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Glossary of Basic Philosophy Terms

Part of the Philosophy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

To be a really great (or even fair-to-middling) philosopher, you need to understand some of the lingo of philosophy. Some basic terms in philosophy include:

  • Philosophy: Love of wisdom.

  • Aesthetics: The study of beauty, ugliness, and maybe even the sublime. The question, What is art?, is an aesthetical one.

    Meta-aesthetics tip: If a theoretical aesthetician can’t match a suit and tie or a skirt and shirt, take anything they say with a grain of salt.

  • Epistemology: The study of belief, truth, knowledge, and rationality.

  • Ethics: The study of good and evil, right and wrong, rules and virtues, character and vice, success and happiness.

    Ethics has lots of sub-areas, including:

    • Business ethics: What is it okay to do?

    • Legal ethics: Who is it okay to sue?

    • Medical ethics: When is it okay to clone?

    • Techno ethics: Why is it okay to tap a phone?

  • Metaphysics: The study of being, or what really exists. All the 'ultimate stuff' questions are metaphysical ones. Meta means after or transcending.

  • Wisdom: Practical insight for living.

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