Why Study Philosophy?

By Storck, Thomas | New Oxford Review, January/February 2013 | Go to article overview

Why Study Philosophy?


Storck, Thomas, New Oxford Review


WHAT IS THQMISM & WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Although the number of bachelor's degrees conferred in philosophy in the U.S. is small compared -to the number conferred in business or education or the health professions, philosophy continues to hold a recognized place in American university curriculum. In many Catholic institutions, it holds an honored place, its value sanctioned by centuries of philosophic cultivation and by the explicit approval of the Church. But what value does philosophy have? Why, apart from tradition, is its study important? Many consider philosophy to be important chiefly because of its ability to form minds and to make students more rigorous thinkers and debaters - something useful in preparing for other fields, like law. While this might be the case, philosophy does more than that; it allows us to understand reality, to know the truth, and, moreover, to see that the truth is of the utmost importance not only for the life of the Church but for the political, social, and cultural life of the world. These are the real reasons why the cultivation and study of philosophy are of such importance and why it matters that philosophy not only continue to be taught, but that the right philosophy be taught and studied.

Those who value philosophy chiefly as away of sharpening mental skills usually do not think much about whether or not a particular philosophy might be true or false. Indeed, they may well think that it hardly matters. For if a student must argue one day for Plato and the next for Hume or Kant, surely (so it is thought) he is sharpening his mind and without doubt preparing himself for the realities of a legal career. But if, without denying philosophy's ability to help us think more clearly, we see its importance as a means of uncovering the truth, then we must be interested above all in the question of whether there is such a thing as a true philosophy, and what it might be.

What do we mean by a true philosophy? All philosophers make claims about reality, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly - claims that often are at odds with one another. To take a few examples, while many philosophers have put forward proofs for the existence of God, the twentieth-century English philosopher AJ. Ayer, in his influential hookLanguage, Truthand Logic (1936), confidently asserts that we cannot make statements about religious truths without talking nonsense. "The sentence, There exists a transcendent god' has, as we have seen, no literal significance," he wrote. Other philosophers have denied that we can know the real world outside our minds or know right and wrong. Obviously, students cannot be indifferent to such assertions because they concern important questions for human life and society. But aside from recognizing and condemning philosophic errors, is there anything positive that philosophy can say about reality, about God and the world?

Throughout the history of philosophy , beginning in ancient Greece, there have been multiple philosophic opinions and systems. In the midst of this multiplicity, one philosophic tradition has persisted and, although often eclipsed for a time, has always re-emerged and been elaborated on and developed by new generations of philosophers. This tradition began with Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and received its most classic formulation in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225-1274). One might object that the labeling of Thomas as simply an Aristotelian perpetuates a misconception that scholarly opinion has abandoned. A few distinctions are in order.

First, St. Thomas was professionally a theologian, not a philosopher. Aside from his commentaries on Aristotle, his purely philosophic works are generally short and incidental to his theological activity. As a theologian, Aquinas drew heavily on St. Augustine, on the writer we today call Pseudo-Dionysius, and on the Church Fathers generally. But as a philosopher he accepted the fundamental framework of Aristotle's thought. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why Study Philosophy?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.