Philosophy 102: Introduction to Philosophical
The Divisions of Philosophical Inquiry
Abstract: Philosophy and the
main branches of philosophy are characterized.
- What is Philosophy?
- The derivation of "philosophy" from the Greek
roots is suggested by the following definitions.
- philo—love of, affinity for, liking of
philander—to engage in love affairs frivolously
philanthropy—love of mankind in general
philately—to collect postage stamps
phile—(as in "anglophile") one having a
philology—having a liking for words
sophist—lit. one who loves knowledge
sophomore—wise and mOros—foolish; i.e.
one who thinks he knows many things
sophisticated—one who is knowledgeable
- A suggested definition for our beginning study will be as follows.
Philosophy is the systematic inquiry into the principles and
presuppositions of any filed of study.
- Psychologically, philosophy is an attitude, an approach, or a calling
to answer or to ask, or even to comment upon certain peculiar problems
(i.e., those problems usually in the main branches
- There is, perhaps, no one single sense of the word "philosophy."
Eventually we must abandon the attempt to define adequately philosophy
and, instead, turn to what philosophers do—i.e., study the
practice of philosophy.
- The Main Branches of Philosophy are divided as to the nature
of the questions asked in each area. The integrity of these divisions
cannot be rigidly maintained.
the study of value; the investigation of its
nature, criteria, and metaphysical status.
- We can briefly elaborate as follows.
- Nature of value: is value a fulfillment of desire,
a pleasure, a preference, or simply an interest?
- Criteria of value: de gustibus non (est)
disputandum or do standards apply?
- Status of value: how are values related to (scientific)
facts? What ultimate worth, if any, do human values have?
- Axiology is sub-divided into two main parts.
the study of values in human behavior or the
study of moral problems: e.g., (1) the rightness and wrongness of actions, (2)
the kinds of things which are good or desirable, and (3) blameworthy
and praiseworthy actions.
the study of value in the arts or the
inquiry into feelings, judgments, or standards of beauty and related
the study of knowledge. In particular, epistemology is the study of the nature, scope, and limits of
- Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and
integrity of knowledge.
- Consider the truth of the statement, "The earth is round."
This statement can be successively translated as …
"The earth is spherical"
"The earth is an oblate spheroid" (i.e., flattened at the
But what about the Himalayas and the Marianias Trench? Even if we surveyed
exactly the shape of the earth, our process of surveying would alter the
surface, albeit marginally.
- As further examples, consider two well-known problems in epistemology.
- Russell's Five-Minute-World Hypothesis: Suppose the earth were
created five minutes ago, complete with memory images, history books,
records, etc., how could we ever know of it?
- Suppose everything in the universe (including space) were to expand uniformly a thousand
times larger. How could we ever know it?
- Russell's Five-Minute-World Hypothesis is a philosophical problem; the
universe's expanding is a scientific problem since
can be answered by
the study of what is really
real. Metaphysics deals with the so-called first principles of the
natural order and "the ultimate generalizations available to the
- What kinds of things exist? How is existence possible?
- How do ideas exist if they have no size, shape, or color. (My idea
of the Empire State Building is quite as small as my idea of a book.)
- E.g. the truths of mathematics: in what manner do geometric figures
- What is spirit? or soul? or matter? or space? Are they made of the same
sorts of things?
- Further characteristics of philosophy and examples of philosophical
problems are discussed next.