What Is Philosophy The term philosophy comes from the ancient Greek word "Φιλοσοφία" (philo-sophia), which means "love of wisdom. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the original meaning of the word encompassed all knowledge. Overtime, it gained the more specialized meaning of knowledge of the world, as contrasted with knowledge of the divine. Science was originally called "natural philosophy. The most modern meaning of the word is the study of things that are ultimate, and with the most general causes and principles. Informally, a "philosophy" may refer to a general worldview or to a specific ethic or belief. There is some broad agreement that philosophy is characterized by a certain method, subject matter, and objectives. Philosophy has a critical or skeptical nature. Philosophers try wherever possible to examine and criticize beliefs that are commonly taken for granted. Philosophy students are taught not to take anything on trust, "particularly if it
94 seems obvious and undeniable" (Hodges. Rather, they are encouraged to provide good reasons for any conclusions they come to. The role of empirical experimentation in philosophy is questionable. Some philosophers believe that philosophy is not experimental. These philosophers may believe that philosophy does not employ the methods of empirical science, and its questions cannot be answered by observation or experiment, although observation and experiment may prompt those questions. However, this was not the attitude taken by ancient Hellenistic philosophers, who saw any intellectual investigation as philosophy. Quite the opposite science in general used to be known as "natural philosophy. Philosophy generally concerns itself with what are sometimes called 'the big questions. For example "What is the meaning of life How did the world begin Do I have a soul Will my soul survive my death What really exists Could nothing have ever existed. Philosophers disagree on the goal of philosophical enquiry. Those attracted to the 'big questions' say the point of philosophy is to discover the absolutely fundamental reasons behind everything, or to unify and transcend the insights given by science and religion. Others say that, at most, the goal of philosophy is to make explicit, or to clarify, the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs. Indeed, the unifying goal behind philosophical inquiry may simply be the process of thinking through interesting questions. Rather than merely using the concepts that are usually employed in everyday life in thinking about the world, philosophy also makes those concepts themselves the object of study. Philosophy, in this respect, may involve thinking about thinking. There is no universal agreement about which subjects are the main branches of philosophy. The Aristotelian division was as follows 1. First philosophy (metaphysics, of which the main area is ontology (the study of kinds of existence or being. 2. Cosmology. This includes the nature of material substance, of quality and quantity, of space, causation, and change. 3. Psychology. This is a much wider and more "philosophical" subject than the modern subject of the same name, encompassing the philosophy of perception, the theory of knowledge, and the nature of the soul (now similar to what is called "philosophy of mind. Aristotle regarded ethics and politics not as parts of theoretical philosophy at all, but as practical disciplines. Logic he regarded as theoretical, but not as a science in its own right, since it is a necessary preliminary to all knowledge. The modern classification, which originates with Christian Wolff, is into four main branches logic, epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics. Aesthetics
95 is often considered as a fifth branch, though it is also sometimes included with ethics as "value theory" in modern philosophy departments. Logic What is truth How or why do we identify a statement as true or false And, how do we reason Epistemology Is knowledge possible How do we know what we know How do we take what is "known" to extrapolate what is "unknown Ethics Is there a difference between morally right and wrong actions (or values, or institutions If so, what is that difference Which actions are right and which wrong Are values absolute, or relative In general or particular terms, how should I live How is right and wrong defined Is there an ultimate "ought Is there a normative value or objective that supersedes all others Are values 'in' the world like tables and chairs and if not how should we understand their ontological status Metaphysics What is reality, and what exists What is the nature of those things Do somethings exist independently of our perception What is the nature of space and time What is the nature of thought and thinking What is it to be a person Aesthetics What is it to be beautiful How do beautiful things differ from the everyday What is Art Does true beauty exist There are many overlapping issues between the categories. However, these five broad categories are not the only areas of philosophical inquiry. Politics (seen by Aristotle as part of ethics, physics, geology, biology, meteorology, astronomy, etc, were all originally part of philosophy. The Greeks, through the influence of Socrates and his method, developed a tradition of analysis that divided a subject into its components in order better to understand it. Use of this method is what made those subjects philosophical and since many subjects made use of that method, the scope of philosophical material was wide. In addition, a number of subfields of philosophy have enjoyed contemporary focus and research. One way to distinguish the thinker who is pursuing philosophy from a person making an ordinary inquiry about the world is to ask the question, does this person throughout his or her life consistently address concerns of logic, epistemology, ethics and aesthetics, and ontology and metaphysics, or does he or she advance his or her thoughts without regard for the systematic relationships between these areas of inquiry Someone who pursued only logic without thinking of ethics, or epistemology without thinking of aesthetics, could hardly be called a philosopher.