Some Philosophical Methods

A limited outline of philosophical methods and history. Being a partial summary from Philosophy’s Second Revolution by D.S. Clarke

Clarke divides philosophy into three eras. Classical, Cartesian, and Linguistic.

  1. The classical Greek philosophy used rational intuition, “a direct apprehension of the basic structure of things,” to understand the world and do philosophy. Rational thought was a direct source of evidence for physics, metaphysics, ethics, etc. The goal was a rational cosmology that explained the world and everything in it.
  2. Introspection. Descartes and his descendants use intuition to understand the world, especially mental concepts. A division between internal and external worlds was reinforced, dualism rises. The natural sciences get the laws of the natural world, philosophy gets the laws of the mind.
  3. Linguistic turn. Pierce rejects intuition and focuses on signs - “The only thought, then, which can possibly cognized is thought in signs.” Philosophy becomes the investigation of language. Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and others continue this thread through to today.

This is as far as Clarke takes his historical survey.

I’d add some possible new methods/explanations.

  1. Experimental philosophy, building off of the experimental economics tradition.
  2. Social construction. For example definitions of art a la Dickie, Danto, and Eaton.
  3. Complexity. There are hints of this in Hofstadter and Holland, especially for cognition.
  4. Therapeutic – late Wittgenstein.