• Xtrix
    1.1k
    Give the word philosophy is in the very title of this forum, it seems like a fairly straightforward question, "What is philosophy?"

    The term itself, as we know, means "love of wisdom" from the Greek. But that doesn't help much until we know what "wisdom" means.

    Interested in hearing various interpretations.
  • EnPassant
    432
    It is a linguistic tautology (Wittgenstein).

    In the 'beginning' philosophy was more aligned with mysticism but since Descartes it has become more and more abstract and intellectual.
  • Banno
    9.3k
    It is a linguistic tautology.EnPassant

    :rofl:

    'cause there's all them other sorts of tautologies.
  • Outlander
    608
    Let's start with what isn't philosophy. Explicit math, scientific or otherwise codified law to name a few.

    Perhaps philosophy is what happens when unbridled imagination meets logic and the two are forced to dance together side by side in perfect harmony as equals. Come to think of it, thats my second quote. I demand to be remembered by this as well.
  • A Seagull
    621
    Philosophy is a conversation. Its purpose is to stimulate thought.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k
    Let me throw in another question: how does philosophy differ from "thinking" generally? Or does it?
  • A Seagull
    621
    Let me throw in another question: how does philosophy differ from "thinking" generally? Or does it?Xtrix

    It is generally more structured than general thinking. Also being a conversation, communication is required and hence the extensive use of words and language.
  • Pop
    274
    Philosophy is a reflection of our consciousness. It reveals how we construe reality.
  • Outlander
    608


    But is a reflection of ones conciousness necessarily philosophy? I could be young and never question anything with my deepest thoughts being little more than I'm alive, bored, five feet and however many inches, and I want to make lots of money to get booze and chicks. No?

    Building on your statement of conciousness being a cornerstone, what is your (or anyones) thoughts on saying it is the act of questioning the inherent views, conclusions, mechanisms, or observations of ones consciousness in a way that can be logically expressed?

    Edit: Actually when you consider the word having more than one definition or 'state' you're exactly right. Ones way of thinking or consciousness is indeed "ones philosophy". You get where I was coming from though. :D
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    The characteristic activity of philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom, not the possession or exercise thereof. Wisdom, in turn, is not merely some set of correct opinions, but rather the ability to discern the true from the false, the good from the bad; or at least the more true from the less true, the better from the worse; the ability, in short, to discern superior answers from inferior answers to any given question.
  • Valentinus
    814

    The love part suggests a way to live as a lover. When you love someone, you make them stronger. You build them up. That is why all the Greek traditions put so much emphasis upon education and wrestling with opinions that a person does not share. You need your friends and your enemies.
  • Pop
    274
    But is a reflection of ones conciousness necessarily philosophy?Outlander

    No, but expressing our consciousness seems to be something we fundamentally do. Either by philosophizing or raging, or however else.

    what is your (or anyones) thoughts on saying it is the act of questioning the inherent views, conclusions, mechanisms, or observations of ones consciousness in a way that can be logically expressed?Outlander

    -This would be in the ballpark, I believe.
  • Noble Dust
    3.9k
    If it used to be the love of wisdom, I guess it's now the love of the analytic brain.
  • David Mo
    849
    I think we will never agree on this point, but I will give my opinion.
    I propose a series of points which may serve to identify whether a discourse is philosophical in a current sense. Something like the demarcation criterion of current philosophy. I insist on "current", because in the past it has been many more things.

    • Philosophy is what philosophers do in academia. It is not that a philosopher cannot be self-taught, but if we want to avoid philosophy being an empty field, we must limit it. Knowing what philosophers do in the academic field is a first criterion to separate cheap mysticism, pseudoscience and youtubers from serious philosophy.
    • Philosophy is about the human being. Although it sometimes seems to treat the universe, it always does so from the perspective or background of the human being.
    • Philosophy is not based on authority but on the exercise of personal reason.
    • Philosophy is revolutionary. It does not stop at the commonplace or the impositions of authority. It questions everything.
    • Philosophy is formed in debate. Bearing in mind that there are no universal philosophical truths, philosophical knowledge can only arise from free debate between various options. Let a hundred flowers open.
    • Philosophy is clarity. Philosophical discourse is pronounced to clarify the problem in some way, not to make it darker.
    • Philosophy is rationality. Even when it defends the irrational, it must do so with arguments that can be shared.
    • Philosophy does not rival science as a form of knowledge of facts.
    • Philosophy asks. Philosophy does not stop at any question. Nor does it always guarantee solutions. But it helps to ask the right questions.
    • Philosophy is inevitable. Since it is faced with radical problems that affect the human at their root, philosophy cannot be avoided. It is like freedom: one cannot stop being free even if one wants to.

    These are my criteria for distinguishing philosophy from what is not. Philosophical criteria, of course.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Since we're talking about demarcation, I would add a short list:

    Philosophy is not religion
    Philosophy is not sophistry
    Philosophy is not science
    Philosophy is not just ethics
    Philosophy is not math
    Philosophy is not just a form of literature

    I plan on doing a series of threads on each of these demarcation problems soon.
  • David Mo
    849
    Philosophy is not just a form of literaturePfhorrest

    If you don't mind I would say that these are examples to which my ten criteria can be applied.I find the last one more difficult. Especially because there are certain forms of literature that are very philosophical and there are certain types of philosophy that are very poetic.
    In the first case I would give Dostoevsky as an example and in the second case Nietzsche.

    But one cannot expect a demarcation criterion to be like a perfectly drawn line. Rather, they are like those borders that have not been perfectly defined and the border guards fight over whether the detainee was in my country or in yours. I recently saw an episode of The Good Wife in which something like that happened. The Canadians were taking him away, but they were cheating. Well, so did the Americans, which shows that the line of demarcation wasn't clear.

    Philosophy and literature are a bit like that.
  • EnPassant
    432
    'cause there's all them other sorts of tautologies.Banno

    Some argue that there are mathematical or logical tautologies.
  • EnPassant
    432
    Philosophy is not based on authority but on the exercise of personal reason.David Mo

    I'm not sure about this one. Early philosophy was closely aligned to mysticism (eg Plato's cave). Only in recent centuries did philosophy become heavily abstract and intellectual, 'reasonable'.

    Philosophy is not religion
    Philosophy is not sophistry
    Philosophy is not science
    Philosophy is not just ethics
    Philosophy is not math
    Philosophy is not just a form of literature
    — Pfhorrest

    Can't surrealism be philosophy?

    A tangent drawn to the curve on the leading edge of foreign policy is never parallel to a crow's beak at noon. And.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k


    An interesting list indeed.

    Philosophy is about the human being. Although it sometimes seems to treat the universe, it always does so from the perspective or background of the human being.David Mo

    I very much agree with this especially -- and it's striking how often it's forgotten. I think this is largely because science is so successful and is thus seen as the ultimate court of appeals for truth. Since science deals with objects in nature, with matter in motion, it can very easily be forgotten that these sets "facts" are also interpretations, parts of explanatory theories, etc.

    Obviously this isn't new -- Kant pointed this out as well, to name one major figure, but it's still worth bearing in mind.

    Philosophy is rationality. Even when it defends the irrational, it must do so with arguments that can be shared.David Mo

    I think this is in fact what the view has been for over 2,000 years. That philosophy is the ratio or logos: that we're thinking entities, or the rational animal, or the primate with language, and so on -- philosophy being thus the human being's highest activity.

    Philosophy is not religionPfhorrest

    Philosophy is not sciencePfhorrest

    See, here it's tricky in my view. On the one hand, of course philosophy isn't science or religion -- they differ in many ways. But on the other hand, they deal with very similar questions.
  • EnPassant
    432
    Let me throw in another question: how does philosophy differ from "thinking" generally? Or does it?Xtrix

    What do you mean by 'thinking'? Abstract 'rational' thinking? Isn't simply being conscious thinking? If thought is energy 'flowing' through the mind then being is thinking. Thought is being. Being is thought.
  • 180 Proof
    1.8k
    Philosophy is about the human being. Although it sometimes seems to treat the universe, it always does so from the perspective or background of the human being.David Mo
    I agree, and understand this insight in spinozist terms: Human Being [bondage] both presupposes Being itself [substance] and implies (a/the prospect of) Well-Being [blessedness] aka eudaimonia.

    :mask:

    All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher. — An old gringo...
    Philosophy is the struggle against stupidity (i.e. the problematique of maladaptive 1:1 identity - confusion - of the ideal (maps, words/metrics) with the real (territory, facts-of-the-matter) :point: 'essence = existence'). Insofar as it can be discerned (or conceived of as a 'criterion of judgment'), the real is defined by a process of eliminating - negating - 'ideals' (necessary fictions, impossible worlds/objects, "realer" reals ... :point: members of the empty set).

    What is your aim in philosophy? – To show the fly the way out of the fly bottle. — Witty, PI §309
    Against stupidity philosophers (i.e. sisyphusian 'meta-cognitive hygienists' and/or 'dialectical rodeo-clowns') struggle in vain. Even "the gods" are too bored for that!

    :sweat:
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    See, here it's tricky in my view. On the one hand, of course philosophy isn't science or religion -- they differ in many ways. But on the other hand, they deal with very similar questions.Xtrix

    True, but it is the ways that they approach those questions that differentiates them.
  • Statilius
    60


    What is Philosophy?

    Of the many types of human inquiry, philosophy is inquiry by means of rigorous reasoning in the pursuit and formation of creditable beliefs. As such, it is not bound to any specific field, concern or interest. Many, if not every, cosmic dimension and question can be approached by way of philosophy: religion, science, literature, farming, cinema, education, politics, cooking, etc. Philosophy is one of many tools humans employ to render the world and their experience more intelligible. While, for some, philosophy is strictly a theoretical enterprise, for others it is a therapeutically satisfying way of life.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k
    What do you mean by 'thinking'?EnPassant

    Excellent question. I wish I had a definitive answer.

    Abstract 'rational' thinking?EnPassant

    I see that as one mode of thought, yes.

    Isn't simply being conscious thinking?EnPassant

    Again, it depends on what we mean. Is thought equated to words and concepts and abstractions? If so, then I'm sure I "think" without these at times -- in imagery, for example.

    But if "thinking" means anything we're consciously aware of, then we're very much agreeing with Descartes, and in which case it'd be hard to differentiate philosophy from "thinking" in this sense. or really anything at all -- since conscious awareness seems to be involved in nearly everything to we do. I don't feel this is quite right, but it's a powerful position.

    If thought is energy 'flowing' through the mind then being is thinking. Thought is being. Being is thought.EnPassant

    I think you've actually touched on something that has been a dominant view in the West for a long time indeed, namely that being and thinking are either the same or that "being" is really subsumed by thought (in the sense of consciousness), which sounds to me a little like Kant's representations -- not that "being" in the sense of the objective world isn't there, but that the mind contributes to it. Here we're in the subject/object form of knowledge, with time and space being the forms of perception and hence everything knowable.

    Whether being and conscious awareness ("thinking") are the same is an interesting question. Again I find Heidegger a very interesting resource on these issues. I don't want to make this about Heidegger -- I have another thread for that -- but needless to say your question is a good one.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k
    See, here it's tricky in my view. On the one hand, of course philosophy isn't science or religion -- they differ in many ways. But on the other hand, they deal with very similar questions.
    — Xtrix

    True, but it is the ways that they approach those questions that differentiates them.
    Pfhorrest

    Sure, but here we get into the issue of a scientific "method" that differentiates it from the others -- especially religion and philosophy, which are often looked down on in science -- and to which science owes its success. Personally I'm not convinced by the arguments in favor of such an "inductive method," although others on this forum have emphasized predictability as an essential feature above the rest. That's all debatable.

    Regardless, this isn't really about science, but since science was originally called "natural philosophy," and since religions throughout history (not simply Christianity) have asked the same basic questions philosophers ask and have come to conclusions that don't involve the "supernatural" at all (like some Buddhist and Daoist ideas), it's sometimes not so easy to see where religion ends and philosophy begins. After all, Augustine, Aquinas, Spinoza, and Anselm are considered philosophers. Galileo and Newton were pretty religious men yet are considered great scientists.

    You see my point. Again, it's not that there aren't differences -- they are often quite clear, in fact -- but when pushed to answer it does get a bit tricky. I think our Western answers and attitudes are shaped in reaction to specifically Christian dogma, and so science and philosophy get separated from this dogma (which comes to represent "religion") and hence against things like heaven, hell, the supernatural, angels, a humanoid sky-Father, miracles, etc.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k


    Appreciate the responses.
  • Xtrix
    1.1k
    Of the many types of human inquiry, philosophy is inquiry by means of rigorous reasoning in the pursuit and formation of creditable beliefs. As such, it is not bound to any specific field, concern or interest. Many, if not every, cosmic dimension and question can be approached by way of philosophy: religion, science, literature, farming, cinema, education, politics, cooking, etc. Philosophy is one of many tools humans employ to render the world and their experience more intelligible. While, for some, philosophy is strictly a theoretical enterprise, for others it is a therapeutically satisfying way of life.Statilius

    Inquiry certainly plays a role, as does reasoning. Whether it's the pursuit of "creditable" beliefs (do you mean credible?), this too has a long history going back at least in some ways to Plato, but obviously the question then becomes "What is belief?" and "What is truth?"

    So to tweak what you've said a little bit, does philosophy as the "pursuit of truth through rational inquiry" sound good? Or have I misunderstood you?

    Also, regarding "therapeutically satisfying way of life," I'm not totally clear on that -- how does this differ from a rational or theoretical enterprise? Or does it?
  • Xtrix
    1.1k
    What do we think of this:

    “Philosophy is the theoretical conceptual interpretation of being, of being’s structure and its possibilities.”

    or

    "Philosophy is universal phenomenological ontology."

    Agree? Disagree? Incoherent?
  • Statilius
    60


    I really did mean 'creditable' rather than 'credible'. 'Credible' suggests something “capable of being believed.” It could be just this side of not credible: believable, yes, but. . . . oh, my! Whereas, 'creditable', in the way I mean it, suggests something much more robust, something “worthy of belief,” “something sufficiently good to bring reputation or esteem, deserving of judicious praise,” as Merriam-Webster would have it.

    I have intentionally avoided the word 'truth' for something more modest and, for me, more precise in terms of our demonstrated human capabilities. Perhaps something less hubristic.

    By “therapeutically satisfying way of life” I meant to distinguish between philosophy as it is practiced in academia today, and, for example, that of the Hellenistic philosophers for whom philosophizing was a kind of medicine. I was thinking of the distinction made by Pierre Hadot, in which philosophy “is essentially a dialogue, a living relationship between people rather than an abstract relation of ideas (Hadot, The Present is Our Only Happiness, p.55).”
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