You are on page 1of 5

Philosophy is the study of the general and fundamental nature

of reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2][3] The Ancient
Greek word (philosophia) was probably coined by Pythagoras[4] and literally means "love of
wisdom" or "friend of wisdom".[5][6][7][8][9] Philosophy has been divided into many sub-fields. It has been
divided chronologically (e.g., ancient and modern); by topic (the major topics
being epistemology, logic, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics); and by style
(e.g., analytic philosophy).
As a method, philosophy is often distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its
questioning, critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance onrational argument.[10] As a
noun, the term "philosophy" can refer to any body of knowledge. [11] Historically, these bodies of
knowledge were commonly divided into natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical
philosophy.[9] In casual speech, the term can refer to any of "the most basic beliefs, concepts, and
attitudes of an individual or group," (e.g., "Dr. Smith's philosophy of parenting"). [12]

philosophies.
1.
the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being,knowledge, or con
duct.
2.
any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral
philosophy, and metaphysical
philosophy, that are accepted ascomposing this study.
3.
a particular system of thought based on such study or investigation:
the philosophy of Spinoza.
4.
the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particularbranch of kn
owledge, especially with a view to improving orreconstituting them:
the philosophy of science.
5.
a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
6.
an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in thepresence of troub
les or annoyances.

What is philosophy? From a common perspective it can be defined as the sum of a


person's beliefs which guide his actions. However, philosophy as a science is better

defined as the examination of belief, or, the process of thinking one's way to a wellgrounded set of beliefs. These beliefs are those of the widest scope including religious
creed (theology or metaphysics), code of right and wrong (ethics or morals), political
convictions and general scientific principles. Philosophy differs from the special
sciences in its range. It is the most general of the sciences and attempts to frame a
picture of the whole as opposed to the specialized parts.
Our beliefs first come to us by way of authority or suggestion rather than careful
reasoning. Literature and drama are two ways philosophy is passed about.
Conversation tends to transmit philosophy since nobody can express an idea without
communicating something of her general outlook. The study of philosophy is a more
deliberate inquiry into the grounds on which our beliefs are held. It holds that we
cannot, as human beings, remain satisfied with dumb tenacity in holding our beliefs.
There is no virtue in refusing to think about the foundations of belief. It is ridiculous
to think that the capacity for thinking is an inherent vice. Philosophy may be said to
have been founded on the famous statement from Socrates that "the unexamined life is
not worthy to be lived by a human being".
Beliefs about reality is the theme of metaphysics. The establishment of these beliefs is
concerned with distinguishing between "appearances" and the true state of nature.
Nature can present many misleading appearances such as the fixed location of the
stars, the stable quiet of earth, the "firmament" of the sky as well as others. The stick
appears bent in the water when in reality it is straight. A piece of wood appears solid
when in reality it is a shimmering dance of molecules separated by proportionately
vast spaces. Is the physical world as final and substantial as it seems? Death appears
to be the end of human personality, is it? We seem to be free agents, are we?
There are two kinds of things we take to be real: physical objects and states of mind.
The history of thought has been largely controlled by these two views where some
take physical objects as reality (materialists) and others take the states of mind as
reality (idealists). To the materialists, mind is an appearance of physical reality
whereas the idealists see physical objects as an appearance of mental reality. Of
course there are other possible alternatives. Mind and physical nature may be
manifestations of a third substance which is neither. Or there may be two kinds of
reality, material and mental, eternally distinct and irreducible, as is the belief of
dualism.
Beliefs about better and worse, right and wrong, are the theme of ethics. There are
those who view the conditions of human life as intrinsically bad. Our desires are to be
distrusted. There is illusion of the will as well as the intellect. This outlook of
pessimism is widespread in the Orient, in Brahmanism and in the teachings of
Buddha. Opposed to this view is the affirmation of life, or optimism, which believes

that the world and man are so adjusted that the attainment of happiness is the normal
order of things. The will and the environment are attuned to each other.
Furthermore, in the context of the pursuit of happiness is there a need for the concept
of duty? Is duty the same as the general obligation to use discretion in the pursuit of
the good? Or are there rules which give structure to our conduct and qualify some
ways of reaching our ends as definitely right or wrong? If so, what is the source of
these rules and are they statically fixed or do they change with the mores of society or
cultural patterns?
Beliefs about belief is the theme of epistemology, which is concerned with
understanding the grounds on which your system of beliefs are based. What are your
beliefs based on? Authority? Intuition? Good results? Reason? Some mix of one or all
of these? Do you base your beliefs on reason or experience? Do you start from
experience and reason your beliefs from that? Or do you reason a framework for
yourself and go about consistently following this framework in your actions?
Of course, nobody takes a strictly rational or empirical approach to life. There is
always a need for some mix of the two, but persons can be oriented to one approach
over the other. Both empiricists and rationalists are both referred to as rationalists in
the general sense of the word. However, empiricists typically start with experience
and use induction to generate principles from that experience. Strict rationalists start
with general theories and generate principles that can then be tested in reality. The
only remaining issue between the two approaches is whether there is any general truth
which is not somehow born from experience.
So this discussion has identified three main branches of philosophy: metaphysics,
ethics and epistemology (theory of knowledge). A more complete scheme would
include logic, aesthetics and psychology and might be organized as follows:
Theoretical Philosophy
Metaphysics: beliefs about reality;
Epistemology: beliefs about belief;
Logic: the technique of reasoning
Practical Philosophy
Ethics: beliefs about the principles of conduct;

Aesthetics: beliefs about the principles of beauty;


Psychology: a natural science of the mind bearing on all branches of philosophy and
born by them
Beliefs about reality are crucial in the sense that they usually bring other beliefs with
them regarding religion, ethics and others. Our beliefs tend to form clusters, hanging
from some significant stem-belief. These clusters can be called types of philosophy.
Naturalism and Idealism are two of these types. They are metaphysical beliefs but
carry different outlooks in ethics, psychology and aesthetics with them. Other clusters
of beliefs are formed around the various theories of knowledge. Thus rationalism,
pragmatism and intuitionism have specific characteristic tendencies and are also types
of philosophy.
William James thought that the fundamental parting of the ways of opposing world
views has roots in the contrast of temperaments. The "tender-minded" want an
architecturally handsome, rationalistic, and idealistic philosophy. The "tough-minded"
prefer a loose-ended, empirical, realistic view. According to Karl Marx, it is not the
ethical or esthetic, but the economic prudential and technical interests which govern
the rest of our thinking. If these thinkers are right, the most clearly marked types of
philosophy should be the contrasts between optimism vs. pessimism, Epicurean vs.
Stoic, hedonism vs. duty. A study of the history of philosophy may not bear this out.
In most cases ethical differences have followed metaphysical types far more clearly
than metaphysical differences have followed ethical types.
The derivation of the word "philosophy" from the Greek is suggested by
the following words and word-fragments.
philolove of, affinity for, liking of
philanderto engage in love affairs frivolously
philanthropylove of mankind in general
philatelypostage stamps hobby
phile(as in "anglophile") one having a love for
philologyhaving a liking for words
sophoswisdom
sophistlit. one who loves knowledge
sophomorewise and morosfoolish; i.e. one who thinks he knows many
things
sophisticatedone who is knowledgeable