What Is Philosophy? An Introduction

What Is Philosophy? An Introduction

What Is Philosophy? An Introduction

What Is Philosophy? An Introduction


It is difficult to see any common factors underlying all the different philosophies and movements of philosophy. The so-called 'great philosophers' seem to have little in common with each other. The history of western philosophy features a bewildering variety of philosophical movements that pop up from nowhere. Philosophy itself seems to be an unfathomable subject that applies everywhere and nowhere. This book makes sense of all these disparities and confusions. What is Philosophy? shows the importance of philosophy in our thoughts and our lives. It also makes clear the role that philosophy has played in making western culture so dominant in the early 21st century. The book presents an orderly view of philosophy, what it consists of, and where it appears to be going. The book also gives a unified view of how philosophy developed historically and how philosophy has often moved from dogmatism to scepticism and vice versa. Providing a comprehensive view of the whole field of philosophy, it is an ideal introduction for all those wishing to learn more about the subject.


What philosophy is about

What is philosophy? In a sense, we all can answer that question, as philosophy is meant for everyone. We may make of it as little or as much as we please. But the more we make of philosophy, the more seriously we must take it. This book is for those who want to take a serious look at philosophy without necessarily becoming serious philosophers. It will particularly interest young people and adults who want to understand the basics of philosophy and get a gist of what the well-known philosophers were saying. It provides an overview which will hopefully give beginners the confidence to take their study of philosophy further. They may discover areas of special interest to them, be inspired to read the works of the great philosophers, or to consult, for instance, online resources such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Wikipedia without being bemused by the choice and range of material available.

Philosophy ought to appeal to all of us because it comes from our sense of wonder about the universe and our place in it. As a species, we are naturally curious about everything, and we desire to know and understand things. As individuals, we want to be wise rather than plain ignorant. Hence the word ‘philosophy’ means ‘love of wisdom’ in Greek. It originally covered all intellectual pursuits. Everyone earnestly seeking knowledge and understanding was called a philosopher.

Whenever we think deeply and consistently about our ideas, concepts, principles, theories, morals, or ways of living, we are doing philosophy. How do we know what we know? What is it to be a good person? What is art? Is an electron a real or imaginary object? Is religion fantasy or reality? These are all philosophical questions, and in considering them, we are philosophers of some type or other: see ‘Types of Philosopher’, below.

Every human activity has its ‘philosophy’. We can have a philosophy of how to run a business, of playing golf, shopping, eating carefully, or whatever. Our thinking about an activity becomes a philosophy when we think seriously about it and have our reasons for doing what we do. We philosophise about it when . . .

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