Philosophical knowledge can be considered a branch of philosophy; it is the result or the product of philosophical reflections . It is based on the logic and criticism that characterize philosophical thought.
In other words, it is the science that studies “one’s own knowledge”. In this article we will know what it consists of, its functions, characteristics, types, elements that form it and some examples of it.
- We recommend reading: “The 8 branches of Philosophy (and their main thinkers)”
Philosophical knowledge: what is it?
Philosophical knowledge is that which is born from observing, reading, studying, investigating and analysing different phenomena of the environment , as well as other types of knowledge. It is a branch of philosophy based on the study of the most outstanding issues of philosophy.
This type of knowledge also originates from our capacity for reflection, which allows us to reflect on reality and on previous reflections of other people. That is, it is not strictly based on science or experience (although there are some types that are, as we will see later), but on one’s own capacity for reflection.
When its methodology is strictly reflexive, we speak of epistemology; that is, in reality epistemology is a type of philosophical knowledge, but there are more.
Thus, epistemology is considered “the science that studies one’s own knowledge”. But how does philosophical knowledge study reality? Through three main paths: observation, reflection and critical capacity.
The objective of philosophical knowledge is the creation of new ideas and concepts that, in turn, allow the development of new knowledge . Furthermore, it also allows us to understand how certain ideas and reflections have appeared, that is, where they came from and why.
This understanding that allows for philosophical knowledge helps us to determine mistakes, contradictions, repetitions, etc., of one’s philosophical knowledge (or discourse). In other words, as we said, it is a matter of studying one’s own knowledge, its bases and structure. Moreover, philosophical knowledge has another function: to get to know reality as truthfully as possible, and also to understand it.
Another of its primary objectives is to analyze the way people reason, think and respond to the classic questions of philosophy. On the other hand, it tries to define what method(s) science should use, what contents it should embrace and the language it should use.
We will know the 6 main characteristics of philosophical knowledge below.
The first characteristic we propose is its degree of systematicity ; this means that philosophical knowledge is highly systematic, that is, it is ordered according to a series of parameters.
Another second characteristic is its degree of analysis . Philosophical knowledge aims at analysing and understanding reality, one’s own knowledge, in an analytical and detailed way. Thus, it focuses on some particular categories, concepts, themes and theories. Its objective is to cover a specific topic (or concept, category, etc.) in order to analyse it in detail.
It is a rational knowledge, which is studied mainly through logic and reason . This means that it is derived from any emotion. Reason is the basic tool of philosophers and thinkers, which allows access to knowledge and understanding it.
This type of knowledge is linked to a specific historical context, that is, to a period of history , which may or may not be current. This context includes specific historical events, and in turn, it is a social and political context. In other words, it is not a question of “timeless” knowledge.
On the other hand, this knowledge can encompass any possible reality , that is, different sciences, fields of study, disciplines… That is, it can be applied in its entirety (although sometimes it is focused on certain categories or concepts, as we explained in point 2).
As we already mentioned, one of the ways of studying philosophical knowledge is the critical sense, widely used in philosophy . Criticism is used to answer questions, to raise doubts, to unravel mysteries, etc. This tool allows for the identification of possible contradictions within philosophical discourse, as well as for thinking with a greater degree of objectivity.
There are 5 main types of philosophical knowledge, depending on their objectives , characteristics, methodologies, etc. These are the following.
Empirical philosophical knowledge
This type of knowledge provides information and data through experience and what we are living. It is based on empirical verification of facts, hypotheses or theories. Examples are: learning a language or learning to read and write.
2. Philosophical scientific knowledge
This, unlike the empirical one, is based on observation, experimentation and analysis of the phenomena. In other words, it is based on the scientific method, founded on rigorous methods. Some examples are: the theory of gravity, Darwin’s theory of evolution…
3. Philosophical and theological knowledge
It focuses on the study of religions, faith and spirituality. It also explains why we can feel or accept phenomena that we cannot verify; thus, it corresponds to a more spiritual version of knowledge. Some examples of it are: the miracles of Jesus, the 10 commandments, the fact that God exists, etc. (i.e. it gathers beliefs, theories, etc.).
4. Pure philosophical knowledge (epistemology)
The so-called epistemology, which we commented on at the beginning of the article, consists of studying one’s own knowledge. Specifically, it analyzes one’s own thinking and how ideas arise. Sometimes it is also called “philosophical self-knowledge”.
This type of knowledge has some relationship with wisdom, and with the need for answers. It is related to the classic questions of philosophy, such as “what are we”, “what is the meaning of life”, etc.
5. Intuitive philosophical knowledge
It is more about “day-to-day” knowledge, which is obtained through the things that happen to us in our daily lives. For example, being able to identify the emotions of others, interpret a gesture or a look, understand certain social situations, etc.
Philosophical knowledge consists of 4 elements or components . We’ll get to know them below.
This is the person who reflects or thinks about some issue, that is, “the thinker himself or herself”.
It consists of the object, that is, one’s knowledge, ideas, thoughts, etc. “That which is thought and analyzed.”
3. Cognitive operation
It encompasses the mental processes responsible for analyzing and reflecting on something.
It is the final product of a reflection, of a thought process. It can be, for example, an idea, a phrase or a philosophical discourse.
- Bachelard, Gaston. (2006). Epistemology, Ed. Anagrama.
- Beyer, C., & Burri, A. (2007). Philosophical Knowledge: Its Possibility and Scope. New York: Rhodopes.
- Castells, M. and Ipola, E. (1942). Metodología y epistemología de las ciencias sociales, Ed.