What is Philosophy?


Google’s dictionary, everyone’s main source for information nowadays, defines Philosophy thus:

the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

A little too brief of a description, I say. And what’s with the “especially when…”? Sure, we mainly recognize philosophy in its academic context, but any Phi101 class will admonish that anyone and everyone can, in fact, be a philosopher.

It’s the fact that we still return to the question of “What is Philosophy” that best defines us. When I become frustrated by the amount of writers people around me are quoting that I do not recognize, or miff over the new terminologies that are coined, I return to the starting point: introspection. What is it, exactly, that I do and want to do? What does my philosophy look like? Can it be defined by terms and philosophers? How do I express it?

So I returned to actual starting point, the very first book of philosophy I ever read in college: “Does the Center Hold” by Donald Palmer, and I found this piece of knowledge very enlightening:

Philosophy poses a series of questions that it then tries to answer and one of these questions is “What is Philosophy?” The fact itself tells us something about philosophy because it informs us of philosophy’s self-reflective nature. It is part of philosophy’s task to think about itself, because philosophy is an activity whose purpose involves questioning the assumptions of every system of thought, including its own.” pg. 5.

As such, it isn’t the philosopher who can quote the most, name-drop the most, or confuse the most with elaborately described concepts and terms, but the one who can turn around to one’s own assumptions and question the foundations of everything they believe. After all, isn’t that why people think we are so absurd?

But what do you think? Is philosophy a waste of time? Does it address the big picture? Is it an academic field, or something the layman can engage in?

Penny for your Thoughts?


2 thoughts on “What is Philosophy?

  1. It is sort of reductionist to narrow philosophy down to epistemology, metaphysics, and ontology. Perhaps an alternative might be even more reductionist “love of wisdom”. At least with LOW it opens the discipline up to anyone. Penny for your thought?

  2. I was a little surprised myself that the etiological breakdown didn’t find its way into many dictionary definitions.

    I think wisdom does self-reflect/introspect, though, it almost necessitates it for one who doesn’t, comes across as arrogant and arrogance hardly seems wise. Then, again, so does one who loves.

    So yeah, that’s my favorite basic description of philosophy, as love of wisdom.

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