WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
Philosophers explore concepts
Philosophy (Gk., love of wisdom, from ‘philos’ - lover of, ‘sophia’ - wisdom) has a tradition
that stretches back to ancient times.
Philosophy can be distinguished from (the popular image we have of) science in at least the
In science, we continually find satisfactory solutions to problems raised
by our predecessors, and when we have not discovered the solution to a scientific question,
we believe that future science will be more fortunate and discover what we have failed to
Science rests on such optimism.
But a similar kind of optimism does not exist in
philosophy, for philosophical questions, unlike scientific questions, have no definite final
Philosophy can be thought of as a science insofar as it adopts the methods of science, and we
can say that the phenomena it tries to understand and explain are the fundamental words or
concepts of our language.
We can think of a philosopher as a ‘
the engineer studies the structure of material things, so the philosopher studies our most basic
concepts and the conceptual network that surrounds them in order to illuminate them.
Insofar as philosophers try to illuminate our fundamental concepts by generalizing from
observed facts about how words are used in a given community, they employ the methods of
But philosophers also go beyond the methods of science in employing their
imagination as well.
The concepts explored by philosophers have given rise to different fields of philosophical
philosophy of religion
(Who or what is God?),
(What is existence? What is truth?),
philosophy of mind
(What is a
mind? What is consciousness?),
philosophy of language
(What is meaning?),
(What is art? What is beauty?),
(What is justice?
What are rights?
What is a democracy?),
(What is an individual? What is the
meaning of life?),
philosophy of science
(What is space? What is time? What is it for one
event to cause another?),
philosophy of math
(What is infinity? What are numbers?
What is a
proof?), and so on.