Definition of Philosophy


Philosophy is a subject or idea that I constantly think about, but in my head I always thought it was because I had an overactive imagination. One may even say, maybe I looked to in depth at certain topics and ideas. After approaching the topic, I can say that maybe I have a philosophical mind. One would think the basis of philosophy is to ask the questions that can not be answered or hope would be answered. However, philosophy is so much more and contains many parts and schools of thoughts that one realizes the basis of knowledge begins with a question; begins with philosophy.

The American Heritage Dictionary defined philosophy in eight different ways; which includes: “the love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral discipline; investigation of nature, causes, principles of reality, knowledge, values that are based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods; a system of thought based on or involving inquiries; the critical analysis of fundamental assumptions or beliefs, etc” (2005). In other words, philosophy is the study of the fundamentals and background of any subject of idea. In philosophy, one may question one’s existence, of even the foundation of one’s beliefs. “If one strives for a higher autonomous worldview, cultivating a thinking free of religious and other dogmas, then one is doing philosophy” (Heidegger & Saddler, 2000, p. 6). Philosophy can then mean to think freely without personal opinions and beliefs enforcing or coercing ideas – to think freely without any inhibitors.

The foundation of philosophy is based on the questions that begin the thinking. With philosophical questions, one is trying to find the meaning behind an idea or existence. Some questions can be answered with logical and sound reasoning, while others become rhetorical questions that stimulate the brain for discussion. This is the opposite of scientific and factual questions. These type of questions – scientific and factual – require answers with some type of facts behind them; an answer that is tangible or can be proven. When a person thinks of mathematics for instance, when those theories presented themselves, the answers were tangible and can be proven with a particular equation. Philosophy does not in most cases.

One can say that most philosophers are creating questions that deal with subjects that might not have a direct, tangible response. “…man acquires the explanations and interpretations of his individual and social life. The meaning and purpose of human existence and of human creation as a culture, are discovered” (Heidegger & Saddler, 2000, p. 9). With this statement, one can see how the questions would not have an answer like those of scientific and factual questions. Yes, with these philosophical questions, one can obtain an answer, but the answer might not be based on facts. One would raise a theory or even argument, and then support that argument with logical reasoning and support. The website which featured a document from the book titled, The Nature of Philosophy stated mainly, philosophy is based off of questions that can only be answered with sound reasoning. In scientific or factual questions, one can study particular information, conduct experiments or surveys, or even produce a simulation. Philosophy is quite the opposite, empirical investigations can be used to support philosophy but cannot be done to answer the philosophical question.

Listed below are examples of philosophical questions to further show the difference between scientific/factual questions and philosophical questions:
- Does every event have a cause?
- When we judge something as good and bad, are we using our own personal views?
- Does morality truly exist?
- Does all our five senses truly represent the world around us?

To begin to even answer these questions, one must know what the questions mean; which is the start of thinking philosophically. If we were to test if every event had a cause, we would have to check every event in the world and even then that would be questioned. Looking at the last question, one could think it is easily answered because of all the tools we have to test scientifically, but the dispute is that we use our sense for those tools. A true philosopher would begin to deconstruct your theory as soon as you started to answer factually or scientifically. This brings to the next difference that philosophical questions can generate more questions because there is no foundation to begin to build your answers.

Philosophy is a subject that can have no true right or wrong answer, because all philosophers are looking for wisdom and increased knowledge. The subjects can range from anything and everything. The history of philosophy starts with the examination of what is life and its beings. Even looking back on past writing by the greatest philosophers, everything was thought supported with sound reasoning to base an answer on. Even now to this day, those answers are being manipulated and changing with the times. Philosophy cannot be answered simply and supported with just one factual answer because not everything in this subject can be answered. Philosophy is meant to stimulate the mind and for people to begin to think out of the box.

References
Heidegger, M., & Sadler, T. (2000). Towards the definition of philosophy. : The Athlone Press.
Houghton Mifflin Company. (2005). American heritage dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.ask.com/web?q=dictionary%3A+philosophy&content=ahdict%7C52396&o=0&l=dir
(). The nature of philosphy. Retrieved from http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:qVueDHQIUu0J:www.polity.co.uk/nuttall/pdf/001.pdf+nature+of+philosophical+questions&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AHIEtbR5akmmoTEvghzdQtUV_w-f0XL7Hw

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