What is Philosophy?

What is Philosophy?

Someone might wonder. What am I? What is consciousness? Could I survive my death? Am I a puppet of destiny or do I have my own free will? Does the world presuppose a creator? How do I know if my opinions are objective or just subjective? What is Philosophy? The term philosophy is a compound from the Greek words philo (love) and sophia (wisdom). It is best defined as the love of exercising ones curiosity and intelligence. Pythagoras (ca. 530 BCE) was the first to call himself a philosopher. Three classes of people at the games: Athletes- skilled seekers of fame; merchants- shrewd seekers of wealth; spectators- contemplative seekers of truth. For Pythagoras, rational reflection on abstract

mathematical concepts purifies the soul by freeing it from attachment to bodily desires. Philosophys Four Main Areas Metaphysics: Examines the nature of reality. What is real? Does God exist? What is the self? Are we free? Logic: Examines reasoning. How can we make reliable inferences? Epistemology: Examines the concept of knowledge. What can we know and how do we know what we know? Ethics: Examines the concepts of

right and wrong. Why study philosophy? For fun! To satisfy our natural curiosity, to seek better answers to the existential questions. To enjoy the pleasures of philosophical reflection. For self-improvement. Reflection improves practice. Thinking about what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you could do it differently make you better at what you do. Theory affects practice, bad theories lead to bad practices. Eg. Karma, samsara; heaven, egoism.

Personal Freedom Only by subjecting the values and beliefs of our culture to critical scrutiny can we avoid being duped by persuasive propagandists who have an interest in manipulating us. To be truly autonomous and self determined we must learn to think critically, to question what we hear and ask for evidence. For a better society. True democracy requires citizens who can contemplate the common good without being duped by groups with a religious or political agenda. Only careful, critical thinkers can evaluate social policy proposals from an objective and impartial perspective.

Platos Conception of Philosophy Philosophical wisdom stands up to critical scrutiny. A clear, articulate, rational system of ideas. Dialectical methodcritical analysis of traditional beliefs. Rational search for unchanging reality. To know a things reality is to know the end or purpose it serves. To know human nature is to grasp the ideal that human nature strives to realize. Discovering this ideal shows one how to live

a life of fulfillment. Recent Philosophers on Philosophy That department of knowledge which deals with ultimate reality, or the most general causes and principles of things. Oxford Dictionary. All those enquiries which have for their object to trace the various branches of human knowledge to the first principles in the constitution of our nature. D. Stewart the scientific knowledge of man. J.S. Mill

a collective name for questions which have not been answered to the satisfaction of all that have asked them. William James The attempt to arrive at a general description of the whole universe. G. E. Moore Every philosophical problem is found to be not really philosophical at all, or else to belogical (arising out of the analysis of propositions). Bertrand Russell A critical discussion of critical discussion. John Passmore Philosophy of science is philosophy enough. Origins of Philosophy A paradigm shift in ancient Greece- from supernatural to natural explanations of the universe. Supernaturalists rely on divination and inspiration to discover divine motives. What is Zeus thinking and how can we influence him? Claims are supported by intuition, shared subjective experience, and appeals to

authoritative traditions. Naturalists rely on evidence and reasoning; claims that are open to criticism and investigation on the basis of consistency and empirical evidence. Presocratic Philosophy: The Milesians Thales (ca.580 BCE) Water as the ultimate cause of all things. All things are filled with gods. One thing that is the cause of everything. This thing contains a principle of change. An ultimate material that explains change while remaining itself unchanged. Anaximander(ca.610-ca.

546 BCE) From what source things arise, to that they return of necessity when they are destroyed; for they suffer punishment and make reparation to one another for their injustice according to the order of time. The boundless. An unspecific, infinite blob from which earth, air, fire, and water emerged. Anaximines (ca. 545 BCE) The boundless is too obscure. A thing with no characteristics would be nothing. The ultimate substance is air. Qualitative change results from changes in the density of air ( i.e., from quantitative change).

When air is dilated into a rarer form it becomes fire, while air that is condensed forms windsif this process goes further, it gives water, still further, earth, and the greatest condensation of all is found in stones. Heraclitus vs Parmenides Heraclitus (ca. 470 BCE) This worldwas ever, is now, and ever shall be an everlasting fire. Fire- a process; always changing yet somehow remaining the same. One cannot step into the same river twice. What appears permanent,

is really in flux. War is king. Endless cycles of creation and destruction. Parmenides (ca. 515-ca. 440 BCE) The concept of change is contradictory. The appearance of change must be an illusion. What is, is. What is not, is not. (There is no nothing.) What is, is uncreated, indestructible, eternal, unchangeable. all these things will be but a name which mortals believed true, viz., that things arise and perish, that they are and are not, that they change their position and vary in color. Parmenides and Zeno (ca. 490 BCE)

Creation- (a) out of nothing, or (b) out of something. (a) is impossible because there is no nothing. (b) impossible since what is, is; it cannot be something else. Destruction- impossiblewould be a disappearance into nothing. Change- impossible. Change = transformation into something else, to become what it is not. Zenos paradoxes: Achilles can never catch the tortoise. Before any distance can be traversed, half the distance must be traversed. These half distances are infinite in number. It is impossible

to traverse distances infinite in number. Therefore, motion is impossible. Atomism Empedocles (ca. 440 BCE) Eternal, uncreated roots of earth, air, fire, and water are mixed together and separated by the forces of love and strife. A crude version of natural selection: many heads grew up without necks, and arms were wandering about naked, bereft of shoulders, and eyes roamed about alone with no foreheads. Democritus (ca. 460-370 BCE) The universe consists of atoms and empty space; everything else is merely thought to exist.[T]he atoms are unlimited in size and

number, and they are born along in the whole universe in a vortex, and thereby generate all composite things- fire, water, air, and earth, for even these are conglomerations of given atoms All things happen by virtue of necessity, the vortex being the cause of the creation of all things. Each atom is a Parmenidian one. The Sophists As belief in the old religious myths waned, and a new class or merchants arose, a group of philosophers emerged teaching oratory skill and debate. For a fee one could learn to win friends and influence people. These enlightened men, who were liberated from superstition and ignorance, would teach their customers how to acquire wealth, fame, and honor. Man is the measure of all things. Protagoras When Zeus is uncrowned, chaos succeeds to his place, and chaos rules. Aristophanes

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