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What is Philosophy?

Philosophy (from Greek , philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of

general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values,
reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 c. 495 BC).
Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument and systematic
presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to
prove it? What is most real? However, philosophers might also pose more practical and concrete
questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away
with it)? Do humans have free will?

Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek
philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy,
medicine and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural
Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of
modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize
and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy
became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics and

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of
philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or
just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic
philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"),
epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity", ethics,
aesthetics, political philosophy, logic, philosophy of science and the history of Western

Since the 20th century professional philosophers contribute to society primarily as professors,
researchers and writers. However, many of those who study philosophy in undergraduate or
graduate programs contribute in the fields of law, journalism, politics, religion, science, business
and various art and entertainment activities.

Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values,
beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and
directed research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, but learners
may also educate themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any
experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered
educational. The methodology of teaching is called pedagogy.

Education is commonly divided formally into such stages as preschool or kindergarten, primary
school, secondary school and then college, university, or apprenticeship

A right to education has been recognized by some governments, including at the global level:
Article 13 of the United Nations' 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights recognizes a universal right to education. In most regions education is compulsory up to a
certain age.

Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of education can refer either to the application of philosophy to the problem of
education, examining the definition, goals and meaning of education, or to any particular vision
of or approach to education.

As an academic field, philosophy of education is "the philosophical study of education and its
problems...its central subject matter is education, and its methods are those of philosophy". "The
philosophy of education may be either the philosophy of the process of education or the
philosophy of the discipline of education. That is, it may be part of the discipline in the sense of
being concerned with the aims, forms, methods, or results of the process of educating or being
educated; or it may be metadisciplinary in the sense of being concerned with the concepts, aims,
and methods of the discipline." As such, it is both part of the field of education and a field of
applied philosophy, drawing from fields of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology and the
philosophical approaches (speculative, prescriptive, and/or analytic) to address questions in and
about pedagogy, education policy, and curriculum, as well as the process of learning, to name a
few. For example, it might study what constitutes upbringing and education, the values and
norms revealed through upbringing and educational practices, the limits and legitimization of
education as an academic discipline, and the relation between educational theory and practice.

Instead of being taught in philosophy departments, philosophy of education is usually housed in

departments or colleges of education, similar to how philosophy of law is generally taught in law
schools. The multiple ways of conceiving education coupled with the multiple fields and
approaches of philosophy make philosophy of education not only a very diverse field but also
one that is not easily defined. Although there is overlap, philosophy of education should not be
conflated with educational theory, which is not defined specifically by the application of
philosophy to questions in education. Philosophy of education also should not be confused with
philosophy education, the practice of teaching and learning the subject of philosophy.

Philosophy of education can also be understood not as an academic discipline but as a normative
educational theory that unifies pedagogy, curriculum, learning theory, and the purpose of
education and is grounded in specific metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological
assumptions. These theories are also called educational philosophies. For example, a teacher
might be said to follow a perennialist educational philosophy or to follow a perennialist
philosophy of education.