Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom" is the study of general and fundamental problemsconcerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?
Western philosophy is the philosophical tradition of the Western world and dates to Pre-Socratic thinkers who were active in Ancient Greece in the 6th century BCE such as Thales (c. 624–546 BCE) and Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE) who practiced a "love of wisdom" (philosophia) and were also termed physiologoi(students of physis, or nature). Socrates was a very influential philosopher, who insisted that he possessed no wisdom but was a pursuer of wisdom. Western philosophy can be divided into three eras: Ancient (Greco-Roman), Medieval philosophy (Christian European), and Modern philosophy.
Middle Eastern philosophy includes the various philosophies of the Middle East regions, including the Fertile Crescent, Iran, and Anatolia. Traditions include Ancient Egyptian philosophy, Babylonian philosophy, Jewish philosophy, Iranian/Persian philosophy, and Islamic philosophy.
Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The principal schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas are a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.
Buddhist philosophy refers to the philosophical investigations and systems of inquiry that developed among various Buddhist schools in India following the death of the Buddha and later spread throughout Asia. Buddhism's main concern has always been freedom from dukkha (unease), and the path to that ultimate freedom consists in ethical action (karma), meditation and in direct insight (prajña) into the nature of "things as they truly are" (yathābhūtaṃ viditvā). Indian Buddhists sought this understanding not just from the revealed teachings of the Buddha, but through philosophical analysis and rational deliberation. Buddhist thinkers in India and subsequently in East Asia have covered topics as varied as phenomenology, ethics, ontology, epistemology, logic and philosophy of time in their analysis of this path.
East Asian philosophical thought began in Ancient China, and Chinese philosophy begins during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the following periods after its fall when the "Hundred Schools of Thought" flourished (6th century to 221 BCE). This period was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments and saw the rise of the major philosophical schools of China, Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism as well as numerous other less influential schools. These philosophical traditions developed metaphysical, political and ethical theories such Tao, Yin and yang, Ren and Liwhich, along with Chinese Buddhism, directly influenced Korean philosophy, Vietnamese philosophy and Japanese philosophy (which also includes the native Shinto tradition). Buddhism began arriving in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), through a gradual Silk road transmission and through native influences developed distinct Chinese forms (such as Chan/Zen) which spread throughout the East Asian cultural sphere. During later Chinese dynasties like the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) as well as in the Korean Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) a resurgent Neo-Confucianism led by thinkers such as Wang Yangming (1472–1529) became the dominant school of thought, and was promoted by the imperial state.
African philosophy is philosophy produced by African people, philosophy that presents African worldviews, or philosophy that uses distinct African philosophical methods. African philosophers may be found in the various academic fields of philosophy, such as metaphysics, epistemology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy.