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History Of Philosophy: Information And Characteristics 

History Of Philosophy: Information And Characteristics

Philosophy is a broad, complex, and changing discipline originating in ancient Greece.

Philosophy as we know it, understood as Western philosophy, has its origins in ancient Greece. Being a broad, complex, and changing discipline, in many cases it is useful to approach it through its history, which is divided into different periods.

Those who dedicate themselves to the history of philosophy often disagree about the beginning or end of this or that period, but, broadly speaking, they all agree on the general division of four large blocks: ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, modern philosophy, and modern philosophy. contemporary.

This is the classic periodization of philosophy, from its origins and as it developed, for more than two thousand years, until today.

Ancient Philosophy

From Thales of Miletus, around 600 BC. C., until the Neoplatonists of the sixth century AD. C., the Greek people and other Mediterranean civilizations practiced philosophy as a form of knowledge and also as a lifestyle.

It is considered that the first philosophers were the so-called “presocratics”, for having lived and thought before Socrates. They are known for having taken the step from myth to logos (rational thought), since they sought rational explanations, based on their observations of nature, of the origin of everything that is. Among them, we find Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, Anaxíemenes, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Zeno, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and Democritus.

The Presocratics are followed by what is known as the classical Greek period. This begins with Socrates, a contemporary of the group of sophists (teachers of rhetoric), who was the teacher of Plato, who in turn taught Aristotle. Both Socrates and Plato and Aristotle are considered the most important philosophers of antiquity and are known as the “elder Socratics”. All his works are still the subject of study and discussion today.

The Hellenistic period succeeded the older Socratics. This period goes from the death of Alexander the Great to the invasion of Macedonia by the Romans. At this time the schools of Socrates and Plato coexisted, which were continued by many of his disciples.

Ancient philosophy comes to an end with the development of the thinkers of Late Antiquity: the Epicureans, the Stoics, the Skeptics, and then the Neoplatonists. Neoplatonism is the subject of discussion among different historians of philosophy since it can be thought of as a school of transition between Antiquity and the medieval world.

Medieval philosophy

Medieval philosophy occurred between the 5th and 6th centuries, with the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, and 6th AD. C., with the rise of the Renaissance. Its main characteristic is the inclusion of classical ideas in the dogmas of the great monotheistic religions ( Christianity, Judaism, and Islam ).

This attempt to reconcile philosophy and religion developed over almost a thousand years. After the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, in the first century, and the subsequent evangelization of the Western world by his disciples, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. This meant that philosophy was forced to take a backseat to theology: philosophical tools were at the disposal of theological and religious concerns.

The first centuries were the scene of the efforts made by the fathers of the Church, whose doctrine was called “patristic”. The most famous of these was Augustine of Hippo (354-430), better known as Saint Augustine. Augustine incorporated many of the ideas outlined by the Neoplatonists, who brought the saved works of Plato to the Roman Empire.

Aristotle’s work, meanwhile, was still unknown to most of the Western world. Those who came to read it did so through the Latin translations of Boethius (477-524), who translated Aristotle’s Categories, and Isagoge, which is Porphyry’s commentary on Categories.

After Charlemagne’s decree of 787, which established schools in all the monasteries of his empire, what is known as “ scholasticism ” appeared in the medieval world. The greatest representative of this period was John Scotus Eriugena (815-877), who translated the work of Pseudo-Dionysius.

Scholasticism, which saw its heyday between the 13th and 14th centuries, officially arose after Eriugena, with the work of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Saint Anselm is known to have written the first ontological (being-based) argument to prove the existence of God.

In the heyday of scholasticism, the main European universities were established in the big cities. The orders of the Franciscans and the Dominicans were also founded. From these religious orders arises the figure of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), known as Saint Thomas. Saint Thomas was the greatest conciliator between Christian doctrine and Greek rationality, and gave rise to what is now known as “Catholic philosophy”.

Renaissance philosophy

Renaissance philosophy is one that developed between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. During this period, he worked with greater emphasis on the problems that concern natural philosophy, humanism, and political philosophy.

Its main thinkers were Niccolò Machiavelli, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Thomas More, Michel de Montaigne, Giordano Bruno, Nicholas of Cusa, and Francisco Suárez, among others.

This period is considered transitional because it is located between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age. These periods had not only a greater extension in time but also a greater radicalism concerning the problems dealt with and how they were worked on.

Modern philosophy

Modern philosophy was characterized as a period in which its thinkers worked autonomously from political and religious powers. Figures such as Hume or Descartes sought to respond to many concerns, separating themselves from the scientific and philosophical criteria of most of the Church.

Modern thought developed between the 17th and 20th centuries. Although there are some disputes about it, it is almost unanimously considered that modern philosophy begins with the thought of René Descartes (1596-1650), father of modernity and rationalism, one of the main modern currents of thought. In this current, we also find philosophers of the stature of Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Leibniz, among others.

Rationalism was opposed by the British current of empiricism. Its main figures were John Locke, David Hume, and George Berkeley (although the latter is sometimes considered a rationalist as well). Unlike rationalism, which advocated a rational explanation of the world, empiricism explained reality from the senses and the sensations that we obtain from the encounter with objects.

Both currents, beyond their differences, were characterized by trying to find a criterion of truth different from the theological one, which was given by divine revelation or the opinion of the Church authorities. Both schools were contemporaries of thinkers whose thought is sometimes difficult to classify, such as Thomas Hobbes or Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

19th-century philosophy

The philosophy of the nineteenth century, like that of the Renaissance, is difficult to classify. With it appears the thought of Immanuel Kant, who reconciled rationalism with empiricism, and also the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, father of German idealism.

Both the works of Kant and Hegel revolutionized the way philosophy was done. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Hegel‘s Phenomenology of Spirit are works that are studied exhaustively today, and new ways of thinking not only about how we know reality but about what she is herself.

The 19th century also gave birth to the works of philosophers such as Fichte and Schelling, German idealists, or Arthur Schopenhauer, a radical thinker who promulgated the idea of ​​the world as a useless game of images and desires. We also find in this period Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Kierkegaard, and Edmund Husserl, among others.

The 19th century, prolific in its own and revolutionary thinkers and ideas in more than one sense, was also the century in which Friedrich Nietzsche lived, thought, and wrote. The figure of Nietzsche, since his appearance, is extremely controversial, and he has managed to divide philosophy into large groups depending on whether he is his detractor or defender.

Nietzsche is generally considered to be the one who started contemporary thought: after him, one can no longer speak of totalities or foundations of reality (and this is what characterizes post-Nietzschean and contemporary philosophy).

Contemporary philosophy

Contemporary philosophy had its beginning in the 20th century and continues to this day. For this reason, and because it is a living and developing thought, it is difficult to trace its own limits or characteristics. However, there are some possible items to mention.

The 20th century was the stage where the most significant philosophical traditions of contemporary philosophy emerged: analytical and continental philosophy. The first developed mainly in the Anglo-Saxon world, while the second occurred in continental Europe. Both currents were contemporaneous with the emergence of logical positivism, phenomenology, existentialism, poststructuralism, and philosophical materialism.

All these currents were participants in what is known as the “linguistic turn”, which consisted of an important discussion regarding the relationship between language and philosophy. In turn, this turn occurred in parallel to the publication of the works of Martin Heidegger, in the continental tradition, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, who is located on the side of the analytical tradition. The figure of Heidegger generated a great deal of controversy in the philosophical world due to his appearance and suspected adherence to Hitler’s Nazism in Germany during World War II.

Among the best-known philosophers of contemporary philosophy, in addition to Heidegger and Wittgenstein, we find Bertrand Russel, Karl Popper, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Paul Preciado, Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Simone De Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Giorgio Agamben, among others.


  • Marias , J. , Zubiri , X. , & Gasset , JO (1941). History of philosophy (No. B94. M37 1974.). Madrid: Magazine of the West.
  • Reale, G., & Antiseri, D. (2007). History of Philosophy. Saint Paul Publisher.
  • Hegel, GWF, & Lump, E. (1971). Introduction to the history of philosophy. Aguilar.


  • History Of Philosophy: Information And Characteristics 

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