The Basics


Is philosophy only found in the West?

No. As individual intellectual tendencies and cultural traditions, philosophy has been present in all human societies since the beginning of recorded history and probably farther back than that. In the United States and Europe, philosophy, as an intellectual profession practiced by academics, developed as an official part of the higher education curriculum during the twentieth century. But many societies, particularly those that are still peopled by the original or indigenous inhabitants of a place, have maintained their philosophies through oral traditions. Oral traditions in African philosophy and Native American philosophy often deal with questions about time, space, origins, and ethics.

There are also well-developed textual traditions, going back at least as far as Socrates, in Indian philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Chinese philosophy (collectively called Asian philosophy or Eastern philosophy). These systems of thought are increasingly part of standard philosophy curricula in the United States, as are comparative philosophy, African-American philosophy, and Latin American philosophy.


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