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From Wikipedia:

Ontology: philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

Epistemology: study of the nature and scope of knowledge and belief

I am interested in topics that is related to the questions that if the reality that we perceive is the only thing that exists, for example, could we be in a simulation? Are we just brains in a glass?

The other topics I like to know is that if knowledge is fundamentally limited. For example, any theory of science has to start either by an axiom or an empirical observation. The axioms of geometry for example cannot be proven. Do we have the capacity to understand whatever there is about Universe? or Is there a limit to understand the physical laws of Universe or Mathematics itself?

I feel these topics I mentioned are related to Ontology and Epistemology, however, I am not sure. It would be good if someone could help be to find out which branches of Philosophy I should have a look.

So my questions:

1- What branches of sub-fields of Philosophy does study the topics I mentioned?

2- What are the good book or sources about these topics or sub-fields?

3- Is there such a thing as fundamentals of Philosophy, the same way that we have in Physics and Mathematics?

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    just read a philosophy 101 book, and skip to descartes or the philosophy of science. or better yet, take classes! – user25714 Apr 16 '17 at 13:23
  • Welcome to philosophy.SE - have you taken a logic class? Have you studied physics? If yes to both, start here: youtu.be/zi7Va_4ekko otherwise, ground your philosophical inquiries and take a logic class and study physics. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 17 '17 at 5:18
  • @Mr.Kennedy Indeed I have a master in physics. Thanks for the link. – MOON Apr 17 '17 at 17:21
  • @MOON good to know, give me a bit until I'm back at a proper workstation & I'll rework my answer with that in mind. In the meantime, enjoy the lecture - i think it's around lecture 17-20ish that you'll find a defense of direct realism. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 17 '17 at 20:53
  • @MOON have you read any Hempel or Popper regarding the philosophy of science? Also, if you have read Kuhn or Feyerabend... well, I can only hope you don't agree with them. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 18 '17 at 6:10
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The subject you;re looking for is Metaphysics. This covers ontology and epistemology.

The questions you ask are tricky because opinions vary. Mine would be that, yes, there are 'fundamentals of philosophy'. They could be listed in various ways.

Aristotle's logic and dialectic process of abduction would be the core tool and method, while the crucial basic fact for Metaphysics 101 would be the logical absurdity of all extreme metaphysical positions (as proved by dialectic analysis).

The most important fact you would need to grasp at the start is that for the most part academic Metaphysics is hopeless and best avoided other than to get up to speed with the 'problems of philosophy' that befuddle academics.

For a good book on Metaphysics the choices are few. I'd study Russell and Wittgenstein to see how not to do it, and maybe one or two modern philosophers of mind like Chalmers and Searle to confirm that this is not how to do it, and then focus on Kant, Bradley, Schopenhauer, Nagarjuna and others who do know how to do it.

A full answer here would take a long time. If you can track me down I'd be happy to say a lot more in informal conversation. The poor state of Metaphysics in academia is a hobby-horse chez moi and I could complain for week without pausing for breath. Don't be fooled. Plough your own furrow.

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First things first: like the term "christian" you do not need to capitalize "philosophy" unless it is at the beginning of a sentence.

How to start Philosophy and find the branches that are related to my questions?

Philosophy translates from the Greek through the Latin to love of wisdom. This simple etymological fact has remained unchanged for nearly 3,000 years. A good starting place is to have a clear understanding of what philosophy (read: love of wisdom) means.

In the context of the initial utterance, philosophy distinguished itself from sophistry, or, the professional dispensation of advice or wise counsel (a contemporary sophist in the non-pejorative sense would be a lawyer or doctor, or, pejoratively, a con artist, a palm reader, a snake oil salesperson). The value of this counsel was often relative to the price paid for it or to the status of the person paying for such counsel.

By contrast to sophistry, love of wisdom, however, is no mere amateur pursuit. In the context of initial utterance, love was akin to virtue, respect or reverence, and, had nothing to do with modern notions of romantic passion except that you could say philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. In the sense of the initial Greek meaning, that which philo- is respect for, reverence or virtue of, however, is the point: wisdom.

Some consider wisdom the intelligent application of knowledge, but ask yourself, intelligent according to whom? Donald Trump? Alex Trebek? Noam Chomsky? Mamma June? No, wisdom requires knowledge, not opinion, sentiment, or personal points of view (if you say otherwise, you need only show how). Wisdom, all wisdom, simply obtains knowledge. In this sense, philosophy is the respect for obtaining knowledge.

Is there such a thing as fundamentals of [p]hilosophy, the same way that we have in [p]hysics and [m]athematics?

The purview of philosophy (read: respect for obtaining knowledge) is logic, rhetoric and reason. Fundamental to this purview are the excluded middle, non-contradiction, identity - often referred to a the three "laws" of thought (tho do not be misled by this grandiose title for axiomatic primitives).

The domain for the virtue of obtaining knowledge is epistemology and ontology. Epistemology is the study of epitēmē - the study of knowledge. Many would like to imagine that knowledge is "justified, true belief" however this is not the case. Knowledge is empirical verification of what is (the case, states of affairs, the world). Ontology is the study of ontos - the study of existence (what is, the case, states of affairs, the world).

Some have suggested that where knowledge is not to be obtained that reverence for obtaining knowledge simply rejects false arguments and militates against willful ignorance. If the false argument is to be rejected, how then do we rationally assess a true argument? What then is truth? Again: do not be misled by grandiose titles and speculations. Truth is mundane - also needing no capitalization except at the beginning of a sentence. Truth is merely a condition of propositions (sentences, statements, utterance.) When utterance corresponds to (matches, fits) what is, the utterance is true. What is is that which is empirically verified and knowledge is the empirical verification of what is. Truth is merely a condition of statements about what is.

I am interested in topics that is related to the questions that if the reality that we perceive is the only thing that exists, for example, could we be in a simulation? Are we just brains in a glass?

A great place to start is with John R. Searle's refutation of "the bad argument" in his article, "Perceptual Intentionality."

The other topics I like to know is that if knowledge is fundamentally limited. For example, any theory of science has to start either by an axiom or an empirical observation. The axioms of geometry for example cannot be proven. Do we have the capacity to understand whatever there is about Universe? or Is there a limit to understand the physical laws of Universe or Mathematics itself?

Inevitably you will confront someone playing the "absolute" knowledge card. Yes, knowledge is limited, imperfect, incomplete and certainty only a mood. Despite this imperfect knowledge we build bridges and skyscrapers, replace human hearts and send men to the moon and back.

Yes, science presumes a naive or direct realism. Is there any sound reason not to?

Proof is simply a matter of convincing a sympathetic audience.

Get to work on logic, reason and rhetoric and you may find that the way you pose these questions changes, your inquiries refined and your aims ponderable with answers obtainable by heuristic virtue.

In closing, note that the history of philosophy is not philosophy. Except as they are descriptive, metaphysics are not philosophy: they are poetry. This is not to say they are meaningless, just that the whole of metaphysics is little more than pernicious nonsense frequented with tedious regularity and not so much as one single iota of relevance to advancing knowledge claims or confirming hypotheses. If you must read the works of philosophers, read some Hume, Ayer, Russell, Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Popper, Austin, or Searle - and have fun!

People say again and again that philosophy doesn't really progress, that we are still occupied with the same philosophical problems as were the Greeks. But the people who say this don't understand why it has to be so. It is because our language has remained the same and keeps seducing us into asking the same questions. As long as there continues to be a verb 'to be' that looks as if it functions in the same way as 'to eat' and 'to drink', as long as we have the adjectives 'identical', 'true', 'false', 'possible', as long as we continue to talk of a river of time, of an expanse of space, etc. etc., people will keep stumbling over the same puzzling difficulties and find themselves staring at something which no explanation seems capable of clearing up. And what's more, this satisfies a longing for transcendence, because in so far as people think they see the 'limits of human understanding', they believe of course that they can see beyond these.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Culture and Value"
pg. 15e c.1931

  • Your spelling advise seems incorrect concerning the word "Christian". It is a proper noun and should be capitalised. "Philosophy" is not a proper noun in this case, so your advise is correct there. Also, etymologically, Latin philosophia is a loanword from Greek. So saying that it translates through Latin as something is slightly confusing. The word ended up in our languages through Latin, but the translation derives from Greek only. – Keelan Apr 16 '17 at 20:01
  • @Keelan inasmuch as "christian" is an adjective meaning "one like Christ" or "little Christ" it requires no capitalization. Anything can be used as a proper noun, and unless a specific title (or educational class name) is referenced, capitalization is not required in either case even in the case of the proper noun. Please see Grice's "Meaning" and "Utterer's Meaning and Intention" re: use and definition. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 16 '17 at 21:26
  • @Keelan also, you mis-read my comment regarding the translation of the Greek which remains through the Latin usage. This is a simple etymological fact. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 17 '17 at 5:22
  • I did not misread it, I said it could easily be misunderstood. Since 'philosophy' is a noun, I assumed you used 'christian' as a noun as well. – Keelan Apr 17 '17 at 6:03
  • @Keelan no, you said something which I did not say was "slightly confusing," i.e. your mis-read. Also, simply using "christian" as a noun does not require capitalization, e.g. "Jenny is a christian" so please check your assumptions and feel free to remove your comments as they are not constructive. – Mr. Kennedy Apr 18 '17 at 5:51

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