I want to learn more about philosophy, but I don't know much about the different philosophic schools yet and I don't want to waste my time, so I want to know if there is an exhaustive list of philosophic schools with a sort description of its fundamentals.

  • 4
    What have you found out so far?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 20:53
  • @JosephWeissman I have read some basic philosophy; the ideas of Plato, Aristoteles, Nietzsche, Locke, Hume, Descartes, etc. But I don't know much about different philosophic schools and I want to study interesting schools extensively, I however, because of work and studies, haven't got much time to look into a lot of schools, I just want a list of schools and their central ideas and such. Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 20:58
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    I meant more what resources you might already have come across; e.g., en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_movement
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 21:01
  • @ZafarS: why are you interested in philosophy, if thats not too impudent a question. What sort of questions interest you? ethical, political, scientific etc. Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 21:48
  • @MoziburUllah It's certainly not too impudent. I am a scientific man myself, so that's important. What I like about philosophy is being able to relate to people who have the same mindset and ideas, and perhaps even learn about a certain philosophy I totally disagree with. It gives me a new view on the world and helps me relate to other people. Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 22:00

1 Answer 1


To be perfectly honest, your question's a little offensive. I could equally well ask you: where can I find an exhaustive list of the different sciences that exist? How would such a question be reasonably answered? Not to mention that "schools of thought" are so varied that its unclear what you really mean by it. To be charitable, I'll assume that you're looking for the branches of philosophy, which is answerable.

All that said, it's still useful to know what the broad strokes of philosophy are, and for that there's a recent, decent book by Simon Blackburn you could read through in few hours. In it, he teases out eight major branches of philosophy which cover most of the spectrum. I've rewritten his chapter titles to be more specific.


What do we know, and how can we know it? What is the nature of knowledge? What's the difference between true statements such as "3 + 2 = 5" and "The Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island"?


What is the phenomenon of being awake and aware? How is it different or similar to dreaming? What is pain? Is it possible to be certain that anyone else suffers the same phenomena I do?


If the ability exists for all actions to be predicted, what does it mean to say that I am the agent responsible for my own actions? Is it meaningful at all, or just a hallucination?


Are you the same person you were yesterday? Will you be the same person fifty years from now? If I take some other object, and replace its parts one at a time, at what point does it ever cease to be the same object?


Is there a Creator? If not, how did the the world (i.e., the universe) come to exist in the first place? Is causality a real relationship between events or just one we impose on the universe to make it sensible? Where do our beliefs about these things come from?


What is the difference between a good and a bad argument? What series of rules will always produce correct results? How can we describe the things we say or write in a way that allows them to be evaluated by these rules? What beliefs can we evaluate in this way?


Are the qualities of objects in the world produced by those objects, or are they imposed on those objects by our mind? By what means can we judge the things we see, hear, smell, etc., to be facts about the world and not imaginative hallucinations or clever illusions?


Are beliefs sufficient to motivate certain actions? What are those qualities of an event, object, or person which makes it good?

There's more, of course. Blackburn leaves out much about Aesthetics and other value judgement theories. For instance, Rational Choice theory - which belongs under Ethics, but drifts into discussions of economics and ultimately game theory. Emotions are a topic unto themselves, but bridge Consciousness, Epistemology, and Perception. Metaphysics is an entirely other topic, with ties to epistemology and ontology, but asks questions like "must possible worlds exist?".

Blackburn's book will at least help introduce the eight topics above in a way that lets you distinguish what areas you actually might have an interest in, and whether to branch into any of these others I've just mentioned.

If however this all leaves you dissatisfied, I can only direct you to the table of contents at PhilPapers which has a nice list of topics and the number of papers their database holds on each. The length, I hope, will demonstrate why an explicit list isn't really something you're going to find - unless you write one yourself. Here's a snapshot (number of papers in parentheses):

Metaphysics and Epistemology (87,829) Epistemology (12,856) Metaphilosophy (1,684) Metaphysics (12,849) Philosophy of Action (8,325) Philosophy of Language (16,190) Philosophy of Mind (23,776) Philosophy of Religion (12,088) M&E, Misc (55)

Value Theory (129,559) Aesthetics (16,341) Applied Ethics (46,701) Meta-Ethics (4,440) Normative Ethics (8,927) Philosophy of Gender, Race, and Sexuality (6,109) Philosophy of Law (4,738) Social and Political Philosophy (30,376) Value Theory, Miscellaneous (2,038)

Science, Logic, and Mathematics (82,415) Logic and Philosophy of Logic (13,726) Philosophy of Biology (8,802) Philosophy of Cognitive Science (18,426) Philosophy of Computing and Information (981) Philosophy of Mathematics (3,080) Philosophy of Physical Science (5,346) Philosophy of Social Science (12,170) Philosophy of Probability (1,892) General Philosophy of Science (5,776) Philosophy of Science, Misc (945)

History of Western Philosophy (97,540) Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy (30,155) Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy (6,386) 17th/18th Century Philosophy (19,733) 19th Century Philosophy (11,737) 20th Century Philosophy (25,892) History of Western Philosophy, Misc (112)

Philosophical Traditions (21,011) African/Africana Philosophy (671) Asian Philosophy (9,105) Continental Philosophy (3,419) European Philosophy (3,681) Philosophy of the Americas (1,988) Philosophical Traditions, Miscellaneous (937)

Philosophy, Misc (1,116) Philosophy, Introductions and Anthologies (28) Philosophy, General Works (837) Philosophy, Miscellaneous (213)

Other Academic Areas (21,285) Natural Sciences (88) Social Sciences (371) Cognitive Sciences (458) Formal Sciences (406) Arts and Humanities (19,595) Professional Areas (147) Other Academic Areas, Misc (60)

  • 1
    I don't consider it offensive, I wouldn't be offended if you told me you want a list of the different sciences. Also, you shouldn't compare sciences (multiple field, with multiple 'subfields')to philosophy (one field, multiple 'subfields'). Also, this doesn't answer my question, I didn't ask for branches of philosophy, I asked for philosophical schools. I don't get why this has 5 upvotes, it's a good answer to a different question, not to mine. Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 17:15
  • Then pray tell, what do you mean by "schools"?
    – Ryder
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 21:19
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    The point is that it's an impossibly broad question, and you want to someone here to help you narrow the focus of your search. Philosophy is more easily identified by topic first, and only then does it become sensible to start asking "what schools of thought" there are on a given topic.
    – Ryder
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 22:57
  • As for "offensive" I was referring to the way you characterized a task that people spend their lives doing -studying the history of philosophy and the taxonomy of 3,000 years of argumentation- as a "waste of your time".
    – Ryder
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 23:02
  • @Ryder That was an unfortunate choice of words on John's part, but I don't think that is what was intended. I think it is reasonable to choose to interpret his words as "I know so little about philosophy, that I have a feeling that I would reinvent the wheel if I were to try to start without some sort of map." I know I've wanted to beat my head into a desk many a time when I programmed up some wizz-bang program over the course of 2 weeks, just to find out that someone had already made it and released it as open source!
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 18:13

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