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From a desire of knowledge has, philosophizing, journeyed through many lands.

- Herodotus (484-424 B. C.) The Greek Historian
Sometimes philosophy is called as the queen of sciences.

Every culture has devised its own

way of responding to the riddle of
the Cosmos. . . . There are many
different ways of being human.
-Carl Sagan

Philosophy is mans quest for the unity of knowledge: it consists in a

perpetual struggle to create the concepts in which the universe can be
conceived as a universe and not a multiverse. . . . This attempt stands
without rival as the most audacious enterprise in which the mind of man
has ever engaged: Here is man, surrounded by the vastness of a universe
in which he is only a tiny and perhaps insignificant partand he wants
to understand it.
-William Halverson

Understanding man and his place

in the universe is perhaps the central
problem of all science.
-Dunn and Dobzhansky

The intellectuals of philosophy wanted to change the way people

conceived the world about them.
Everyone, whether he be plowman or banker, clerk or captain, citizen or ruler,
is, in a real sense, a philosopher. Being human, having a highly developed
brain and nervous system, he must think; and thinking is the pathway to

The world in which we live will not let us rest. It keeps prodding us,
challenging us with problems to be solved, and demanding that we act wisely
or be destroyed by the forces which inhabit our world. In this way experiences
are born hungers and satisfactions, pains and pleasures, sights, feelings,
sounds, and a host of others.

But we cannot rest contented with a mass of unrelated experiences

scattered at random throughout life. We must take our experiences and
weave them into some kind of a pattern, a whole which is more or less
satisfying. This pattern, this whole, is our philosophy.

Your philosophy, then, is the meaning which the world has for you. It is your
answer to the question, "Why?" Having fitted your experiences into a whole,
having related them to each other, you say of the world. This is the way things
fit together. This is the world as I understand it. This is my philosophy."

Your philosophy and the philosophy of those whose names appear in books of
Philosophy differ only in that the latter use more experiences in weaving their
patterns, those patterns which satisfy them, and are more careful and
thorough in fitting their experiences into a pattern. Theirs is a more
complete, more all-inclusive pattern, more logical, more consistent, more

Philosophical claims are characteristically speculative. Philosophers do not

need any kind of empirical information in developing and defending their views.
The idea is that if philosophers do not rely on empirical data, they must rely on
non-empirical data. These data would have to be data of a special kind
accessible by intellectual reflection in an armchair. And if philosophers
hypotheses are tested by non-empirical data, then these hypotheses
themselves will not be empirical hypotheses. They will not be hypotheses about
the empirical world, but hypotheses about how we think about the
empirical world.

They are hypotheses about our representations of things. Philosophy then

becomes an enquiry into the nature of our representations or concepts of
Since the study of philosophy involves working with concepts rather than
facts, the activity of philosophy seeks understanding rather than knowledge.
Memorizing the subject matter of philosophy is less likely to give insight into
the discipline than is engaging actively in process doing philosophy.

Philosophy is an intellectual journey. This journey is in search of ideas.

Philosophy is one of the most challenging undertakings a human can enter

into. It is one of the most powerful mental disciplines humans have
developed in their time on this planet. It has changed the course of human
events around the world in manners that are both subtle and in some that are
quite obvious. Philosophy has evolved or arisen in every major human
civilization. It is a natural development for minds that are inquiring and

Philosophy is an invitation to ponder, in the largest possible perspective, the

weightier, more stubborn problems of human existence. It is an invitation to
thinkto wonder, to question, to speculate, to reason, even to fantasize
in the eternal search for wisdom. In a word, synoptic philosophy is an attempt
to weave interconnecting lines of illumination between all the disparate
realms of human thought in the hope that, like a thousand dawnings, new
insights will burst through.

By its very nature, philosophy is a do-it-yourself enterprise. There is a

common misunderstanding that philosophylike chemistry or historyhas a
content to offer, a content that a teacher is to teach and a student is to learn.
This is not the case. There are no facts, no theories, certainly no final truths
that go by the name of philosophy and that one is supposed to accept and
believe. Rather, philosophy is a skill more akin to mathematics and music;
it is something that one learns to do.

Philosophy, that is, is a method. It is learning how to ask and reask

questions until meaningful answers begin to appear. It is learning how to
relate materials. It is learning where to go for the most dependable, up-to-date
information that might shed light on some problem. It is learning how to
double-check fact-claims in order to verify or falsify them. It is learning how to
reject fallacious fact-claimsno matter how prestigious the authority who
holds them or how deeply one personally would like to believe them.

The function of philosophy is to seek an understanding of man and his

world, to disclose the significant possibilities of human experience and to
project a vision of life and values. This vision is generated through
imagination but not made out of the imaginary stuff. It is in close contact with
the world of fact that philosophic vision discloses the significant or realizable
possibilities of experience, of collective human experience.
A philosopher is essentially a man of vision and not a man of action. It is
an inquiry determined by an intellectual end, the end being an understanding
of man and his world.

Philosophy is not a luxury, indeed it becomes a necessity just as soon as

people are able and willing to think freely about their beliefs. The terrible
consequences that have followed from dogmatically held beliefs throughout
human history bear sufficient testimony to the need to philosophize.
Anyone who open-mindedly and critically examines, rather than simply
accepts, fundamental ideas, has started doing philosophy. Philosophy cuts
very deeply into our beliefs concerning the world and our place in it.

However, it is important not to confuse the truth of philosophical positions and

the soundness of the arguments presented for them with either their causal,
psychological, historical origin or the extent of their causal, psychological,
historical influence. Philosophy involves expounding existing ideas, creating
new imaginative ideas, and critically assessing the soundness of
arguments put forward in support of views claimed to be true. Neither the
causal origin of a claim or argument, nor its causal influence on human affairs,
has any relevance in assessing the truth of a claim or the soundness of the
argument presented for it. One can of course trace origins and influences as
well, but that is not the same as, and not a substitute for, assessing the
validity of arguments and the truth of beliefs. A given philosophy could have an
interesting origin or be very influential, but may still be bad philosophy for all

Philosophy is an activity: it is a way of thinking about certain sorts of

question. Its most distinctive feature is its use of logical argument.
Philosophers typically deal in arguments: they either invent them, criticize
other peoples, or do both. They also analyse and clarify concepts. The word
philosophy is often used in a much broader sense than this to mean ones
general outlook on life, or else to refer to some forms of mysticism.


Philosophy, like all other studies, aims primarily at knowledge. The knowledge
it aims at is the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of
the sciences, and the kind which results from a critical examination of the
grounds of our convictions, prejudices, and beliefs. But it cannot be
maintained that philosophy has had any very great measure of success in its
attempts to provide definite answers to its questions.

As soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible,

this subject ceases to be called philosophy, and becomes a separate
The whole study of the heavens, which now belongs to astronomy, was once
included in philosophy; Newton's great work was called 'the mathematical
principles of natural philosophy'. Similarly, the study of the human mind,
which was a part of philosophy, has now been separated from philosophy and
has become the science of psychology. Thus, to a great extent, the uncertainty
of philosophy is more apparent than real: those questions which are already
capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to
which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue
which is called philosophy.

The Philosopher

As told by Cicero, the story is that, in a conversation with Leon, the ruler of
Phlius, in the Peloponnesus, he described himself as a philosopher, and said
that his business was an investigation into the nature of things.

The philosopher is a lover of wisdom, one who seeks wisdom for its own sake
and not for any other motive, for a person who seeks a certain thing for some
other motive loves the motive more than the thing sought. Philosophy is,
strictly speaking, knowledge sought for its own sake, for the sheer love of
truth. In the Protrepticus, Aristotle holds that it is by no means strange that
philosophic wisdom on first sight should appear to be devoid of immediate
practical usefulness and, as a matter of fact, might not at all prove to be
advantageous. For we call philosophic wisdom not advantageous in a practical
sense of the term, but good. It ought to be pursued, not for the sake of
anything else, but rather exclusively for its own sake. For as we journey to
the games at Olympia for the spectacle itself for the spectacle as such is
worth more than much money and as we watch the Dionysia not in order to
derive some material profit from the actors as a matter of fact, we spend
money on them and as there are many more spectacles we ought to prefer to
great riches: so, too, the viewing and contemplation of the universe is to be
valued above all other things commonly considered to be useful in a practical
sense. For, most certainly, it would make little sense were we to take pains to
watch men imitating women or slaves, or fighting or running, but not think it
proper to view or contemplate, free of all charges, the nature and true reality of
everything that exists.

What kind of things do philosophers working in this tradition argue about?

They often examine beliefs that most of us take for granted most of the time.
They are concerned with questions about what could loosely be called the
meaning of life: questions about religion, right and wrong, politics, the
nature of reality, the mind, science, art, and numerous other topics. For
instance, most people live their lives without questioning their fundamental
beliefs, such as that killing is wrong. But why is it wrong? What justification is
there for saying that killing is wrong? Is it wrong in every circumstance? What
about killing in self-defense? What about killing animals painlessly? And what
do I mean by wrong anyway? These are philosophical questions. Many of our
beliefs, when examined, turn out to have firm foundations, but some do not.
The study of philosophy not only helps us to think clearly about our
prejudices, but also helps to clarify precisely what we do believe. In the process
it develops an ability to argue coherently on a wide range of issues a useful
transferable skill.


What are the great philosophic problems which puzzle all of us, and which the
great philosophers throughout the ages have sought to answer? We find that
there are ten major problems which have always challenged thinking men and

The first of these problems is: What is the nature of the universe? Did this
universe come into being through an act of divine creation or is it the result of
a gradual process of growth? Of what substance or substances is the universe
created? How does the universe change?

The second problem is: What is mans place in the universe? Is the human
individual the crowning achievement of a growing and creating universe, or is
he a mere speck of dust in unlimited space? Does the universe care for you and
me, or are we of no more concern than a grain of sand on a vast beach? Can we
mould the universe to our liking, or will it eventually destroy us?

The third great problem is: What is good and what is evil? How are we to
know the good from the evil? Has some divine power set standards of good and
evil for all times, or are good and evil matters of the local culture? Is good in
the very nature of things, or is it something which we can decide for ourselves?
How can we distinguish good from evil?

A fourth problem is: What is the nature of God? Is God a being very much
like man who governs the universe, or is He a spirit which pervades
everything? Is God all-powerful, all-good, and all-just, or is He just another
individual who has little more power or insight than you and I?

A fifth problem is related to the question of Fate versus free will? Are we free
individuals who can make our choices and determine our actions without let or
hindrance, or are we determined by a fate over which we have no control? Can
we determine tomorrow in any significant sense, or is it all determined for us
from the beginning of time?

The sixth problem is concerned with the Soul and immortality. What is the
soul about which we have heard so much? Is it of such a nature that it lives
after the death of the body, or does it die with the body? Is there a future life in
which good is rewarded and evil punished, or does death mark the end of

A seventh problem consists of man's questions about Man and the state* Is
the state a human creation which has been brought into being to serve man, or
is it something that has divine origin? Are the rulers of states given their power
by those they rule or by God? Does man have a right to rebel against his rulers
and create a new kind of state? What is the best form of state and what is the

The eighth problem is that of Man and education. What is education? Why
do we have a system of education and why do we send our children to school?
Who shall control education, the people or the state? Is education designed to
make free men or to make men who will serve blindly an all-powerful state?

The ninth problem has to do with Mind and matter. Which is superior, mind
or matter? Is matter a creation of mind, or is mind merely another kind of
matter? Can mind be superior and free from matter, or is it so tied up with
matter that it is doomed? Is matter the source of all evil in the universe? How
can mind remain pure and at the same time inhabit a body?

And the tenth problem is concerned with Ideas and thinking. Where do we
get our ideas? Are they inherent in the very nature of our minds, or do they
come to us from outside the mind? What are the laws of thinking? How can we
be sure that our thinking is correct? Is thinking significant in the universe or is
it a mere sham?


If the study of philosophy has any value at all for others than students of
philosophy, it must be only indirectly, through its effects upon the lives of
those who study it. It is in these effects, therefore, if anywhere, that the value
of philosophy must be primarily sought. Thus utility does not belong to

If all men were well off, if poverty and disease had been reduced to their lowest
possible point, there would still remain much to be done to produce a
valuable society; and even in the existing world the goods of the mind are at
least as important as the goods of the body. It is exclusively among the goods of
the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found; and only those who are
not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is
not a waste of time.
Apart from its utility in showing unsuspected possibilities, philosophy has a
value --perhaps its chief value -- through the greatness of the objects which it
contemplates, and the freedom from narrow and personal aims resulting
from this contemplation.

One way of escape is by philosophic contemplation. Philosophic contemplation

does not, in its widest survey, divide the universe into two hostile camps --
friends and foes, helpful and hostile, good and bad -- it views the whole
impartially. Philosophic contemplation, when it is unalloyed, does not aim at
proving that the rest of the universe is akin to man. All acquisition of
knowledge is an enlargement of the Self, but this enlargement is best attained
when it is not directly sought. It is obtained when the desire for knowledge is
alone operative, by a study which does not wish in advance that its objects
should have this or that character, but adapts the Self to the characters which
it finds in its objects. This enlargement of Self is not obtained when, taking the
Self as it is, we try to show that the world is so similar to this Self that
knowledge of it is possible without any admission of what seems alien. The
desire to prove this is a form of self assertion and, like all self-assertion, it is an
obstacle to the growth of Self which it desires, and of which the Self knows that
it is capable. Self-assertion, in philosophic speculation as elsewhere, views the
world as a means to its own ends; thus it makes the world of less account than
Self, and the Self sets bounds to the greatness of its goods. In contemplation,
on the contrary, we start from the not-Self, and through its greatness the
boundaries of Self are enlarged; through the infinity of the universe the mind
which contemplates it achieves some share in infinity.

Philosophy does begin where acceptance ends, when we try to understand
life more deeply and ask why things are the way they are. Did the world and
everything in it come about by chance, or is there an underlying purpose to our

Whenever we speculate about such fundamental questions, and try to find

answers by deep and careful thought, then we are engaged in philosophy.
And it was the ancient Greeks who first raised such issues, reflecting on
them in a systematic way; they took the first steps in philosophic thinking,
asking the questions we still debate today.

Philosophy begins in wonder. All men by nature desire to know and

philosophizing begin with an attitude of wonder. Aristotle, in his Metaphysics,
writes that it is owing to wonder that men both now begin, and at first began,
to philosophize. They wondered... about the phenomena of the moon and those
of the sun and the stars, and about the origin of the universe.

And a man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant. Hence, even
the lover of myth in a sense is a lover of wisdom or a philosopher, for the myth,
too, is composed of wonders. Therefore, since men philosophized in order to
escape from ignorance, they were pursuing knowledge or science in order to
know, and not for any utilitarian purpose...Evidently, then, we do not seek this
kind of knowledge for the sake of any other advantage...we pursue it as the
only free science, because it exists for its own sake.

The human person yearns for truth. He is naturally inclined to this end by
the fact that he is a rational being. Philosophy is a quest for a profound
knowledge about reality that goes above and beyond (but not against)
spontaneous, common sense knowledge. A certain knowledge about reality,
including certain ultimate truths, can be attained by man even without having
recourse to philosophical, scientific reasoning, so long as he is not corrupted
by false ideologies and erroneous philosophies that go against the certainties of
common sense such as absolute idealism and Marxism which negate, for
example, the principle of non-contradiction, a self-evident truth. The natural
spontaneous knowledge of man, uncorrupted by such positions and by bad
moral habits which tend to blind man from a correct perception of reality,
is indeed capable of affirming the existence of the things in the world around
him, of being certain of the immortality of his own soul and of the souls of
other people around him (whom he affirms as really existing), and of
acknowledging the reality of a First Cause of the universe. Some basic
convictions of spontaneous knowledge include: the fact that one thing
cannot be another thing; the consciousness of ones own identity; the fact
that there exist other human persons who are similar to oneself ; the fact
that there are living beings and non-living beings; that there is such a
thing as death, that man becomes old and dies; the fact that there is a
distinction between reality and a dream; the fact that there are just
actions and unjust actions; the fact that man can tell the truth or tell a lie;
that fact that life is a value, something that is desirable; and that fact that man
has free will. The list of these convictions can, of course, go on. The various
philosophical systems that go against the certainties of spontaneous common
sense knowledge (such as the systems of rationalism, monism and idealism)
should be held suspect. If a philosopher, for example, tells you to doubt that
extra-mental reality exists or that a cat and a man are really one substance, he
should be reprimanded for such a brazen defiance of common sense.

Philosophy is human wisdom. Philosophy is not practical knowledge or the

knowledge of practical affairs that consists in acting well. Rather, it is wisdom
that essentially consists in speculative knowing. It is speculative rather
than practical.
So, philosophy consists essentially in speculative knowing. But of what ?
Of causes with certainty. Since science is defined as a certain knowledge of
causes, philosophy is truly a science. What exactly is a science? Science, in the
broad sense, means not only knowledge but specifically a knowledge that is
evidenced and therefore certain. The evidence of a given point of knowledge lies
in the fact that we recognize its causes or reasons or both. Thus, science is
defined as the knowledge through causes. A science is any defined branch
of knowledge which shows the truths that belong to its sphere of competence in
a clear and orderly fashion and with integrity or completeness, and which adds
to these truths the causes which make these truths intelligible or knowable
with certainty to the human mind. Philosophy meets the above mentioned
requirements for it sets forth the truths that unaided reason can discover
about reality, presenting these truths in a manner that is clear, orderly, logical,
and complete, and it gives, at each and every step of its development, the
evidence and the proofs which the human intellect requires to give its full and
unwavering assent to the doctrines proposed. Thus, philosophy is rightly
called a science.

Now by what medium does philosophy know? It knows by human reason, by

the natural light of the human mind. It is a human science whose rule or
criterion of truth is the evidence of its object.

Now we must determine what the material and formal objects of philosophy
are, for though philosophy is a universal science, and because of this is the
chief among the human sciences, it possesses its own distinctive nature and
object, in virtue of which it differs from the other human sciences.

But in order to know what the material and formal objects of philosophy are we
must first know what is meant by the material and formal objects of a science.
Paul Glenn explains that the object of a science is its scope, its field of
investigation, its subject matter. Further, it is the special way in which it does
its work in its field, or it is the special purpose which guides it in its work. Thus
the object of any science is two-fold. The subject-matter, the field of inquiry, is
the material object of the science. The special way, or purpose, or end-inview,
which a science has in dealing with its subject-matter or material object is the
formal object of that science. Many sciences may have the same material object,
for many more or less independent inquiries may be prosecuted in the same
general field. But each science has its own distinct and distinctive formal object
which it shares completely with no other science. That is why this object is
called formal; it gives formal character to the science; it makes the science just
what it is formally or as such. To illustrate all this. Many sciences deal with the
earth under one aspect or another. Such, for example, are geology, geodisy,
geography, geonomy, geogony, and even geometry. All these sciences study the
earth; they have therefore the same material object. But no two of these
sciences study the earth in the same special way or with the same special

Geology studies the earth in its rock formations; geodisy studies the earth in its
contours; geography studies the earth in its natural or artificial partitions;
geonomy studies the earth as subject to certain physical laws; geogeny studies
the earth to discover its origins; geometry in its first form was a study of the
earth in its mensurable bulk and its mensurable movements. Thus, while all
these sciences have the same material object, each of them has its own formal
object. If two sciences were to have the one identical formal object, they would
not really be two sciences at all, but one science. It is manifest that a science is
formally constituted in its special character by its formal object; it is equally
manifest that a science is distinguished from all other sciences by its formal
object. In sum, the material object is the subject matter, while the formal
object is the special way in which that subject matter is studied.

Philosophy, being the universal and supreme human science, studies all
reality. All things make up the material object of this science. What is the
formal object of philosophy, the aspect under which it views this material
object? Its formal object is all things in their ultimate causes and first principles.
Philosophy, then, has for its object all things, all reality, but in all things and
all reality it investigates only the ultimate causes and first principles. The other
human sciences, on the other hand, have for their material object some
particular area of being, of which they investigate only the secondary causes or
proximate principles. In light of this one can say that, of all the sciences in the
natural order, philosophy is by far the most sublime. It is the supreme and
most profound of all the sciences that investigate reality by the light of human
reason alone. Philosophy is wisdom in the strictest sense for it falls within
the ambit of wisdom to study the highest causes.

Though philosophy requires a great deal of effort, perseverance, and

intellectual discipline, it is an immensely rewarding pursuit. St. Thomas
writes in the Summa Contra Gentiles that among all human pursuits the
pursuit of wisdom is more perfect, more noble, more useful, and more full
of joy. It is more perfect because, insofar as a man gives himself to the pursuit
of wisdom, so far does he even now have some share in true beatitude. And so
a wise man has said: Blessed is the man that shall continue in wisdom. It
is more noble because through this pursuit man especially approaches to a
likeness to God who made all things in wisdom. And since likeness is the
cause of love, the pursuit of wisdom especially joins man to God in friendship.
That is why it is said of wisdom that she is an infinite treasure to men! Which
they that use become the friends of God. It is more useful because through
wisdom we arrive at the kingdom of immortality. For the desire of wisdom
bringeth to the everlasting kingdom. It is more full of joy because her
conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness, but
joy and gladness.

To philosophize is to wonder about life about right and wrong, love and
loneliness, war and death.
It is to wonder creatively about freedom, truth, beauty, time and a thousand
other things.

What do we really know? What is real? Does life have a meaning? Do you
have free will?

These are just a few philosophical questions, there are hundreds more. They
are called philosophical questions because they cant be answered once and
for all and have occupied philosophers for almost three thousand years.

Philosophy is largely a matter of philosophers opinions and they rarely agree,

but they do respect each others expert opinions.

Philosophy is the activity of seeking wisdom. In Greek, which was the first
language of Western philosophy, philosophy means love of wisdom. One loves
wisdom by trying to figure out what it is. There are many ways human beings
seek wisdom, including art, religion, and lived experience. Philosophy is
distinct because it seeks wisdom.

Philosophers focus on ideas, the meaning of ideas, and beliefs by analyzing

them. They break them down into their parts and then build them back up
again and combine them in new ways. In addition to analysis, philosophers
reflect on what goes on in the mind and the world; they seek wisdom through
intuitions of whole structures of thought or experience.

How is philosophy different from other intellectual pursuits?

Generally, the kind of wisdom philosophers love consists of answers to

questions, which have to be worked out in the mind instead of discovered
through microscopes, telescopes, surveys, or measurement. For example, a
sociologist will study what people believe, but a philosopher will ask if
those beliefs are true or justified by what is true.

Because philosophical questions cannot be answered with facts, their answers

are largely a matter of opinion. But the opinions are special, because reasons
are always given for them. Stilland this is what some people find so enjoyable
about philosophy much of philosophical activity is a conversation or dialogue
between and among philosophers. And they almost never agree!
Philosophy is all about our beliefs and attitudes about ourselves and the
world. Doing philosophy, therefore, is first of all the activity of stating, as
clearly and as convincingly as possible, what we believe and what we believe in.
This does not mean, however, that announcing ones allegiance to some grand-
sounding ideas or, perhaps, some impressive word or ism is all that there is
to philosophy.

Philosophy is the development of these ideas, the attempt to work them out
with all their implications and complications. It is the attempt to see their
connections and compare them with other peoples viewsincluding the classic
statements of the great philosophers of the past. It is the effort to appreciate
the differences between ones own views and others views, to be able to argue
with someone who disagrees and resolve the difficulties that they may throw in
your path.

Philosophy is the attempt to coordinate a number of different ideas into a

single viewpoint and defending what you believe against those who are out to
refute you. Indeed, a belief that cant be tied in with a great many other beliefs
and that cant withstand criticism may not be worth believing at all.

To philosophize is
to explore life.
It especially means breaking free
to ask questions.
It means resisting
easy answers.

How it began?

IN the sixth century B.C. something stirred into life on the cosmopolitan coast
of Asia Minor that has had a profound significance for civilization. Men began
to ask questions that had never been asked before. They began to ask what
the world was made of and how it originated.

As far as our records show, this kind of speculation was without precedent.
Both the Egyptians and the Babylonians had studied mathematics,
astronomy, and medicine. They had made surprising progress in these
subjects, although the results were expressed in an occult terminology. But
such subjects had been hitherto studied by priests in sacred colleges. They
had to be fitted into the framework of a religious cosmology. For laymen to
venture an opinion on these deep matters was an innovation.
There is no evidence that the priestly caste ever debated the question of how
the world came into existence. It would scarcely have occurred to them that the
problem might be solved by the use of reason. They were satisfied that they
knew the answers. They were guardians and interpreters of a sacred canon.

The discovery that the origin and meaning of life were questions that might
be solved by rational discussion constitutes a landmark in human history.
Only a very few individuals were conscious of it; for the masses in those
turbulent times life went on exactly as before. Nevertheless, the first blow for
liberation had been struck. Man had begun to ask those questions which not
only enriched his own consciousness, but ultimately led to control over the
forces of nature.

The search started, not merely for information, but for understanding.
" Much learning does not bring understanding," said Heraclitus. And by
understanding he meant, "Nothing else but the exposition of the way in which
the universe works."Knowledge of this kind could not be derived from
traditional beliefs, as most people supposed." One must not act and talk like
those reared with the narrow outlook,' As it has been handed down to us.'"

Thus a rent was made in the blanket of superstition that had hitherto stifled
free inquiry. A new wind was blowing across the world. Men were
beginning to look at the world with new eyes. They discovered problems
that seemed capable of solution by this new and exciting method, by observing
and reasoning. Before long this pursuit of wisdom was exalted into the highest
possible activity; and those who used the new, intellectual instrument were
called "lovers of wisdom" philosophers.

Naturally, the lonians made no distinction between philosophy and science.

How recent such a separation is may be seen by the fact that we still have
chairs of natural philosophy and mental philosophy in some of our universities,
though the subjects taught are, of course, physics and psychology. In practice,
however, philosophy now has a very restricted meaning. It has been the victim
of its own success. Starting as an inquiry into the working of the universe, as
soon as some branch of the investigation yielded positive results, that field was
removed from philosophy and given the name of a special science.

Science is thus the offspring of philosophy; but so far from devouring its
parent, as it becomes more mature science turns again to philosophy for
guidance. Hence we find that physics, the most advanced of the sciences, is
becoming increasingly philosophical. But even if every question about the
working of the universe could be appropriated by a particular science, there
would still be the question of how science itself works. It has been suggested
that science interrogating itself, fashioning a science of science, may well be
the last province left to philosophy. But the prospect is merely an academic
possibility, because we are never likely to reach finality. The philosopher can be
assured of a place as the critic of concepts, though he may have to give up
constructing world systems.

It had been a tremendous leap forward when the Greeks discovered that
some problems could be solved by intelligent discussion.

Philosophy is for those

who are willing to be disturbed
with a creative disturbance.

Why is philosophy important?

Philosophical study of the natural world gave rise to the physical sciences of
our day: physics, astronomy, geology, biology, and chemistry.

Philosophical study of the human world gave rise to the social sciences of
psychology, history, political science, sociology, and anthropology, as well as
linguistics and cognitive science.

Of course, many theoretical ideas about the world remain in philosophy as

metaphysics, and many human questions are still only considered in
philosophy, insofar as it is part of the humanities. These human questions are
of universal interest across cultures and in ordinary, practical, daily life.

Does philosophy only deal with the big questions about life and the

Not all philosophical work is about important questions. Some of it may seem
absurd to non-philosophers. For example, how is the mind connected to the
body? Most of us know that if we want to raise our right arm and we are not
paralyzed, it is the easiest thing in the world to dowe just decide to do it and
the arm goes up. But ever since the work of the seventeenth-century
philosopher Ren Descartes (15961650), philosophers have argued
passionately among themselves about the right way to describe the connection
between the mind and the body.

What have been the two main subjects of Western philosophy?

Western Philosophy has always had two main subjects:

The natural world and the human world.

The natural world includes nature, physical reality, and the cosmos.

The human world includes human beings, their values, experience, minds,
ethics, societies, government, cultures, and human nature itself.

Philosophy of course occurs in all cultures and daily life; but Western
Philosophy is a distinct way of thinking that consists of hypotheses and
generalizations about what philosophers believe is important in the natural
and human worlds. Western philosophers have not been focused on stories of
the origins of peoples nor on events in time, like historians, and neither are
they focused on individual lives, like biographers. Instead, they have sought to
view events and lives in general and abstract ways that can tell us what is true
of categories or kinds of events, and individual lives.

What does philosophy have to do with ordinary life?

Everyone at some time thinks about general matters that do not have easy
answers: Is there a higher purpose to life? Is there life after death?
What is the most important thing in a human life? Do I have free
will? Young children naturally ask why questions that drive their parents
into philosophical answers, whether they realize it or not.

What is the connection between religion and philosophy?

Both philosophy and religion address the issue of God, though philosophy does
not concern itself exclusively with God as religion does. Philosophy tends to
concentrate more on the ideas in religion. Depending on the extent and power
of religious ideas in the cultures in which they lived, philosophers have had
different degrees of relation to theology. For example, when the Catholic
Church was the dominant institution in Europe during the medieval period,
philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas (c. 12251274) devoted most of their
work to questions related to God.

Ancient Greek philosophers, who were later known as pagans, were less
interested in religion, and by the eighteenth century Enlightenment, much of
philosophy was secular. This secularization of philosophy was partly the result
of David Humes (17111776) skeptical writings about both the practice of
religion and the existence of God. Nineteenth and twentieth century
philosophers developed the field as a form of secular inquiry that does not
require religious commitment.
To philosophize
is to seek in oneself
the courage to ask
painful questions.

Whats the difference between the practice of philosophy and the subject
of philosophy?

Besides being an activity, philosophy is also a field of study, like

psychology, history, biology, or literature. When philosophy is studied as a
subject, a lot of whats studied is the history of philosophy in the form of
writings by past philosophers. At the beginning of the twenty-first century,
philosophy is mainly an academic discipline, which branches off into
specializations and subfields. As a practice, the activities of academic
philosophers consist of college teaching and the writing of scholarly texts,
which are contributions and additions to the field of philosophy as a body of
knowledge that can be studied.

How is philosophy related to other fields?

Philosophy is now a subject in the humanities within the college curriculum.

Its primary purpose is to study and develop systematic habits of thought that
will enable students to recognize and evaluate their own life choices and
understand the society in which they live. Because so much of philosophy
focuses on ideas, beliefs, and values, it is rather easily connected to literature
and projects in contemporary cultural criticism and analysis in other fields.
Toward the end of the twentieth century, philosophers began to apply their
work to other fields, for example via medical ethics and business ethics. The
relevance of philosophy also increased as philosophers added feminism,
environmental issues, and questions about social justice to their curricula.

Did the study of some of the sciences get their start in philosophy?

Yes. Until the end of the seventeenth century, the physical sciences were
called Natural Philosophy, and until the nineteenth century there were no
social sciences. Social science work was done under the name of philosophy.
Many sciences have their roots in philosophical debates. Western science
began with the Pre-Socratics in the seventh century B.C.E. The Pre-Socratics
were the first Westerners in recorded history to think about the world using
reason instead of myth. Much later, Western science got another big boost from
Isaac Newton (16431727), who practiced what was then called natural
philosophy and persists to this day as physics.

Chemistry also got its start through philosophical inquiry by Newtons

contemporary Robert Boyle (16271691). In the early twentieth century, the
philosopher William James (18421910) founded the science of psychology.
And in the middle of the twentieth century, Noam Chomsky (1928) combined
philosophy with linguistics to get the new field of cognitive science started.

There are similar origins in the social sciences: ideals of government and
forms of governmenttopics now falling into the category of political science
were first theorized by philosophers such as Plato (c. 428c. 348 B.C.E.),
Aristotle (384322 B.C.E.), Thomas Aquinas (c. 12251274), Thomas Hobbes
(15881679), John Locke (16321704), and John Stuart Mill (18061873).
Karl Marx (18181883), who is credited with developing the theoretical
foundation of communism and socialism, modified the ideas of philosopher
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831).

The first systematic historian was a philosopher, Giovanni Battista

(Giambattista) Vico (also Vigo; 16681744), as was the first sociologist, the
philosophical positivist Auguste Comte (full name, Isidore Marie Auguste
Franois Xavier Comte; 17981857); and the philosopher Immanuel Kant
(17241804) is usually credited with having founded anthropology.

In the twentieth century, social movements have received valuable inspiration

from the work of philosophers: for instance, the womens movement from
Simone de Beauvoir (19081986), the civil rights movement from W.E.B. Du
Bois (18681963), the animal rights movement from Peter Singer (1946), and
the environmental preservation movement from Arne Naess (19122009), who
introduced the term deep ecology.

The Greek Philosophers

the thinkers of Pre-Socratic Greek brought about one of the most significant
revolutions we know of, one that set the Western world on a path thatwith
minor and not so minor deviationsit has followed ever since. What they did,
to put it boldly and over simply, was to invent critical rationality and
embody it in a tradition; for the theories they advanced, whether on the
nature and origins of the cosmos or on ethics and politics, were not offered as
gospels to be accepted on divine or human authority but as rational products
to be accepted or rejected on the basis of evidence and argument: do not listen
to me, Heraclitus says, but to my account. Every university and college, every
intellectual discipline and scientific advance, every step toward freedom and
away from ignorance, superstition, and enslavement to repressive dogma is
eloquent testimony to the power of their invention. If they had not existed, our
world would not exist.

Obviously, there is more to say about the achievements of Greek philosophy

than this. But bold and over simple as our claim is, and standing in need of
modification and elaboration as it does, it points nonetheless to something
central and vital, something that will surely be borne in upon any reader: the
world of Greek philosophy is an argumentative world.

As we weigh and consider the ideas and evaluate the arguments contained in
the following pages, we will find ourselves thinking about the ultimate
structure of reality, about the mind, about the nature of knowledge and
scientific theorizing, about ethical values, and about the best kind of
society for people to live in. Some of what we uncover we will no doubt find
congenial; some we will want to criticize or reject. But as long as evidence and
argument remain our touchstone, we will be joining in the enterprise that these
philosophers both invented and did so much to develop. In the process, we will
be to some degree becoming what some of them thought was the best thing to
befully rational human beings.

This may sound attractive, but it may also seem one-sided, so it is perhaps
important to add that the critical rationality vital to successful theorizing,
while it is recommended as a very important ingredient in the best kind of life,
is certainly not all that is recommended to us by these philosophers. For many
of them, a successful life is one in which all the elements in our characters
needs, desires, emotions, and beliefs are harmoniously integrated and in
which we ourselves are harmoniously integrated with others into a flourishing
society that is itself in harmony with the larger world of which it is a part.
Moreover, many of the Greek philosopherslike their fellow poets and
tragediansrecognized that there were profoundly nonrational elements in the
world: the same Heraclitus who asks us to listen to his account also reminds
us that The Lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but
gives a sign; Socrates, the patron saint of rational self-scrutiny, is also a holy
man, a servant of Apollo. Indeed, one of the most attractive features of Greek
philosophy is its inclusivity, its manifest wish to see the world whole and see it
right. Few contemporary philosophers offer us such all encompassing visions of
ourselves and our world as we find in Plato and Aristotle; few have the audacity
to reach as far or as wide as the great Pre socratics. That is not, surely, the
only reason to make friends with these splendid thinkers, but it is,
nonetheless, one major reason why they have never lost their power to
challenge, inspire, and enlighten those who do befriend them.
Philosophy and God

Philosophy studies the realities affirmed by common sense in a scientific

way, giving this pre-scientific knowledge greater precision, making distinctions
and clarifications, and by describing and classifying its certainties. For
example, let us take the case of the existence of God. It is certain that Gods
existence can be arrived at through the sole power of human reason. But we
must make a distinction.

Man can arrive at a knowledge that God exists apart from faith either through
a spontaneous or pre-scientific knowledge or through a philosophical
reasoning which is scientific and metaphysical. Regarding this spontaneous
knowledge of Gods existence, Etienne Gilson writes: There is a sort of
spontaneous inference, wholly un technical but entirely conscious of its own
meaning, in virtue of which every man finds himself raised to the notion of a
transcendent Being by the mere sight of nature in its awesome majesty.

In a fragment from one of his lost works, Aristotle himself observes that men
have derived their notion of God from two sources, their own souls and the
orderly motion of the stars. However this may be, the fact itself is beyond
doubt, and human philosophies are belatedly discovering the notion of
God....As a matter of fact, mankind does have a certain notion of God; for
centuries after centuries men without any intellectual culture have obscurely
but powerfully felt convinced that the name God points out an actually existing
being, and even today, countless human beings are still reaching the same
conviction and forming the same belief on the sole strength of their personal

The philosophical scientific and rational demonstration of Gods existence is

rooted first of all in the common sense certainty of Gods existence: every
demonstration of the existence of God presupposes the presence of a certain
notion of God which is itself not the conclusion of a demonstration. This is
precisely the notion of God of which Saint Paul says that, through the mere
sight of His creatures, God has manifested it unto them. What does the
philosopher do to the common sense certainty that God exists, something that
is common to all men? He transfers these spontaneous convictions to the
ground of metaphysical knowledge. He then asks himself: what is the natural
value of these natural beliefs? Is it possible to turn our natural notion of God
into a rationally justified knowledge? Can the affirmation that there is a God
assume the form and acquire the value of a scientifically demonstrated
conclusion? The philosopher then proceeds to philosophically demonstrate the
existence of God in an a posteriori manner (from effect to cause). This he does
because, though God is maximally self-evident in Himself, He is not evident
with respect to the human mind, which is limited and imperfect. We cannot
grasp the Essence of God and therefore we must proceed from His effects which
are known to us, that is, our point of departure for the ascent to God must be
the things of this world. To the various real phenomena rooted in experience
but interpreted metaphysically we apply the principle of causality which
evidences their relative, dependent and caused character. Then, one
demonstrates that the effective and actual reality of the contingent phenomena
cannot be explained by postulating the intervention of an infinite series of
contingent causes. Finally, one comes to the conclusion that the only valid
explanation for these contingent phenomena is God. This is the philosophical
way to the Supreme Being which does not go against the common sense
certainty of His existence but is a rational, scientific elaboration of it.

Divisions of Philosophy

The science of philosophy is divided into two main parts: speculative

philosophy and practical philosophy.

Speculative philosophy is philosophical knowledge for its own sake and not
geared towards our own profit and improvement, which is the task of practical
philosophy. Speculative philosophy is divided into three main parts: 1.
philosophy of nature (which contains the philosophy of inanimate nature or
cosmology, and the philosophy of animate nature or the philosophy of living
beings, of which philosophical anthropology is a part) ; 2. philosophy of
mathematics ; and 3. metaphysics (which has three main parts: general
metaphysics, gnoseology or philosophy of knowledge, and philosophy of God or
natural theology).

Practical philosophy is divided into two main parts: 1. philosophy of art ;

and 2. ethics (which is divided into general ethics and special ethics). Logic,
the science and art of correct thinking, is not a part of philosophy but merely
an introduction to philosophical thought (and also to the particular sciences,
that is, it is propaedeutic to science).

What are these various specializations and subfields of philosophy?

Various specializations of philosophy and their subject matters include:

Ethics: how human beings ought to behave in matters involving human

wellbeing or harm.

Philosophy of science: answers to questions of what science is, how science

progresses, and the nature of scientific truth.
Social and political philosophy: accounts of how society and government
work as institutions, what their purposes should be, how they came into being
as institutions and how their problems can be fixed.
Epistemology: answers to questions about what knowledge is, how we know
that something is true, and the relation between sense perception and abstract

Metaphysics: the most general questions and answers about the nature of
reality, what physical things are, what relations exist between different kinds of
things, and the connections between the mind and the world.

Philosophy of mind: how the mind works, whether it is dependent on the

brain, how it is connected to the body, the nature of memory and personal

Aesthetics: the study of art toward an understanding of what beauty is and

how artworks are different from natural things and other man-made objects.

Ancient philosophy: the birth of Western philosophy from about 800 B.C.E. to
400 C.E.; it is composed mostly of Greek and Roman thought before

Medieval philosophy: The development of philosophical thought, from about

400 C.E. until the Renaissance in the 1300s in Europe in which Christianity,
provided the dominant world view and organizing principle for daily life.

Modern philosophy: the foundations of contemporary philosophy from the

1600s through the 1800s.

Nineteenth century philosophy: The classical period of modern philosophy,

in which Friedrich Hegel, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill wrote.

Analytic philosophy: style of professional philosophy, which is abstract and

technical that developed during the twentieth century.

Post-modern philosophy: school of thought that, in the second half of the

twentieth century, consisted of reactions against many of the shared
assumptions held by philosophers over the centuries.

Schools of Philosophy

Each school of philosophy has concentrated upon some aspect of human

knowledge. Logical/analytical philosophy has worked long and hard on the
confusion that vitiates so much of our thinking and communicating.
Pragmatism has concentrated on finding solutions to problems of mans social
existence. Existential philosophy has been concerned with making life
meaningful to each, unique individual. Activist schools argue that philosophers
spend too much time trying to make sense of the world and too little time
trying to change it. Several schools of philosophy, Eastern and Western,
challenge the individual to turn away from an alienating society and to seek
harmony with Nature or Ultimate Reality.

Each kind of philosophy has made an immense contribution to its area of

concern. Each was doubtless a part of the zeitgeistthe spirit of the age
that gave it birth and to which it spoke. What they all have in common is the
attempt to clean up our thinking so that we can reflect more knowledgeably,
precisely, and honestly.


Philosophy has beenand been perceived asa dangerous activity. In raising

fundamental questions, examining basic assumptions, revising received views,
philosophers undertook immense risks. Even when philosophers took
themselves to be engaged in the constructive work of rationalizing World
Systems, their interpretations of religious doctrines were seen as subversive,
their analyses of social and political practices were frequently thought disloyal
if not actually seditious, their reconstructions of morality were often perceived
as potentially corrupting. Athenians saw Socratic questioning as a threat to
the stability and morality of public order; Roman emperors feared Seneca;
theologians censored Abelard; Scottish universities were apprehensive of
Humes skeptical influence. Voltaire and Diderot were briefly imprisoned for
their views, Kant was temporarily prohibited from publishing his works on
religion. Nor have recent philosophers fared much better: Marx was effectively
exiled; Husserl and Russell were dismissed from their university positions for
political reasons.



Here are some of the issues:

What is real?
What is truth?
What is knowledge?
What is the good?
What is justice?
Is the mind something separate from the body?
Are we free or our our actions determined by that over which we no longer have any
control or influence?