Philosophy Index

Branches of Philosophy

Main branches of philosophy

Traditionally, there are five main branches of philosophy. They are:

  • Metaphysics, which deals with the fundamental questions of reality.
  • Epistemology, which deals with our concept of knowledge, how we learn and what we can know.
  • Logic, which studies the rules of valid reasoning and argumentation
  • Ethics, or moral philosophy, which is concerned with human values and how individuals should act.
  • Aesthetics or esthetics, which deals with the notion of beauty and the philosophy of art.

Other areas of philosophy

These five major branches of philosophy do not, however, exist in isolation. There are many other topics in philosophy which deal with one or more of these branches. For example:

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Other divisions

There also exist other divisions in philosophy that focus on different philosophical traditions or schools, rather than the branches of philosophical study. For example, there is a general divide between western philosophy, which puts its origins in ancient Greece, and eastern philosophy.

Contemporary western philosophy can further be divided into two main areas or branches: Analytic philosophy focuses on understanding and applying the logical, linguistic and scientific areas of philosophy, while so-called contintental philosophy has a greater value on subjective experience. This division is somewhat difficult to maintain, but is nevertheless still used in talk about philosophy.

Meanwhile, “eastern philosophy” can be divided into the philosophies of specific areas, such as Arab philosophy, Asian philosophy, Indian philosophy, Hindu philosophy, Chinese philosophy and so on. These areas have some overlap, of course. Some eastern traditions are rooted more firmly in religious ideas.

Divisions in philosophy focused on area are often confused or misnomers. There are prominent analytic philosophers who lived in continental Europe. There are philosophers in Asia who are working on branches of so-called “western philosophy”. The labels tend to reference early origins of traditions, rather than the current geography of the philosophical landscape.