18 Philosophical Concepts, Explained By Friends

All the tricky stuff made easy.

1. Distributive justice.

As espoused by: John Rawls.

He says: “The guiding idea is that the principles of justice for the basic structure of society are the object of the original agreement.”

In other words: If everyone would agree on it, it’s the best thing to do.

2. Language games.

As espoused by: Ludwig Wittgenstein.

He says: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

In other words: Language takes us for a ride.

3. Natural rights.

As espoused by: John Locke.

He says: “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.”

In other words: You have some rights that can’t be taken away.

4. Optimism.

Espoused by: Gottfried Leibniz.

He said: “God is absolutely perfect, since perfection is nothing but magnitude of positive reality, in the strict sense, setting aside the limits or bounds in things which are limited.”

In other words: God made this rubbish world and it’s the best of the lot.

5. Deontological ethics.

Espoused by: Immanuel Kant.

He said: “What origin is there worthy of you, and where is to be found the root of your noble descent which proudly rejects all kinship with the inclinations, descent from which is the indispensable condition of that worth which human beings alone can give themselves?”

In other words: If you didn’t mean to do it, it’s OK.

6. Philosopher kings.

Espoused by: Plato.

He said: “Philosophers [must] become kings… or those now called kings [must]… genuinely and adequately philosophise.”

In other words: Only the philosophers can really see.

7. Immaterialism.

Espoused by: George Berkeley.

He said: “To be is to be perceived.”

In other words: Nothing really exists.

 

8. Nihilism.

Espoused by: Friedrich Nietzsche.

He said: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?”

In other words: Now that God is dead, let’s accept our lot and get on with living.

9. The Augustinian theodicy.

Espoused by: Augustine of Hippo.

He said: “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”

In other words: There’s loads of suffering in the world.

10. Existentialism.

Espoused by: Søren Kierkegaard.

He said: “I certainly do not deny that I still recognise an imperative of knowledge and that through it one can work upon men, but it must be taken up into my life, and that is what I now recognise as the most important thing.”

In other words: To understand stuff, you have to have experienced it first.

11. The problem of bourgeois society.

Espoused by: Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

He said: “We see around us hardly a creature in civil society, who does not lament his existence: we even see many deprive themselves of as much of it as they can, and laws human and divine together can hardly put a stop to the disorder… Let us judge, with less vanity, on which side the real misery is found.”

In other words: Society corrupts us and makes us do bad things.

12. Dualism.

Espoused by: René Descartes.

He said: “I think, therefore I am.”

In other words: Bodies are bodies but minds are something else.

13. The Socratic paradox.

Espoused by: Socrates.

He said: “I know one thing: that I know nothing.”

In other words: I know nothing. Of that I am sure.

14. Epicureanism.

Espoused by: Epicurus.

He said: “Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.”

In other words: Death is not a part of life, so relax.

15. The state of nature.

Espoused by: Thomas Hobbes.

He said: “He… to whom God hath not supernaturally revealed that they are His, nor that those that published them were sent by Him, is not obliged to obey them by any authority but his whose commands have already the force of laws; that is to say, by any other authority than that of the Commonwealth, residing in the sovereign, who only has the legislative power.”

In other words: Our rules make order out of chaos.

16. Utilitarianism.

Espoused by: Jeremy Bentham.

He said: “Create all the happiness you are able to create; remove all the misery you are able to remove.”

In other words: If it makes everyone happy, it’s the right thing to do.

17. Marxism.

Espoused by: Karl Marx.

He said: “The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.”

In other words: Societies progress through class struggle.

18. Determinism.

Espoused by: Daniel Dennett.

He said: “If it is true that human minds are themselves to a very great degree the creations of memes, then we cannot sustain the polarity of vision we considered earlier; it cannot be “memes versus us,” because earlier infestations of memes have already played a major role in determining who or what we are.”

In other words: Free will is an illusion. What will be, will be.

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