other words, whose "Tao" is the most powerful? As used in modern spoken and written Chinese, Tao has a wide scope of usage and meaning. Depending on context, the character 道 'Tao' may be rendered as religion, morality, duty, knowledge, rationality, ultimate truth, path, or taste. Its semantics vary widely depending on the context. Tao is generally translated into English as "The Way".

Academic Branches of Philosophy

Philosophy ponders the most fundamental questions humankind has been able to ask. These are increasingly numerous and over time they have been arranged into the overlapping branches of the philosophy tree:

  • Aesthetics: What is art? What is beauty? Is there a standard of taste? Is art meaningful? If so, what does it mean? What is good art? Is art for the purpose of an end, or is "art for art's sake?" What connects us to art? How does art affect us? Is some art unethical? Can art corrupt or elevate societies?
  • Epistemology: What are the nature and limits of knowledge? What is more fundamental to human existence, knowing (epistemology) or being (ontology)? How do we come to know what we know? What are the limits and scope of knowledge? How can we know that there are other minds (if we can)? How can we know that there is an external world (if we can)? How can we prove our answers? What is a true statement?
  • Ethics: Is there a difference between ethically right and wrong actions (or values, or institutions)? If so, what is that difference? Which actions are right, and which wrong? Do divine commands make right acts right, or is their rightness based on something else? Are there standards of rightness that are absolute, or are all such standards relative to particular cultures? How should I live? What is happiness?
  • Logic: What makes a good argument? How can I think critically about complicated arguments? What makes for good thinking? When can I say that something just does not make sense? Where is the origin of logic?
  • Metaphysics: What sorts of things exist? What is the nature of those things? Do some things exist independently of our perception? What is the nature of space and time? What is the relationship of the mind to the body? What is it to be a person? What is it to be conscious? Do gods exist?
  • Political philosophy: Are political institutions and their exercise of power justified? What is justice? Is there a 'proper' role and scope of government? Is democracy the best form of governance? Is governance ethically justifiable? Should a state be allowed? Should a state be able to promote the norms and values of a certain moral or religious doctrine? Are states allowed to go to war? Do states have duties against inhabitants of other states?

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Selected philosopher of the week

Confucius (551 BCE - 479 BCE)

Confucius (Chinese Kong Fuzi, literally "Master Kong", traditionally September 28, 551 BCE–479 BCE) was a famous thinker and social philosopher of China, whose teachings have deeply influenced East Asia. Living in the Spring and Autumn period, he was convinced of his ability to restore the world's order, but failed.

After much travelling around China to promote his ideas among rulers, he eventually became involved in teaching disciples. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines such as Legalism or Taoism during the Han dynasty. Used since then as the imperial orthodoxy, Confucius' thoughts have been developed into a vast and complete philosophical system known in the West as Confucianism. They were introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinise the name as "Confucius".

The Analects is a short collection of his discussions with disciples, compiled posthumously. It contains an overview of his teachings.

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Did you know

Sebastian Petrycy's tomb effigy in Kraków

R?mabhadr?c?rya meditating on the banks of Mandakini river during a Payovrata. He is seated in the Sukhasana pose with fingers folded in the Chin Mudra.

  • ...that Jagadguru R?mabhadr?c?rya (pictured), a blind Hindu religious leader, has observed nine Payovrata, a six-month diet of only milk and fruits, per the fifth verse of the Doh?val? composed by Tulasid?sa, which says that chanting the name of R?ma subsisting on a diet of milk and fruits for six months will result in all the auspiciousness and accomplishments in one's hand?


Selected picture

General images

The following are images from various Philosophy-related articles on Wikipedia.

Task forces



  • Falsificationism Looking for comments on lead.
  • Optimism should have a separate page that focuses on the philosophical idea of optimism and distinguishes the philosophical view from "positive thinking" and other everyday uses of the word.
  • Philosophy of social science, has some okay points but requires elaboration on Wittgenstein and Winch, perhaps other linguistic critiques, whether logical positivist or postmodernist.
  • Exchange value needs to be redone, it shouldn't be under 'Marxist theory'- although it's an important component of Marxist theory it's also vital for all economics. That said the article's weight on Marx is also absurd.
  • German Idealism and the articles related to it may need to be rewritten or expanded to avoid undue weight on Arthur Schopenhauer.
  • Protected values first section confuses right action and values and needs a copy edit, moving and wikifying
  • Quality (philosophy) needs a more clear explanation.
  • Socratic dialogues could do with some tidying and clarification. See the talk page for one suggested change.
  • Problem of universals: The introductory definition is (perhaps) fixed. But, the article is poor. Check out the German version.
  • Teleology: the article is shallow and inconsistent.
  • Existentialism: the quality of this article varies wildly and is in desperate need of expert attention.
  • Analytic philosophy This is a very major topic, but still has several sections which are stubs, and several topics which are not covered.
  • Lifeworld A philosophical concept that seems to have fallen exclusively into the hands of the sociologists. Could use some attention; it's a major and complex issue in phenomenology.
  • Perception Needs the attention of philosophically minded Wikipedians. This is only the start of an overhaul of perception and related articles.

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