The Basic Philosophy Series 101 -1: What is philosophy and how is it done?

What is philosophy and how is it done?

Here is one definition:

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means “love of wisdom”. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

We employ reason when we philosophize:

Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics and art, and is normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature. The concept of reason is sometimes referred to as rationality and sometimes as discursive reason, in opposition to “intuitive reason”.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason and also see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic

Is philosophy simple musing? What is dialectical reasoning? How would you define philosophy? Let’s try to have a stimulating discussion.

Please stay on topic.

Homework for week of 10/30/2011:

Familiarize yourself with this website as it gives a nice presentation of the basics of philosophy:

philosophybasics.com/general.html

In preparation for our next thread please watch these three educational videos: Enjoy :slight_smile:
Western Philosophy:
youtube.com/watch?v=hYnqreW-Kqg&feature=related
youtube.com/watch?v=tPZgT2GEFis&feature=related
youtube.com/watch?v=1S31WFm3Rm0&feature=related

Quote of the week: The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates. Why would he say that?

Reporting for class Miss.:wink:

What is philosophy? I would also add that philosophy follows a method. Fr Robert Sokolowski (an American phenomenologist) says that much of the confusion about what philosophy is comes from the confusion about how it proceeds. Is it just sitting around thinking deeply about things? No. Is it a matter of giving opinions in the absence of hard evidence? No. Philosophy is a method by which truth is discovered. The Scholastic philosophers in the Middle Ages perfected a method. This method was largely abandoned in the Enlightenment period.

The Scholastic method of philosophy includes the following:

(1) All knowledge begins in the senses. (This also means we should refer to experience to verify what we think philosophy shows us).

(2) Philosophy makes distinctions between things. It carefully defines words so that we are clear on what we are talking about.

There are many other aspects to the method of philosophy, but these I think are two key ones.

:compcoff:

What did Socrates mean by “know thyself”? Philosophy also aims at practical wisdom: how we should live and act.

Videos:

Some great material in the videos…though I am a bit wary of the discussion of Galileo in part 2 (it’s quite a cliched view of the Church’s attitude towards science).

From the website, there seems to be a tension between philosophy and science. For example, one of the definitions of philosophy was:
investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods
And later on:
Philosophy is done primarily through reflection and does not tend to rely on experiment
I’ve encountered this in other places as well. For example, one book on the neurobiology of the brain was commenting about how a few decades ago there were many philosophy departments that considered the science of the brain irrelevant to the mind/brain problem.

Yes, I can see why you might be inclined to draw that conclusion (as many do!). However, I do not think there is any tension between the two for the following reasons:

(1) Philosophy does not ‘set aside’ empirical observation, but builds on it. At a certain point, empirical observation can only take us so far. After that, we’re left to draw conclusions that cannot be observed. So philosophy is, and has traditionally been held to be, a “higher science” (‘science’ being a word to describe an organised body of thought) than the natural sciences.

(2) Philosophy begins in the natural sciences, and begins with observation. Looking at the earliest Greek philosophers (Thales, Democritus, for example), we can see that they were trying to make sense of the world from a natural standpoint. They largely failed because they did not have anything in the way of scientific methodology as we now understand it. But they soon learned to make a distinction between what could be known through physical investigation and what could be known through metaphysical investigation.

(3) Even Werner Heisenberg, the great physicist, remarked that the only way to make sense of scientific discovery, such as the work of quantum mechanics, can only be evaluated from a metaphysical–or non-empirical–standpoint. In other words, every experiment has to be evaluated from ‘outside’ that experiment (see Heisenberg, Physics & Philosophy)

, 38a]

I would say too that man as a rational animal is fulfilled in exercising that which is proper to his nature, reason. Aristotle sees contemplation (theoria) as the height of human happiness. I agree, but would add due to the influence of Newman, “The unlived life is not worth examining.”

I would also add that apart from the exact sciences, which stemmed largely from the Quadrivium, most of the branches of the modern natural sciences stemmed from natural philosophy. Despite falling under the exact sciences Newton even called his magnum opus Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

I find two particular definitions of philosophy rather satisfying, especially in so far as they make sense of actual philosophizing (at least in my experience).

(1) “Philosophy is the critically reflective, systematically articulated attempt to illumine our human experience in depth and set it in a vision of the whole.” - Clarke, W. Norris. The One and the Many: a Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2001. p. 5

(2) “In another metaphor Ryle said that formal is to informal logic [informal logic = philosophy] as geometry is to cartography. In the latter, the irregular features of a landscape have to be plotted to scale, and the success of the enterprise depends upon the cartographer’s being able to employ, or be guided by, the idealized regularities of Euclidean plane geometry. In the same way as the cartographer is the ‘client’ of the geometer, so the philosopher or ‘informal logician’ is the client of the formal logician.” - Grayling, A. C. An Introduction to Philosophical Logic. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1997. pp. 5-6

I think dialectical method understood as philosophy at least involves the attempt to stand a position on its strongest grounds and the leveling of the strongest objections against it to analyze that position.

I have the book too and definitely like it as a good primer to Aquinas.

(2) “In another metaphor Ryle said that formal is to informal logic [informal logic = philosophy] as geometry is to cartography. In the latter, the irregular features of a landscape have to be plotted to scale, and the success of the enterprise depends upon the cartographer’s being able to employ, or be guided by, the idealized regularities of Euclidean plane geometry. In the same way as the cartographer is the ‘client’ of the geometer, so the philosopher or ‘informal logician’ is the client of the formal logician.” - Grayling, A. C. An Introduction to Philosophical Logic. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1997. pp. 5-6

If I understand Grayling correctly, I wouldn’t make philosophy a subspecies of logic or an informalized logic. Logic is the study of the forms of correct reasoning to test the validity of arguments and it can have a bearing on the reasoning process itself. Logic is a second intention analysis of reasoning, as grammar is to language. No more than a perfected grammar can subsume or entail what is conveyed in the use of language can logic entail and subsume what is explored in philosophy.

Our conceptual knowledge of, say, the chemical element mercury and the statements through which it is expressed involve first intentions. When we think about the concepts involved as concepts or analyze the statements grammatically or for logical coherence we are engaged in intellectual acts of second intention. Logic involves acts of the second intention.

If one regards philosophy as formal and disciplined reflection as opposed to spontaneous and everyday thought, I agree with that.

I think dialectical method understood as philosophy at least involves the attempt to stand a position on its strongest grounds and the leveling of the strongest objections against it to analyze that position.

Nice. Truth emerges in dialogue.

I see some Thomism here! :stuck_out_tongue:

“What is first known (prima intellecta) are things outside the soul, the things which first draw the intellect to knowledge. But the intentions which follow on our mode of knowing are said to be secondly known (secunda intellecta); for the intellect comes to know them by reflecting on itself, by knowing that it knows and the mode of its knowing.” - Aquinas, De Pot. q. 7, a. 9.

As I understand Grayling, he’s saying the philosopher takes formal logic and applies it to the rough, uncharted jungles of thought, trying to plot it to scale. More intuitively, I think he’s just describing a chief aspect of analytic philosophy (which has only recently in the history of humankind become dominant).

I like it. :thumbsup:
Fr Norris, great guy too…

Indeed!

“What is first known (prima intellecta) are things outside the soul, the things which first draw the intellect to knowledge. But the intentions which follow on our mode of knowing are said to be secondly known (secunda intellecta); for the intellect comes to know them by reflecting on itself, by knowing that it knows and the mode of its knowing.” - Aquinas, De Pot. q. 7, a. 9.

I’m glad someone else reads the works of Thomas beyond ST, SCG, and De Veritate–as great as these are.

Incidently, have you read John F. Wippel’s, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas?
amazon.com/Metaphysical-Thought-Thomas-Aquinas-Renaissance/dp/0813209838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1319996001&sr=1-1

Rigorous, but so illuminating.

As I understand Grayling, he’s saying the philosopher takes formal logic and applies it to the rough, uncharted jungles of thought, trying to plot it to scale. More intuitively, I think he’s just describing a chief aspect of analytic philosophy (which has only recently in the history of humankind become dominant).

That makes sense. But then that’s a meta-philosophy–at least to to some extent. Still some useful insights in analytic philosophy.

Ah, I have not. Looks good though! Heard good things about Wippel. Thanks for the reference!

That makes sense. But then that’s a meta-philosophy–at least to to some extent. Still some useful insights in analytic philosophy.

That’s a good point.

I think… when you ask about philosophy and how it is done… you stop doing philosophy.

Just my two cents.

And why is that?

It assumes the Myth of the Given, if I am not mistaken.

I’m afraid this is a very muddled history and description of philosophy and not quite accurate, one that is not supported by a reading of the history of philosophy. There’s just too much here to respond to all at once, and so I would strongly recommend the following introduction to philosophy by Jacques Maritain to help set the record straight, as he debunks many of the misconceptions about philosophy and explains how it developed as a discipline and how it is done.

I want to finish by saying that philosophy is a treasured science by the Church, and we shouldn’t conflate sophism, or skepticism, with philosophy. Philosophy is not about POVs or opinions, in fact, these are called ‘pre-philosophical thinking’. Philosophy proceeds by established methods which can demonstrate their principles with certainty.

To dismiss philosophy in a kind of cavalier way or subjet it to this kind of reductionism is to dismiss not only philosophy, but theology (philosophy is the handmaiden of theology and theology also relies on rational principles). It would also mean dismissing St Paul, St Irenaeus, St Augustine, St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, St Teresa of Avila, St John Henry Newman, St Edith Stein, Bl Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, to name just a tiny fraction of the great philosophers the Church has produced.

Happy reading.

amazon.com/Introduction-Philosophy-Sheed-Ward-Classic/dp/0742550532

Acapiteadcalcem

Thank you. Now perhaps we can get this thread going! Just as an aside, philosophy was my major, in college; so I do have more than an inkling of familiarity with its history.

I want to finish by saying that philosophy is a treasured science by the Church, and we shouldn’t conflate sophism, or skepticism, with philosophy. Philosophy is not about POVs or opinions, in fact, these are called ‘pre-philosophical thinking’. Philosophy proceeds by established methods which can demonstrate their principles with certainty.

Philosophy is precisely about POV’s, otherwise there would not be thousands of differing philosophies! They span the globe and are different, in their major lines, in various parts of the world. Debate with a Buddhist, or with a Hindi. One has to untangle their concepts before one can even understand their syntax.

Philosophy presents POV’s, no matter how one tries to decorate it with sparkles.

To dismiss philosophy in a kind of cavalier way or subject it to this kind of reductionism is to dismiss not only philosophy, but theology (philosophy is the handmaiden of theology and theology also relies on rational principles).

Please re-read my post. I am certainly not “dismissing it in a cavalier way!” There was nothing “cavalier” about anything I said. It was all quite un-cavalier, IMHO. Further, there is no need to bring theology into this part of the discussion, at least not yet.

It would also mean dismissing St Paul, St Irenaeus, St Augustine, St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, St Teresa of Avila, St John Henry Newman, St Edith Stein, Bl Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, to name just a tiny fraction of the great philosophers the Church has produced.

I don’t see how any of it is demeaning to any of those great thinkers. Your’s is a perfect demonstration of what I meant by, “Point of View!” (Probably your intent :thumbsup: )

If philosophy was so asymmetric it should be easy to get anyone else to conform to a thinker’s views, but, as we can see from this forum, and from history, we can’t seem to get it done. :eek:

God bless,
jd

Now jd, if all you’re going to do is keep making the same point over and over, we’re not going to get very far, are we?:wink:

So let’s take it up a notch. If you think that philosophy is all about POVs, then get some sources to back yourself up, lay 'em out, and we can have a chat about them. I’ve given you a source, now it’s in your court.

Your argument does not follow. There might be thousands of different opinions about what 2+2 equals, but there’s not going to be thousands of right answers. There would be no point in debating with a Buddhist or anyone else for that matter if there was not something called objective truth which we could debate about. There are, presently, conflicting pov’s about the basic fabric of matter, but this does not mean that quantum physics is about opinions or povs; or the fact that there are numerous religious ideas out there does not mean that Revelation is about opinions, surely? :eek:

Food for thought:

“The history of philosophy is certainly not a mere congeries of opinions.” Frederick Copleston, History of Philosophy, vol 1., page 4

“The whole process [of philosophy], however, is not a matter of opinions but of a steady march toward truth.” Quentin Lauer, hegel’s Idea of Philosophy, page 39

“Philosophy is not a ‘point of view’ but a ‘mode of thinking.’” Karl Jaspers, The Great Philosophers.

“Philosophy is not a point of view alongside others, for it so related to the transcending power of the mind that it situates itself not in some limited perspective.” Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, New queries in aesthetics and metaphysics, page 13. (Tymieniecka, by the way, is an expert in and student of the philosophy of Pope John Paul II, and translator of his work, the Acting Person).

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