Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 P - Philosophy - Kinds of


Kinds of philosophy: Distinctions of classes of philosophies, such as informed vs. non-informed; academic vs. non-academic; classical vs. modern; scientific vs. non-scientific; ideological vs. non-ideological; and modern vs. postmodern.

The kinds of philosophy one distinguishes will depend on the kind of philosophy one has, but something can be said for the reality of the given distinctions, that are  articulated in some more detail below.

1. Informed vs. non-informed philosophy:

If it is human to philosophize, that is, to try to acquire some general ideas and values to explain one's experiences and orient one's actions, as I think it is, it also is true that most of the philosophies man have and have had are not at all well-informed about philosophy in general.

This is the reason for this first distinction: It often makes little sense to try to rationally discuss a philosophy (or religion, which is counted in this lemma also a a form of philosophy) with its adherents if they have little knowledge of other philosophies or of real science, or indeed, as is also often the case, even of their own philosophy, which tend to be held in an ideological rather than a rational way.

2. Academic vs. non-academic philosophy:

By academic philosophy I understand the sort of knowledge of philosophy that is taught in modern universities.

There is a special lemma for it in this dictionary, and the relevant observations for those not versed in academic philosophy are (a) that, because it is an academical subject, it tends to be academic, presupposes some knowledge, and tends to be written by and for scholars in philosophy, in a philosophical prose that is often far removed from good prose and (b) that there are many kinds of academic philosophies, of various degrees of difficulty, abstruseness, and technicality, and (c) that some of it, in spite of the fact that it is difficult, abstruse or technical, may be worthwile nevertheless, though (d) there also is a great amount of false profundity and intentional abstruseness in much academic philosophy.

3. Classical vs. modern philosophy:

Originally - from the Greek - "philosophy" means "love of knowledge" or indeed "love of science", and all (or nearly all) of science there was belonged to philosophy, and philosophy mostly consisted of verbal reasoning.

This changed around 1600, largely due to Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei, who proposed that science should be based on experiments and on the axiomatic method, which led rapidly to the development of many specialized sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and also other kinds of specialized sciences, like history, sociology and psychology, that involve mostly a modicum of scientific methodology.

One important point to notice is that with the rise of real science many questions that before were dealt with only argumentatively and non-experimentally in philosophy, were dealt with experimentally in these more specialized sciences, and also often got new solutions or at least new forms when posed scientifically than when posed non-scientifically.

Indeed, many or most of the pre-modern philosophers would have considered themselves to be scientists and did consider themselves scientists - except that they had not arrived at the concept of scientific method.

4. Scientific vs. non-scientific philosophy:

In line with the previous point, it makes sense, since the rise of real empirical science, to distinguish between scientific and non-scientific philosophies at least in the senses of, respectively, philosophies that mostly agree with science and are inspired by science, and philosophies that do not mostly agree with science or are not inspired by it.

The latter philosophies comprise various religiously inspired philosophiers, such as Thomism and Existentialism in some forms, and also various politically inspired philosophies, such as Marxism (that claims to be scientific, but insists on rejecting various parts of science called "bourgeois").

This Dictionary is based on the assumption that by and large modern science has come in the place of philosophy, and that philosophies that reject modern science (which is not the same as rejecting some of its tenets) are hardly rational.

5. Ideological vs. non-ideological philosophy:

Many philosophies exist mostly as ideologies, that is as the worldview of some social group or political or religious movement, that is not so much (or at all) constrained by science, logic and mathematics, but much rather by the ends and values of the group or the movement.

Indeed, it probably is true that the vast majority of personal philosophies - whatever their degree of informedness, scientificality, or rationality - are at least held in an ideological way, and with a view to combat at least some other philosophies.

This Dictionary is based on the assumption that, whatever one's personal political or religious ends, it is rationally and ethically better to try to keep one's philosophy free from ideology (which is not to say that one's philosophy must have no partisan views - which indeed all or almost all distinct philosophies have).

The main reason for this tenet is that ideologies tend to be political or religious and tend to be partial to what can be rationally and scientifically be established as true or probable.

6. Modern vs. postmodern philosophy:

As indicated above, modern philosophy arose with the rise of science, and indeed consists mostly, if rational, in the methodological or epistemological investigation of the foundations of science and mathematics.

In the 1960-ies there arose postmodern philosophy, which has its own lemma in this Dictionary, that, mostly for ideological or emotional reasons, and because of a marked lack of real scientific knowledge in its adherents, insisted that philosophy be renewed as a kind of textual interpretation, that supposedly showed, or at least was based on, the theses that truth does not exist (as it is at best partial and ideological); that all ethics and morals are relative (similarly argued); and that all men and women are equal.

In fact, postmodernism worked out as recipe for pretentious obscurantists to find fame or make a career with obstruse baloney and wishful thinking, and in fact postmodernism took mostly the ideological place that marxism and the old left held before.

This Dictionary is based on the assumption that postmodernism is mainly and mostly ideology, often totalitarian, quite dangerous for civilization and science, intellectually as worthless as it is pretentious, and morally an obscurantist version of nihilism, often with a grandiosely vague leftist-sounding set of ends, that seems to be the main reason its adherents feel committed to it.


See also: Ideology, Marx, Marxism, Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Postmodernism, Scientific Realism.


Klaus & Kuntz
, Nagel, Stegmüller,

 Original: Dec 21, 2008                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top