Philosophy studies basic questions about the world and our own existence; questions of norms, values, knowledge, reality, consciousness, language, and thought. What characterises a good society, right actions or a good life? Are there systematic ways to find objectively correct answers to such questions? What is knowledge and is it possible for us to have knowledge of an independent external world? Do we have a special type of knowledge about our own consciousness? What is the relationship between consciousness, thought, and material world – including our brains? How can language convey thought?
One important aim of philosophical research is to systematically answer these basic questions. The subject of philosophy is therefore as old as systematic thought and many other academic disciplines can be said to originate from philosophy. Subjects such as physics, computer science and economics are all results of finding systematic, empirical or mathematical methods based in philosophical methodology to tackle specific problems. Another aim is to clarify specific problems arising from social and scientific development, for example ethical matters concerning environmental pollution and family constellations.
Research in philosophy tackles issues that are fundamental to the understanding of the world and our own existence; questions of norms, values, knowledge, reality, consciousness, language and thought.
Normative research asks questions about what characterises a good society, right action or a good life. It also raises more specific ethical questions regarding how legislation or practice should be formed in healthcare, the police system, at workplaces or in other areas. Metaethics investigates the conditions of normative thinking: Is there a better or worse way to attempt to answer normative questions? Can we obtain objectively correct answers for questions of values or are they inevitably subjective, or bound to different periods or cultures? Related questions address the meaning of life and the compatibility between a scientific world view and the idea that we have free will and are responsible for our choices and actions.
The theory of knowledge and philosophy of science raise general questions about our knowledge of the surrounding world, the future, or own thoughts as well as specific questions about the nature and reliability of scientific knowledge. Ontology and metaphysics ask questions about matters such as the nature of time or existence as well as questions of the relationship between reality and possibility. The philosophy of mind investigates the nature of consciousness and its relation to the material world. The philosophy of language asks how linguistic communication works and how language lets us convey information about the world and our thoughts.
Philosophy often addresses questions that arise naturally, sometimes already in children, but the answers to which often appear to be a matter of taste or mere opinion. Research in philosophy attempts to find systematic ways to answer these questions. The subject of philosophy is therefore just as old as systematic academic thought. Many of the questions that occupy philosophers today were discussed in ancient Greece and many other disciplines can be said to have their origins in philosophy. For example, research areas such as physics, computer science and economics can all be seen as the result of using philosophical methods to find systematic ways to approach questions using specific empirical or mathematical methods.
The link between philosophy and other disciplines is not just historical. Modern philosophy is closely linked to other disciplines. For example ethics and political philosophy are closely connected to sociology, political science and economics. Philosophical aesthetics have close ties to artistic education and art history. Logic and philosophy of language have strong links to mathematics, computer science and linguistics. Epistemology and philosophy of mind have many links to psychology, cognition, neuroscience and the educational sciences. The connections between various academic disciplines and branches of applied ethics (medical ethics etc.) and philosophy of science (philosophy of biology etc.) are obvious. Furthermore, philosophy studies questions of truth, rationality, subjectivity and objectivity, which are the basis of all disciplines and for world views and outlooks on life.
The subject of philosophy at Umeå collaborates with other disciplines and the subject strives to further develop these interactions. Research in the subject primarily concentrates on epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, philosophy of language, research ethics, medical ethics, meta-ethics, environmental ethics, political philosophy and educational philosophy. More information about this research can be found on the individual researcher's homepage and in the University's research database.