What is Philosophy?

What is Philosophy?

Pachitsha Vang, Journalist/Editor

Philosophy is the way we think about things, and our life choices. It can help us live wise lives, be “sensible, kind, calm, and accepting of how life can sometimes be”. Philosophy is also an activity where people can “seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other”. Philosophers are people who study philosophy and ask, answer, and argue about “life’s most basic questions” regarding four major areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic.

Metaphysics is the study of reality and “what exists in the world”. It asks questions such as: “What is God?”, “Do people have free will?”, and “What is the truth?”. Epistemology is the “study of knowledge”, or the limit of the knowledge we know about the world. It attempts to answer the questions: “What is knowledge?”, “How do we know what we know?”, and “Do we know anything at all?”. The next area of study in philosophy is ethics. It examines what we should do and “what it would be best to do” in certain situations. The study of ethics seeks to answer: “What is good?”, “What makes actions or people good?”, and “Is morality objective or subjective?”. The final area of philosophy is logic. This area studies the structure and nature of the arguments and reasons themselves. Some logical questions are: “What constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reasoning?”, and “How do we determine whether a given piece of reasoning is good or bad?”.
In short, philosophy is the way we think about things and the actions we take after learning about them. Philosophers ask questions and make us think about the world and our place in it. Two famous philosophers were Nicolas Machiavelli and Plato. Who were they, and what were they famous for?

Nicolas Machiavelli

Nicolas Machiavelli is an Italian philosopher who was born on May 3rd, 1469 in Florence, Italy. He was formerly a statesman and the secretary of the Florentine Republic, but was exiled after writing poems about Florentine’s history and political discourses. Machiavelli is infamous for writing The Prince. The Prince was based on his experience as a foreign secretary and past events in history during his time, and was published 5 years after his death. Its most famous statement is that the “ends justifies the means”. The argument is that a person should do whatever it takes to accomplish their goal. The end result is what matters. The Prince gives you this message as you read it, and it serves as a guide on how to “acquire power, create a state, and keep it”. Do you agree with the term “ends justifies the means”? Or do you think this philosophy only applies in some cases?

Plato

Plato is one of the founders of “Western religion and spirituality” and was born in Athens, Greece around 427 BCE. Plato is remembered as the teacher of Aristotle or the student of Socrates. However, he is most remembered for Platonism, which is the “Theory of Forms”. Platonism is a group of ideas that deny the existence of the “material world, considering it only an image or copy of the real world”. This theory was first introduced in the Plato or On the Soul dialogue writing piece by Plato. The Plato talked about the material world, or the “world of concrete objects”, and the astral world, or “an unseen world of Forms or abstract objects,” that uses our logic and “pure reason”. According to his student Aristotle, this book also has the idea of “the One of Many”. This idea is the “problem of finding the one thing that lies behind all things in the universe”. Sadly, it was published after Plato died around 348 BCE, when he was 80 years old.

Machiavelli and Plato are 2 famous philosophers that thought about the world through their books and dialogues. They each showed different perspectives based on their religion and time period. Philosophy was created by people like them, and it’s remembered today because of it. So, what do you think about philosophy and the theories relating to it? After learning about philosophy, what could you change about your life to live a wiser life?

Links:

https://philosophy.fsu.edu/undergraduate-study/why-philosophy/What-is-Philosophy
Doherty, Anna. Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy. The School of Life Press, 2019.
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Niccolo-Machiavelli
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/