What Is Philosophy

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Joanna Vangucci
Access to Initial Teacher Training
Philosophy
What is Philosophy?
2nd March 2013

Word count: 2178
Philosophy is integrated into every individual’s life. This essay will analyse the differences between Western, Chinese and Indian traditions. It will evaluate what it is that constitutes a valid philosophical enquiry and investigate different branches of philosophy. It will also look into the ways in which philosophy is utilised in contemporary society and the ways in which language impact on philosophy.

Greco-Roman tradition originally came from Greek and Pagan culture, later gaining influences from other cultures. When the belief in the actual existence of Gods and Goddesses died, reasons needed to be provided for human existence, the purpose of life, and the problems of living in a civilisation. This saw the Greek philosophy grow and the traditions main issue was to define and describe human life and conditions.

The tradition later became known as Western tradition, as the Greek’s and Roman’s used ideas from other cultures and ingrained them within their tradition. This still remains a key feature of Western tradition today. There are few surviving original sources of the tradition, preserved by Catholic and Orthodox monasteries, despite their differences to Christian teachings.

The influences from Western tradition are key features in society today. It provided reason and science which can be seen as the ground works for technology and science today. “From the Greco-Roman period came respect for the rule of law, the idea of natural law, and, for its day, toleration of religious beliefs.” (Pappas, 2005) If anything was so prevalent in society today it would be that thought. The ability to live among others with different beliefs but still all follow the same laws is a necessity in todays society. The Western tradition taught us to question who we are and respect individuality, a teaching which lives on to this day. Dissimilar to Western tradition, which looks to define human life and conditions, the Chinese traditions main aim is to keep harmony at all times. Confucius was China’s most famous philosopher. “The most important thing to Confucius was Jen, or human kindness, love of man. Jen is the ideal feeling of warmth, kindness, dignity, and respect that should develop between two people.” (Powell, 2000, p. 95)

The Chinese tradition is one of practicality, therefore the importance of logic is paramount. Logic sees that everything is subject to change, and that opinions and beliefs are of their time and place. Differing to the Western tradition, the Chinese took few ideas from other cultures, highlighting the desire for China to remain separated from other societies. It did however, take influence from Buddhism, but even this was adapted to suit Chinese culture.

The Chinese tradition believes that to remain harmonious is of more importance than finding the truth. Followers of Chinese tradition may not see it fit to unburden themselves of their woes onto others as this is not harmonious.

Arguably the oldest surviving tradition, Indian tradition aims to eliminate unhappiness and create nirvana, the cessation of suffering. Unlike the Western tradition, both the Chinese and Indian combine philosophy and religion. Indian tradition however does so more harmoniously by combining them both equally. Because of this, Indian tradition is compared to a Banyan tree, with its deep roots and tangled canopy representing the intertwining of Indian philosophies and religions.

Buddhism is originated from India. This philosophy believes in karma, that what you are reincarnated as is a reflection of your past life. From a cynical point of view, it could be seen that followers of Buddhism are kind only to protect their reincarnation, and that it is not a selfless act they are carrying out, just one which will benefit them in their next life.

It is important that all philosophical enquiries are...
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