What Philosophy Is All About

philosophy Asking questions about things and pondering those questions are what created the world of philosophy. The term philosophy itself is broad and encompasses many different things. Questioning the term could constitute a philosophical question on its own. So, what is philosophy all about?

The first step in understanding philosophy

The differences between human beings and other creatures, apart from physical characteristics, are humans’ ability to think critically and their ability to reason rationally. Human beings are able to think beyond what other creatures can comprehend. The human mind is nearly always working, whether that is trying to solve problems or trying to figure out what we will do next. We can’t just stop thinking. This is where philosophy comes to play. Philosophy plays a key role in our daily lives, often without our knowing it. Our day to day activities are linked to the world of
philosophy because we are continuously thinking in order to find the answers for our questions and problems. The mere act of thinking about something is a form of philosophy.

The meaning of the word philosophy

It is difficult to give a definite answer to the question of the meaning of philosophy because the answer can be derived from many different viewpoints. Many philosophers themselves come up with their own philosophical definition of the study. Dr. Dave Ward from the University of Edinburgh gave his definition of philosophy as, “the activity of working out the best way to think about things”[1]. The term fits the whole purpose of thinking. Do we not all strive to think of the best way to think about something? It seems natural that we would want to get the best out of our thoughts.

The use of philosophy in various fields of study

The knowledge of philosophy is used across many different areas of study, such as religion, social and natural sciences, law, psychology, medicine, mathematics, language, humanities, and politics. To understand the use of philosophy, it may be helpful to look at an example. Take, for instance, a physicist who is collecting data, taking measurements, constructing experiments, and building scientific theories. Many would imagine that what they are doing is the basics of physics, which would not be wrong[1]. However, if that same physicist were to look back and reflect on his activities and start asking questions about what data to confirm or refute in their theory, the physicist would actually no longer be doing pure physics, but would in fact be examining the philosophy of physics [1].

We somehow use philosophy in almost every activity in our lives - philosophy is not purely limited to academic fields of study. Another example: we typically use flour as the main ingredient to make muffins. If we step back and evaluate our way of baking, we may start asking questions about the ways of thinking about baking. We use philosophy to find a better way of finding solution and make new discoveries. That small shift in thinking would take a normal daily activity from an action to a matter of philosophy.

The importance of philosophy

Philosophy is as important as other knowledge. Of course, there are certain things or times in which it would not be beneficial to take a philosophical viewpoint. For example, a doctor who is operating on a critical patient has to apply practical knowledge, not philosophical knowledge. In fact, many medical advances came about through philosophical thinking, which is something that we should be thankful for. Also, there is no need to spend hours of our time asking philosophical questions about shoes or other mundane material things. Dr. Ward noted that, “just because we invert our question to being philosophical, that doesn’t necessarily make it an important one,” but “[…] philosophical questions and philosophical questioning often are very important.”[2]

So, what do you think about philosophy? Leave a comment below!

[1] Ward, D. “Introduction to Philosophy.” [Week 1: What is philosophy]. MOOC offered by the University of Edinburgh. Retrieved on July 22, 2017 from https://www.coursera.org/learn/philosophy
[2] Ward, D. “Introduction to Philosophy.” [Week 1: Philosophy: Difficult, Important and Everywhere]. MOOC offered by the University of Edinburgh. Retrieved on July 22, 2017 from https://www.coursera.org/learn/philosophy