Philosophy unit 1

1. The origin of philosophy

 Nowadays, in the scientific era, some people question the usefulness of philosophy. In order to find out if it’s still relevant, we need to analyse the questions put forward by the first philosophers. This allows us to distinguish between philosophy as a way of thinking and philosophy as a discipline. 

Philosophy as a way of thinking is a human way of interacting with the world. It asks questions about the world around us, in order to find meaning. 

This way of thinking, asking questions about the world, is deeply rooted in humans and has always existed. However, its existence doesn’t give rise to philosophy as a discipline.

 Philosophy as a discipline has a historical origin in the Greek colonies of Asia Minor during the 6th century B.C. One of these colonies was Miletus where Thales was born.

 Thales is considered to be one of the first philosophers. He used observation and reasoning to offer an explanation of the existence of natural things and phenomena. 

In Thales’ thought we can already begin to find some of the fundamental features of philosophy. They are: 

     º It begins with the recognition of ignorance. 

     º It’s a theoretical type of knowledge that doesn’t aim to transform reality. 

     º It’s universal: it aims to answer all questions.

    º It uses reason as an instrument of knowledge.

    º It’s a type of knowledge that doesn’t stop until it gets to the root of the problem.

2. Myth, magic and philosophyBefore philosophy and science, our ancestors used myth and magic to answer questions about reality using imagination and fantasy. 

A myth is a story that explains the origin of a particular reality.

 This reality can be: 

  • Social, such as a wedding celebration or electing political leaders. 

  • A physical phenomenon, such as a storm or the change of seasons occurring during the year. 

  • The Universe as a whole: how it originated or when will disappear. These stories adopt an intellectual attitude with the following characteristics: 

  • An essential role is assigned to the gods and links natural phenomena to their wishes. 

  • The belief that divine will can be changed through rites in honour of the corresponding god.

  • Destiny” is understood as a cosmic force. This force imposes events that cannot be understood by human beings.

 This way of thinking meant that magic and rites were the most reasonable ways to explain all the inexplicable aspects of life and nature.

3. The theory of evolution:

For many centuries, biology was dominated by two scientific theories: fixism and creationism.

 Fixism states that all the biological species that we know today have remained unchanged since their origin.

 Creationism defends the idea that all biological species were created by God.

 The first person to suggest a well-argued theory of evolution was the French naturalist

The theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was known as transformism, suggested that complex organisms evolved from simpler forms of life because they had to adapt to their environment by modifying their structure and their way of life.

 In the 19th century, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, in which he explained his theories of evolution. His theories were innovative in that he proposed natural selection as the main explanation for the evolutionary process. Unlike Lamarck, Darwin believed that species – not individuals – adapted themselves to their environments. 

4.The East Story: 

People started to walk with 2 legs because this caused the freedom of the upper extremity.


  • Better vision of what happened.

  • Easier to move around.

  • Easier to create utensils and weapons.

  • Easier to transport food, water, etc.

Millions of years ago, the centre of Africa wasn’t divided by Rift Valley, and there was a huge rainforest where many primates lived. When the rift originated, and divided the rainforest into two, the eastern part’s climate changed drastically. The primates which inhabited the easern Africa (which is now the Savanna), had to adapt to the harsher, drier, conditions of the East. 

They adapted to walking on two legs (bipedalism), which gave hominids a better vision of the horizon and a better resistance to the Savanna’s heat. Bipedalism also allowed hominids to use their upper limbs, which allowed them, with time, to create tools and make several new activities.

5. Hominisation and Humanisation:

Hominisation is the biological process of genetically-transmitted anatomical and philosophical changes, which gives rise to the appearance of new species of hominids. It has global repercussions: bipedalism, larger brains, development of a vocal tract and delay in maturity.

Humanisation is the process by which the behaviour of individuals belonging to different species of hominids changed over time. These changes in behavioural patterns came from trial and error, and were passed on through imitation. 

Hominisation and humanisation influence each other: anatomical and physiological changes give rise to new behavioural and new biological changes. In addition to the biological foundation of human appearance, we develop a series of specific behaviours which make us truly human.

 6. Social and cultural nature of human beings:

Human beings generated a new reality, their own world in which to live. We call this culture The development of this new reality was not carried out by individuals, but by organised groups of individuals, forming a society. 

Nature, culture and society make up the three dimensions of human beings. 

Nature gives every biological species a series of instincts which provide them with the patterns of behaviour they need to adapt to the environment they inhabit.

Culture includes knowledge, art, belief, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

The 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that culture complicated human existence because it distances human beings from the natural happiness they would otherwise have enjoyed. In the 20th century, the Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud also considered culture to be a source of dissatisfaction in as much as its strict rules prevented the satisfaction of the human being’s natural instincts.

7. A historical and cultural perspective of philosophy l:

º Presocratics → Thales: interested in nature

º Classical period →  Socrates, Aristoteles, Plato: interest in metaphysics and in humans.

º Hellenistic period → Archimedes, Epicurus: interest in moral problems.

º Middle ages → Thomas Aquinas: relation between faith and reason.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages (6th-14th centuries), there was a cultural standstill. After the 9th century, the situation changed and culture began to thrive and a method of critical thought named scholasticism emerged. Some of the themes explored by scholastic philosophy were the relationship between faith and reason, the rational evidence for the existence of God and the immortality of the human soul. 

8. A historical and cultural perspective of philosophy ll:

º Renaissance → Anthropocentrism. During this period the classical authors of Greco-Roman culture were explored and studied. 

º 17th century →philosophers focused their interest on questions related to our knowledge of reality. (2 important branches: rationalism and empiricism).

º 18th century → philosophy believed that society must be improved. 

º XIX and XX centuries →Characterised by having diverse philosophical trends. Some of the most important philosophers of this period are Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche (19th century), as well as Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sartre, Ortega y Gasset and Habermas Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant: education.

9. Branches of philosophy 

  – Philosophy is divided into several branches. 

Metaphysics and gnoseology 

º Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy responsible for answering questions about reality. Plato was the first philosopher to approach metaphysics.

Given that reality is everything that exists, the field of metaphysics is very broad. As a result, it is subdivided into three research areas: 

º Ontology. This studies the general properties of being. 

º Cosmology. This studies the origin of the Universe and the general properties of nature.

º Theology. This studies God as the creator of all other beings.

º Gnoseology explores our knowledge of reality. It analyses the possibilities and limits of human knowledge, the different methods we use to understand, and the role of reason and the senses.

Gnoseology is also subdivided into research areas: 

º Epistemology. This studies the most elaborate and complete form of knowledge: scientific knowledge. 

º Logic. This studies the structure of arguments to determine which ones are valid and which ones aren’t. 


º Anthropology studies human beings. The word comes from the Greek term anthropos, which means ‘human being’. 

We can study human beings from a wide range of perspectives, for example, we can study them from a social perspective or from a natural one. 

º Anthropology wants to understand what is specific to human beings, i.e. what makes us different from other animals. It wants to know what makes us truly human. 

We can distinguish between three types of anthropology: 

º Physical anthropology analyses the anatomical and physiological features of humans. It pays particular attention to those features that differentiate us from other animals. 

º Social or cultural anthropology focuses on the human tendency to live in society. 

º Philosophical anthropology, which is the only type of anthropology that is truly philosophical, tries to offer a global vision of human beings. 

 Ethics, aesthetics and political philosophy

– Remember rationality is divided into theoretical and practical rationality. This gives rise to theoretical and practical philosophy. Theoretical philosophy aims to understand reality. Practical philosophy is responsible for guiding our behaviour. It can be subdivided into ethics, aesthetics and political philosophy. 

  • Ethics aims to find a rational foundation for our moral behaviour. It wants to find the rational principles that inspire moral norms. 

  • Aesthetics seeks to define the existence of art. It wants to define beauty and the experience human beings have when exposed to art. 

  • Political philosophy studies the relations of power by reflecting on laws, justice, authority and different forms of government.

10. Sensation →perception → imagination → memory→intelligence

Sensitive knowledge is the result of processing all this information in our minds.

Rational knowledge works with concepts. Concepts are created by a process of abstraction, which consists of selecting the characteristics shared by a series of specific objects and ignoring those that differentiate them.

The information that reaches our senses is made up of the sensations and perception. 

11. Criteria for distinguishing the truth from falsehood.& the theories of the truth

Criteria of truth:

Empirical evidence: A statement is true if it can be corroborated by information obtained from sensory experience.

Rational evidence: A statement is true if reason makes it impossible to doubt it.

 Coherence: Any statement should be considered to be true if it does not contradict other statements that have been previously accepted witi given system. 

Authority: Something is considered to be true if so stated by persons or institutions considered to be infallible or that have a greater knowledge than the rest. 

Consensus: Something is true if any educated, rational subject accepts it as such. 

Usefulness: If the result of putting a statement into practice, or applying what it affirms, is beneficial, the statement can be considered to be true. 

Theories of truth 

As correspondence: Truth is a special relationship that exists between reality and our thought, or how we express it through language. A statement is true when what it expresses corresponds to the reality it is referring to.

As coherence: Truth, rather than in isolated statements, is found in a system. Therefore, for a statement to be true, it is necessary for it not to contradict other statements that have been previously accepted as true. 

As success: Something is true if it allows us to achieve success and false if it leads to failure. In other words, in order to evaluate the truth of a statement, we must examine the practical consequences that come from it.