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Glossary of Philosophical Terms
Key Terms in Plato
Key Terms in Aristotle
Key Terms in Hellenistic Philosophy
Key Terms in Neoplatonism and Mystical Theology
Key Terms in Augustine
Key Terms in Anselm
Key Terms in Thomas
Key Terms in Late Medieval Philosophy
Key Terms in Duns Scotus
Key Terms in Continental Rationalism
Key Terms in British Empiricism
Key Terms in Kant
Key Terms in Hegel
Key Terms in Hermeneutics and
Key Terms in Positivism
Key Terms in Process
- Epistemology: the theory of knowledge. (Leading questions are What
can we know? and How do we know?)
- Ontology: the theory of being. (Leading questions are What exists?
and Howin what manner or modedo things exist?)
- Teleology: the theory of purposes and ends.
- Hellenism (or Hellenization): the official and
unofficial promotion of supposed Greek ideals in the organization of personal life and
Key terms in Plato
- Soul: the invisible, rational life principle of a human being.
- Hylomorphism: the doctrine that every existent individual thing is
a mixture of matter and form.
Key terms in Aristotle
- Soul: the internal principle of unity of a thing.
- Formal Cause: a means of explanation for a particular thing that
indicates what kind of a thing it is, what is its form.
- Material Cause: a means of explanation for a particular thing that
indicates what it is made of.
- Efficient Cause: a means of explanation for a particular thing
that indicates what makes it change.
- Final Cause: a means of explanation for a particular thing that
indicates what it is naturally predisposed to become.
- Substance: the bearer of properties or characteristics.
- Accidents: properties or characteristics predicated of substances.
- Primary Beings (or Primary Substances): a real individual thing of
which attributes may be predicated, and which is not an attribute of any other thing.
- Motion [TT704 may ignore this]: the
fulfillment of the potential of a thing according to its nature.
- Eudaimonia: the complete actualization of the natural
potentialities of a thing.
- Eudaimonia in human beings: the fulfillment of entire human nature
and especially the intellective part of the human soul, by the power of which all other
goods are ordered.
- Golden Mean: a balance of defective and excessive human passions
achieved when reason is in control.
Key terms in Hellenistic Philosophy
- Apatheia: apathy, freedom from emotional
- Ethos: habit, character
- Eupatheia: good feeling
- Harmonia: harmony
- Logos: word or pattern or reason
- Physis (also transliterated phusis): nature
- Pronoia: providence
- Psyche (also transliterated psuche): soul
- Theos: God
- Tyche (also transliterated tuche): luck,
providence, fortune, fate
Key terms in Neoplatonism and Mystical Theology
- Emanation (Plotinus): the process in which the One pours over into all
of the realms of being.
- Three Primal Hypoastases (Plotinus): One, Mind, and Soul.
- Theosis: divinization through intimate union of human soul with God.
- Via positiva (Pseudo-Dionysius): A trajectory of affirmations of
non-literal descriptions of God, organized from the most apt to the least apt, that
indirectly indicates what God is by a richness of names.
- Via negativa (Pseudo-Dionysius): A trajectory of denials of
literal descriptions of God, organized from the least apt to the most apt, that
indirectly indicates what God is by ruling out what God is not.
Key terms in Augustine
- God: Being itself, a purely spiritual reality whose ideas define the intelligible
world, knowable only by the soul
- Evil: privation of some inherent good (imperfection of nature for natural evil;
deformed human will for moral eviland definitely not a positive agency opposed to
God, as in Manichaeism, which Augustine explicitly rejected)
- Person: a rational soul using a mortal and earthly body
- Soul: a substance endowed with reason and fitted to rule
- Liberum arbitrium: free choice
- Libertas: the condition within us for making good choices (a
state of our being conducive to making good choices)
Key terms in Anselm
- Fides quaerens intellectum: a theological method in which
confident faith seeks intellectual understanding of itself
- Remoto Christo [TT704 may ignore
this]: a theological method in which belief in Christ's efficacy is hypothetically
suspended in order to see if it can be established by intellectual argumentation
Key terms in Thomas
- Natural theology: knowledge of theological matters
obtained without recourse to the sources of special revelation
- Revealed theology: knowledge of theological matters
obtained through the sources of special revelation
- Univocity of God language: it is possible to say the
same thing in the same way about both God and the world
- Equivocity of God language: there is no relation between
the sense in which something is said of God and the same thing is said of the world
- Analogy of God language: what is said of God is
analogous to what may be said of the world
Key terms in Late Medieval Philosophy
- The problem of authority versus reason: concerns the relative weight
autonomous reason and religious authority (ecclesiastical, biblical, or traditional)
should be given in deciding philosophical questions
- Skepticism (as Scotus attacked it in Bonaventure): the view that human
beings cannot know any infallible truths without the aid of divine illumination
- A universal: a general quality appearing to us as the property of a
- The problem of universals: concerns how to understand ontologically the
universal concepts by which we know concrete, individual things
- Extreme realism: the view that universals have the highest form of
being; they exist independently of particulars, outside of human minds, in a rational
realm of forms
- Medieval realism: the view that both universal properties and
particulars have the power of being; universal properties (regardless of how they are
undertood ontologically) are known in our world only through particulars.
- Extreme nominalism: the view that only particulars have the power of
being; universal properties exist in name only.
Key terms in Duns Scotus
- Haecceity: the "thisness" of a thing.
- Contraction: the principle whereby universal properties exist only
through their particulars.
- God: infinite being, apparent to us as infinite love.
- Univocity of Being: the affirmation that there is only one kind of
being in everything real, though infinite in the case of God and finite in the case of
Key terms in Continental Rationalism
- Substance (Descartes): that with a natural propensity to exist
- Living beings (Descartes): complex natural machines
- Human being (Descartes): an animal-machine controlled by a conscious soul
- Monad (Leibniz): a simple substance without parts that enters into
Key terms in British Empiricism
- Ideas (Locke): objects of human understanding.
- Sensation (Locke): experience that causes ideas of qualities.
- Qualities (Locke): the powers in things to create sensation.
- Reflection (Locke): experience of our own thought processes.
- Reason (Locke): that which processes the ideas of experience.
- Knowledge (Locke): the perception of the consonance and dissonance
between our ideas.
Key terms in Kant
- A priori knowledge (Kant): knowledge that is logically prior to
- A posteriori knowledge (Kant): knowledge that comes from experience
- Analytic judgment (Kant): a definitional judgment presenting no new
- Synthetic judgment (Kant): an informational judgment that presents new
- Critical philosophy: philosophical reflection about the conditions for
the possibility of experience
- Conceptual scheme: the two pure forms of sensibility together with the
imagination and understanding
- Transcendental Idea (or Regulative Idea): an idea one
thinks to achieve rational completeness of the conditions for the possibility of
- Postulate (Kant): an idea that is assumed in order to make sense of
moral action (such as God, freedom, and immortality)
Key terms in Hegel
- Purpose of humanity (Hegel): to be that in which Geist moves from
(1) unselfconscious immediacy; through (2) a recognition of difference; to
(3) a culmination in self-conscious unity in which all differences are transcended
through being rationally incorporated into a higher unity.
Key Terms in
Hermeneutics and Phenomenology
- Hermeneutics (class definition) is the art of understanding and the
theory of interpretation.
- Linguisticality hypothesis (Schleiermacher): human beings are
fundamentally linguistic creatures, and human understanding is rooted in that linguistic
- Phenomenology (class definition): the science of phenomena.
- Horizon (Gadamer): the context of interpretation, the immediate whole of which
the text or interpreter is a part.
- Understanding (Gadamer): the fusing of horizons of interpreter and text.
- Interpretative Hermeneutical Circle (class definition): the dialectical relation
between the interpreters horizon and the horizon of a text.
- Contextual Hermeneutical Circle (class definition): the dialectical relation
between part and whole of a text.
- Phenomenological Hermeneutical Circle (class definition): the dialectical
relation between instances and general classes or types.
Key Terms in Positivism
- Verification principle (class definition): a purported statement is to
be judged meaningful if and only if there is a method for verifying it.
- Falsification principle (class definition): a purported statement is to
be judged meaningful if and only if there is a method for falsifying it.
Key Terms in
Process Philosophy (Whitehead)
- Philosophy of organism: the view that enduring objects in nature are
systems of smaller units with their own internal structure
- Enduring objects of nature: a nexus of
- Actual occasion: a process of becoming that produces a unifed,
concrescent synthesis of prehensions
- Prehension: the bodily, causal awareness of environment
- Concrescence: the process of becoming concrete or actual, which
consists in coordinating environmental influences in an intelligible, harmonious way
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