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Introduction to philosophy

  1. 1. Introduction to Philosophy<br />Noel C. Jopson<br />The starting point<br />Everything in this in this world must have an origin. What exists in our world today must have had a beginning, and so as philosophy. It is necessary to my view to trace the starting point of philosophy before even defining the term. <br />So what then is the starting point of philosophy? Every discipline would always point to the existence of man as its starting point. People might differ in the idea of man’s origin. One might be an ardent follower of the idea of Charles Darwin that man is product of an evolutionary process, or the Biblical story of Creation. Either way the fact remains that man existed. <br />Upon his existence, man must have wandered around. As he wanders he began to wonder. Greek philosophers claim that wonder is the starting point of philosophy. In Plato’s dialogue Theaetus, Socrates was quoted saying to Theaetus and Theodorus:<br />I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”1<br />The same claim was echoed by Aristotle in his book Metaphysics.<br />For all men begin, as we said, by wondering that the matter is so… But we must end in the contrary and, according to the proverb, the better state.2<br />This kind of wonder is best exemplified by a child. A child that happens to see something new would be in state of amazement over that something which is new to him. He begins to explore and ask people questions. “Why are things like this?” his desire to know about that something leads him to ask another question until his curiosity arrives at a point of satisfaction. For most of us, we get irritated when a child throws more questions than what is expected, but if we look and reflect on it, their query arises from their sense of wonder.<br />Man may well begin in wonder or awe at the way things are and from there goes to inquire as to how they work and what their first principles are. This then is the task of philosophy.<br />The aim of philosophy<br />Philosophy does not stay by pure bewilderment and amazement. Philosophers articulate their initial amazement by formulating questions (mostly what- and why-questions) that guide their curiosity toward comprehension of the problem. This does not mean that they seek a simple formula for all the puzzles of the world (the proverbial quot; philosophic stonequot; ). Philosophy aims at understanding and enlightenment rather than shorthand answers. While striving to bring some light into the complexity of human life and the universe it pursues the old longing for the truth about the whole. Philosophy is absolutely committed to the truth, quot; the whole truth and nothing but the truthquot; . However, the truth of philosophy is never given and complete as we cannot definitely close out the totality it strives to capture. Therefore the search for truth is rather like perpetual striving for more insight than for the final word on the matters of life and the world. Whenever one is engaged in philosophizing the chances are that things will become more complex and difficult than before.<br />The true meaning and significance of philosophy1<br /><ul><li>Philosophy is the oldest form of systematic, scholarly inquiry. Etymologically, the name comes from two Greek words philo (filo) which means love and Sophia (sofia) which means wisdom. Hence, a genuine philosopher is a lover of wisdom. Early thinkers known as sophists2 believed that their knowledge is far enough to answer all inquiries about life. Out of humility, Pythagoras, a native of Miletus chose not to be branded as wise, since he believes that there are certain things that the human mind can hardly fathom. Instead he opted to be called a “lover of wisdom.” In its strictest sense, philosophy is knowledge sought purposely for its own sake, and not for the sake of some other motive or purpose. As St. Thomas Aquinas once claimed:
  2. 2. From then on, the term “philosopher” replaced that of “wise man” and the term “philosophy” replaced that of “wisdom.” The term is significant in this context. For one who seeks wisdom for its own sake and not for any other motive loves that movie more than the thing sought.3</li></ul>A reflection on the philosophy as a discipline<br />As a discipline, many claimed that philosophy is difficult. Indeed it is. But philosophy is only difficult for those who do not aspire for it. Nevertheless, once a person starts to search for knowledge and realizes the importance of the acquisition of truth, then philosophy will become very easy as it will become part of his life.<br />What makes philosophy difficult?<br />First, although philosophy distinguishes between practical and speculative ideas, the study of philosophy seems to be more focused on speculative rather than the practical.<br />Second, philosophy being considered speculative has lost its groundness to life in our days of due to the question of necessity.<br />Third, philosophy appears to be too technical due to the use of philosophical jargons or highfalutin terms being used.<br />Philosophy then must be grounded to life, to prove that philosophy is not merely speculative but rather, practical. It helps students realize the importance of philosophizing in one’s life. It attempts to make the readers realize that philosophy is part of life that it can be used as means for the realization of good life. Philosophy then aims to make people see the beauty of doing good and make them search for the realization of a good life.<br />_______________________<br />1Plato. Theaetus 155d<br />2Aristotle. Metaphysics Book 1, Chapter 2<br />3Tenorio, Jose Alejandro. 2007. Lecture notes on Filipino Philosophy. De La Salle University-Dasmariñas (presented in summary)<br />4 Sophist are people who are not lovers of wisdom but may probably considered a lover of fallacious thinking.<br />5In Metaphysics Book 1, Chapter 3 (56)<br />INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY1<br />PART 1: PHILOSOPHICAL PRELIMINARIES<br />I.The Nature of Philosophy<br />Philosophy is commonly defined as:<br /><ul><li>That which comes from two Greek words philo (φιλο) which means love and sophia (σοφία). Philosophy then means love of wisdom.
  3. 3. Search for a deeper meaning of life.
  4. 4. The clarification of the meanings of words, phrases, and sentences.
  5. 5. The rational and critical study, using logic, of abstract and ultimate questions, notably the nature of existence, knowledge and value.
  6. 6. The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.
  7. 7. An activity or way of thinking about certain sorts of questions or the attempt to think rationally and critically about the most important questions.
  8. 8. Thinking about thinking
  9. 9. Worldview
  10. 10. Philosophy is not plain knowledge, but knowledge sought for its own sake.</li></ul>Aside from the given definitions, the following are pertinent issues and concerns of philosophy:<br /><ul><li>The mystery of being
  11. 11. The problem of truth and meaning
  12. 12. The meaning of life and death
  13. 13. The meaning of good and evil
  14. 14. The dignity and rights of the human person
  15. 15. The scandals of apathy, injustice, oppression, and value
  16. 16. The nature and law of love
  17. 17. The issue on man’s freedom and responsibility
  18. 18. The existence of God and spirit</li></ul>With such arose some common philosophical questions:<br /><ul><li>Why is there something rather than nothing? Who am I? Why am I?
  19. 19. What is truth? What are the sources of knowledge? Does meaning really have meaning? How do we really know?
  20. 20. Why should one exist then later on perish? What happens after death? Do I have the right to hasten death? Is there such a thing as dying?
  21. 21. If nature is intrinsically good, why are there evils in this world? What constitute a good conduct? Is there a distinction between the ethical and the moral? What is conscience?
  22. 22. Why are there less privilege people in the world? What is the scope of the power of the state over man?
  23. 23. Why should man relate to fellow man?
  24. 24. Why do we experience love?
  25. 25. Are we really free?
  26. 26. Does God really exist?</li></ul>Immanuel Kant, A German philosopher summarized the above given with the three central questions in philosophy, namely:<br /><ul><li>What can I know?
  27. 27. What should I do?
  28. 28. What may I hope?
  29. 29. The first question leads to the following activities: First is to analyze. Analysis means understanding issues or situations at hand. Next is to criticize which means to put ones perspective or situate oneself on a given task. And finally to synthesize or an activity by which we make final judgment or conclusion of to a given activity.
  30. 30. The second question talks about rightness or wrongness of an activity. And this activity must be based from a given moral standards.
  31. 31. The last question summarizes the previously raised question. That in realizing the first two activities what then?</li></ul>II. Popular Misconceptions about Philosophy<br /><ul><li>Philosophy deals with useless wrangling about things that cannot be decided. What philosopher normally do is to make certain forms of disagreement over other philosophies
  32. 32. Philosophy is an obsolete discourse, since what has been debated even during the classical times are still issues or discourses being tackled up to the present. Due to the technological advancements of our world today, people would instead seek for the tangible and would consider the intangible as senseless, to the point that even the discussion on God, religion, non-material goodness, faith and other abstract discussions are held inutile. Due to its abstract and speculative content, philosophy is therefore an insignificant discipline.
  33. 33. The philosophical enterprise is for experts on philosophy only. Philosophy appears to be too technical due to the use of philosophical jargons or highfalutin terms being used. Because of this, philosophy appears to be intended only to highly specialized individuals who do not ground themselves on life.</li></ul>III.Some Philosophical Reminders<br />The following must be considered to fully unravel the mystery behind the philosophical enterprise:<br /><ul><li>In philosophy, one must have proper disposition or focus. A proper disposition here liking what one gets and not getting what one likes.
  34. 34. Unlike reading other written materials, one must read to understand ideas or thoughts within the text or article. One must avoid understanding sentences or paragraphs that focus only on events, places or even personalities. A philosophical reader focuses on the issue at hand.
  35. 35. Since first hand article may appear to be inconvenient or heavy for one to digest, a neophyte reader must consult secondary or supplementary sources to have a lighter, yet better understanding about a given topic or issue.
  36. 36. As a beginner, one must not read a text on one sitting only. He must read at least give ample time for one to understand and reflect on every thoughts or issues being read.
  37. 37. By consulting to an available reference-text (i.e. encyclopedia in philosophy, dictionary). One should know the meanings of hylomorphism, eudemonia, and others.
  38. 38. Though it may appear to be advantageous in idolizing a given philosopher, one must give other philosophers and even philosophies a chance. One has to be objectively weigh the different philosophers before rejecting any claim.
  39. 39. One must not settle in reading the text in one sitting. Due to the vastness of the field, one must read and re-read every text being provided. For like looking in a diamond, one may have a different perspective in every angles encountered by a reader.
  40. 40. One must enjoy philosophy. Philosophy is not a dead activity, philosophy is doing philosophy – philosophizing.
  41. 41. __________________________________
  42. 42. 1Tenorio, Jose Alejandro. 2007. Lecture notes on Filipino Philosophy. De La Salle University-Dasmariñas