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In the general sense, a philosophical theory[1] is a theory that explains or accounts for a general philosophy or specific branch of philosophy.[2] While any sort of thesis or opinion may be termed a theory, in analytic philosophy it is thought best to reserve the word "theory" for systematic, comprehensive attempts to solve problems.[3]

The elementary theorems that comprise a philosophical theory consist of statements which are believed to be true by the thinkers who accept them, and which may or may not be empirical. The sciences have a very clear idea of what a theory is; however in the arts such as philosophy, the definition is more hazy.[1] Philosophical theories are not necessarily scientific theories, although they may consist of both empirical and non-empirical statements.

In essence, the collective statements of all philosophical movements, schools of thought, and belief systems consist of philosophical theories. Also included among philosophical theories are many principles, hypotheses, rules, paradoxes, laws, as well as 'ologies, 'isms, 'sis's, and effects.[1]

Some examples of philosophical theories include:

Philosophical theories may also take the form of a life stance, religion, world view, or ideology.

A scientific theory however, is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. To become a scientific theory there are also specific requirements including that they can make predictions, are well supported by many fields of science, are consistent with preexisting theories, and they can be modified to account for new evidence.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Dictionary of Theories, Jennifer Bothamley
  2. Lacey, A.R. (1976). A Dictionary of Philosophy, second, London and New York: Routledge.
  3. Sparkes, A.W. (1991). Talking Philosophy: a wordbook, New York, New York: Routledge.
  4. Richard T. Garner and Bernard Rosen, Moral Philosophy: A Systematic Introduction to Normative Ethics and Meta-ethics. (Macmillan, 1967)
  5. See generally, Max Horkheimer, Traditional and Critical Theory (1937)
  6. "Critical theory" at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  1. redirectTemplate:Philosophy
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