The subject of philosophy is one of the most interesting for intellectual debate. It must be considered that it intersects with other areas of thought. From existence, the debate on God, ethics , thought forms, behavior, language , science, society and much more. Therefore, it is important to take it into account.

On the other hand, it happens that there are undoubted links between philosophy and psychology . Simple things, like the fact that ancient Greek philosophers studied correct ways of thinking. Likewise, they were concerned with detailing the various personalities. Also, psychology has to do with a way of looking at the world.

Without delving much, for example, it happens that in the twentieth century psychoanalysis ends up being almost a philosophical school where the importance of the irrational and unconscious is raised over the rational and objective thinking. Likewise, there are notable links between phenomenology and the psychological study of the way people perceive their environment.

However, we want to give a very complete overview, since we consider it a core issue for the psychological one. Therefore, below, we give a general review from the etymological concept of the philosophical to a historical review of philosophy.

Etymological meaning

The term comes from two Greek words that mean, on the one hand, love and, on the other, wisdom . Thus, philosophy is ” the love of wisdom .”

A literary synthesis of what philosophy is in the Symposium of Plato ( 427-347 BC .) For this philosopher, love is the son of Poros, the god of wealth, and Penia, the goddess of poverty; like this, love is half rich and half poor. In the opinion of this outstanding personage of antiquity, philosophy encompasses, consequently:

  1. Wealth, which derives from the object to which it tends, wisdom
  2. Poverty , because it is incessantly seeking wisdom. Full knowledge of reality is unattainable, but neither will it be absolutely lacking.

In Latin, the word “wisdom” is named after the term sapientia , derived from sapere , which indicates “knowing” in a broad sense. From here, a “wise man” is the knower par excellence, the person who judges correctly, due to the mastery of the issues he has studied; supposes a high knowledge. That is, it is understood that wisdom is a special gift, a type of knowledge that is not common , but has a special value and stands out from other types of knowledge .

Philosophy concept

Although in the field of scientific disciplines, such as chemistry and biology, there is a universal consensus regarding their definitions, regarding Philosophy, it has not been possible to produce a definition that agrees with all its exponents . In any case, there are some core interests that place Philosophy in a particular place in the insatiable human tendency to knowledge.

In general and without any rigor, it speaks of different philosophies of social life (the philosophy of a fire department, an academic institution, a lodge of explorers, a work team, etc.), which could be understood, according to Ignacio Burk, as “a certain way of thinking and being …” It is the “conjugation of theory and practice: of scientific knowledge, experience, experience and motivation for certain attitudes.” ( Philosophy, an updated introduction , Caracas: Ediciones Íínsula, s / f, p. 13.)

It can be stated in principle, if the different motivations, actions, social and scientific positions, etc. are observed, that there are many philosophies. Seen in this way, “philosophies” are “rules of procedure without universal validity, the pursuit of which implies some dose of uncertainty and risk.” (Burk, p. 13.)

On Philosophy with a capital letter

But, Philosophy, with a capital letter, which has given rise to deep reflection, deals with “thinking the human about the human.” It is a rational judgment of the totality before the real. The real is the world of things of each subject: of his sensible, perceptible, understandable and thinkable world. It is interesting to see that the philosophical has not stopped in comparing the mental, but also the sensations, feelings and the imaginary world.

Philosophy is interested in the being, origin and destiny of the human being and his world. What remains outside of scientific knowledge , of science, is a problem of Philosophy: from-where, why-why, what is the human and its works for. That is, it has a wide field of action, although at certain times it is only interested in some topics.

The matter of “philosophy is the totality of reality.” That is, it encompasses all things at the same time and not one parcel at a time , as the factual sciences do. The purpose of Philosophy is the exploration of the most determining principles and causes of being and the nature of beings. It is possible that Philosophy coincides with other disciplines of knowledge in the object of study, which also have a comprehensive perspective (encyclopedic knowledge, for example); However, the difference lies in the gnoseological perspective, which looks for the ultimate causes.

It deals with the ultimate reflection: what is the human being in reality. And at this point, the subject socially considered and making history is the sphere of expression of reality. Philosophers pursue the essential causes or the primary and extreme elements of reality.

For example, the psychologist can explain the reasons that sadden and depress his patient, contrasting his behavior with certain personal causes, such as a tragic event.

However, the philosopher, without neglecting the causes that the psychologist exposes , can ask himself why the human being in general becomes sad and depressed, directing his scrutiny to the most fundamental causes. In other words, the philosophical is nourished by philosophy … but many times, also, philosophy has been influenced by psychology (we already mentioned the case of psychoanalysis).

Other questions that concern philosophy

Inquire about the light of reason. Therefore, it is a natural knowledge that does not deal with the revealed data, based on beliefs and dogmas. Philosophy follows a methodological order to have a correct perspective of reality and provide sufficient criteria to judge prior knowledge in scientific, cultural and social areas.

It is verified then that Philosophy also deals with reality and how it is presented as such. For Philosophy, “knowledge” and “reality” as constructs are two factors that define each other. So you cannot determine what “reality” is without referring to what “knowing” is; but neither is it possible to define “knowing” without referring to “reality”. Philosophy is interested in that inevitable human syntopia of knowledge and reality. And after all, this is also the field of psychology.

It is a discipline of knowledge at a second level , considering that science is located at a first level; it is the “knowing” that the human being aspires when he reaches his intellectual maturity. Scientific discoveries can be made at an early age.

Instead, the ultimate philosophical achievements have required a lifetime of reflection. It is worth saying that this sphere of psychology is a kind of metadiscourse: it always tends to see things from another perspective, which is why it reveals issues that are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, many times it takes experience and long reflection to achieve this new point of view.

Characteristic features of Philosophy

Based on the notion of Philosophy already described , a series of characteristic features can then be defined, namely:

  1. Universalist perspective : Philosophy is interested in an integrative vision of reality.
  2. Humanistic purpose : the objective of Philosophy is to find the meaning, the goal, of life, all with the intention of improving human life.
  3. Practical and anti-doctrinal purpose: Philosophy seeks to transgress prejudices and baseless concepts and find solutions that have an impact on society.
  4. Critical potential: precisely, Philosophy, is a critical knowledge, it never stays with the first explanations.
  5. Look for the evidence : the certainty marks the meaning of Philosophy.
  6. Explore the gnoseological principles : Philosophy seeks to elucidate the principles or foundations of the concepts and beliefs of humanity.

The truth of things is the object of study of Philosophy : the “being”, human existence, the absolute, the transcendence of the spirit, good and evil. Understood as a way of life, philosophizing implies criticizing, doubting, structuring, systematizing, it is learning to understand the environment. Understood as science, Philosophy has been present in the history of humanity, deciphering the meaning of life.

Thinkers and philosophical currents

In the western world, it happens that philosophy was born on the islands of Ionia , in the 6th century BC, being naturally a contribution from the Greeks. Consequently, described in this article is the one that was born in the cradle of Western civilization, ancient Greece.

Pythagoras ( h. 572 – h. 497 BC) is attributed the term “philo-so-fía”, although there are no historical documents to prove it. The inventor of the term was moved by a religious spirit, which gave the gods the unique faculty of sophia (wisdom): indisputable and absolute investiture of the truth. Meanwhile, the human being could only tend towards the sorrow, but never fully achieve it. In that the tendency of the individuals to know is translated; the love to know always unsatisfied. From here comes the designation of “philo-sophia”, love of wisdom.

It is also important to note that Greek culture did not have sacred books, derived from divine or transcendental revelations. That is to say, its relationship with the transcendent did not generate immovable dogmas . The Greek poets spread their religious beliefs; but by no means were beliefs set in stone to last forever. Furthermore, the Greek priests had very little importance and little power; the priestly curia did not have the privilege of preserving dogmas and, much less, the exclusive handling of religious offerings and sacrifices.

Without the existence of stony dogmas and of a priestly caste with the power to defend and spread them, philosophical thought found an ideal breeding ground. Undoubtedly, freedom of thought generated the favorable circumstances for the birth of Greek philosophy, without comparison in antiquity.

From the preliminaries , philosophy three fundamental characteristics that include its content, method and aims arrogated.

As already written in previous lines, the interest of Philosophy has been to explain the totality of reality and being as a whole. In this sense, the first “principle” is established with the question: Why of things?

As for the method, ancient Philosophy was already based on reason ( logos ) to go beyond the fact, of experiences, to elucidate the causes of things. This feature gives Philosophy its scientific identity, which although it shares with the other sciences, differs fundamentally because it is a rational investigation of the principles of all reality.

The goal of Greek Philosophy is to unselfishly unravel the truth. Its purpose is the search for the truth by the sole desire to know it. For Aristotle ( 384 – 322 BC) men philosophized just to know and, in no sense, they were moved by a practical utility: “All other sciences will be more necessary than this, but none will be superior.”

However, it is interesting to emphasize that the comprehensive reflection of Greek Philosophy is by no means a tautological activity without external consequences. Although it is true that it does not have utilitarian purposes, it does imply a moral importance –with political implications- of the first level. The holistic contemplation and reflection of reality constitutes a change of perspective of the meaning of human life, producing a new hierarchy of values . On this moral construction Plato built his ideal state.

The first philosophers were the pre-Socratics, coming from the School of Thales of Miletus , among them Democritus ( c. 460 – id., C. 370 BC), the most universal thinker of this group, and Heraclitus ( c . 540 – c. 470 BC .) The thinker who inaugurates Greek philosophy is Thales ( 624 – 548 BC), inhabitant of Miletus of Ionia, possibly during the last decades of the 7th century and the first half of the 6th century BC It is known that, apart from being a philosopher, he was a scientist and politician. It is unknown if he wrote any books about his ideas; all that is known of his thought comes from indirect oral sources. Heraclitus notably influenced subsequent thinkers, such as Plato.

The great Century of Pericles , the 5th century BC, which represented a period of cultural and political splendor for the city of Athens, gave rise to the Sophists (“sophist” meant “wise”). Its defenders dedicated themselves to establishing the political and social organization of the polis. In this century, the figure of Sophocles ( 495 – 406 BC ) stood out because he was the first to search for an absolute truth through dialogue.

The sophistry is known for putting on the table the virtue of an individual does not depend on the nobility of blood and birth, but of knowledge. With a strong pedagogical sense, the sophists disseminated the importance of truth and laid the foundations for the Western idea of ​​education, based on the dissemination of knowledge.

The sophists defended the potentiality and possibility of reason and, consequently, received the name of “enlightened Greeks.” The best known of the sophists was Protagoras ( 480 – id. 410 BC) , with his main work The Antilogies , of which only testimonies are known. For this thinker “Man is the measure of all things, of those that are in that they are, and of those that are not in that that they are not” (cited by Giovanni Reale and Darío Antiseri (1995), Historia del Pensamiento Filoffico and scientist, Barcelona: Editorial Herder, p . 78.) From his reflections it appears that Protagoras is the father of the notion of relativism in the West.

And it is that in The Antilogies the thinker defended the notion that about each thing it is possible to discern two arguments that are opposed to each other. Precisely, the sage is the subject capable of knowing the relative that is more useful, more convenient and more opportune.

In short, this is the beginning of Western philosophy: a beginning in Greece , from where it later spread to other areas. It is worth saying that, in the passage of time, many schools of Philosophy have emerged. Which of these schools are the most important? What are its traits? His contributions and inflections in the future of philosophy? In this regard, we provide more information in the subsequent paragraphs.

The most important philosophical currents

To catalog that there are certain schools of Philosophy more important than others has a certain transcript of subjectivity. In any case, in this work we have made a selection and succinct description. Likewise, a presentation in chronological order. Likewise, we are interested in highlighting those schools that have marked certain milestones in the evolution of psychology .

Plato and Aristotle. Classical Philosophy

The universal question about “being” and knowledge had a preponderant place for Plato and Aristotle , as the issue of ethics and politics. Although Aristotle was trained at Plato’s Academy, he would come to question his theories.

Plato was born into a wealthy family in Athens . His thought represents the first complete philosophical legacy known, called the Theory of Ideas . Plato’s reflections delve into the origin of being and knowledge: ideas are abstract entities that govern the world.

In his written work, the Republic, when defining the myth of the cave , describes the world as something dual, made up of ideas (which is reached by knowledge) and the sensible world (perceived by the senses). The world provided by the senses is contingent and changing, it is that of mere appearance, so it is not reliable. It is worth saying that the myth of the cave represents a point of interest for psychology: it shows that individuals can perceive the world in one way, but in reality they build an inner world with external impressions and their idiosyncrasies.

Because of this division of the world , Plato is considered the father of Objective Idealism . The platonic duality extends to the human, decomposing and soul, the permanence of the latter is ensured. The notion of a higher being as the idea of ​​good and human duality will exert an important influence on religion and Christianity.

The figure of Aristotle , for its part, appears associated with that of Plato . From an early age he attends Plato’s Academy , later standing out in different disciplines, such as art or science.

Aristotle’s philosophical approach coincides with Plato’s in that it is “essence” that defines “being”. However, for the philosopher Plato’s idea of ​​the duality of the world lacked a fair perspective by failing to rationally explain the division raised between the world of ideas and the sensible world, and the relationship that ideas have with the latter.

According to Aristotle , there should be something more that dynamizes and gives meaning to the universe and that relates the material to the formal. With Plato , reality is constructed of ideas, it is not material: it is “ideal reality.” Seen this way, matter only fulfills the function of materializing ideas (pure forms of being) in concrete subjects.

Aristotle founded formal logic . Even today it subsists in mathematical logic with the addition of other resources. And it is that Aristotelian logic is the first systematization of the principles that allow us to deduce correctly. The “instrument” ( organon ), logic, was for the philosopher what allowed the relationship of thought with itself.

What an individual or entity is and does depends on its nature or physis For Aristotle, for example, subjects would be mammals by their very nature. “Nature” is the same substantial form, insofar as it inevitably establishes the form of being and behaving of the subject.

Finally, Aristotle must be recognized as the great naturalist in philosophy, evolution, and theology. It is the philosopher who distances himself from idealism, to be the one who thinks of man in his reality, immersed in it, and not thinking about distant or abstract questions.

Post-Greek Philosophy: Romans and Christians

The Roman domination determined socio-economic changes in the Western world, weakening the sense disinterested search for truth of post-Aristotelian philosophy . In life, Aristotle knew the beginning of a new political era, that of world empires.

In the midst of Hellenism, derived from the conquests of Alexander the Great , a new geopolitical order arises. The ancient Greek cities were transformed into Hellenistic kingdoms and assumed similar characteristics. Greece ended up being the prey of the Romans.

But the powerful Greek legacy penetrated Roman culture . So much so that in the Rome of the Caesars, men who spoke Greek were considered cultured and had been trained in Athens or Alexandria. For example, the Roman works Aeneid (19 BC) by Virgil , and Metamorphosis (8 AD) by Ovid , are Greek literature written in Latin.

Philosophy ceases to be a universal science and an intellectual scaffolding and becomes psychotherapy and an art of living . Philosophers take an evasive stance from political reality . They took their foundations from Socrates , but the hedonistic perspective and the cynical, skeptical and ironic positions were exaggerated.


The stoicism was founded by current Zeno of Kition, around 300 BC and lasted six centuries (IV century BC – AD). He proclaimed that happiness was obtained by consciously learned apathy or psychological numbness. The ideal of this philosophical current is the apathetic individual, contrary to the active one . Regarding the notion of nature, Stoicism believed in the rationality and wisdom of nature and in its indulgence towards the human being.

The stoicism was widely accepted in Rome. The great representatives of the “new stoicism” of the Christian era were Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), the teacher of Nero Epictetus (50 AD – 135 BC), Greek philosopher; Marcus Aurelius (121 AD – 180 AD), Emperor of Rome. It is worth saying that the principles of Stoicism later leave their mark on a religion that would be important for Rome and later for Europe: Christianity.


The epicureísmo was founded in Athens by Epicurus in 306 BC This current philosophical sought to make happy human beings, rejecting the moral heroism of the Stoics . His highest goal was to turn the earth into a paradise.

Epicurus emphasized that personal torments were due not to things properly but to the idea that individuals made of them. In this context, the perspective of the world is materialistic and is based on the atomistic doctrine of Democritus , which had recognized that the matter of nature is composed of indivisible particles called atoms (and they vary by their shape, quantity and relative position in the inside things).

For Epicureanism, individuals would be natural entities at the mercy of blind and imponderable forces; but his interpretations would move away from superstitions and religious beliefs about the creation of the world. For its defenders, the gods would not be related to individuals. They did not believe in life after death like the Stoics. In Rome, the Epicureans found among the educated strata a propitious ground to spread their ideas.


The skepticism , which often establishment adjudicársele to Pyrrho of Elis (365 BC – 275 BC), although its most important diffuser was Carneades ( 214 BC – 129 BC), spread to the year 200 AD, in its aspect later. The skeptics’ thesis was that no one could know anything. It is an anti-philosophical stance that disguised the fear of the future and the corruption of the world with doubt, even disbelief itself. While he considered that nothing could be declared with certainty, he argued that it would be better to take refuge in the “epojé” or in abstention from the trial.

The current of skepticism found its meaning in the systematic denial of the ideas of the Stoics and Epicureans. Later, in Alexandria, the so-called “skepticism of the Academy” of Enesidemus and Sextus Empiric spread, a century before the birth of Christ. The “academics” were to some extent the forerunners of the neopositivists. For them, it was impossible to achieve absolute knowledge, because the senses (those common to all human beings) and reason were not reliable ways and instruments, respectively.

The main currents of this period

The currents already mentioned, Stoicism, Epicureanism and Skepticism , were materializing, they replaced religion among the most cultured and intellectual strata; but, deep down, they did not compensate for religious needs in a world of many injustices. The popular masses remained devoted to superstition and mysticism. This need for compensation led to the old thinking of Pythagoras and Plato being taken up again, although their disquisitions were taken to exaggeration, far from the rationality of the two teachers.

Mysticism, the dual conception of the universe (material and spiritual), theological speculation, the belief in the stars, the transmigration of the soul , the faith in demonic powers gained strength . In this context, the mystical, neo-Pythagorean philosopher, Apollonius of Tiana (c. 4 years BC – c. 97 AD) stood out, who was known for his supposed parapsychological and thaumaturgical powers, which he did not hesitate to exhibit among the citizens of the Roman Empire. .

Spiritualists large currents were then Platonism and, to a lesser extent, the Neopythagoreanism , from the 2nd century BC Neoplatonism emerged in the Greek-Jewish territory of Alexandria. The first representative of Neoplatonism was Philo (c. 25 BC-h. 45 AD), who mixed Plato’s ideas with Jehovah’s doctrines . For Philo, nature is God’s creation through the “logos” (the “logos” of God that Christians will call the “Holy Spirit of God”). However, the most important Neoplatonist was Plotinus (204 AD – 270 AD).

For Plotinus nothing material existed in the world; Everything depended on a spiritual nature that determined a level at whose maximum height was the Being, the One or the Good, that is, the divinity. After the One would come the Nous (thinking spirit, ideas and values); then there would be the soul and its inner world; and, finally, matter. These kinds of levels are seen as emanations from God. That is, we have a clear theological conception and a certain tendency to distance ourselves from the initial humanism of Greek Philosophy.

Neoplatonism and Scholasticism

The neoplatonism permeated pagan polytheism and early Christianity. Greek rationality was fully influenced in the thirteenth century, when Saint Thomas Aquinas spread religious dogma in Aristotelian terms, namely: the idea of ​​creating the world from nothing; the matter-spirit duality of the human being; the notion of a single transcendent god; the salvation of individuals in an immortal life by the redemptive work of Christ; the existence of the truth of faith and reason; and the submission of reason to faith.

The scholasticism began in the 6th century AD, after the definitive disappearance of classical culture and the invasion of the ancient Roman Empire by neighboring peoples. In its beginnings, scholasticism is, more than a philosophy, a kind of “pedagogy”, appearing in the halls of the monasteries, where the clergy were educated. It was understood as a preparatory subject for theology and, in a broader sense, as the organization of studies and systematic didactics of the Middle Ages. The scholastic was the teacher of theology, but also the man who was in charge of dictating the seven liberal arts, prior to theology itself: grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Until the 10th century AD, it happens that scholasticism was based on Platonic ideas. But Iberian Arabs and Jews would be more interested in Aristotelian ideas, taking them to the Christian West. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 AD) made the pagan of Estagira a faithful believer in the Christian faith. Between the 11th and 12th centuries, with the supremacy of the Christian religion, philosophy again gained importance, in this case to expose the existence of God.

Aristotle’s notions served to give logical consistency to theological truths and to rationally argue the Christian postulates: existence, infinity and spirituality of God, existence and immortality of the soul. This current that added philosophy and religion extended until the fourteenth century. The particular Aristotelian explanation of Christian dogma has endured to the present.

So we have a long journey, which leads to philosophy from the lands of ancient Greece and transits to the medieval world, which is plagued by the influence of Christianity. However, this situation changes with the appearance of modern philosophy.

Modern Philosophy: from Descartes to Kant

During the Middle Ages the most referred figure was Aristotle. His thinking was conveniently Christianized.

Since the 16th century, a new way of thinking has been shaping and establishing the mind of Copernicus ( 1473 – 1543) , Kepler (1571 -1630), Galileo (1564 – 1642), Boyle (1627 – 1691), Newton (1643 – 1727), etc. These thinkers had to reject medieval cosmology, based on Aristotle’s physics , to establish modern science. Science, as it is known today, began as anti-Aristotelian. However, the conviction of the Greeks in reasonit does not end with the collapse of Aristotle’s ideas. The opposite happened, reason concentrated on itself to rededicate itself to the work of philosophizing.

The problem in those times was to find a safe method of philosophizing, which would be expressed in the most relevant works of the 16th and 17th centuries. The first modern philosopher was René Descartes ( 1596 – 1650). The philosopher applied the mathematical method to physics, which prompted him to create a new philosophy with the clarity of geometry, called the “geometric method of philosophizing.

The presence of René Descartes

In the Treatise on Method and in the Meditations of Prima Philosophia, it happens that Descartes questioned reality all through methodical doubt , questioning the existence of the human body and everything that surrounds it. And it is that for Descartes his presumed reality was known through intermediaries, such as physical objects (light, pressure, gravity, mechanical action, etc.) and the senses (sensory-nervous fragments of human perception.

The philosopher wondered: How to know for sure that these intermediaries did not deform external reality, changing their perception? For him the new philosophy could not be based on the senses. Reason then arises as the unquestionable way of looking at the world, which will largely mark the circumstances and future of the Western world.

The geometric axiom (the evidence) in philosophy would be in “thinking.” The phrase ” I think, therefore I am ” has gone down in history. For Descartes, it is clear that the human being thinks, even if he thinks he does not think, even if what he thinks is absurd. The thinking-self is inevitable and on it –said Descartes- philosophy is founded. This opens an important compass that is going to change philosophy, and that still impacts today’s world.

It does not exist in the act of intermediary thoughts , the philosopher would say, since ideas are the immediate data of the spirit. In short, ideas arise directly from the thinking self, they have no correspondence with the body or with any other material system. Of course, twentieth-century psychology overthrew this last claim.

Descartes claimed the clarity and concreteness of philosophy such as Geometry ; in addition, that the philosophical theses had the logical rigor of geometric theorems.

Coinciding with Plato, the physicist-mathematician postulated the idea that the human spirit captures perceptible reality as a mathematical structure. Hence, his machines considered them rational expressions, which underlined that physical-mathematical sense. Nature was then understood as a discernible system in mathematical terms; the true being of the material world was for Descartes of a mathematical character.

The “I thinking” of Descartes is what today is called “subjectivity” or “psychological consciousness”. Saint Augustine called it the “inner world.” Currently, behaviorists would say that it is the private monological reflection of the desires and emotions of the subject .

The modern philosophy returned to the human dimension : the spirit is experienced as something that thinks. The soul simply ceased to be the vital principle of the body. For Descartes, organisms are perfect mechanisms, established by nature at the point of mathematical rationality. For contemporary biological sciences, living beings would not be mechanisms, but complex physico-chemical systems and processes. Nonetheless, the Cartesian foundation made sense; rejected the Aristotelian and medieval “vital principle” .

In short, Descartes divided the universe into two essential realities: God and human spirits (called unextended spirits), on the one hand, and mechanical systems, intelligible in mathematical terms (extended bodies), on the other.

This was the fulfillment of a particularly spiritualistic era, but at the same time drastically mechanistic . Over time, the mechanism became so materializing that it emptied the spirit of meaning. Cartesian mechanistic rationalism was gradually “de-spiritualizing” the universe until it reached its zenith in the 19th century. The figure of God became a “useless hypothesis”. But, the Physics of the twentieth century denied the mechanical character of natural processes; more than certainties now there are more questions.

In this way modern philosophy arises

The modern philosophy found its real influence on individual minds and historical consciousness from 1800. The theocentric image of the world definitely suffered a radical shift towards anthropocentrism. The foundations of religious life are losing strength in favor of secularization.

Another characteristic element of modern Philosophy is its decided separation from other disciplines . It will no longer pretend to be a universal science that explained everything. The world was then divided between subject and object. And Philosophy will deal with the ideas and thought of the subject. The Physics and Mechanics of the universe were the first natural sciences that sought their autonomy; Meanwhile, Chemistry emerged at the end of the 18th century and Biology found its particular meaning, together with Psychology, in the 19th century. Each of the sciences assumed a particular purpose and object.

Starting from the effort to develop the method, Philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries focused on the thinking and knowing subjectivity of individuals . The big questions were What is the spirit? How does it operate? Where do your ideas and knowledge come from? How should you think? What is its connection with the body? How should it behave?

Against rationalism (France) empiricism arises (England)

In Europe a radical idealism was defended, which manifested itself in an exacerbated spiritualism . Philosophy has never been so spiritualistic before. But, the British current was less metaphysical, more materializing and oriented towards the government of society , the diffusion of morality and happiness. The English welcomed empiricism as a system of knowledge; knowledge was obtained through the senses, so innate ideas do not exist.

The British empiricism started from the  Essay Concerning Human Understanding  by John Locke ( 1632-1704). From here arose the “historical method”, based on the description of notions according to experience. In addition, the English, with Berkeley ( 1685 – 1753), produced phenomenological idealism, which was the best reasoned idealistic system in history: the real for the English was what an observing subject perceives.

The Scottish philosopher David Home ( 1711 – 1776), following the empiricist current, stated: thought seems to have unlimited freedom; however, its creative functioning embraces the faculty of combining, increasing, and decreasing sensory elements and experience. Imagined things are produced by previous experience, coming from inside or outside the body.

The Enlightenment and the figure of Kant

This review would be meaningless without mentioning the Enlightenment, which began with Descartes and ended with Kant . The Enlightenment was a movement that promoted the application of rationalism in the theoretical and practical problems of human beings.

The genuine representatives of the Enlightenment were the French Rousseau (1712 – 1778), Voltaire (1694 – 1778), Montesquieu ( 1689 – 1755), Diderot (1713 – 1784) and the Encyclopedists. The Enlightenment is an optimistic Philosophy, which placed reason as the new divinity. Furthermore, the movement identified significantly with the French Revolution and its ideas of the equality of all human beings.

The Enlightenment was present in all the living Philosophy of Modernity. For example, in Kant, the highest representative of the Enlightenment, the questions posed by Cartesian philosophy found more or less definitive solutions.

In short, during the Enlightenment, the philosophical current that dominated was the mechanism and experimental philosophy. The latter, according to Diderot , facilitated knowledge, because it was not necessary to know the Cartesian methods.

The truth is that Kant’s presence is relevant. There is no doubt that he is a man of undeniable weight in Western philosophy. For this reason, we dedicate space to it in the following paragraphs.

Kant and Critical Philosophy

In the context of Transcendental Idealism , the Prussian philosopher Immannuel Kant (1724-1804) stood out . His ideological stance was collected by him in the books critique of reason pure  (1781), later in  Critique of Practical Reason  (1788) and in  Critique of the Judgment  (1790).  

Basically, what Kant raised is that the subjects, when trying to know something, drag with them phenomena that remain in time of universal scope, which are given a priori. His method was criticism, which would seek to know where the limits of knowledge would be . His theory tried to bring together empiricist and rationalist ideas, which he criticized for having been left with a single portion of reality.

On the other hand, Kant distinguished the concept of ” categorical imperative “, with which he defined his conception of reason, the unequaled right of the subject. Men should not be, says Kant, mere instruments or means to an end, but must also be an end. And it is that for the philosopher any subject would have the same right as anyone to defend his reason.

Comte and Positivism

Critical Philosophy analyzed the foundation of knowledge and its limits of validity. He consolidated the belief that it is the functioning of the human intellect that produces the truth, and not something external to the subject. Reflection on the spirit and its ideas would no longer be so important; philosophical thinking will focus on society and history.

Philosophy, a psychologist since Descartes, became a historicist and a sociologist in the 19th century. The foundations for studying society and history were found in the two great philosophical currents of the 19th century: German idealism and French positivism. In some way, both currents are linked to Kantian philosophy.

The founder of the positivist current was the Frenchman Augusto Comte (1798 – 1857). For the philosopher, the only indisputable knowledge comes from the investigation of objective facts and is objectively verifiable. True science is positive for Comte, that is, it must contribute to the material and moral progress of the subjects. Positivism put its hope in science as the savior of the world.

German idealism, led by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ( 1770-1831), built a metaphysics of the dialectical evolution of nature and history. The Romantics explored new directions to the truth: the so-called “emotional intuition.” The dieciochesco absolute idealism, led by Hegel, the spirit defended as the only absolute reality. Other philosophers, such as Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854), similarly spoke of the absolute.

The whole of the 19th century is particularly philosophical, but more its second half. The nineteenth century definitely influenced the twentieth century: the conceptual revolution of the human being was due to Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) and Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

The religious pragmatism that dominated in the 20th century found its roots in the 19th century. Without a doubt, this seems to be the last vestige of great influence of the religious in the world of the philosophical. In such a case, the social question becomes critical. For this reason, movements arise that trigger the study of social relations intertwined with material production

Marxism and Historical Materialism

In general, materialistic ideas were those that determined a single reality based on matter, from which it was inferred that consciousness is only a consequence of that matter.

In this sense, the maximum materialist current of the 19th century was Marxism . His thesis, based on the class struggle , considered that the history of humanity has been the history of the power struggle between the classes.

What philosophical Marxism contributed lies in its ideal of a more just, more fraternal and happier man. Similar to Christianity, it underlined the principle of hope . The ideology of Marx and his other exponents, such as Engels, with whom he wrote the Communist Manifesto (1848), understood that the economy (a material concept) was the engine of the world and of social inequalities.

This materialist notion is taken from Hegel , the primary referent of absolute idealism. Likewise, the idea of ​​the evolution of history from the dialectic, that is, the struggle between thesis and antithesis.

Other currents of the 19th century: Irrationalism and cultural pessimism

The irrationalism defended the mastery of the will of the individual over reason and its main defenders were Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). It is a very peculiar current, especially due to its strong negative charge and a dose of resignation, which are something contrary to modern optimism.

Schopenhauer upheld the principle of individuation , which summarized the will of the human being to dominate reality through reason, with a view to gaining greater longevity. For the philosopher the desire for survival was the need of all species. All species had for him the “will to live.”

Schopenhauer’s reading places him as a pessimist. For the philosopher, pain would be good and happiness negative; Reversing Leibniz’s thesis, he replied that the subject lives in the worst of all possible worlds, a world in which pain is perennial and his destiny is to try to achieve what he will never be able to obtain. Schopenhauer’s most prominent book is  The World as Will and Representation  (1818).

Nietzsche likewise focused on the subject; however, he understood it differently. Schopenhauer pointed out a subject disillusioned with life, while Nietzsche had the illusion of a ” superman “: a subject with a higher state of spiritual and moral maturity, with the ability to produce his own system of principles … It should be noted in this regard the texts The Origin of Tragedy  (1872),  Beyond Good and Evil  (1886) and  Genealogy of Morality  (1887).

20th century: from Existentialism to Structuralism and Post-structuralism

The Existentialism arose at the beginning of the twentieth century with the leitmotiv of human existence. Kierkegaar d (1813-1855) and Nietzsche, among others, were the forerunners of this trend. According to the existentialists, the existence of man was above his essence.

Later, Jean-Paul Sartre ( 1905 – 1980), or Albert Camus ( 1913 – 1960) also stand out among the existentialists . Sartre was the most prolific French existentialist. Dragged by Martin Heidegger (and even Edmund Husserl with his phenomenological vision) to a philosophy of existence, he took a more extreme course with a nihilistic and atheistic existentialism , which he developed in the works Being and Nothingness and the Transcendence of the Ego. 

For Sartre, the conscious self, absorbed in self-reflection, meets nothingness; consciousness is nothing to itself. Consequently, for the self to “be” it must be directed towards things, that is, to feel, perceive and know.

With these statements he recalls Husserl’s phenomenology: the self is not in a self-absorbed consciousness (being in itself), but is in the world. Consciousness-nothing transcends a phenomenal consciousness: external reality is how it is perceived. So the “being of things” is what for Sartre the human way of being would support.

The structuralism as a method and philosophy, originally comes from the neopositivismo, for which knowledge of reality occurs only in everyday thinking or specifically scientific; Philosophy is not possible outside the analysis of language, in which the conclusions of everyday or scientific thinking are manifested.

This current arose more specifically from the neutral monism of Bertrand Russell ( 1872 – 1970). As an empiricist philosopher, he affirmed that the nature of the world was materialistic and idealistic at the same time. In the same way as the physicist would do before the wave and corpuscular theory. Thus, both the materialistic and idealistic models would work to study reality, without priority of one over the other. Neutral monism was understood as an alternative position.

It was then a system of thought regarding the nature of empirical experience. Russell considered that structuralism would have two tracks:

  1. As a sum of facts and events
  2. As a sum of syntactic propositions . Namely, as something perceptible and as something spoken and thought.

The structuralism derives from the monism neutral from the idea that the laws of perception and the laws of the logistics are independent of individual and historical subject and experience. The laws of perception would be autonomous structures, which are imposed on subjects from a non-human entity.

Consequently, in the area of ​​perception , these laws would be the structural factors of the psycho-physical field (the Gestalt laws); in science, they would be the laws of logistics. The human being would be part of a structure that does not depend on his will. This neorealist-positivist approach would open up new avenues of thought. So we have a school of philosophy that undoubtedly has many connections to psychology.

Although, to be honest, it happens that structuralism is not essentially a philosophy, rather it is a new approach to reality . In the hands of specialists, the structuralist approach has produced great results in Psychology, Sociology and Ethnology , among other disciplines.

Later, we will find a position cataloged as Post-structuralism is a theoretical movement and, particularly, epistemological , because it is interested in how knowledge is articulated, which arose from the human sciences of French origin and which, in addition, influenced the theoretical guidelines of the human sciences in the West.

Structuralism and language

The poststructuralist stance began to emerge in the 1960s when Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2004) presented a lecture at Johns Hopkins University entitled Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences. Post-structuralism criticized Structuralism for focusing on structures, to the detriment of their genealogy and their history.

In general, post-structuralism theorists agreed that reality is a socially edified phenomenon and not something independent and pre-existing, remote from human action.    In addition, they tend to consider that language does not describe reality, but rather constructs it. Curiously, philosophy now turns to language as a novel study objective.

In this regard, the poststructuralist devoted special attention to two notions: the s ubjetividad and meaning. It seeks to study the meaning of texts as a product of the forms and processes that the subject uses to order and describe reality.

In accordance with the above, the logic of representation in which the human sciences had been was questioned. And it is that the logic described had subscribed the thesis that reality is neutral and it is possible to describe it objectively. Seen this way, Post-structuralism questioned realism as a way of doing human sciences, because it relativizes the way of knowing the world.

As a result, a certain nihilism seems to be observed a criticism or rejection of the values ​​of the enlightenment about progress, justice and liberation. Post-structuralism came to debate consecutively the limits of concepts, of naturalized analogies, of representation. Post-structuralism as a philosophical construct seeks to build its own path, in order to clear the panorama of the current situation.

Philosophy and Psychology

Psychology is a particular scientific discipline, but it has also been conformed from and through many other currents of thought . Psychology has been dealing with the biological, psychic and social processes that constitute the subject, so its roots with different philosophical and scientific currents over time are natural.

It is not by chance that the origin of Psychology as a separate discipline from Philosophy is due to the eminent philosopher and physiologist Wilhelm Wundt (1832 – 1920), since Philosophy dealt with the human in general. In 1879, Wundt gave way to specialized psychological research, with the creation of the first experimental psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig, Germany.

The poststructuralist opening drastically influenced a sector of Psychology, by stimulating the creation of new research methods, new options for describing reality and, consequently, other notions and identification models. He opened the investigation on the subject of the relationships between identity and otherness, and led to the redefinition of the concepts of identity, subjectivity, subject, culture, among many others.

The poststructuralist interpretive opening provided scientific practice (the case of Psychology is particular) a more heterogeneous character. For example, feminist theories, associated with Poststructuralism, revealed that social and individual reality are not the product of neutral experiences, but the result of exclusively male experiences and positions.

Both Philosophy and Psychology share the ultimate goal of doing good to human beings. Both disciplines try to bring subjects closer to the truth, to provide them with an intellectual liberation and to help them achieve the awareness and courage that are essential to face life with better tools. Psychology has, in that sense, a therapeutic purpose.

As we can see, there are interesting links between philosophy and psychological study . Therefore, this is a very interesting topic; whose speculations can lead to an interesting amount of knowledge.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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