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Introductory points to Philosophy

Philosophy (from Greek , philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and
fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind,
and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 c. 495 BC). 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?
However, philosophers might 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?
Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek
philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy"
encompassed astronomy, medicine and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of
Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of
modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and
specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became
separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics and economics.
Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy.
For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is
political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy
include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about
the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity" ), ethics, aesthetics, political
philosophy, logic, philosophy of science and the history of Western philosophy.
Since the 20th century, professional philosophers contribute to society primarily as professors,
researchers and writers. However, many of those who study philosophy in undergraduate or graduate
programs contribute in the fields of law, journalism, politics, religion, science, business and various art
and entertainment activities.
2. Philosophy of Linguistics
Philosophy of linguistics is the philosophy of science as applied to linguistics. This differentiates it sharply
from the philosophy of language, traditionally concerned with matters of meaning and reference.
As with the philosophy of other special sciences, there are general topics relating to matters like
methodology and explanation (e.g., the status of statistical explanations in psychology and sociology, or
the physics-chemistry relation in philosophy of chemistry), and more specific philosophical issues that
come up in the special science at issue (simultaneity for philosophy of physics; individuation of species
and ecosystems for the philosophy of biology). General topics of the first type in the philosophy of
linguistics include:
What the subject matter is,
What the theoretical goals are,
What form theories should take, and
What counts as data.
Specific topics include issues in language learnability, language change, the competence-performance
distinction, and the expressive power of linguistic theories.
There are also topics that fall on the borderline between philosophy of language and philosophy of
linguistics: of linguistic relativity (see the supplement on the linguistic relativity hypothesis in the Summer
2015 archived version of the entry on relativism), language vs. idiolect, speech acts(including the
distinction between locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts), the language of thought,
implicature, and the semantics of mental states (see the entries on analysis, semantic
compositionality, mental representation, pragmatics, and defaults in semantics and pragmatics). In these
cases it is often the kind of answer given and not the inherent nature of the topic itself that determines the
classification. Topics that we consider to be more in the philosophy of language than the philosophy of
linguistics include intensional contexts, direct reference, and empty names (see the entries
on propositional attitude reports, intensional logic, rigid designators, reference, anddescriptions).
This entry does not aim to provide a general introduction to linguistics for philosophers; readers seeking
that should consult a suitable textbook such as Akmajian et al. (2010) or Napoli (1996). For a general
history of Western linguistic thought, including recent theoretical linguistics, see Seuren (1998).
Newmeyer (1986) is useful additional reading for post-1950 American linguistics. Tomalin (2006) traces
the philosophical, scientific, and linguistic antecedents of Chomsky's magnum opus (1955/1956;
published 1975), and Scholz and Pullum (2007) provide a critical review.