Philosophy is the system of views on the reality that surrounds individuals. It is the system of the most common concepts of the world and place of the human in it. Since its beginning, philosophy has sought to discover the essence of the world as a whole, understand the nature of the human, and determine what place people occupy in society. Philosophy addresses the most common and, at the same time, very important and fundamental questions that define the human approach to the most diverse areas of life and knowledge. The path of a philosophical understanding of the world is very complicated. Philosophy has existed for about three thousand years, and all this time it is a struggle of opposing views that do not stop even in contemporary society. Therefore, this term paper will explore and describe the history of philosophy.
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Philosophy in its pure form appeared in Ancient Greece. The Greeks outlined a whole range of important philosophical problems as well as issues and ways to solve them. Greek philosophy has its origins in the 7th century B.C.E. (Sheffield & Warren, 2014, p. 46). The roots of Western philosophy, the origins of rational thought, and the emergence of the word “philosophy” are associated with thinkers and schools that appeared in Greece during this period. They are collectively referred to as pre-Socratic philosophers. Among the most famous pre-Socratics were Thales, Democritus, Pythagoras, and Zeno (Sheffield & Warren, 2014, p. 49). The pre-Socratics put metaphysical questions regarding the causes of being and boundaries between objects in the real world. They also created several conflicting models of the world. Later, a group of ancient Greek philosophers, sophists, expressed skepticism towards the pre-Socratics who sought answers to their questions (Sheffield & Warren, 2014, p. 55). The sophists believed in the relativity of truth and convincingly defended their points of view as well as taught them to their students.
Classical Greek Philosophy
The next stage of the history of philosophy is called classical Greek philosophy that had a great influence on world culture. This philosophy is mainly associated with such people as Socrates, his pupil Plato, and Plato’s pupil named Aristotle (Marias, 1967, p. 137). Socrates’s contribution is mainly related to his method which represented the philosophical question in the form of the dialog between the two philosophers. Plato and Aristotle were among the most influential people in the world. The main contribution of Plato is his theory of ideas that were formulated in his most famous dialog The Republic (Marias, 1967, p. 128) Plato’s theory of ideas contrasts material objects with perfect forms or ideas of these objects which exist somewhere in the sublime world. Aristotle could be called the first historian of philosophy. He systematized Greek philosophical knowledge in a new form that established the standards of scientific literature (Marias, 1967, p. 177). His works included the consistent presentation of logic, metaphysics, ethics, rhetoric, cosmology, physics, and zoology.
Neo-Platonism, Skepticism, and Stoicism
After Plato and Aristotle in Greece and then in the Roman Empire, several philosophical schools and movements based on Greek philosophy, including Neo-Pythagoreanism, Platonism, and Peripatetic schools, continued the development of classical philosophy (Frame, 2015, p. 104). Skeptics expressed and developed the idea of sophists that it is impossible to acquire true knowledge about the world. Stoicism became the new trend among the schools of this period. It was an ethical concept similar to Chinese Taoism that identifies the source of harmony in the world with the adoption of the natural order of things and, therefore, recommends individuals to stoically endure all twists of fate (Frame, 2015, p. 107). Finally, another important philosophical school was Neo-Platonism. Plotinus was the famous philosopher of this period and the ideologist of Neo-Platonism (Frame, 2015, p. 112). He objected to the anthropomorphic features of God. As a consequence, there was the convergence between Neo-Platonic monotheistic, almighty God and the world of ideas or forms of Plato. It made possible the partial integration of Plato’s ideas into Christianity and other monotheistic religions.
Medieval and Christian Philosophy
Medieval philosophy concentrated on theological questions with the notable influence of the Christian Church. The initial period of Christian philosophy (up to the 7th century C.E.) was characterized by attempts to rationalize Christianity by giving it extra meaning (Bartholomew & Goheen, 2013, p. 63). This period of medieval philosophy is called patristic philosophy, and its most prominent figure was St. Augustine who united Platonism and Christianity by eliminating all the features of Neo-Platonism which were contrary to the Bible. Later, Christian philosophy called scholasticism appeared, and it was characterized by the formation of philosophical schools connected to religious organizations that performed various tasks of the Church. The most famous philosopher of this period was Thomas Aquinas who combined Christianity with Aristotelianism (Bartholomew & Goheen, 2013, p. 71). The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas is still the official philosophy of the Catholic Church. Thomas Aquinas is also known for his five proofs of God’s existence.
The characteristics of the Renaissance era started a new phase in philosophy. The basis of Renaissance philosophy was humanism rooted in the Italian proto-Renaissance concept that placed people at the center of a philosophical system. Humanists, who were not professional philosophers receiving academic degrees in European Catholic universities, believed that philosophy could not serve only the divine purpose, but it should also be interested in the essence of the world, especially in the human. Humanists opposed Aristotle’s philosophy designated by the Catholic Church as the only authority (Marias, 1967, p. 92). They offered to return to Neo-Platonism and other ancient philosophical trends. Initially, humanists were specifically against scholasticism but not the Church; however, in Europe, the evolution of Renaissance philosophical thought quickly came into conflict with the Christian dogma (Marias, 1967, p. 139). The rapid development of aesthetics, philosophy of nature, and science in combination with the era of immoral behavior of Popes devalued the authority of the Catholic Church.
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The modern time is the period of the development of philosophy in Western Europe from the 17th to the 19th century (Muratori & Paganini, 2016, p. 142). It was characterized by the emergence of capitalism, the rapid development of science and technology, and the formation of experimental mathematical outlook. This period is also called the era of the scientific revolution. The main figures in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and metaphysics of the 17th and 19th centuries were divided into two main groups (Muratori & Paganini, 2016, p. 153). Rationalists assumed that all knowledge should begin with certain ‘innate ideas’ present in the mind. The main representatives of this trend were Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Nicholas Malebranche. In contrast, empiricists believed that knowledge should begin with a sensory experience. The key figures of this trend were Francis Bacon, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume. At the end of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant created a fundamentally new system of philosophy which united rationalism and empiricism. Kant stimulated the rapid development of philosophical thought in Germany in the early 19th century, beginning with German idealism (Muratori & Paganini, 2016, p. 153).
Postmodern philosophy contained deconstructive mechanisms that led to the collapse of the philosophical system and concepts. Postmodern philosophy rejects the category of being which was a ‘last foundation’ that ensured the undeniable authenticity of proven philosophical statements (Frame, 2015, p. 183). It expresses disappointment with rationalism and its ideals as well as values. Postmodernism brings philosophy closer to science and literature and reinforces the tendency to the aestheticization of philosophy. The main representatives of this period are Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida (Frame, 2015, p. 183). In general, postmodern philosophy seems contradictory, vague, and paradoxical.
To conclude, philosophy in its pure form was established in Ancient Greece. The pre-Socratic philosophers were the first to outline a whole range of important philosophical problems and issues and ways to solve them. Classical Greek philosophy had a significant influence on world culture. This philosophy is mainly associated with the names of three people such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. After Plato and Aristotle, Neo-Pythagoreanism, Platonism, and Peripatetic schools continued the development of classical philosophy. The initial period of Christian philosophy was characterized by attempts to rationalize Christianity. The characteristics of the Renaissance era established a new phase in philosophy. The basis of Renaissance philosophy was humanism that placed humans at the center of a philosophical system. Modern philosophy was characterized by two philosophical groups such as rationalists and empiricists. Postmodern philosophy rejects the category of being and is closely related to literature.