Archives

Elitism

I. Definition An elite is a relatively small group of people with the highest status in a society, or in some domain of activity, who have more privileges or power than other people due to their status. Elitism is believing in or promoting this sort of arrangement, whether that be in the academic world, politics, art, sports, or anywhere else. In socio-political philosophy elitism is the belief th... »

Utilitarianism

I. Definition Utilitarianism (pronounced yoo-TILL-ih-TARE-ee-en-ism) is one of the main schools of thought in modern ethics (also known as moral philosophy). Utilitarianism holds that what’s ethical (or moral) is whatever maximizes total happiness while minimizing total pain. The word total is important here: if you act ethically according to utilitarianism, you’re not maximizing your happiness, b... »

Idealism

I. Definition In popular usage, an idealist is someone who believes in high ideals and strives to make them real, even though they may be impossible. It’s often contrasted with pragmatist or realist, i.e. someone whose goals are less ambitious but more achievable. This sense of “idealism” is very different from the way the word is used in philosophy. In philosophy, idealism is about the basic stru... »

Cognitive Bias

I. Definition Critical thinking is the ability to reflect on (and so improve) your thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. It’s a combination of several skills and habits such as: Curiosity, the desire for knowledge and understanding. Curious people are never content with their current understanding of the world, but are driven to raise questions and pursue the answers. Curiosity is endless — the bet... »

Absurdism

I. Definition All human beings seem to crave meaning, search for it, and create it. We constantly make up stories out of our lives to give them meaning.  And we search for explanations for the universe in general. Religion may be the most popular source of meaning for people; believing in a god or gods, a spirit-world, an afterlife, or a holy book, or practicing ritual, prayer, or meditation makes... »

Egoism

I. Definition You may think you already know egoism; but you’re probably thinking of egotism—self-importance, or self-centeredness.  In contrast, egoism is the philosophical view that human beings do, or should, always act for their own benefit.  Both words are derived from the Latin word for “I” – ego. Egoism and egotism are quite different.  For example, egotists often talk about themselves a lo... »

Deontology

I. Definition Deontology is a school of moral philosophy in which ethical behavior equals following rules. Deontologists believe that the goal of moral philosophy should be to figure out the “rules” for living a moral life and that once people know those rules they should follow them. “The Golden Rule” (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is an example of deontology; it’s a moral ru... »

Hedonism

I. Definition Hedonism is the philosophy of pleasure. It means doing whatever brings you the greatest amount of pleasure, regardless of any other effects. At first glance, hedonism seems pretty simple; just do whatever you like! Eat whatever you want, treat people rudely, lie around in bed all day! But things are not so simple. Philosophers speak of the paradox of hedonism, which refers to the way... »

Buddhism

I. Definition Buddhism is a religious and philosophical tradition founded in India sometime around 500 BC. Over the centuries, Buddhism has grown and evolved into a highly diverse tradition with many different sects who emphasize different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. It has also merged with other traditions of Asia, including Taoism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and even Islam. Buddhist philosop... »

Democracy

I. Definition “Democracy” is Greek for “people’s rule.” It refers to a set of political ideas that became popular worldwide during the last century, but that for most of human history have been considered dangerous, short-sighted, and potentially insane. Because democracy is so popular in our era, the word is used by a wide range of different political systems: like “freedom” or “justice,” it has ... »