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What is philosophy?

  1. Nov 22, 2007 #1
    Im not a philosopher, and I dont intend on knowing anything about the subject, but what is philosophy? People can say, well philosophy is logic, or ethics, or whatever you consider it. But what is PHILOSOPHY? Is philosophy only here because WE put it there? Just like everything else that we may or may not PERCEIVE? Perhaps philosophy is too much for me. Id rather live life without philosophy interfering.
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  3. Nov 22, 2007 #2
    I probably have no real authority other then my own experience with the field, so feel free to bash me hard if I make a mistake.

    Philosophy can be said to be like a "method" of questioning or exploring the world in which we live. All of the thoughts and ideas, conclusions that are drawn, etc...are supposed to be achieved via logical/rational steps. A good philosopher supposedly makes no "leaps of faith" in logic, in other words - few assumptions, or none is ideal.

    I don't know if I can really interpret this correctly, but for the record, philosophy isn't a THING we PUT somewhere. I don't have philosophy sitting on my coffee table for example.

    I assume that's not what you meant. Philosophy, like pretty much everything we 'learn' (mathematics, language, etc...), is done via language. So, I think it's safe to deduce that if humans weren't around - this 'thing' we know as Philosophy wouldn't exist because it exists only in the abstract of our intellect.

    How un-philosophical of you :P

    Philosophical people (I believe) tend to love answers. They would rather live in a world knowing the full blunt truth - even if it means admitting that there is no god, or afterlife, etc... After all, to believe (or not believe) in something simply because you want (or don't want) to is to commit a logical fallacy known as "Appeal to Consequence." That is, you are using how you feel about something as a reason to believe (or not believe) in something - this makes no sense as you can see simply because, well for example, I may want to believe that eating donuts is a good thing for my health, obviously that's just not true because the reality of the situation is: donuts are bad for my health - no matter what I believe.

    Philosophy may seem ugly initially, but, I think it has a lot to do with being honest with yourself in the end - you deserve it anyways.
  4. Nov 22, 2007 #3
    Yeah i would concur but in my opinion i think philosophers love the QUESTIONS not the answers :D
  5. Nov 22, 2007 #4


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    Actually, I think that's exactly backwards. Philosophical people tend to love questions. Philosophical people are the ones most willing to question the very foundations of our beliefs -- as opposed to most people who get mortally offended if you force them to analyze their beliefs.
  6. Nov 22, 2007 #5
    Hmm...I think it all gets too confusing in the end and everything just gets tangled up with too many questions haha.
  7. Nov 22, 2007 #6
    The worst question to ask a philosopher. Was wondering when someone would put it to us. Might belong in debunking topics. Skepticism. The only thing worse is living with a philosopher living his philosophy. Caution, my friend, you might get hooked.
  8. Nov 22, 2007 #7
    Hmm..but whats the point of having questions if there are no answers, or if you can't find the answers?

    ....I hope that wasn't a philosophical question....:rolleyes:
  9. Nov 22, 2007 #8
    I'll agree with the loving of questions bit - so Philosophers love questions! Though, I can't help but imagine there is a small amount of love for answering them, imagine if all we did was ask questions then patted each other on the back for asking a "good question." Then left it at that.

    Basically, philosophers are curious people.

    Yeah, thinking is hard.
  10. Nov 22, 2007 #9
    Philosophy is the the love of wisdom, and keep in mind that wisdom is distinct from knowledge.

    Philosophical problems don't arise on purpose, but rather they are like mental illnesses for which the treatment is to practice philosophy. Most people find some poor substitute because philosophy is a basic human need.

    Aristotle said "I have gained this from philosophy: that I do without being commanded, what others do only out of fear of the law".
  11. Nov 22, 2007 #10
    Simply put, "Why?".
  12. Nov 23, 2007 #11

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    Gee, you're creating a tough question to answer. "I don't want to know anything about it, but tell me what it is."

    There's a nice little piece on the "What is philosophy?" topic here for anyone who is interested:

    You're certainly free to do so. Don't bother philosophy and it won't bother you. You won't have to get a restraining order against it. I promise.

    Studying philosophy can have its benefits, however. My favorite philosophy course was a class in logic. In a nutshell, that course was all about how to not get fooled, by others and by yourself. Learning to analyze and to question and to think critically is a good thing, in my opinion, but some folks seem to get along just fine without it.
  13. Nov 23, 2007 #12

    ...What I meant was, "What is philosophy?". Not the definition. I mean maybe I should word it better as, "Why is philosophy here in the first place, because its natural for the human brain to think like that or what?". Not like a definition or to ask whats involved. If I wanted that I would have gone to google.
  14. Nov 23, 2007 #13
    I don't know if there is an answer as to "why humans have philosophical thoughts" - but I do have to ask - "Why do we do anything?"

    Usually we have some goal in mind, in this case, perhaps we wish to understand our universe in a way that is difficult to argue with... It's a search for objective truth? That might be a bit brash to say I suppose - I don't really know.

    You obviously have an interest in philosophy or you wouldn't be here... unless you have alterior motives. Why are you here exactly?
  15. Nov 23, 2007 #14
    People have an innate fear of the unknown because not knowing means not controlling, which leaves you open to harm. Consequently, it is eminently human to seek knowledge, and the foundation of reliable knowledge is to use a sound approach to thinking. The conscious search and conscious use of a sound approach to thinking is the foundation of philosophy.
  16. Nov 23, 2007 #15
    Even a little critical thinking exposure in every school grade would be an improvement. But then again, "no one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."

    I'd like to give somebody credit for that quote, but don't know from where I got it.

    Philosophy takes an objective look at how things work. It is the examination of the knowledge used in decision making. Only necessary when a lack of anticipated results leads to critical examination of the decision making process. Example. Every time I drive a nail with a hammer I hit my thumb. The process starts.
  17. Nov 23, 2007 #16
    Many people share your philosophy.
  18. Nov 23, 2007 #17

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    OK, I think I see what you're asking. Are you wondering if humans are "hard-wired" to try to work out problems that they may not be able to solve? My thought is: yes. Because sometimes, we do solve these problems. Certainly, there would be a survival advantage for those of our ancestors who kept working on a problem versus those who gave up quickly. Furthermore, the development of our mighty frontal lobes was an evolutionary smash hit, growing very large and sophisticated in a relatively short period of time. Things have worked out very well for the reasoners and planners who took advantage of this new mental machinery.

    I sense that the heart of your question is "why do some people waste their time reasoning about things that seem not only insolvable, but irrelevant to day-to-day life?" Am I close? I suppose there are many psychological answers to that, and people here have already given very good responses: we're naturally curious, understanding the way the world works gives us a sense of control, etc. We could also ask a similar question: "Why do we waste time playing games if some games can't be won, and some might end in a tie?" I suspect that it's because we enjoy the moment-to-moment strategies and challenges of the process.

    Similarly, with philosophy, I think we enjoy the mental exercise of trying to get at the "truth" even if the odds are slim that we'll ever reach that objective. It's also pretty darn cool to look about how very clever people have tried to solve the same problems with different approaches. Not to suggest that philosophy is all fun and games, it's certainly serious business when it comes to problems of morals and ethics.
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