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b_1_philosophy - 1 WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY CONTENT Philosophers...

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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? CONTENT Philosophers Explore Fundamental Concepts Is ‘Progress’ Made in Philosophy? Self-examination Why Reflection (Self-examination) Matters Conclusion (Rewards of Studying Philosophy) WELCOME TO PHILOSOPHY. Many of you will find it to be a highly rewarding and liberating experience, and one of the most practical subjects you will ever study. In this chapter I will talk about some of the chief aims or tasks of philosophy. This will help to shed light on the value of studying philosophy, and will also help us get a better understanding of what philosophy is. Philosophers Explore Fundamental Concepts Philosophy (Gk., love of wisdom, from ‘philos’ - lover of, ‘sophia’ - wisdom) has a tradition that stretches back to ancient times. Philosophy is distinguished from theology in that philosophy employs reason rather than faith in arriving at its results. Philosophy can also be distinguished from (the popular image we have of) science in at least the following respect. 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 discover. 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 solution. We still wrestle today with the same philosophical questions as did Plato and Aristotle many centuries B.C. They are still with us, and are likely to be with us until the end of time . Nevertheless, there is a way in which philosophy is like science. All science assumes that there is some underlying order in the universe; that events, whether they involve molecules or human beings, are not haphazard. They follow a pattern that is sufficiently regular for generalizations to be made about them. Generalizations are crucial to science because they place isolated, seemingly meaningless events in patterns we can understand. It then becomes possible to explain why something happens and to predict that it will happen again under the same conditions in the future. The natural sciences try to understand and explain the behavior of physical and biological phenomena in this respect. The social sciences (sociology, economics, psychology, political science, and anthropology) try to understand and explain human behavior. Philosophy can also 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 ‘ conceptual engineer ’.
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