Basics of Philosophy

This is an excerpt from the book series Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge. You can get a copy here.


For some readers, many of the issues and items presented here might seem trivial. For example, it is obvious what “something” is and that it exists. Yet that is the very point and focus of these chapters, to have clean and clear definitions of what we are talking about. We are building up a new common language that all the readers of this series share, whatever their background. For this, we will approach the subject of philosophy by first dividing it into its components as follows:

  • OntologyWhere and what am I?
  • EpistemologyHow do I know?
  • EthicsWhat am I supposed to do?
  • EstheticsHow can I concretize my ideal and what could I become?
  • PoliticsWhat may I do?

First, we will work on the foundation that we will then use for all subsequent chapters: ontology (axioms) and epistemology (sense perception, cognition, concepts, and knowledge). The central element in philosophy serves reality; hence, we will consider our basic assumptions and knowledge about the world. What do we know about the world and how can we organize this knowledge?

Did you know?

“Ontology” derives from the Greek “onto” (which means “being”) and “logio” (to study): the study of being. “Epistemology” comes from the Greek “episteme” (knowledge of”) and means “the theory of knowledge.”

Ontology and epistemology create the foundation for our ethics and even our esthetics. Only when we know what is and how we know it, can we start to think about what values are truly important for us (ethics) and how to represent those values as a reminder or motivator in the real world (esthetics). → Read more in Philosophy for Heroes: Act 

Here, as well as during the course of this book series, we will interrupt our discussion again and again to define our terms. The idea is to create a common basis of communication. Words are empty if we have not come to an agreement on what they mean. Correspondingly, it is important to note that the terms and definitions for these concepts are just recommendations and serve as a clear distinction to other concepts. Ultimately, you might not agree with my definitions. But the idea is not to convince you to use them in this way, instead, they are offered for precise understanding of the text. We could just as well use different words, as is the case in different languages or ideologies. The point is that the concepts and definitions have to be distinct from each other and non-contradictory. In addition, we could imagine different concept definitions and hierarchies which are in themselves non-contradictory, but focus more on other aspects of reality.

ENTITY ·  An entity is a “thing.” Something that possesses an identity with properties (e.g., a plant produces oxygen, a stone has a hard surface, etc.).

IDENTITY ·  An identity is the sum total of all properties of an entity (e.g., weight: 160 pounds, length: 6 feet, has a consciousness, etc.).

PROPERTY ·  A property refers to the manner in which an entity (or a process) affects other entities (or other processes) in a certain situation (e.g., mass, position, length, name, velocity, etc.).

CONFIGURATION OF A PROPERTY ·  The configuration of a property relates to the intensity of a certain property of an entity.

EFFECT ·  An effect is the change caused to the configuration of the properties of an entity (e.g., the heating of water changes its temperature).

Did you know?

What many public discussions are really about is not the improvement of the concept in question, i.e. the question about the “correct” definition of a concept. Instead, they are about trying to capture a term whose corresponding concept already has a positive connotation in society. In the marketplace of ideas, people and organizations try to “sell” their ideas (good or bad) using trusted labels—just think of the many groups who call themselves “democratic.” → Read more in Philosophy for Heroes: Epos

By Clemens Lode

Clemens Lode is a management consultant with focus on agile project management methods (check out He likes to summarize his insights into books, check out his philosophy series "Philosophy for Heroes" here: His core approach to philosophy and management is that people need to be more aware of their limits and ultimately their identity and their vulnerabilities.

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