Sunday, 21 May 2017

Philosophy - What Is It?

I was reading an interview with author Simone de Beauvoir a day or two ago. The interview was conducted in 1965 and published in that year’s Spring – Summer edition of The Paris Review.

There was much of interest in the interview, however one particular quote returned me to a subject I have considered from time to time.

Simone de Beauvoir said “My studies gave me only a very superficial knowledge of philosophy but sharpened my interest in it”.

What is Philosophy?

The word “Philosophy” is used often, however I wonder if others share my uncertainty as to its proper intention or meaning.

I decided to look further in to this.

A common application to “Philosophy”, summarised simply, appears to be “a study of the history of knowledge gathering, research, interpretation and subsequent learnings”.

To provide a practical example, we are taught the world is round. Likewise, we also learn that at one point, there was a belief based on the science of the time the earth was flat.

Philosophy would be the study of, and acquisition of knowledge about the process of discovery, research and experimentation and by whom, that resulted in today’s teachings that the world is round.

By definition, a Philosopher is one who conducts studies in to past learnings, and validates the process that resulted in a new belief or teaching.

I must re-iterate, my defining of Philosophy is my interpretation and I admit, it is a very simple definition.

However, researching this conclusion took me to another question and one that proved to be far bigger.

Is “Philosophy a Science”?

I was expecting a very clear answer, however found this to be a topic of significant debate. The arguments for it Philosophy being a science are equally clear and evidence based as the arguments against it being a science.  

Here is one such article and one that initiated much reasoned and compelling debate, in equal measure, for and against.

What was of most interest to me, was not just the quality of opinions expressed supporting and rebuffing Philosophy as a Science, but the lack of any deriding of those with views that differ. Debate was respectful, while also forceful.

Perhaps the significant thing I discovered is the biggest question facing professional and amateur Philosophers is determining just what category of academia “owns” Philosophy.

As Alanis Morissette sang - Isn't it Ironic         

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