Solipsism comes from two words: solus and ipse. Solus means single, or alone (think ‘solo’) and ipsemeans self. Solipsism as a word literally means ‘only the self’, but for philosophers it represents a problem that has plagued Western philosophy for centuries. There is an extreme version, the metaphysical solipsism, in which a philosopher assumes that there is only one person, and everything else, the world around us, the communication and interaction with others, is only in the mind of that one person. to exist.
The weaker variant of solipsism is epistemological (epistemological means it is about the acquisition of knowledge), this form of solipsism proposes that one can only have knowledge of one’s own mind and thoughts, and never of others or the world around us.
The logical train of thought that solipsists propose goes like this: 1) I only have insight into my own train of thought and consciousness, and 2) I cannot know, demonstrate or prove from my own thoughts another’s consciousness, therefore 3) only my own train of thought can really exist for me.
A noted philosopher, Bertrand Russell, and an opponent of solipsism, once said (roughly translated): “I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, stating that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others like her. Her surprise surprised me, coming from a logician and a solipsist!”
Determinism is a concept that is quite binding: it stands for the idea that all events (including our thoughts and actions) are caused by previous events according to causal laws (physical laws of action-reaction). The most radical conception of determinism therefore completely excludes human free will. According to this extreme mindset, it was fully established from the beginning of time that all events would cause action and reaction, and so I typed this a while ago, and you are reading this now. Fortunately, there are many determinists who are also prone to milder views.
Einstein’s views are also (largely) deterministic, as can be seen in this free translation of one of his many sayings: “ everything is fixed, the beginning as well as the end, by forces beyond our control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Humans, plants, and cosmic matter, we all dance to a mysterious tune, entranced by an invisible pipe player.”
Utilitarianism is a term often used in economics and ethics. Utilitas comes from Latin, and stands for utility (think of the English word utility). Central to this concept is the idea that one can ‘calculate’ the moral value of actions on the basis of the amount of utility this action provides. Also known is the (utilitarian) slogan ‘the greatest benefit (happiness and well-being) for the largest group of people’. Some utilitarians (eg, Peter Singer) apply this utility to animals as well, but most philosophers in this tradition refer utility only to humans. David Hume is an early thinker in utilitarianism (1711-76) as are Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-73).
Utilitarianism really became popular with Mill. In his book ‘Utilitarianism’ (Guess Three What It Was About), he wrote (roughly translated): “If we hold as foundations of ethics utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, we say that actions are good in proportion to the extent to which they promote Happiness, and Evil in proportion to the extent to which they effect the reverse. Happiness means intended pleasure, and absence of pain, and the converse of happiness is pain and absence of pleasure.”
Epicureanism is both a philosophical movement and a concept within philosophy. The Philosophical Movement (better described in another top ten list, called ‘ Ten Philosophical Movements ‘)’) revolves around living according to one’s own desires, but with a moderate slant. Today you won’t come across philosophers who are completely Epicurean, however a certain line of thought can still be called ‘Epicuristic’, by a philosopher or layperson who wants to sound interesting.
What that means then is that the mindset is skeptical of superstition or belief in Higher Powers, and that the only thing that has meaning in life is self-gratification. Self-gratification should not be seen in the sexual sense, however, but in the absence of pain and fear, and the fulfillment of desires, through knowledge, friendship and moral conduct. In addition, Epicurus, the founder of these ideas, was not averse to food and sex…
Epicurus wrote (in Ancient Greek, but translated to Dutch for us): ” Do not waste what you have by desiring what you do not have, remember that what you now have was once of the things you desired” .
Another beautiful quote from him is about his conceptions of death, and reflects well how an Epicurean minded person is free from fear (of death). “Death, the most abominable of all Evils, means nothing to us, simply because when we Are, death is not yet there, and when Death is, we Are no more.”
A positivist view holds (in philosophy as well as other disciplines) that valid knowledge comes from empirical sciences. Empirical, in turn, means that something has been tried and tested, or based on observations and experiences. As such, positivists believe that knowledge can only be acquired by applying the scientific method, in which experimentation and observation follow strict rules.
As such, knowledge can only be applied to the observable world, and not to things that are not sensory controllable (such as having an ‘immeasurable’ soul, but more about this later, under the number one of this list). Many positivist philosophers believe that science in the future will be able to provide answers to the problems we face today.
Please note, positivism in popular speech nowadays often means that someone has an (overly) optimistic attitude to life. In philosophy, however, positivism really has more of the above connotation. So don’t be fooled, if you talk to a philosopher about a positivist, that positivist is not by definition an optimist.
Auguste Comte is often regarded as the founder of positivism, as well as the first true sociologist, or the first person to promote ‘social physics’. He once said (according to secondary sources): “ One is not allowed to think freely about chemistry or biology, why should one be allowed to think about political philosophy?”
A predecessor of the positivist line of thought was British biologist Thomas Huxley (also called Darwin’s bulldog for his staunch defense of the theory of evolution), Huxley once said, “It is the deepest sin against the human mind to believe without proof.”
Absurdist thinkers believe that life has no meaning at all, and that there is no rational explanation for life. Therefore, any attempt to understand the universe is doomed to failure. Man’s suffering is a result of trying to find reason or meaning in their lives, as a result of their failure they suffer. Knowing or finding meaning is impossible for the following reasons: a) our relationship with Reality does not allow it, we cannot know for certain about reality and b) even if we could, we can do it through imperfect communication don’t pass it on to others.
Absurdism is diametrically opposed to absolutism, the belief in an absolute and universal (and often knowable) Truth. Absurdism is part of a larger movement within philosophy, namely existentialism, and this concept was developed in particular by Albert Camus (he lived from 1913 to 1960). Camus wrote (freely translated) “You will never be happy if you keep looking for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you keep looking for the meaning of life.”
Salvador Dali, a well-known artist, also had absurdist tendencies, writing about it: “It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or serious, any more than it is necessary for me to know this myself! ”
Objectivism according to Ayn Rand (an American philosopher who lived from 1902 to 1982), the founder of this school of thought within philosophy, follows the idea that reality is independent of interpretations of people. This seems quite logical, but there are many philosophical schools that doubt this idea. Objectivism does not, however, since it states that the world is fixed regardless of whether we perceive it, understand it or not.
Therefore, according to objectivists, knowledge of this objective context is possible, and the pursuit of one’s own rational interest is ethical, and should be everyone’s ultimate goal. With this attitude, objectivism has a great similarity with capitalist thinking: as long as everyone pursues their own (selfish) self-interest, everything should go well.
Among other things, Ayn Rand has the following to say about it: “Primarily I am not advocating capitalism, but selfishness; and primarily I am not arguing for selfishness, but for reason. If (…) reason is recognized and applied consistently, everything else follows.” And also: “Capitalism is the only system where one is free to function and where progress has been accompanied not by forced privatization but by a constant increase in the general level of wealth, consumption and enjoyment of life.”
3. Secular Humanism
Humanism in itself is a philosophy that has existed for many centuries and takes many forms, but modern humanism is often referred to as secular humanism. This is a form where, as with all other humanist movements, people are central and the value of people as a theme is maintained. Justice, reason and moral ethics are central, and secular humanism expresses this subject without using religion (as was the case with the preceding humanists of yore).
Secular humanism thus rejects the idea of a Supernatural creator, it brings the meaning of life back to Earth, and puts it at the feet of responsible man. Also, for a secular humanist there is no absolute truth, or moral ethics (one can also say that instead of being absolutistic, they are subjectivistic). Meaning of life and morality are uniquely tied to one person.
Thus, similar to existentialists, humanists believe that man has a responsibility to give meaning to life. However, a humanist will always keep the value of his or her fellow man in mind, and live according to a justice that presupposes that one’s actions should never interfere with another’s actions.
Humanist Kurt Vonnegut described Humanism this way: “Some people know that I am neither Christian, Jew, nor Buddhist, nor a religious person in any other sense. I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to live a decent life, without any expectation of rewards or punishments after my death. … For example, my great-grandfather wrote “If what Jesus said was Good, then who cares whether he was God or not”…”
Nihilism stands for denying the existence of meaning or value in the world. Nihil is Latin for nothing (nada, noppes), and nihilism as such is historically strongly linked to the work of the famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche described it, among other things, this way: “What does nihilism mean? That the most important Values themselves are worthless. It lacks a Soul. It lacks an answer to the question ‘why’?”
Moreover, according to Nietzsche, nihilism was characterized by its admission of invalidity of morality (morality is subjective and thus not absolutely universally valid), invalidity of truth (like morality, truth is subjective), and the denial of the existence of god. Nietzsche saw the emergence of the übermensch as a way out of nihilism, but note, this is not the übermensch used by the Nazis in their doctrines. Nietzsche’s übermensch would be able to leave existing (in his view erroneous) beliefs and assumptions of truth behind, and create own values, and give meaning to life
Nietzsche also wrote, “Any belief, any attempt to regard something as true, is inherently wrong since there is simply no True world.”
Dualism, very rudimentarily, simply means that two opposing concepts exist in the same world, without canceling each other out, in their most refined fundamentals. There are many kinds of dualistic entities, but in philosophy we find mainly three sub-types of dualism: anthropological, ethical and cosmic dualism.
Anthropological dualism is about the opposition between body (mortal and material) and spirit (immortal and immaterial). According to dualists, these things are separate things and cannot (never) be the same. Anthropological dualism thus means that the soul is always immaterial and can never be anything material. Earlier we read about determinism, an idea that rejects this dualism, because according to determinism everything is knowable through matter. Thus, according to a deterministic thinker, an immaterial soul simply cannot exist. If there is a soul, then it is material, and therefore there is no dualism. Logically, a dualist thinks otherwise!
Ethical dualism is about a dialectic between Good and Evil, according to a dualistic view these are separate and opposite entities, which in their rudimentary form cannot be reduced to smaller units, they are different in their basic principles from each other. Something that is Good therefore cannot be Evil in any other context or situation, because it is inherently composed of other units. The humanistic idea that moral considerations are context dependent therefore does not fit into this ethical dualism, it is either good or evil.
Cosmic dualism deals with the opposing poles of mind and matter, finiteness and infinity, and temporality versus eternity. The Chinese Yin and Yang also comes into play here, the idea that the universe consists of two opposing elements or forces.
A (long) quote from philosopher Bertrand Russell nicely summarizes Dualism (again, as always, loosely translated): “Death, Socrates says, is the separation of the soul and the body, and here we come to Plato’s dualism: between reality and appearance, ideas and observable objects, reason and perception, soul and body. These pairs are linked, the first of each pair is superior to the second both in reality and in goodness.”
We hope this list is helpful in the next conversation with a philosopher, or layperson! By the way, if you have a little philosopher of caliber in front of you, you should never hesitate to ask for an explanation. If the philosopher thinks you should know these terms, then he or she is most likely simply unable to explain them succinctly! Do not be shy, philosophers among the readers, to supplement and correct where necessary, the writer is only human and therefore capable of making mistakes.
- Top 10 Famous Kings
- Top 10 Famous Whistleblowers
- Top 10 Famous Female Scientists
- 10 Famous Psychological Experiments
- Top 10 Famous Spies
- Top 10 Famous Love Stories From History
- Top 10 Famous Ghosts Who Terrified People
- 10 Famous Circus Performers From History
- Top 10 Famous Explorers Who Mapped the World