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Cognitive Bias

I. Definition A cognitive bias is a bad mental habit. It’s a way of thinking that might be very common and, on its surface, might even appear rational – but in fact it gets in the way of logical thinking. For example, if all of your friends believe something, you’re much more likely to believe it as well. That’s not a very rational basis for believing something, but it is something that almost eve... »

Realism

I. Definition You’re looking at a computer screen. Pixels are glowing and changing before your eyes, creating patterns that your mind transforms into words and sentences. The sentences and ideas are in your mind (and mine, as I write them), but the computer, the server, the pixels, and your eyeballs are all real objects in the real world. This is the position of philosophical realism: the view tha... »

Contingency

I. Definition If you notice a fact about the world, you can put it in one of two categories: necessary or contingent. A necessary fact is one that has to be the case, whereas contingent facts could have been different. Contingency means the outcome was the result of events that might have occurred differently, whereas necessity means the outcome could only ever have gone one way. So you can think ... »

Transcendentalism

I. Definition Transcendentalism was a short-lived philosophical movement that emphasized transcendence, or “going beyond.” The Transcendentalists believed in going beyond the ordinary limits of thought and experience in several senses: transcending society by living a life of independence and contemplative self-reliance, often out in nature transcending the physical world to make contact with spir... »

Positivism

I. Definition Positivism is a philosophical system deeply rooted in science and mathematics. It’s based on the view that whatever exists can be verified through experiments, observation, and mathematical/logical proof. Everything else is nonexistent. In addition, positivists usually believe that scientific progress will eradicate, or at least sharply reduce, the problems facing mankind. Positivist... »

Socialism

I. Definition Socialism is an economic philosophy based on the need for regulations on capitalism. Unchecked capitalism, most economists agree, can create serious problems in the long term, since short-term personal profit does not motivate companies to take care of infrastructure, the environment, or their workers. Socialists emphasize this fact and argue that only the government can solve the pr... »

Stoicism

I. Definition In popular usage, the word “stoic” usually refers to a grim-faced, emotionless person — someone who experiences neither joy nor pain, who is capable of great strength and endurance but uninterested in human connection. We get this word from the Stoics, a school of philosophers who dominated the upper classes of the Roman Empire and were highly influential throughout the history of We... »

Occam’s Razor

I. Definition Occam’s Razor (or Ockham’s Razor, also known as the Principle of Parsimony) is the idea that more straightforward explanations are, in general, better. That is, if you have two possible theories that fit all available evidence, the best theory is the one with fewer moving parts. It’s important to emphasize the part about fitting all available evidence. Sometimes, the simplest explana... »

Autonomy

I. Definition Autonomy (pronounced aw-TAW-nuh-mee) is Greek for “self-rule,” and it’s basically another word for liberty. If you have autonomy, you are able to make your own choices and go your own direction. It’s a central idea in modern political theory, closely related to the ideas of political freedom and democracy. Autonomy is all about thinking for yourself and acting on your own desires, wh... »

Dualism

I. Definition Dualism can refer to any philosophy that believes in two. But two of what? There are countless forms of dualism in different philosophical traditions -far too many to cover in one article! So in this article, we’ll cover “mind-body” dualism, which is by far the most important form of dualism in modern European/American philosophy. It should not be confused with “Manicheanism,” which ... »

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