the years I have heard a lot of answers to the question:
What do you think Philosophy is?
Let me list a few that are not correct.
Some are very off the mark and others are
only partially correct.
Student attempts to define
reasoning to answer any questions or problems.
by which to view and encounter life.
system of beliefs and behaviors based upon experience and judgment.
views and beliefs that people have.
thinking or reasoning, taking into account all that is known to be convincing
frame of mind
way of viewing the world and handling life’s experiences and explaining
thinkers thought and ideas.
way a person is able to maneuver their intellectual ability.
theory based upon moral codes and reasoning.
of one’s thoughts without the impact of external opinions.
ideas and outlook on life or anything.
point of view.
art of reasoning, thinking and discussing.
knowledge, a body of principles to follow.
discipline of thinking, which involves moral reasoning, logic and
or Opinion or Belief or Theory
to think and make your own judgments.
I live by.
belief, way of life or religion.
way of Life
translation of the complexities from all angles and summarizing it to its
way the individual interprets ort rationalizes what is encountered.
questioning, discussing and thinking.
handed down from generation to generation: Beliefs, stories, rituals, and
It is possible that you will be adding additional attempts at an initial
definition to this list. Students and readers continue to surprise
me with answers to questions such as this one. Some of the
answers appear as if the answerer did go to some dictionary or reference
work while others appear to be very direct and simplistic.
I do not want to start this introduction to Philosophy by giving you a clear definition of what
Philosophy is. Instead, I
shall tell you a great deal about it, most of which you will forget.
Then, I’ll show you some examples of Philosophy in the writings of
Philosophers on the major issues Philosophers have been thinking about for
over two thousand years, much of which you
will remember, if only vaguely. Finally,
I’ll attempt to engage you in doing philosophy through the discussions and
presentations of various positions on many of the issues and then I think you will understand both what
philosophy is and some of the most challenging and recurring issues with
which philosophy has dealt and continues to pursue.
For a good overview of different ideas
about what Philosophy is and forms or fields in Philosophy
READ: Dallas Roark,
Here are some key questions in the history of Philosophy by
which Philosophy is identified. They are Perennial
Questions and Defining
is the world about?
is the world made up of? (pre-Socratics)
are human beings to do?
are Humans to live?
are humans to live the GOOD life? (Socrates)
is the GOOD? ( Plato
is it to know? (Aristotle)
is it to exist?
there a meaning to existence? (
there a meaning to human life, history, suffering???
the world all there is? (Christianity
is REAL ?
the world REAL? or illusion??? (
suffering what it is all about?
suffering be overcome? ended? (Buddhism)
life without meaning? (Existentialism )
life absurd? (Camus )
humans free to shape their own existence and destiny? ( Sartre)
are humans to live in an honorable way?
are humans to live with their families in an honorable way? ( Confucius )
can we be certain of anything? (
are humans to live in a world with science? (
are humans to live in a technological society?
are humans to live in a society with constant change and problems?
book Definition of Philosophy:
is an activity whose guiding principle is reason and whose goal is a
critical self understanding. - -Robert
is the dictionary approach:
all learning exclusive of the technical
pursuit after wisdom
search for general understanding of values and reality by chiefly
an analysis of the grounds and concepts expressing fundamental
a system of philosophical concepts
a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought
the most general beliefs, concepts and attitudes of an individual or group
------ Webster's 9th New Collegiate
pursuit of wisdom; knowledge of things & their causes, whether
theoretical or practical
the system which a person forms for the conduct of life
Oxford English Dictionary
love of wisdom, the
systematic, critical examination of the way in which we judge, evaluate,
and act, with the aim of making ourselves wiser, more self reflective, and
therefore better men and women.
rational insight into the principles of thought and action.
a.) conceptual analysis and armchair speculation on whatever other
sciences haven't yet claimed as their own domain.
b.) systematic reflection of the mind on the criteria of right
thought and right action.
That’s quite a few definitions for anyone to ponder.
My favorite is still to come.
Consider now some things associated with Philosophy.
It is a mental discipline that involves: problems, attitudes, methods, activities, conclusions, and effects
Philosophical vs non-philosophical
all problems, if or when pursued far enough, enter or involve
Problems: Knowledge, Truth,
Good, Beauty, GOD, Justice, Freedom, Mind, Reality
as a science (A.) Specific or (B.) General or comprehensive science
Specific science-special science- with well defined subject matter
OF NATURAL SCIENCE PHYSICAL
OF SOCIAL SCIENCE HUMAN
General or comprehensive
the minds of Philosophers when doing philosophy
to be guided by experience
to be guided by reason
CONCLUSIONS Reached by
of Philosophy--- ways of thinking
in Philosophy--views, assumptions, givens, first principles
sense of the "BETTER" life
sense of what is important
sense of what one values
sense of the limits of human knowledge
sense of one's self
college students it wouldn’t hurt to think of Philosophy as a discipline
that originates in the West in an attempt to answer the question: How am I
to live a GOOD Life?
How to live a GOOD life in this modern, industrial, technological
And : How do I answer
such a question with less than absolute certainty?
for the college student, the
undergraduate just might be to assist one
in answering these questions for oneself.
All right, that will be enough of the telling about the nature of
Philosophy without defining it. In
the next section I shall attempt to show you a bit about what
philosophers do and it will involve you becoming engaged in doing a good
bit of thinking.
VIDEOS: Here are interesting videos on What is Philosophy
Dr. Richard Brown's video on
What is Philosophy?
Dr. Massimo Pigliucci's video on
AUDIO: Before going on you might want to listen to some mildly amusing
comments on and about Philosophy by the actor and comedian, John Cleese.
What is it that
philosophers do? (0:55)
Track 2: Living
the ideal of a scientific life (0:42)
Track 3: You are
fully alive only if you live in the present (0:34)
Track 4: We move
in a formation (0:41)
Track 5: The
meaning of life (0:36)
Obligations to future generations (0:41)
Desiring what we don't have (0:52)
Track 8: Life
seems better elsewhere (0:38)
Track 9: Who
philosophy has inspired (0:46)
Track 10: Is it
good the world is becoming more uniform? (1:00)
Mystery and politics (0:40)
Philosophy bakes no bread, so what is it good for? (0:52)
Quality of life or quantity? (0:33)
Courage is knowing what to fear (0:50)
Track 15: Is
seeing our dreams fulfilled terrible? (0:35)
Track 16: Values
Track 17: How
should one decide what to do? (0:40)
Philosophy seems so harmless and yet ideas really matter (0:32)
Track 19: The
21st century belongs to philosophy (0:42)
How can we tell if our neighbors are any good? (0:40)
Why are we afraid to die? (0:31)
Is it more important in life to get what we want or to like what we get?
VALUE of PHILOSOPHY
You might want to
look at what a famous philosopher has said about the value of
and the “Value of Philosophy”
reported in the journal Inside Higher Education
during the Presidential campaigns for the 2016
election one candidate selected Philosophy for attention. Please note the defense of the value of Philosophy
in terms of the value Society places on thinking skills and even the
value of a Philosophy major for many forms of employment. There
are values beyond these that any student of Philosophy may realize
through the study of the discipline, even at a introductory level.
||Senator Marco Rubio<<
Politician (~ Sophist)
In Iowa on
Monday, Senator Marco Rubio (at left, with Aristotle at right), a
candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, spoke about
his vision for reforming higher education, and encouraged more
people to enter vocationally oriented programs. Rubio said it was
important for students to know their chances at good jobs after
finishing various programs.
"So you can decide if
it's worth borrowing $50,000 to major in Greek philosophy," The
Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported Rubio as
saying. "Because after all, the market for Greek philosophers has
been very tight for 2,000 years." Greek philosophy seems to be
Rubio's go-to example -- see this
article from June. Or this
one from March. Or this
one from February.
Inside Higher Ed wondered
what philosophers might make of all of these comments. Amy E. Ferrer,
executive director of the American Philosophical Association,
responded via email. "Rubio's refrain about the value of philosophy
is unfortunate -- and misinformed," she said. "Philosophy teaches
many of the skills most valued in today's economy: critical
thinking, analysis, effective written and verbal communication,
problem solving, and more. And philosophy majors' success is borne
out in both data -- which show that philosophy majors consistently
outperform nearly all other majors on graduate entrance exams such
as the GRE and LSAT,
and that philosophy ties with mathematics for the highest
percentage increase from starting to midcareer salary --
and anecdotal evidence indicating that philosophy and other
humanities majors are increasingly successful
and sought afterin the business
and technology sectors.
"Examples of philosophy
majors' success in the business world include
Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, Flickr co-founder Stewart
Butterfield and Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and one of
Rubio's rivals for the Republican presidential nomination."