Metaphysics (from the Greek meta meaning after/beyond, and physics meaning nature) is a core branch of philosophy concerned with the study of "first principles" and "being" (ontology). Ontology asks questions such as "What kinds of things exist?", and answers are often lists of categories of things that exist (entities, actions, properties, relations, etc.).
Other issues in metaphysics are change and identity over time, the problem of free will, and the nature of space and time. Some topics in philosophy that are closely related to metaphysics include Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy of Religion.
In modern times, the meaning of the word "metaphysics" has become confused with new-age mysticism and occultism that are unrelated to metaphysics as the formal study of first principles and being.
Epistemology (from the Greek episteme meaning knowledge) is a core branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. It can be considered the study of knowledge as such, independent of any particular subject area that is known (e.g., math, science, economics).
Historically, it has been one of the most investigated and most debated of all philosophical subjects. Much of this discussion concerns the justification of knowledge claims and has focused on how knowledge relates to concepts such as truth, belief, and evidence. Basic issues in epistemology include the role of experience, the role of logic, distinguishing knowing that" from "knowing how", the issue of faith and reason, and the status of certainty, doubt, and skepticism.
The term "logic" came from the Greek word logos, which is sometimes translated as "sentence", "discourse", "reason", "rule", and "ratio". Of course, these translations are not enough to help us understand the more specialized meaning of "logic" as it is used today.
So what is logic? Briefly speaking, we might define logic as the study of the principles of correct reasoning. This is a rough definition, because how logic should be properly defined is actually quite a controversial matter.
The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.
Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths, the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, and the meaning of ethical terms themselves.
Normative ethics takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior on others.
Finally, applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues, such as abortion, infanticide, animal rights, environmental concerns, homosexuality, capital punishment, or nuclear war.
Introduced into the philosophical lexicon during the Eighteenth Century, the term "aesthetic" has come to be used to designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. For the most part, aesthetic theories have divided over questions particular to one or another of these designations: whether artworks are necessarily aesthetic objects; how to square the allegedly perceptual basis of aesthetic judgments with the fact that we give reasons in support of them; how best to capture the elusive contrast between an aesthetic attitude and a practical one; whether to define aesthetic experience according to its phenomenological or representational content; how best to understand the relation between aesthetic value and aesthetic experience.
Saint Francis University is committed to making its websites accessible to all users.
Please send comments or suggestions on accessibility improvements to disability services.
Saint Francis University Library
117 Evergreen Dr.
Loretto, PA 15940-0600