Philosophy has been treated as an important subject since the time ofMedieval Europe. During the time of Medieval Europe, philosophy wasperceived as a wide subject, and it occupied certain preeminence.However, the perceptions and approaches to the study of philosophyhave changed over time, and the subject is no-longer consideredpreeminent (Robinson, 11). There has been an evolving debate amongscholars and philosophers, which has led to the emergence of numerousdefinitions, conceptions and misconceptions of philosophy. Despitethe presence of the debate, there is a consensus that philosophy hasa value in the life of each (Solomon, Higgins & Martin, 12). Thispaper presents an analysis of “philosophy.” To start with, thepaper provides a working definition of the term “philosophy,”based on my own perception, as well as the views of earlierphilosophers and scholars. Secondly, the paper explains theimportance or the value of philosophy. In addition, the paper givesan overview of an alternative perspective of philosophy and explainswhy the view is incorrect. Lastly, the paper explains how my view ofphilosophy and philosophical ideas might influence my life in thefuture.
Definition of Philosophy
In my view, philosophy refers to the science that, by natural lightof reason, studies the highest principles or the first causes offundamental or general issues or problems that are encountered byindividuals or groups. The term “philosophy” was first coined bya Pythagoras, a Greek thinker. In the view of Pythagoras, philosophysimply means “love of wisdom.” In this regard, Pythagoras viewedphilosophy as a discipline that is concerned with the pursuit ofknowledge. Scholars and philosophers have used Pythagoras’sperspective in their definitions of philosophy. For instance,Robinson (18) defines philosophy as the desire or move to pursueknowledge or to gain wisdom through critically and reflectivelyanalyzing the sources and implications of general problems that areencountered by an individual or a group of people.
More recently, scholars and philosophers have come up with differentdefinitions of philosophy. For instance, Maritain perceivesphilosophy as the desire to understand the world within us, as wellas the world that surrounds us (Robinson, 24). On the other hand,Olson defines philosophy as the body of knowledge that emerges from aquest to understand an individual’s assumptions about generalproblems or issues, such as those related to the mind, reasoning,language, values, knowledge, existence and reality (Robinson, 25).
Another group of ancient philosophers perceived philosophy asencompassing all the main branches of scientific study (the scienceof morality, logic, metaphysics, mathematics and physics). Just likethe aforementioned branches of science, philosophy involvessystematic investigations. However, unlike those branches of science,philosophy involves the study of all things. In addition,investigations in the philosophy do not make use of laboratoryinstruments or other investigative tools rather the investigationsrely on a philosopher’s natural capacity to think. Lastly,philosophy involves the study of the first causes or the highestprinciple of an issue or a problem (Robinson, 25). Overall, thecomprehensive view of earlier philosophers has influenced thedefinition of philosophy adopted in this paper.
Value of Philosophy
The main value of philosophy is that it generates knowledge that isapplicable in other disciplines, as well as in life. One of theancient philosophers, Bertrand Russell, argued that philosophy ismainly concerned with the generation of knowledge about reality andthe universe. Just like scientists, philosophers carry outinvestigations and come up with answers to emerging problems andissues (Engel & Soldan, 46). The main distinction betweenphilosophy and other science disciplines is that philosophy givesuncertain answers. In a case where a philosophy investigationdelivers definite answers, the subject or the results of theinvestigation cease from being part of philosophy, and they becomepart of a separate science. As such, the questions that are expectedto give definite answers are not part of philosophy rather, they arepart of other scientific disciplines. Despite the fact thatphilosophical questions hardly give certain answers, the continuouspursuance of the discipline gives scientists the possibilities fornew outcomes during new scientific experiments or investigations. Inaddition, philosophy influences scientists to pursue new knowledge(Engel & Soldan, 47).
In addition, due to its similarities with science, philosophy equipslearners with different skills that are applicable in a variety ofprofessions. To start with, philosophy enhances the ability of thestudent to evaluate and analyze arguments. In other words, it teachesan individual how to distinguish between good and bad arguments(Engel & Soldan, 48). Subsequently, an individual learns to makeinformed decisions on contentious issues. Secondly, philosophyteaches an individual to separate, distinct issues, to analyze themindependently, to think about the consequences and to formulateeffective solutions to each of the separate issues. In other words,an individual becomes a good learner. Further, philosophy equipslearners with advanced communication skills. It teaches individualshow to frame, convey and express ideas in a clear and convincing way.Also, studying philosophy improves an individual’s ways orperspectives of looking at life, knowledge and society (Engel &Soldan, 47).
Alternative View of Philosophy
In some cases, people view philosophy as a “way of life.”Individuals who view philosophy as a way of life generate their ownassumptions about life and take unique approaches towards life, basedon their personal feelings and preferences. An individual holdingthis view picks or chooses a specific body of thought and calls ithis or her own, and even believes in it. However, this is amisconception about philosophy. As Woodhouse (25) explains,philosophy is an activity that involves thinking. It is anintellectual process that involves both synthetic and analytic modeof operation. It is a comprehensive process of thought that involvescorrecting distortions, testing positions, distinguishing importance,revealing presuppositions, unmasking assumptions and resolvingconfusion. Therefore, philosophy involves pursuit of knowledge andwisdom, rather than simply choosing what one wants to believe in. Onecan choose to be a philosopher or to be philosophical. However, onecannot choose philosophy since it is not a product (Solomon, Higgins& Martin, 53).
Impact of Philosophy and Philosophical Ideas
Philosophy has been influential to me in various ways. It has taughtme to think critically and to apply inductive reasoning when dealingwith emerging issues. As well, it has taught me that there are oftenmultiple solutions to problems. Also, I have learnt to approachproblems from different perspectives. Now that I am conscious of theapproach, I will be able to apply it in the study of philosophy, inthe future.
In addition, philosophical ideas that I have gained have influencedmy approach towards my individual assumptions. In particular, I haveunderstood that my pre-conceived assumptions in life may be wrong,and I need to keep on doing investigations in order to come up withmore solid answers. Where possible, the investigations may lead todefinite or certain answers. For instance, I have come acrossnumerous cases in life, whereby women are underrepresented in coursessuch as physics, computer science and engineering. Secondly, I havenoted that women are usually underrepresented in jobs that requireapplication of physical energy, such as engineering and constructionjobs. Since I was young, I have always known women to be physicallyweaker than men, which is true in many cases. Consequently, this hasbeen the source of my belief that women should concentrate more oneducational courses that lead to jobs that require less applicationof physical energy. In fact, this has culminated into an assumptionthat, in general, women have lower capacity than men to undertakecourses that require excessive hard work. However, after studyingphilosophy, I have realized that my general assumptions in life maybe wrong in one way or the other. I need to do additionalinvestigations on such issue and come up with more solid results. Imay end up deriving opposing results and may have to deconstruct myassumptions.
In conclusion, the debate about what constitutes philosophy has beenranging for a long time. Consequently, different philosophers andscholars have advanced different definitions of philosophy. Based onmy own conception and previous definitions, I have come up with ageneral definition of philosophy in this paper. Despite the fact thatphilosophy gives uncertain answers, it plays a great role inproviding individuals with knowledge that may help to unravelmysteries in life and may be utilized by scientists in newinvestigations. In addition, philosophy equips learners with skillsthat are applicable in different disciplines. Increased understandingof philosophy helps to unravel misconceptions of different peopletowards it. Philosophy and philosophical ideas that I have gainedwill have an influence on my ability to think critically and to makejudgments.
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with Integrated Readings, International Edition, TenthEdition. California: OUP USA
Woodhouse,Mark. A Preface to Philosophy. New York: Cengage Learning,2012