I. Definition Ontology is the study of being. It focuses on several related questions: What things exist? (stars yes, unicorns no, numbers . . . yes?) What categories do they belong to? (are numbers physical properties or just ideas?) Is there such a thing as objective reality? What does the verb “to be” mean? Some of these questions may seem painfully abstract and not very useful, but they are an... »


I. Definition “Constructivism” has several unrelated meanings, all based on the idea that something is being “constructed.” Example In sociology and anthropology, constructivism is the view that social reality is constructed by human beings — structures such as race, class, and nationality are all social constructions rather than objective realities. Sometimes, philosophers use the word “construct... »


I. Definition Empiricism is the philosophy of knowledge by observation. It holds that the best way to gain knowledge is to see, hear, touch, or otherwise sense things directly. In stronger versions, it holds that this is the only kind of knowledge that really counts. Empiricism has been extremely important to the history of science, as various thinkers over the centuries have proposed that all kno... »


I. Definition Rationalism is the philosophy that knowledge comes from logic and a certain kind of intuition—when we immediately know something to be true without deduction, such as “I am conscious.” Rationalists hold that the best way to arrive at certain knowledge is using the mind’s rational abilities. The opposite of rationalism is empiricism, or the view that knowledge comes from observing the... »


I. Definition Plutocracy means ‘rule by the wealthy.’ It’s when a small group consisting of the wealthiest people in a society rule by virtue of their wealth. Plutocracy is a self-reinforcing system. That is, once a group of wealthy people are in charge, they can use their wealth and political power to change the rules (laws and systems) to make sure that they only get more wealth and power, never... »


I. Definition Existentialism is a European philosophy that started in the mid-1800s and hit its stride in the years around World War II. It has two parts: Life has no inherent meaning. Nothing we do matters in an absolute sense. There is no God, no objective morality, and no cosmic “purpose” in life. That’s OK. Or even better than okay, because it means that life can have the meaning that we give ... »


I. Definition Pluralism is a belief in difference – a philosophy supporting diversity, religious tolerance, and multiculturalism. Pluralism has always been controversial, as nearly all societies experience a tension between diversity and homogeneity, which can both give benefits and create problems for a society. Most of the time, when people talk about pluralism they’re talking about religious pl... »


I. Definition Intuition is a feeling or thought you have about something without knowing why you feel that way. It’s a function of the unconscious mind — those parts of your brain / mind (the majority of it, in fact) that you don’t consciously control or perceive. It’s synonymous with “hunch” or “gut feeling.” Intuition has a complicated role in philosophy and science. On one side, intuition is no... »

Deductive Reasoning

I. Definition Deductive reasoning, or deduction, is one of the two basic types of logical inference. A logical inference is a connection from a first statement (a “premise”) to a second statement (“the conclusion”) for which the rules of logic show that if the first statement is true, the second statement should be true. Specifically, deductions are inferences which must be true—at least according... »


I. Definition Theism (pronounced THEE-ism) means “belief in one or more gods.” It covers a huge range of religious beliefs, notably the Abrahamic monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Theism refers to any kind of belief in any god or gods, so it is difficult to make any other generalizations about it. Two people may both say they believe in God, so they’re both theists; but what they mean... »