Philosophy is somewhat difficult to define , so it is also very complicated to classify the different types of philosophical currents that exist. However, it is not an impossible task

Below you can see the main types of philosophy and thought forms that have driven the work of many of humanity’s most important thinking minds. Although they do not fully describe the work of the philosophers, they do help to understand the ideas from which they started and the purposes they pursued.

Types of philosophy according to their content

Philosophy can be classified according to its branches , that is to say, from the questions and problems that are approached from it. In this sense, the classification remains as follows:

Moral philosophy

Moral philosophy examines the problem of what is good and evil and what kind of actions are considered good and bad, and also reflects on whether there is a single criterion for determining the latter. It is a type of philosophy concerned with the direction our lives should take, either in a general sense (without taking into account the personal characteristics of each one) or more individually (differentiating according to different types of individuals).

For example, Aristotle was one of the most prominent moral philosophers, and he opposed the moral relativism of the Sophists because he did believe that good and evil were absolute principles.


Ontology is the branch of philosophy that is in charge of answering this question: what exists and how does it exist? For example, Plato believed that the material world of what we can see, touch and hear only exists as a shadow of another world situated above it, the world of ideas.

It is not a branch of philosophy so concerned with morality as with what, beyond good and evil, exists and shapes reality.


Epistemology is the part of philosophy that examines what it is that we can come to know and how we can know it. It is a very important philosophical branch for the philosophy of science, which is in charge of checking that the statements that are based on scientific research are substantiated, in addition to the methods of scientific research itself.

However, the philosophy of science is not the same as epistemology. In fact, the former focuses on the knowledge systems that appear through scientific methods, while epistemology deals with all the processes of knowledge extraction in general, whether they are scientific or not.

Types of philosophy according to their description of reality

Different kinds of philosophers think about reality differently: some are monistic and others are dualistic .

Dualistic philosophy

In dualistic philosophy, ideas and consciousness of the human mind are considered to be part of a reality independent of the material world. In other words, there is a spiritual plane that does not depend on the physical world. The philosopher Rene Descartes is an example of a dualistic philosopher, although he also recognized a third fundamental substance: that of the divine.

Monistic philosophy

Monist philosophers believe that all reality is composed of a single substance . Thomas Hobbes, for example, expressed this idea through the statement that man is a machine, implying that even mental processes are the result of the interaction between components of the material.

However, monism does not have to be materialistic and consider everything that exists as matter. For example, George Berkeley was an idealistic monist, since he considered that everything is formed by the divided component of the Christian god.

In any case, in practice, monism has been historically closely related to mechanicism and to materialism in general, since it is a way of cornering issues that many thinkers believed to be too abstract and not very significant because they were pure metaphysics.

Types of philosophy according to their emphasis on ideas

Historically, certain philosophers have emphasized the importance of ideas over what influences the material context , while another has shown the opposite tendency.

Idealistic Philosophy

Idealistic philosophers believe that changes in what happens in reality appear in people’s minds , and then spread by modifying the material environment. Plato , for example, was an idealistic philosopher, because he believed that intellectual labors appear in the mind “remembering” absolute truths found in the world of ideas.

Materialistic philosophy

The materialistic philosophy emphasizes the role of the material context and objective in explaining the emergence of new ways of thinking. For example, Karl Marx stated that ideas are the fruit of the historical context in which they are born and the stage of technological progress associated with it, and B. F. Skinner accused idealists of being “creationists of the mind” by thinking that ideas are born spontaneously regardless of the context in which individuals live.

Types of philosophy according to their conception of knowledge

Historically, two blocks have stood out in this context: the rationalist philosophers and the empiricist philosophers .

Rationalist philosophy

For the rationalists, there are truths to which the human mind has access regardless of what it can learn about the environment, and these truths allow knowledge to be built from them. Again, René Descartes is an example in this case, because he believed that we gain knowledge by “remembering” truths that are already incorporated into our minds and that are evident in themselves, like mathematical truths.

In a sense, researchers such as Steven Pinker or Noam Chomsky, who have defended the idea that human beings have innate ways of managing information that comes to us from outside, could be seen as defenders of some of these ideas.

Empiricist Philosophy

Empiricists denied the existence of innate knowledge in human beings, and believed that everything we know about the world arises through interaction with our environment. David Hume was a radical empiricist, holding that there are no absolute truths beyond the beliefs and assumptions that we have learned and that are useful to us without necessarily being true.