What is Philosophy?

Philosophy comes from the Greek word phílosophía, meaning ‘the love of wisdom’, and is the knowledge of ‘thinking about thinking’.

Philosophy can be separated into four main areas:

  1. What sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics)
  2. What counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology)
  3. What are the correct principles of reasoning (logic)
  4. How we should live (ethics)

Often the best way of defining philosophy is to ask a few philosophical questions such as:

  • How was the world created?
  • Is there any will or meaning behind what happens?
  • Is there a life after death?
  • How can we answer these questions?
  • And most important, how ought you live?

As used originally by the ancient Greeks, the term ‘philosophy’ meant the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and comprised all areas of speculative thought, including the arts, sciences and religion.

Philosophical questions, unlike those of the sciences, are usually foundational and abstract in nature. Philosophy is conducted primarily through reflection and does not tend to rely on experiment.

In today’s common usage, it sometimes carries the sense of unproductive or frivolous musings, but over the centuries it has produced some of the most important original thought. Philosophy’s contribution to politics, sociology, mathematics, science and literature has been immeasurable.

Although the study of philosophy may not yield ‘the meaning of life, the universe and everything’, many philosophers believe that it is important that each of us examines such questions and that an unexamined life is not worth living.

Philosophy also provides a good way of learning to think more clearly about a wide range of issues, and its methods of analyzing arguments can be useful in a variety of situations in other areas of life.

In short, philosophy is how we better understand ourselves.

Image from www.greenleafpsychology.com

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