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Philosophy is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, validity, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument. The word philosophy is of Ancient Greek origin: f???s?f?a (philosophia), meaning "love of wisdom."
To give an exhaustive list of the main branches of philosophy is difficult, because there have been different, equally acceptable divisions at different times, and the divisions are often relative to the concerns of a particular period. However, the following branches are usually accepted as the main ones.
Metaphysics investigates the nature of being and the world. Traditional branches are cosmology and ontology.
Epistemology is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, and whether knowledge is possible. Among its central concerns has been the challenge posed by skepticism and the relationships between truth, belief and justification.
Ethics, or 'moral philosophy', is concerned with questions of how persons ought to act or if such questions are answerable. The main branches of ethics are meta-ethics (sometimes called "analytic ethics"), normative ethics and applied ethics. Metaethics concerns the nature of ethical thought, comparison of various ethical systems, whether there are absolute ethical truths, and how such truths could be known. Ethics is also associated with the idea of morality. Plato's early dialogues include a search for definitions of virtue.
Political Philosophy is the study of government and the relationship of individuals and communities to the state. It includes questions about law, property, and the rights and obligations of the citizen.
Aesthetics deals with beauty, art, enjoyment, sensory-emotional values, perception, and matters of taste and sentiment.
Logic deals with patterns of thinking that lead from true premises to true conclusions. Beginning in the late 19th century, mathematicians such as Frege began a mathematical treatment of logic, and today the subject of logic has two broad divisions: mathematical logic (formal symbolic logic) and what is now called philosophical logic.
Philosophy of Mind deals with the nature of the mind and its relationship to the body, and is typified by disputes between dualism and materialism. In recent years there is an increasing connection between this branch of philosophy and cognitive science.
Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language.
Most academic subjects have a philosophy, for example the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of history. In addition, a range of academic subjects have emerged to deal with areas which would have historically been the subject of philosophy. These include Psychology, Anthropology and Science.
The introduction of the terms "philosopher" and "philosophy" has been ascribed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras (see Diogenes Laertius: "De vita et moribus philosophorum", I, 12; Cicero: "Tusculanae disputationes", V, 8-9). The ascription is based on a passage in a lost work of Herakleides Pontikos, a disciple of Aristotle. It is considered to be part of the widespread legends of Pythagoras of this time. "Philosopher" replaced the word "sophist" (from sophoi), which was used to describe "wise men," teachers of rhetoric, who were important in Athenian democracy.
The history of philosophy is customarily divided into three periods: Ancient philosophy, Medieval philosophy, and Modern philosophy. For a map with the dates and places of birth of most western philosophers see here.
Ancient philosophy is the philosophy of the Graeco-Roman world from the sixth century [circa 585] B.C. to the fourth century A.D. It is usually divided into four periods: the pre-Socratic period, the periods of Plato and Aristotle, and the post-Aristotelian (or Hellenistic) period. Sometimes a fifth period is added that includes the Christian and Neo-Platonist philosophers. The most important of the ancient philosophers (in terms of subsequent influence) are Plato and Aristotle.
A voluntary association or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, unincorporated association, or just an association) is a group of individuals who voluntarily enter into an agreement to form a body (or organization) to accomplish a purpose.
Strictly speaking in many jurisdictions no formalities are necessary to start an association. In some jurisdictions, there is a minimum for the number of persons starting an association. Some jurisdictions require that the association register with the police or other official body to inform the public of the association's existence. This is not necessarily a tool of political control but much more a way of protecting the economy from fraud. In many such jurisdictions, only a registered association is a juristic person whose membership is not responsible for the financial acts of the association. Any group of persons may, of course, work as an association but in such case, the persons making a transaction in the name of the association are all responsible for it.
An unincorporated association has been defined as existing:
"...where two or more persons are bound together for one or more common purposes by mutual undertakings, each having mutual duties and obligations, in an organisation which has rules identifying in whom control of the organisation and its funds is vested, and which can be joined or left at will."
In most countries, an unincorporated association does not have separate legal personality, and nor do members of the association usually enjoy limited liability. However, in some countries they are treated as having separate legal personality for tax purposes. However, because of their lack of legal personality, legacies to unincorporated associations sometimes fall foul of the general common law prohibitions against purpose trusts.
Associations that are organized for profit or financial gain are usually called partnerships. A special kind of partnership is a co-operative which is usually founded on one man?one vote principle and distributes its profits according to the amount of goods produced or bought by the members. Associations may take the form of a non-profit organization or they may be not-for-profit corporations; this does not mean that the association cannot make benefits from its activity, but all the benefits must be reinvested. Most associations have some kind of document or documents that regulate the way in which the body meets and operates. Such an instrument is often called the organization's bylaws, regulations, or agreement of association.
In some civil law systems, an association is considered a special form of contract. In the Civil Code of Quebec this is a type of nominate contract. The association can be a body corporate, and can thus open a bank account, make contracts (rent premises, hire employees, take out an insurance policy), lodge a complaint etc. In France, conventional associations are regulated by the Waldeck-Rousseau law of July 1, 1901 and are thus called Association loi 1901, except in Alsace and Moselle where the law of April 19, 1908 applies (these countries were German in 1901). The Civil Code of Germany contains different regulations for registered non-profit and for-profit associations regarded as juristic persons ("Vereine", articles 21-79) on the one hand and for not necessarily registered associations by contract ("Gesellschaften", articles 705-740) on the other hand. In Texas, state law has statutes concerning unincorporated nonprofit associations that allow unincorporated associations that meet certain criteria to operate as entities independent of their members, with the right to own property, make contracts, sue and be sued, with limited liability for their officers and members.
In most Australian states a similar set of laws allows not-for-profit associations to become legal entities with a limit to the liability of its members. An example of such a law is the South Australian 'Associations Incorporation Act 1985'. This allows for the creation of a legal entity able to buy and sell land and in general enter into legally binding contracts. Many clubs and societies begin life as an unincorporated body and seek to attain incorporated status to protect its members from legal liability and in many cases to seek government financial assistance only available to an incorporated body. Clubs and Societies wishing to incorporate must meet the provisions of the relevant state act and lodge their constitution with the corresponding state government authority.