Western
Philosophy

Top
About the course
Housekeeping
Schedule
Gallery
Themes
Stories
Online Readings

Wildman's
Weird Wild Web

Home
Links
Jokes
Other Courses

Glossary of Philosophical Terms

Contents

General 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 Phenomenology
Key Terms in Positivism
Key Terms in Process Philosophy (Whitehead)

General Terms

  • 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 How—in what manner or mode—do 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 civic accomplishment.

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 attachments
  • 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 evil—and 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 a body
  • 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 concrete thing
  • 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 creatures.

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 composites

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 experience
  • A posteriori knowledge (Kant): knowledge that comes from experience
  • Analytic judgment (Kant): a definitional judgment presenting no new information
  • Synthetic judgment (Kant): an informational judgment that presents new information
  • 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 experience
  • 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 nature.
  • 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 interpreter’s 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 occasions
  • 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

The information on this page is copyright 1994-2010, Wesley Wildman (basic information here), unless otherwise noted. If you want to use ideas that you find here, please be careful to acknowledge this site as your source, and remember also to credit the original author of what you use, where that is applicable. If you want to use text or stories from these pages, please contact me at the feedback address for permission.