Wikipedia : Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom" is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

Let's take two distinct and mutually exclusive philosophies, Dualism and Feminism.

  • Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

  • Dualism (from the Latin word duo meaning "two") denotes the state of two parts. The term dualism was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been more generalized in other usages to indicate a system which contains two essential parts.

I am trying to make a checklist (a list of requirements) to call an idea as a philosophy. So if we take the above two and see what they share, I was able to grab a few points. They are both based on on idea. They inspire other ideas and movements (for or against). A human being reacts to them in 3 ways -

  1. Feels inspired and takes action.
  2. Accepts the idea and lives on.
  3. Does not accept it and lives on.
  4. Does not accept and opposes all actions based on the idea.

These philosophies grow overtime, so other ideas evolved in different times and regions gets attached to the same root. Most philosophies end in "-ism" in the English language (Not a big point really). All philosophies originate from the thought of a single human, which later on transcend time and thoughts to evolve into a larger framework.

I was only able to come up the above requirements. I hope I have made the question clear. I am more or less trying to objectify the term "philosophy" from its common abstract form. This is the sort of task you take, when you want to make an AI engine that can distinguish between idea and philosophy. To the human mind, it is more easy. To add one more example, if you take Chemistry, it is a study of matter. It inspires people to action (scientists). It leads to reforms (scientific). But it is not a philosophy. There is a clear line distinguishing it. I looking to make that line more clear.

  • 2
    This doesn't really seem answerable, because the word philosophy refers to several things rather than having a definition with such deep unity.
    – virmaior
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:11
  • 1
    Moreover, some of the definitions you're bandying about seem wrong to me. First off, feminism represents several distinct views that often disagree with each other (though some feminists use the term for only their own camp to disparage other camps). Second, given that, there's no automatic exclusion of dualism with feminism. Three, chemistry isn't the "study of matter" per se (that definition would seem to apply to all sciences and equally well to physics); it's the study of the interaction of atoms at the molecular level through their bonding and grouping together.
    – virmaior
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:14
  • @virmaior Chemistry = The study of the composition, properties, and reactions of matter, particularly at the level of atoms and molecules. Source: www.dictionary.com/browse/chemistry. So my definition + your definition would be the complete one. Coming to the important point, you are right it is difficult to answer this question. You will find almost all the philosophies here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_philosophies . So my question is as simple, how did they make into the list? ....
    – 0aslam0
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:53
  • .... Or consider for example, tomorrow a great philosopher comes and says, "All things are alive". He gives a different perspective on being alive. He says all things need to be treated with care and respect. Nobody can claim right over the other and so on. This can become an ideology. If someone calls this, "alive-ism" and says it is a philosophy, what's stopping that person? What are the criteria that this soon-to-be-philosophy should pass?
    – 0aslam0
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:57

1 Answer 1


The basic requirement that most of philosophy has in common is that it is meant to derive from inuition and argument. The earliest ideas that we consider philosophical in the West often informally include these four:

  • Thales argument that everything has to be made of something,
  • Anaxagoras' argument that the concept of deity destroys itself logically,
  • Hereclitus' argument that change is all there is, and that stability is a side-effect of change, rather than the reverse
  • the Stoic argument that Nature controls all human behavior and should be the primary guide to life

The approach they all have in common is that they are intended to be transferable to others with completely different experiences, and they presume they should be understandable to any adequate intelligence. They do not require a mystical experience, and they would not consider it helpful. They try not to rely upon tradition or other cultivation before they make sense. They are not devised for a specific emotional temperament or other given target set of individuals.

So I would argue that the point at which a way of thinking turns away from dogma and mysticism, or rather tries to ground its dogma and mysticism in intuition and basic logic, it develops into philosophy.

This does not prevent it from also remaining something else. One cannot claim that Scholastic theology or basic Buddhism are not also something beyond philosophies. But one can also not claim they are not philosophy.

Note that a lot of philosophies are amalgams with contribution from many sides, or are accumulations of a viewpoint over time. They do not trace to any individual. Given arguments that represent them have specific popularizers or people who first put them in their best form -- for instance Pyrrho for naturalist skepticism or Thomas Aquinas for Church Scholasticism, but those are not originators.

I would definitely put Western science as a whole in this camp, as a form of Empiricism with a specific approach to induction that carefully avoids the traditional traps identified by other attempts at Empiricism and induction. It did not spring whole from the head of Francis Bacon, it evolved in a history of attempts to base logic on evidence conducted by a longstanding tradition of philosophy going back to Greek medicine and beyond.

(Totally aside, virmaior is very right about your opening examples. Lots of feminisms are dualist. 'Culture feminism' is often explicitly about duality and the need to preserve and elevate feminine culture without destroying the gains we have made via a masculine culture -- equality is not similarity.

And explicitly feminist forms of religions like Wicca often institutionalize dualism by having in addition to a tripartite Goddess a dual God with each of the forms of the Goddess and the two forms of the God providing positive exemplars of contrasting sets of values. The distinctions between God and Goddess and the distinctions between the two Gods often psychologically represent primary philosophical dualisms.

Equally many dualists are feminist, including the many real and breathing Roman Catholic feminists in the world...

Also Chemistry is a branch of Western Science, which is (to my mind) in every way a definite school of philosophy, as I have noted above.)

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