what is philosophy

Topics: Philosophy, Epistemology, Analytic philosophy Pages: 8 (700 words) Published: March 25, 2014
2014-02-18

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

PHI 1024 F

Today:

 ‘Philosophy football’, by Monty Python.

INTRODUCTION TO
PHILOSOPHY
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

 Your input.
 Four not-so-helpful proposals (for how to work out what Philosophy is). 2014

 Three more serious (and more helpful) suggestions.

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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

Words suggested by the word
‘philosophy’:

2) Arguments

1) Question
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2014-02-18

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

3) Thinking

4) Curiosity
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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

How are we to work out what
Philosophy is?

How are we to work out what Philosophy
is?

A) Perhaps we just need to know who
(some of) the most important
Philosophers are.

B)
Is Philosophy ‘useless trifling, hairsplitting distinctions, and controversies on matters concerning which knowledge is
impossible’?

Objection: Can we work out what
Luge is in this way?

(Bertrand Russell, ‘The Value of Philosophy’;
NB: Russell argues against this view of Philosophy.)

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2014-02-18

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
Against Option (C)
Philosophers are Cagey and Cryptic:

How are we to work out what
Philosophy is?

• ‘…philosophy is a way of trying to be a systematic spirit without having a system.’ ~ Raymond Geuss, attributed
to Friedrich Schlegel.

C) Perhaps we just need to know the
definition(s) of ‘philosophy’ given by
contemporary philosophers.

• ‘[What is Philosophy?] I’m hard pressed to say, but one thing that is certainly true is that ‘What is Philosophy?’ is itself a strikingly philosophical question.’ ~ A. W. Moore
• ‘Philosophy is what I was told as an undergraduate women couldn’t do — by an eminent philosopher who had best remain nameless.’
~ Donna Dickenson

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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
Against Option (C)
Quite a Diversity of Definitions of ‘Philosophy’ :
• ‘[Philosophy] for me [is] the Socratic gadfly: refusing to accept any platitudes or accepted wisdom without examining it.’ ~ Donna Dickenson • ‘[A philosopher] is a moral entrepreneur. […] It’s somebody who creates new ways of evaluating things — what’s important, what’s worthwhile — that changes how an entire culture or an entire people understand those things.’ ~ Brian Leiter

• ‘Philosophy is thinking really hard about the most important questions and trying to bring analytic clarity both to the questions and the answers.” ~ Marilyn Adams
• ‘I think the Greek term has it exactly right; it’s a way of loving knowledge.” ~ Robert Rowland Smith
(Quotes from Philosophybites.com)
They’re also used by Maria Popova in an online article, available here: 11 http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/04/09/what-is-philosophy/

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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
How are we to work out what Philosophy
is?
D) Perhaps we just need to come up with the
correct definition of ‘philosophy’?

Objection:
The single correct definition, of any word, is
very difficult to come up with.
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2014-02-18

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

Three More Serious Proposals:

Three More Serious Proposals:
2) Philosophy: ‘the rational investigation

1) Philosophy is what you try to find out
once you’ve stepped back from your
self.

of the truths and principles of being,
knowledge, or conduct.’

Metaphysics
(From dictionary.com)

(In this sense of ‘philosophy’, young children
cannot philosophize.)

Epistemology

Ethics

(I am using a dictionary here, but we
should be wary of using dictionary
definitions when we do Philosophy.)

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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

Three More Serious Proposals:
3)

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?

Three More Serious Proposals

Philosophy is about:

3)

• Trying to answer fundamental questions;
and it’s about …
• Arguments;
• And, Yes, about distinctions.

Philosophy is about:

• Trying to answer fundamental questions;
and it’s about …
Tomorrow
• Arguments;
• And,...
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