5 Western Schools of Philosophy You Might Not Know About

   Philosophy can become, for many people, an avenue for guidance. It can reveal new methods of thinking and expand one’s working knowledge of life and how to think about it. For me, philosophy has become a sort of mentor. When I went through any problems in life, philosophy was there to give me perspective of the issue. Philosophy helped me keep a level head when things felt like they were about to fall apart. It is my hope that this list will stimulate thought and conversation. And maybe some of you will come to feel the same way I do about the subject.


  1. Absurdism

      Stemming from Existentialism (see below), absurdism centers on the concept of the absurd. Writer and Philosopher Albert Camus described the absurd as “being born out of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”  Absurdism then, is the philosophy behind this concept and highlights the moment when one person’s expectations  meet the indifference of the world at large. Absurdism holds that nothing has purpose. If something has a higher purpose, an entity with an even higher purpose must confirm its existence.
      Then what is the Absurdist to do in this cold indifferent world? According to Albert Camus, the most logical reaction would be to commit suicide. He proposed as an alternative rebelling against the absurd or learning to cope.
  2. Conceptualism

      The key to understanding Conceptualism lies in first understanding universals. A universal is a word that describes the relationship of physical objects. For example, brightness is a universal. Lights and stars exhibit brightness, but one can still understand brightness without the examples.
      The problem of universals arises when one thinks about their existence. Most modern realists agree that universals exist but do not have existence in space. This position on universals is quite contrary to Aristotle, the grandfather of realists.  He believed that universals existed in a separate reality called Forms. There are those who contradict these claims. Nominalists claim that if it doesn’t exist in concrete reality then it can’t exist at all.
      Conceptualism is a philosophy on universals. Like nominalism, conceptualism holds that these universals do not exist outside the mind. But, these universals exist in the mind as a concept.  And thus,  have inherent meaning because they mirror similarities among particular objects.
  3. Cynicism

      Cynicism offered the possibility of happiness and freedom in an time where the opposite was normal. Cynicism doesn’t have an official doctrine but it has important points to follow. The most important was to live a virtuous life which means in this case to live according to nature. This is called Eudaimonia. Cynicism promotes mental clarity and freedom from ignorance. One could achieve Eudaimonia is through self-sufficiency, love of humanity, and aesthetic practices.  
      Cynicism was more than a theory. Cynics used these aesthetic practices to help free themselves from influences. These influences include; wealth, fame, and power. All which have no value in nature. They practice shamelessness and deface the conventions of society.
      This doesn’t mean that the cynic would retreat from the society and its conventions. Cynics often lived on the scrutiny of the public. They often got insulted and chastised because of their unconventional behavior.
  4. Epicureanism

      Epicurus of Samos taught his followers “the art of rational living”. Pleasure in the case of Epicureanism meant the absence of pain and as such was not a positive feeling. Unlike Hedonism, Epicureanism focused much more on enduring pleasures. Also of importance, Epicurus made a distinction between higher pleasures and lower pleasures. One should consider higher pleasures those of the mind and intellect, and lower pleasures those of the body.          
      Epicureanism was a philosophy that taught of moderates. He taught self control and independence and also taught moderate aesthetic practices. Also unlike Hedonism, the result of this philosophy is to be tranquil and calm. Not a life of utter excess. One must then avoid the extreme pleasures.
      Friendship was important in epicureanism. Epicurus saw the pleasures of a community of people as connected. The last thing that Epicurus taught was reason. This reasoning would look a lot like opportunity costs in modern times. In that when one would reason they are determining the loss or gains of pain/pleasure.
  5. Existentialism

      Existentialism, as one could guess, deals with existence. It is about finding self and the meaning through choice and personal responsibility. As people search to find identity  and meaning, they make choices based on experience. Existentialism deals with the concepts of free will, human nature and their choices. They  accept that traditional religious and secular rules are arbitrary. It’s clear that Existentialism is wide and varying and there is no agreement as on what it is. But, each existentialist seeks individual freedom for people in a society.
      To the Existentialist, philosophy is completely integrated in life.   Stated otherwise, one can live “philosophically without technical knowledge of philosophy.”
      A central proposition of existentialism is that “Existence precedes essence”. Meaning people are at first, individuals. What is important is true essence; the actual life of individuals disregarding all labels. Conscious human beings create their own values and determine a meaning to their life. The goal of the existentialist is to live the most authentic life as possible. They stay away from all labels and go only in the direction their conscious takes them.  

    I’ve left a lot schools out of this list and have another one in the works. What do you feel like I’ve left out? What should I have gone deeper into?

31 thoughts on “5 Western Schools of Philosophy You Might Not Know About”

  1. Dionysian Mysteries are a fertile ground for study. Many know about the more obvious and public elements of the religion. The drunken harvest celebrations, dancing, free love etc. Effectively the raves of Ancient Greece and Rome. What fewer people appreciate are the way the “lower mysteries” acted as a pressure release valve for the oppressed in society, allowing women and slaves to throw off their behavioral conventions for a time. This allowed for the alleviation of tensions in society, in much the same way as the Palio works in Sienna to this day, giving that city a very low crime rate.
    The role of fertility rites in allowing women to copulate with strangers (where her husband may have been the problem).
    Even less well known are the secret rites. The use of concentrated hallucinogens (ergot for instance) to induce trance states in aesthetic priests, where they could achieve out of body experiences, new planes of understanding, communion with Gods etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like conceptualism. Followers of Cynicism sound perfect for dramatic parody of politics. I wonder what Epicurus thought about Buddhism. I would also love to hear more about DonalClancy’s point. =]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You don’t have to post this, but I just thought it was funny. As soon as I pronounced my new Greek word of the day, I typed this out in my references (I am working on a workshop lol):

      The implications of two conceptions of happiness (hedonic enjoyment and eudaimonia) for the understanding of intrinsic motivation

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Apologies in advance if I’m simply misreading your words, but I think it would be more proper to assert that absurdism maintains that it is impossible to know whether or not meaning/a higher purpose exist. Camus was very strongly agnostic; he didn’t deny that purpose existed at all, he just denied the possibility of ever knowing that it does (or does not). It’s a small technicality, but absolutely denying the existence of purpose is more akin to nihilism.

    Anyway, apart from being a typical philosopher and nitpicking that one sentence, I thought this was a great post!
    I can’t say you’ve “left out” anything, but just for the fun of it, the schools that I find most fascinating in western philosophy include phenomenalism, epistemological anarchism, logical positivism, and ontological relativity (all of which fall under analytic philosophy and/or philosophy of science).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I just want to second that request for phenomenalism because last time I heard it in the context of “soul” was SO confusing. I have no post-secondary philosophical training myself so I look forward to your posts. Other than that, basics like epistemology is always great for a B.Sc., myself ;P



  4. Hi. Thanks for following my blog. I have a lot of posts on philosophy and philosophical terms from both Western and Eastern Philosophy. You might want to look at my four posts on basic Western philosophy (history), and various Asian philosophy posts (history, aesthetics).



    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wasn’t Plato, not Aristotle, the grandfather of the Forms? He was famous for them. That is why the modern realist theory of universals is called platonism. Aristotle was the grandfather of the Nominalists, since he maintained that a thing contains its thingness.

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