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Modern Philosophy

The broad term modern philosophy generally refers to the ideas developed in Western philosophy after the Enlightenment. The bulk of modern philosophy refers to the philosophy in western Europe during the Nineteenth Century. Even more broadly, it can include ideas, movements, and philosophers from the centuries after and before the Nineteenth Century, such as the pre-Kantian empiricism and rationalism of western Europe.

Modern philosophy differs from postmodern philosophy, a trend of thought that rejects many foundational aspects of Western philosophy. Modern philosophy also differs from contemporary philosophy, which refers to the philosophical endeavors and developments currently taking place.

The term modern philosophy can come off as controversial, incorrect, and ambiguous. For one, it generally only refers the philosophy of Western Europe, thus neglecting the philosophy of other places and cultures that developed concurrently. Not feeling the need to specify the isolated location of the philosophy one talks about makes it seem as though they see the philosophy of other areas as negligible. Also, the term modern philosophy can confuse people, since most people do not associate ideas and people from hundreds of years ago with modernity. For those reasons, many people avoid using the term modern philosophy and instead specify philosophy by location and time (e.g. "Nineteenth Century Western Philosophy" or "Chinese philosophy from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE.)

Nevertheless, modern philosophy involved many influential ideas and people. Influential philosophers include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Romanticism and theories regarding evolution also influenced the philosophical ideas of the time. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard laid the foundations of existentialism. Other noteworthy philosophical movements include German idealism, Utilitarianism, Marxism, Positivism, Pragmatism, and British idealism.

We hope this article answered all of your questions about modern philosophy. If you have any remaining questions, or if you have any comments or suggestions, please post them in our Philosophy Forums.