a philosophy glossary

abduction – reasoning from the particular instance to a probable general conclusion.

analytic philosophy – a “twentieth-century  philosophical movement that stresses the analysis of statements, concepts, propositions, expressions, and logical constructs, while shunning metaphysical speculation.” (Rohmann)

a priori – 1. (of reasoning) deductive; proceeding from causes to effects (opp. a posteriori). 2. (of concepts, knowledge, etc.) logically independent of experience; not derived from experience (opp. empirical). (Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary)

a posteriori – (of reasoning) inductive, empirical; proceeding from effects to causes (opp. a priori). (Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary)

conceptualism – the position that universals are concepts dependent upon thought.

continental philosophy – term applied to twentieth-century developments in philosophy in mainland Europe. The term is often used by adherents of the British and US tradition of analytic philosophy, who largely disdain the interest of European philosophers in metaphysics, speculative systems, doctrines such as Marxism, phenomenology, and existentialism, and methods such as structuralism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction.

contingent – see necessary.

deduction – reasoning from a general premise to a particular conclusion. Based on reasoning alone.

dualism – asserts that substances are of two types – physical and mental.

empiricism – the position that experience, and not reason, is the basis of our knowledge of the world.

epistemology – the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods and validation. (OEED)

essence – something which defines an object independent of the existence of it.

existence – the object as a thing.

existentialism – a philosophical position in which everything is meaningless and with without intrinsic reason, where one has complete freedom of choice and must take absolute responsibility for their actions.

flux – constant change.

form – perfect conceptual universal “ideal” of a thing, particularly in Plato’s philosophy.

free will – the ability to choose one’s own actions [within a limited set of choices].

idea – (see form)

idealism – “the position that ideas, not objects, are the basis of reality; the opposite of realism and materialism.” (Rohmann, 2000)

induction – reasoning from the particular instance to a general conclusion. Based on experience.

innate ideas – “Ideas or knowledge in the mind prior to and independent of sense experience.” (Flew and Priest)

logic – “the branch of philosophy that makes a study of rational argument itself -its terms, concepts, rules, and methods.”

logical positivism – the position that applies logic, mathematics and empirical science to philosophy.

materialism – “as most commonly understood in philosophy, the term denotes the doctrine that whatever exists is either matter, or entirely dependent on matter for its existence.” (Flew and Priest)

metaphysics – the study of the nature and origin of ultimate reality.

metaphysics of presence – the privileging of an unproblematic meaning to a form in a sign when, in reality, a sign’s meaning is dependent on all other signs in the system for its definition.

monism – that reality consists of one type, in general, either physical or mental.

naive realism – perception is direct access to the external world.

naturalism – the position that all of reality is natural. It opposes idealism in that it does not separate matter and thought.

necessary – “must be the case. The opposite is contingent. Hume believed that necessary connections exist only in logic, not in the real world, a view that has been upheld by many philosophers since.”

nihilism – “the position that there are no philosophical standards, that knowledge is impossible or at least worthless, that all action, all thought, all ethical, and metaphysical conjecture is baseless and empty.” (Rohmann). “The rejection of all traditional values, authority, and institutions. The term was coined in 1862 by Ivan Turgenev in his novel Fathers and Sons, and was adopted by the nihilists, a group of Russian radicals of the period.” (Crofton)

nominalism – “reality is contained in the particulars of form and substance” (Rohmann). Opposed to (old-school) realism which believed that true reality is found in an immaterial “world”.

noumena – “things-in-themselves”.

ontology – the philosophical study of the nature of what exists and how they exist.

perception – processed sense data, as well as feed back from perception (concepts).

phenomena – “things-as-they-appear”.

philosophy – the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality, especially of the causes and nature of things and of the principles governing existence, the material universe, perception of physical phenomena, and human behaviour. (Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary)

physicalism – “The doctrine that all propositions asserting ‘matters of fact and real existence’ can be formulated as statements about publicly observable physical objects and activities.” (Flew and Priest)

pluralism – reality consists of more than one type of substance.

process philosophy – the position that reality is a constantly unfolding and advancing process or change. (Rohmann)

rationalism – the position that reason, and not experience, is the basis of our knowledge of reality.

realism – (1) (a) the position that things, not ideas, are the basis of reality; the opposite of idealism. (b) reality exists independently of perception or it being perceived. (2) (old usage, as opposed to nominalism) the position that universals define objects (virtually the opposite of Meaning (1)).

representation – thing to which we have no direct access, only through the senses do we have knowledge of it.

sensation – unprocessed sense data.

supervenience – the occurrence at one level relies upon the another level.

trace – the nature of a sign which will always be haunted by what is absent from it. ‘Man’ will always traces of ‘woman’ and vice versa.

transcendental idealism – the position that both reason (perception and conceptualisation) and experience (sensation) are necessary in order to understand the world.

truth – of objects and events (ontological truth). Of logic (logical truth).

type-token distinction – “bicycle” is the general concept or type of a two-wheeled human-powered vehicle. “My bicycle” is a specific instance of the concept or token, namely the bicycle I own. A type is not a natural concept but is derived or generalised from perceived token instances.

veil of appearance – “sense data is seen as imposing between the experiencer and the external world.” (Flew and Priest)

will – that which gives us access to a self as an object.