introduction to philosophy philosophers of the world

Introduction To Philosophy – Philosophers of the World,


It is important to appreciate that Philosophy did not die in Athens with a sip of hemlock back in 399 B.C.E. “[W]orking in more than one tradition can broaden your mind by acquainting you with a multiplicity of fundamentally different conceptual options” (Wiredu, 2004, p. 11). The options in thought mean opportunities for personal growth.

We will identify and learn about three philosophers per unit and apply their idea to our own lives and ideals. This Unit will look to Asia, Africa, and Europe; next Unit will look to North America, South America, and Australia/Oceania. Surely you will find some ideas within these two Units close to home. A mature adult and philosopher, as you all have become, will be able to take these ideas and fold them into practice or explanation. During part 1 we will react what we have read, and for the pat 2 we will expand on what we would like to know more about.


Asia: Wang Yangming (China)

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Wang Yangming, also known as Wang Shouren (Wang Shou-jen), is one of the most influential philosophers in the Confucian tradition. He is best known for his theory of the unity of knowledge and action. A capable and principled administrator and military official, he was exiled from 1507 to 1510 for his protest political corruption. Although he studied the thought of Zhu Xi [Chu His] (1130-1200 CE) seriously in his teenage years, it was during this period of exile that he developed his contribution to what has become known as Neo-Confucianism (Daoxue, [Tao-hsueh or “Learning of the Way”). With Neo-Confucianism in general, Wang Yangming’s thought can be best understood as an attempt to propose personal morality as the main way to social well-being. Wang’s legacy in Neo-Confucian tradition and Confucian philosophy as a whole is his claim that the fundamental root of social problems lies in the fact that one fails to gain a genuine understanding of one’s self and its relation to the world, and thus fails to live up to what one could be.

Start your reading on Yangming at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: and read, and take notes on, Yangming’s conception about Redefining the World. This is primarily in Section 3, but can only be understood as part of the whole, so you must read the entire entry to succeed here. Do you remember reading about Kant (Germany: 1724-1804) and Phenomology? In Kant’s theory of knowledge, while trying to fuse rationalist and empiricist thoughts, he said that whatever appears to the mind are phenomena defined as they appear (to you). For Yangming, several hundred years earlier and on the other side of the planet (China: 1472-1529), everything in the world was/is based upon experience – perhaps through the experience of it may be clearer. These two great minds never met but came to a remarkably similar conclusion. While I can find no evidence to support whether Kant read Yangming, it is extremely unlikely given the geography and complications of language, etc of his time. We have lessened those boundaries in the modern era thankfully.

Now read “Wang Yangming, A Chinese Idealist” available via your UoPeople library free access to JSTOR at Pay special attention to the question on page 21 about Yangming’s view of nature. For Yangming, there was only one nature, but it was manifested in different forms. Think about these various forms of a single truth and how each person or entity can view the nature of virtue completely differently and still be correct. You will be tested on this material, asked about it in Discussion, and potentially expand on it in your Written Assignment.

Henke, F. (1914). Wan Yang Ming, A Chinese Idealist. The Monist, 24(1), p. 17-37

Africa: Kawasi Wiredu (Ghana)

Kwasi Wiredu is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida, where he has taught since 1987. He was born in Ghana and studied at the University of Ghana and Oxford. He was a Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ghana for many years. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria), UCLA, Richmond, Carleton College, and Duke, and has held fellowships at the Wilson Center, Washington DC, and The National Humanities Center, North Carolina. He has published articles in Logic, Epistemology, and African Philosophy and has written entries in encyclopedias and anthologies. His book Philosophy and an African Culture was published by Cambridge University Press in 1980. Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies was jointly edited by him and Kwame Gyekye and published in 1992 by the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, New York. His Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective, (Bloomington : Indiana University Press) appeared in 1996. He also edited A Companion to African Philosophy, published by Blackwell in 2004 (which we will read in this Unit). It can be found at:

  • Read first the Preface (pg. xix-xx)
  • Read also the Introduction to the Blackwell text (pg. 1-3)
  • Read the section: Contemporary African Philosophy as Comparative Philosophy (pg. 11-24). This section will introduce some fascinating concepts from a uniquely African point of view on The Concepts of a Person, Morality, Philosopher Kings, Violence, and Democracy. You will be tested on this material, asked about it in Discussion, and potentially expand on it in your Written Assignment.

Please see more about this remarkable man at his USF Webpage:

Wiredu, K. (Ed.) (2004). A Companion of African Philosophy. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.

Europe: Francis-Marie Arouet, aka. Voltaire (France)

From The Basics of Philosophy website: Voltaire (real name François-Marie Arouet) (1694 – 1778) was a French philosopher and writer of the Age of Enlightenment. His intelligence, wit, and style made him one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers, despite the controversy he attracted. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform (including the defense of civil liberties, freedom of religion and free trade), despite the strict censorship laws and harsh penalties of the period, and made use of his satirical works to criticize Catholic dogma and the French institutions of his day. Along with John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions. He was a prolific writer and produced works in almost every literary form (plays, poetry, novels, essays, historical and scientific works, over 21,000 letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets). See more at

While entire undergraduate- and graduate-level classes are presented on this man alone, in this class we will glance into his works and times in France during the century he occupied it then learn why people recognize the name Voltaire when they hear it.

Start by reading this news article in the New York Times “Financial Review” section about Voltaire. This article is a light-hearted approach to a heavy topic, but surely will help you understand Voltaire before we read more. Find “The Oxford Complete Works of Voltaire: fake news, Voltaire and an enlightenment hero” at

Now carefully watch the 12-minute video about Voltaire found at which is the page of Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation.


For this PART 1:

  • Your FIRST of TWO topics this week:
  • What does Voltaire’s expression “If God had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent him” mean to you? Is he right? Wrong? How do you know your position is the correct one?
  • You must comment on your peers’ thoughts as well.

Your SECOND topic this week:

  • Which of the three Philosophers from this week do you find most interesting and why?

For this PART 2:

Present a 3-page research paper on one of three thinkers presented. How do their thoughts agree or disagree with yours? This is a broad topic, but remember what we said about the exploring many options. You have the option here to teach yourself and your reader more about the philosopher of your choosing from this week.

Remember, your personal philosophy is right for you, you do not have to agree with these scholars or anyone in the class. Please respect yourself, as a learner, enough to state your case, and others enough to allow them to state theirs.

Pick a philosopher from the current unit and describe how that person’s view affects you and your culture. You may wish to ask: What is most interesting? Why did he think that way? What led him to his conclusions? How are his thoughts the same as mine? Do they fit into my culture? Why, or why not? How can his thoughts be used in the modern era, directly by you and your family? At work? You may come up with your own challenges and question too.

This is your paper. The topic is “Philosopher X” and you may take it from there. Do not just right a high-school level book report or biography. This is college; engage the reader in something interesting.

Assignment Guidelines

Write a fully APA-compliant 3- page paper for this Unit

  • You should include a reference page, with APA citations, at the end of your paper. This page is not part of the 3-pages of written work
  • Standard margins, 12-point font, New Times Roman or similar
  • Do not write less, do not write more
  • Be sure to read the assessment criteria before you begin writing

For more information on APA formatting:

Assessment Criteria

  • Does the paper clearly identify the chosen Philosopher and give a brief explanation of why he was chosen?
  • Does the paper list similarities and differences between the Philosopher and writer?
  • Does the writer give at least two examples of the Philosopher’s thoughts or theories in a way that makes it clear to you what they are?
  • Presentation of reasonable argument for, or against, the logic of the thinker chosen.
  • APA and overall look and feel of the paper is college-level work

For this PART 3:

Hopefully, this week has increased your worldview about Philosophy in your life.

For this part, please share what the most interesting part (lesson/discussion) this week was to you. How did that reading, or experience of thinking about it, change your perception of knowledge and truth around you? Consider the philosophers discussed this unit and please explain how you thought before, and how the new viewpoint changed that old thinking into something new.