Theoretical philosophy

The modern division of philosophy into theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy[1][2] has its origin in Aristotle's categories of natural philosophy and moral philosophy.[3] The one has theory for its object, and the other practice.[1]


In Denmark,[4] Finland,[5] Germany,[6] Netherlands,[7] Sweden,[8] and United States[9] courses in theoretical and practical philosophy are taught separately, and are separate degrees. Other countries may use a similar scheme—some Scottish universities, for example, divide philosophy into logic, metaphysics, and ethics—but in most universities around the world philosophy is taught as a single subject. There is also a unified philosophy subject in some Swedish universities, such as Södertörns Högskola.

Theoretical philosophy is sometimes confused with analytic philosophy, but the latter is a philosophical movement, embracing certain ideas and methods but dealing with all philosophical subject matters, while the former is a way of sorting philosophical questions into two different categories in the context of a curriculum.

Subjects of theoretical philosophy


  1. Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 41 ("On Universal Practical Philosophy"). Original text: Immanuel Kant, Kant’s Gesammelte Schriften, Band XXVII – Moralphilosophie, 1. Hälfte, 1974, p. 243.
  2. Albert Schwegler, A History of Philosophy in Epitome, D. Appleton, 1877, p. 312.
  3. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 1.
  4. Solvang, Lin (3 June 2015). "Theoretical Philosophy". Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  5. "Theoretical Philosophy - University of Helsinki". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  6. "Theoretical Philosophy | Philosophisches Seminar - English". (in German). Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  7. "Theoretical Philosophy". Universiteit Utrecht. 5 December 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  8. "Theoretical Philosophy | Department of Philosophy, Lund University". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  9. "Theoretical Philosophy | Philosophy". Retrieved 31 January 2017.
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