Philosophy Dictionary : 55 philosophical words you need to know

It is often said that philosophy is too complex. That is true. But it is essentially linked to the technical language that philosophers deploy (well, some philosophers like Heidegger or Hegel invent concepts, it does not help much to understand them). But it’s only up to you to understand the major concepts.
We listed 55 technical terms (summarized in two lines!) you need to survive while your readings.


Popularized by the french philosopher Camus, absurd refers to what is meaningless, what can not be rationally justified (eg human existence is absurd).

Act and power

In scholastic philosophy and Aristotle in particular, the act identifies the state of a thing that is really the power designating it the status of a thing that can be. For example, the larva is a potential butterfly.


The term “alienation” originally meant the deprivation of a right or a quality (legal meaning). Marx and Engels made ​​clear the fundamental alienation of proletarian life, insofar as the proletariat does not own the means of production. Initially means the transfer of ownership of property. Marx, alienation is the loss of identity of the worker, whose work is appropriated by the owner of the capital.


Philosophy does not know what art is. Philosophy is only concerned about the function of art. Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the study of art.


Body has two meaning: the body-object as a material, and the body-subject.

In philosophy, the question of the body is fundamental. Philosophers answer the following questions:

  • Is the separate body from the soul or do not they do that?
  • Can we distinguish the body of the material body for consciousness?


Spinoza refers to man’s tendency to “persevere in his being”, that is the desire to be and to continue to want things. Man is conatus.


The concept of culture refers to the complex system including knowledge, techniques and traditions that characterize a society or group


The being-there in Heidegger. More simply, it is the human condition.


philosophical movement believing in the existence of causality as things progress factor. Its counterpart is existentialism.


In antiquity, Epicureanism literally pulverizes and removes the concept of death: death is nothing. Modern philosophers like Sartre, Kierkegaard or Heidegger reintegrated death as part of life.


From the Greek “demokratia”, the term democracy relates to popular government. It is, above all, a political system in which the people, that is to say the citizenship, holds sovereignty.


Determinism means as a concept that certain conditions being given and known facts that will follow are predictable with precision.


From Latin “desiderium”, desire means movement, beyond the need, that leads us to a reality that we think of as a possible source of satisfaction. Desire is defined as a trend that became conscious.


Among the Greeks, the dialectic is the philosophical exchange that reveals the true ideas. Later, from Hegel, the dialectic becomes understanding the real method to make a link between the elements that we think separate (eg, monarchy and democracy)


Empiricism is a theory of knowledge, thinking that knowledge comes from experience. And to learn the idea of ​​hot I need to burn me.


Ethics should not be confused with morality. Ethics refers to the principles that we put in the report itself (eg, do not compromise themselves in a difficult situation). Morality refers it to the principles of interaction with others so (for example, do not lie or lying to save others).


The fallacy is an oratorical technics, not based on the argument and the search for truth, but on finding collective support, ie it is a demagogic practice. Thus, Socrates was it fought against the Greek sophists.


Idealism is not only an idyllic vision. In philosophy, it is a current that raises the ideas prevalent as to the material (unlike materialism so). In its most extreme form, especially at Berkeley, the idealist denies the existence of the outside world, only representations of the subject are real.


Literally, the meta-physical is what happens to the physical (including Aristotle). From the Modern (Descartes, Leibniz, Kant), metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of man. It therefore wants the mother branch of philosophy, which derives morality, politics, etc.


The Monad is a concept invented by Leibniz which means a simple substance endowed trend and perception. Any individual consciousness is a monad because it has desires, and a unique perspective on the world.


In his Metaphysics, Aristotle defines ontology as “the science of being as being.” Ontology is the science of being or study of beings as they exist. Specifically, the ontology concerned to determine the fundamental categories of being.


This theory refers to the work of Husserl, who primarily defined a method, that of a return to the concrete ( “the same things” is the major order for Husserl), in order to (finally!) Philosophy a science rigorous. Sartre, Heidegger, Levinas or Merleau-Ponty claim to that method.


This is an approach and a philosophical school. Skeptic is one who doubts. God and the world in general.

Social contract

According to Rousseau, the social body refers to the formation of a community will allow its members to join in a general will.


Transcendence refers to what is beyond us. Thus, God is transcendent (Descartes) in the sense that can know all its powers. Sartre is another that transcends me in the sense that his freedom still eludes me.


This is a method used in metaphysics. In Kant’s transcendental reflection on the conditions of the knowledge of objects of metaphysics (time and space, for example). Should not be confused with the transcendent.


Freud, the unconscious designates the largest share of the psyche and opposes its conscious part. Divided into two bodies (the id, the superego), the unconscious is structured by instincts and the internalization of social and parental standards. It was he, according to Freud always that governed almost all of the shares and human inclinations.

More philosophical terms will be soon defined: Existence, good, Happiness, Identity, Love, Man, Mind, Passion, Politics, Others, Religion, Soul, Subjectivity, Time, Unconscious, Wisdom

Cite this article as: Tim, "Philosophy Dictionary : 55 philosophical words you need to know, February 5, 2022, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, February 5, 2022,

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