Philosophy 2 - 1.1 What Is Philosophy?

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Identify sages (early philosophers) across historical traditions.
  • Explain the connection between ancient philosophy and the origin of the sciences.
  • Describe philosophy as a discipline that makes coherent sense of a whole.
  • Summarize the broad and diverse origins of philosophy.

It is difficult to define philosophy. In fact, to do so is itself a philosophical activity, since philosophers are attempting to gain the broadest and most fundamental conception of the world as it exists. The world includes nature, consciousness, morality, beauty, and social organizations. So the content available for philosophy is both broad and deep. Because of its very nature, philosophy considers a range of subjects, and philosophers cannot automatically rule anything out. Whereas other disciplines allow for basic assumptions, philosophers cannot be bound by such assumptions. This open-endedness makes philosophy a somewhat awkward and confusing subject for students. There are no easy answers to the questions of what philosophy studies or how one does philosophy. Nevertheless, in this chapter, we can make some progress on these questions by (1) looking at past examples of philosophers, (2) considering one compelling definition of philosophy, and (3) looking at the way academic philosophers today actually practice philosophy.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax