Inquiring Minds

Article excerpt

Last week Peter and I went to Sydney to attend a family wedding. As it was Easter, we did not want to be driving on the Pacific Highway so we decided to take the train. It was a wonderful experience. We were able to walk to the station to catch the 6.30am train and then relax for 10 hours. I refer to this as I read a book by James Garvey titled The Twenty Greatest Philosophy Books. For a real novice, I wanted a book that would be entertaining but also explain philosophy.

The introduction to the book sums up 'philosophy'. I will quote from this section.

"For most, philosophy is characterised by its subject matter. Philosophers deal primarily with three questions: What exists? How do we know? What are we going to do about it?

"The first question involves us in metaphysics, the study of existence in its most abstract sense. Metaphysics not only deals with the bare bones of reality, but it also tries to put some flesh on the bones, and in so doing it says something about what it is to be human; whether or not we are free or determined; what the relation is between mind and body; whether there is a God; what he or she might be like; what the properties of objects are; what causes and effects are; what numbers might be; and so on.

"The second question - how do we know - is shorthand for epistemology, the study of knowledge and the justification of belief. Epistemology is in the business of formulating theories of knowledge, saying what the conditions are for knowing something or other, determining what truth itself is. …