Topic: The Nature and Function of Philosophy
- Philosophy surrounds us all and similar to law, we may not realize it. We all engage in philosophy whether we are aware of it or not as each individual has some view concerning free will, human nature, morality, and the meaning of life. (Concordia University, 2015)
- Everyone eventually delves on questions that don’t have a designated answer that is recognized as correct. Philosophical questions like: “Does God exist?” “Is there life after death?” “Are there any absolute or universal moral principles?” “What do ethical terms like good, bad, right, and wrong mean?” “What is beauty?” “What are the characteristics of a ‘good’ work of art?” “From what sources do we gain our knowledge?” “Does sensory experience provide indubitable knowledge?” (Concordia University, 2015)
- What is philosophy?
- The term philosophy is derived from the Greek words Philos (“loving”) and Sophia (“wisdom”) combining to form the definition: “the love of wisdom.” (Granitto, 2014)
- That being said, philosophers do not always agree on the nature and function of philosophy. Here are four definitions that attempt to explain what is generally meant by the term philosophy. These definitions do not necessarily reflect a consensus of philosophical opinion. (Granitto, 2014)
- 1. Philosophy analyzes the foundations and presuppositions underlying other disciplines.
- Philosophy investigates and studies the underpinnings of science, art, and theology. Philosophers do not ask “Are Pablo Picasso’s paintings ‘good’ works of art?” as art often critics do. (Granitto, 2014)
- Instead, they ask “Is aesthetic judgment a matter of personal taste, or are there objective standards that we can apply to evaluate a work of art?” (Granitto, 2014)
- Philosophers do not ask “Is the theory of evolution true?” as biologists and physical anthropologists do. Instead, they question “How do we distinguish truth from error?” (Granitto, 2014)
- Philosophy asks questions below the surface, following branches of ideas until they reach the seed of any concept or vision. (Concordia University, 2015)
- 2. Philosophy attempts to develop a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world.
- Philosophy seeks to integrate the knowledge of the sciences with that of other fields of study. (Concordia University, 2015)
- By doing so, it aims to achieve a form of consistent and coherent world views. (Beard, 2014)
- Philosophers are not commonly interested in confining their attention to a fragment of human experience or knowledge, but rather, want to reflect upon life as a totality. (Beard, 2014)
- In speaking of this particular function, Charlie Dunbar Broad, an English twentieth-century philosopher, says: “Its object is to take over the results of the various sciences, to add to them the results of the religious and ethical experiences of mankind, and then to reflect upon the whole. The hope is that, by this means, we may be able to reach some general conclusions as to the nature of the universe, and as to our position and prospects in it.” (Gustavsson, 2017)
- 3. Philosophy studies and critically evaluates our most deeply held beliefs and attitudes; in particular, those which are often held uncritically.
- Philosophers have an attitude of critical and logical thoughtfulness. They prompt us to see the significance and consequences of our beliefs, and sometimes their inconsistencies. They analyze the evidence, or lack of it, for our most treasured beliefs. (Weinberg, 2019)
- Philosophy seeks to remove every taint and trace of ignorance, prejudice, superstition, blind acceptance of ideas, and any other form of irrationality from our perspectives. (Weinberg, 2019)
- 4. Philosophy investigates the principles and rules of language and attempts to clarify the meaning of vague words and concepts.
- Philosophy examines the role of language in communication and thought, and the problem of how to identify or ensure the presence of meaning in our use of language. (Granitto, 2014)
- It is a method–a practice–which seeks to expose the problems and confusions which have results from the misuse of language and to clarify the meaning and use of vague terms in scientific and/or everyday conversations. (Granitto, 2014)
- Philosophy forms the worldview of people, as it largely determines their behaviour and approaches to decision-making in particular problems. (Weinberg, 2019)
- Philosophy plays a significant role in solving global problems. Its main function is to form a world view, also have an indirect influence on the development of practical solutions. (Weinberg, 2019)
Beard, M. (2014, November). How philosophy shapes your world. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/how-philosophy-shapes-your-world/
Concordia University. (2015). Philosophy & society. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://www.concordia.ca/artsci/philosophy/about/phil-society.html#:~:text=Philosophers%20think%20systematically%20and%20critically,global%20justice%20or%20religious%20conflict.&text=Philosophy%20thus%20makes%20an%20important%20contribution%20to%20our%20understanding%20of%20society.
Granitto, J. (2014). Santiago Canyon College. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://www.sccollege.edu/Faculty/JGranitto/TheNatureandFunctionofPhilosophy/Pages/default.aspx
Gustavsson, K. (2017, February 21). Charlie Dunbar broad. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/broad/
Weinberg, J. (2019, February 25). How philosophical work can change the world. Retrieved April 23, 2021, from https://dailynous.com/2017/07/05/philosophical-work-can-change-world/
Thanks for reading!