Metaphysics and History
Metaphysics is the systematic inquiry into the nature of reality and deals with issues such as the nature of being, the question of God, appearance and reality, the one and the many, mind and matter, essence and existence. The discussion of these issues has dominated the history of philosophy from the ancient Greeks to the present day. In fact, metaphysics can be deployed as a lens by which to approach the history of philosophy for the meaning of metaphysical terms change with time. What Plato meant by being is quite different from what modern analytical philosophers think about it. “God” means one thing in the Middle Ages and something else in early modernity.
Kant and Continental Philosophy
Many philosophers divide the history of philosophy into two eras, before and after Kant, for the modern German philosopher’s critique of reason was so comprehensive as to change the way we think about virtually every basic issue in philosophy. In particular, the tradition known as “continental philosophy,” that is, philosophy in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, by and large presupposes Kant’s critical philosophy. Without Kant, there would be no phenomenology or existentialism, nor would there be structuralism and deconstruction.
Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy
This cluster deals with questions concerning moral norms and the origin and justification of political institutions. The history of political theory is closely intertwined with the history of moral philosophy. Representative thinkers studied in this tradition would include Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Locke, Mill, Marx, Derrida, Zizek, and many others.