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El Paso Community College
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Philosophy and Ethics: Ferrell: Mr. Ferrells Students

This guide introduces you to resources that will help you with your Philosophy class.


Robert Ferrell

EPCC Philosophy Department

I obtained my BA in History from NTSU (now UNT) in 1965. After a brief hiatus in the real world of labor, I recieved an MA from UTEP in 1988. Since then I have taught English and Philosophy at UTEP and EPCC.During 1992 and 1993, I taught conversational English to medical doctors going abroad from the Second Medical University in Shanghai, China.I have since been based at the Rio Grande campus of EPCC.

Although I was initially scientifically oriented, I was also influenced by French poetry and free form modern jazz. I worked with the NASA program at TWU and then alligning electron microscopes at Univ of Cal Berkeley.After obtaining a working knowledge of logical positivism and analytic philosophy, I have felt more comfortable concentrating on Continental philosophy and its recent avatars in post- structuralism and other such aspects of Western philosophy. Yet my major interest is Eastern Philosophy and such sub-topics as Chinese Traditional medicine and Ayurveda medicine of India.These esoteric interests are balanced by my homebrewing of craft beer and distilling of barley wine and saki. All of this can be categorized as naturalism and organism offset by a more recent attempt to come to terms with computer programming.

Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?

Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics.For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.

Philosophical questions can be grouped into categories. These groupings allow philosophers to focus on a set of similar topics and interact with other thinkers who are interested in the same questions. The groupings also make philosophy easier for students to approach. Students can learn the basic principles involved in one aspect of the field without being overwhelmed with the entire set of philosophical theories. Various sources present different categorical schemes. The categories adopted in this article aim for breadth and simplicity. These five major branches can be separated into sub-branches and each sub-branch contains many specific fields of study. Metaphysics and epistemology Value theory Science, logic and mathematics History of Western philosophy Philosophical traditions These divisions are neither exhaustive, nor mutually exclusive. (A philosopher might specialize in Kantian epistemology, or Platonic aesthetics, or modern political philosophy.) Furthermore, these philosophical inquiries sometimes overlap with each other and with other inquiries such as science, religion or mathematics. 

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