A brief overview of philosophical ideologies

By: Annika Getz

There’s a great many philosophical ideas and beliefs. Today I will be explaining some of them, specifically: nihilism, determinism, solipsism, and utilitarianism.

Nihilism can be placed in two branches of philosophy, depending on who you ask, metaphysical (which tries to define the meaning of existence) or ethical. It is the belief that life is meaningless, and therefore trying to do whatever is ethically right is pointless. Nihilists reject all moral and religious beliefs or principles, under the belief that it doesn’t matter anyways.

The word “nihilism” stems from the Latin word ​nihil​, which means “nothing.” The concept of nihilism came up in 19th century Russia. The word was used by Friedrich Nietzche. It has since then of course, expanded from Russia, and is now a fairly well-known concept.

Onto determinism. Determinism falls into the ethical branch of philosophy (though, like Nihilism, it could be argued that it belongs in the metaphysical branch). It is the belief that all choices and events are predetermined (though what it’s determined by has been argued, some say it’s previously existing events and causes, while others argue that it’s some all powerful being, such as God), therefore there is no such thing as free-will.

I unfortunately couldn’t find when and where the concept determinism was first posed, as many sources had conflicting information, some saying it was Ancient Greece, others saying it was closer to the 18th century.

Next is Solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that you are the only thing which truly exists, everything else is either a simulation, or a projection of your subconscious. Some even believe that they are in comas, and that everything that’s happening is a projection from their decaying brain. The problem with this theory is that it’s impossible to disprove, as everything that happens simple reaffirms your belief.

Solipsism stems from the philosopher René Descartes, who lived from 1596-1650. He didn’t actually use the word “solipsism” however. He introduced “methodological doubt” which sort of serves as a backdrop for solipsism.

Now onto utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the belief that any action is acceptable as long as it benefits the majority. Simply speaking, we should all base all of our decisions based on what is best for everyone else. This seems somewhat harmless on the surface, however, there is an issue with it. One could justify murder, abuse, or any number of bad things, as long as more people benefit from it than are hurt.

One thought experiment regarding utilitarianism is as follows: “You are a doctor, you can save five people, but you must harvest the organs from one healthy, innocent person.” Utilitarians would believe that killing the one person is morally right, since you can save five people.

There are of course, many more philosophical ideologies, but it would take forever to go over all of them. So there you have it, 4 basic philosophical beliefs.

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