5 Branches of Philosophy

Written by Michael Vlach.

 Within philosophy there are five primary categories or branches:


1. Epistemology

Epistemology is the study of “knowledge.” Epistemology deals with the process by which we can know that something is true. It addresses questions such as:

--What can I know?

--How is knowledge acquired?

--Can we be certain of anything?


Within epistemology there are two important categories—rationalism and empiricism.


Rationalism stresses reason as the most important element in knowing. Rationalism holds that knowledge is gained primarily through the mind. It also asserts that we are born with innate ideas that precede any experiences we may have with our physical senses.


Empiricism, on the other hand, asserts that all our knowledge comes from our five senses. To use the terminology of the empiricist, John Locke, our minds are a “blank slate” at birth. Thus knowledge comes from our experiences.


2. Metaphysics

Metaphysics is the study of “reality.” More specifically it is the study of reality that is beyond the scientific or mathematical realms. The term “metaphysics” itself literally means “beyond the physical.” The metaphysical issues most discussed are the existence of God, the soul, and the afterlife.


3. Ethics

Ethics is the study of moral value, right and wrong. Ethics is involved with placing value to personal actions, decisions, and relations. Important ethical issues today include abortion, sexual morality, the death penalty, euthanasia, pornography, and the environment.


4. Logic

Logic is the study of right reasoning. It is the tool philosophers use to study other philosophical categories. Good logic includes the use of good thinking skills and the avoidance of logic fallacies.


5. Aesthetics

Aesthetics is the study of art and beauty. It attempts to address such issues as:

--What is art?

--What is the relationship between beauty and art?

--Are there objective standards by which art can be judged?

--Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?