Philosophy: Unit 1

Philosophical Knowledge: Philosophy is knowledge that is produced when people start to reflect critically and rigorously about important questions for all human beings, using both general and abstract terms, with rationally valid arguments, giving reasons that can be understood and argued, which allow us to understand reality better and find our bearings in it. Characteristics of Philosophical knowledge:

  • Reflexive
  • Rational
  • Global
  • Radical
  • Systemic
  • Critical
  1. TRADITIONAL– It’s the most basic knowledge, which people learn from infancy • It’s based on cultural traditions from each culture and wisdom gained over centuries • It’s expressed through sayings, prohibitions, etc. • Sometimes it contains contradicting ideas or prejudices
  2. SCIENTIFIC-TECHNICAL– Each of its branches is specialized in an aspect of reality • It’s based on rigorous methods of observation and reason. • It doesn’t explain some issues that philosophy does
  3. MYTH AND MAGIC-• It’s the most primitive knowledge • It explains natural phenomena using imagination and fantasy • At first it is transmitted orally and then it is written • It’s based on superstition
  4. RELIGIOUS– It is a set of beliefs that is valued as true by believers of each religion • It’s based on texts revealed by God that have to be interpreted to be understood • It gives a purpose to the lives of the believers • They use it as a guide for their behavior

The origins of philosophical knowledge: The invention of the term “philosophy” is attributed to Pythagoras (c. 500 B.C.) • At that time, in Greece, a wise man was someone who had a lot of knowledge in many subjects, which gave him rights in the government of his country. • When people asked Pythagoras what his profession was, he introduced himself as filo-sophos, which means “lover of knowledge”

The word “Philosophy”: The etymology of the word “philosophy” comes from two Greek words: filia (which means “friendship,” “love for…,” “interest in…”) and sofía (“knowledge”)

From myth to logos: In these Greek colonies, the concept of rational thought was developed. This was a very important step in the history of the West: the transition from myth to logos. • A myth is a story which tries to explain the universe and natural phenomena, and usually the main characters are supernatural: gods, semi-gods, and heroes. • A logos is a rational explanation for natural phenomena and requires explanatory laws rather than superstition.

Philosophy throughout history:

  • Greek philosophy (600 B.C.E-300 A.D) • Presocratic Philosophy: The first period in Greek philosophy are the Presocratic philosophers, which is all the thinkers and schools of thought before Socrates. They were the first ones to think about the fundamental questions of philosophy: beings and nature, and their first attempts at explanations began a society that was both philosophical and scientific. They tried to identify what is the element and the first principle of existing things: “Arche.” Some of the philosophers were: Tales, Parmenides, Protagoras, Anaxagoras.
  • Greek philosophy (600 B.C.E-300 C.E) • ATHENIAN PHILOSOPHY: 5th century B.C. (500 B.C.) was an important moment for classical culture, and the center of it all was Athens, since it had an important economic and cultural progress. The focus of philosophy changed; instead of studying nature, philosophers began to think about humans and humanity. They studied ethics and politics. Philosophers from this time period included Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato
  • Greek philosophy (600 B.C.E-300 C.E.) • HELLENISTIC PHILOSOPHY: In the 3rd century B.C.E until the late 2nd century C.E, the philosophers continued to think about problems of humanity, specifically the search for happiness. Philosophy became a practical knowledge: recommendations for having a good life and a balance which allows us to happily endure the circumstances of our lives. Famous philosophers: Epicurus, Zeno, Diogenes

Medieval Philosophy (300-1400 C.E.) • In the Middle Ages, the idea of philosophy changed. Until then, Greek philosophy was the most important cultural base, and Christianity didn’t fit well with its theories. However, as Christianity became more important, philosophy began to adapt. • The relationship between faith (theology) and reason (philosophy) is one of the most characteristic (and conflictive!) problems of Medieval philosophy

  • Schools of Medieval Philosophic thought: Patristic • Patristic philosophers, with authors from 200-800 C.E, mainly wrote words which explained and defended Christian thinking. They were the first Christian philosophers • The most important author was Saint Augustine (4th century), who connected Christian doctrine to Neoplatonism
  • Schools of Medieval Philosophic thought: Ecclesiastical philosophy • The Ecclesiastical philosophy, with authors mainly wrote between the 6th and 7th century, had thinkers with various tendencies. The most important author was Saint Thomas of Aquinas in the 13th century, who managed to create a connection between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian doctrine

Modern Philosophy (15th-18th century) • In the 15th century, with the Renaissance, humanist philosophers focused on reflections about humanity and science. It was an time for important geographic and scientific discoveries, which changed our, understanding of humanity and our place in the Universe.

  • Rationalism: • According to rationalism, founded by René Descartes, the information that we receive from our senses is not reliable, and only through the use of reason can we know if it is valid (or not)
  • Empiricism: • According to Empiricism, which was started by John Locke, the main source of human knowledge is from our senses and experiences
  • Modern philosophy (continued) • In the 18th century, a movement called the Enlightenment began. It was made up of intellectuals and scientists who argued that humanity made progress thanks to the use of reason and the diffusion of knowledge through education. Main authors: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hume, Kant

Contemporary Philosophy • Contemporary philosophy is characterized by diverse focuses and schools of thought, although always related to a central theme: man and society.


Personality—Set of features and characteristics that each human being has and that is shown when acting and relating to others. Components: Temperament and Character

  • Temperament
  1. The characteristics related to the inheritance genetics of each individual. It is directly related to the operation of the nervous and endocrine system.
  2. ́Consists of very basic emotions and feelings that are present in usual behavior
  3. Its modification is very difficult and costly but not impossible.
  4. Examples: being nervous, active, etc
  • Character
  1. Characteristics acquired throughout life.
  2. They can be modified with effort and training.
  3. They depend on each individual and can be considered right or wrong (morally).
  4. They are considered learned habits.
  5. Examples: Being a hard worker, patient, understanding, etc

Personal identity is the concept you develop about yourself that evolves over the course of your life.

  • Individual aspects
  • Exterior aspects

Self-concept: A general term used to refer to how someone thinks about, evaluates or perceives themselves.

  • The answer to the question “Who am I?”
  • In adolescence, self-concept changes often, because of the physical and psychological changes taking place

Self-esteem: Self-esteem (also known as self-worth) refers to the extent to which we like ́ ́ ́ ́ accept or approve of ourselves, or how much we value ourselves.

  • Can be positive or negative
  • This can depend of your successes and failures, and the opinion of others


  • Identity diffusion: Part of the process of a person figuring out who they are
  • Usually in adolescence
  • Not yet fully realized their social identity
  • Not defined their personality traits
  • Identity Foreclosed: Part of the process of a person figuring out who they are
  • An individual has an identity but hasn’t explored other options or ideas
  • S/he has just adopted the traits and qualities of parents and friends
  • Identity Moratorium: The status in which the adolescent is currently in a crisis.
  • S/he is exploring various commitments and is ready to make choices, but has not made a commitment to these choices yet.
  • Identity Achieved: These people have explored their options and have committed to a certain ideology
  • They have a set of beliefs and values that are all their own

Theories about personality Sigmund Freud (1856 to 1939)

Sigmund Freud: Founding father of psychoanalysis, a method for treating mental illness and also a theory which explains human behavior: His theory showed that most of the processes that take place in the mind escape the knowledge and control of people. Freud affirmed that there are impulses, instincts and drives that constitute the psychic energy of each individual and that are stored and repressed in an area of the mind called the unconscious Freud’s theory of personality: Freud later developed a more structural model of the mind—the physic apparatus

  • ID—The primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories (Pleasure principle)
  • EGO–The ego develops to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision-making component of personality. (Reality principle)
  • SUPER EGO– The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others.
  • The superego’s function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression
  • Conscience and ideal self

BEHAVIOURIST: Formulated by B.F. Skinner

  • He believed that personality is formed through learned patterns of behaviour.
  • These patterns are learned when behaviour is reinforced through reward or punishment
  • Idea that behaviour is acquired through conditioning
  • Measures behaviour by a learner ́s response to stimuli
  • A learner ́s response to stimuli can be reinforced using positive or negative feedback

SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORY-– Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) started as the Social Learning Theory (SLT) in the 1960s by Albert Bandura.

  • The personality is the peculiar way in which every human being internally organizes his/her knowledge, expectations and values.
  • Cognitive factors: elements that have to do with the way of perceiving reality, their ideas, beliefs, knowledge, as well as the vision s/he has about himself/herself
  • According to social cognitive theory, personality is the result of: Behavioral factors: are the thing that people have previously learned and stored internally, giving rise to what is called experience.
  • Environmental factors: They are the aspects of the external environment that affect people, modifying their actions.
  • Different personalities depend on how we relate and organize these three elements.

TYPE THEORIES: Type theorists have explained personality on the basis of physique and temperament. Temperament refers to emotional aspect of the personality like changes in mood, tensions, excitement, etc

TRAIT THEORIES: Traits are tendencies to behave in relatively consistent ways across situations. These are the measurable aspects of personality

William Sheldon’s Classification: Types

According to Willam Sheldon, we can associate features of the personality to the body structure of the person, so he thinks that the features of personality are genetically inherited (Biotypes)

  • ECTOMORPH—These are the people who are tall, thin and flat chested. They are shy, reserved and self-conscious
  • MESOMORPH—These people are well built with heavy and strong muscles. They are physically active, noisy, adventurous by nature
  • ENDOMORPH—These people will have soft, fat and round body, having predominance of abdominal region. They are sociable and relaxed

Theory of traits— According to G.W. Allport, the traits are the basic units of personality. Every person develops a unique set of organised tendencies called traits. These traits can be cardinal, central, and secondary.

  • Cardinal Traits-– These are the dominant traits of a person’s life. They shape a person’s behavior in such a way that a person is known specifically for these traits. In some cases, they become synonymous with the person who is then identified by these traits
  • Central traits— Central traits are ones that make up your personality. According to Allport, every person has around 5 to 10 central traits, and they are present in varying degrees in every person. These include common traits such as intelligent, shy, honest. They are responsible for shaping most of our behavior.
  • Secondary Traits-– Dispositions which are less relevant are known as secondary traits. These could be certain circumstantially-determined characteristics. According to Allport, these traits are hard to detect because they are circumstantial.

Eyseneck’s Personality Theory

  • H.J. Eysenck proposed a theory of personality based on biological factors, arguing that individuals inherit a type of nervous system that affects their ability to learn and adapt to the environment.
  • Eysenck found that their behavior could be represented by two dimensions: Introversion / Extroversion (E); Neuroticism / Stability (N). He called these second- order personality traits
  • The four types of personality can therefore be classified as the following:
  1. Sanguine
  2. Choleric
  3. Phlegmatic
  4. Melancholic

Unit 3: Humanity

Humans in the Greek period

  • Humans for the Greeks are special, rational, moral and social beings.
  • What is it that, when present in a body, makes it living? — A soul→Socrates (5th century B.C.E.). He thought deeply about whether the soul was immortal
  • Socrates believed the soul is responsible for our rational, moral and spiritual activity. Our work on earth is the search for truth.

Plato believed we are immortal souls who are born – and reborn – into physical human bodies.

  • Myth of Er
  • Plato believed there are 3 different kinds of souls: rational, spirited, appetitive.
  • The rational soul is the “highest,” the spirited soul focuses on moral feelings, and appetitive souls focus on concrete physical things

According to Aristotle, there exists a hierarchy of souls, and only humans have a rational soul

Human in the Medieval period

  • St. Augustine (4th century): The human being continually seeks God and the truth, for only in God will he find peace and happiness.
  • The human being has been created in the image of God and has received the ability to choose→free will. But the human can use this ability to choose evil: this is sin.

Human in the Modern period

  • Rene Descartes (1596-1650): The rationalist philosopher makes a distinction between body and soul: Substance Dualism
  • It describes the human being formed by two elements:
  • The body-machine (“extensive substance”): dominated by the laws of physics and biology.
  • The Spirit (“thinking substance”): the Soul, the reason, superior to the body, and characterized by its ability to think, to make decisions, to choose, and, consequently, to be free.
  • I think, therefore I am→The essence of his thinking
  • Rousseau (1712-1778). This philosopher of the French Enlightenment believed that the human being, when living in a natural state, led a placid and simple life. However, progress, the formation of societies and private property have contributed to corrupt the individual, so he proposes a return to the Natural state

Humans in the Contemporary period

Karl Marx (1818-1883): He criticized the capitalist society of the nineteenth century, for the subhuman working conditions and the great social inequalities that this system was generating

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): This German vitalist philosopher, harshly criticizes Western culture and morality, which he claimed was mediocre and decadent, because it is based on rationalism (from Socrates and Plato) and on Christian values such as humility, resignation, sacrifice, obedience… and all this goes against the true meaning of life.

Humans as a project: The idea that the human being is a project appears with the current philosophy called existentialism.

  • Understand the human being as a project means that at the moment of birth, we are incomplete. At the moment of our existence, we lack an essence, that is to say the characteristics and qualities that make us who we are and so we have to build our own essence.
  • The essence must be built in complete freedom, i.e. with our own ability to choose