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Philosophy 102: Introduction to Philosophical Inquiry
The Divisions of Philosophical Inquiry

Abstract: Philosophy and the main branches of philosophy are characterized.

  1. What is Philosophy?

    1. The derivation of "philosophy" from the Greek roots is suggested by the following definitions.

      1. 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 love for
        philology—having a liking for words

      2. sophos—wisdom sophistlit. one who loves knowledge
        sophomore—wise and mOros—foolish; i.e. one who thinks he knows many things
        sophisticated—one who is knowledgeable

    2. 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.

      1. 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 discussed below).

      2. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Axiology: the study of value; the investigation of its nature, criteria, and metaphysical status.

      1. We can briefly elaborate as follows.

        1. Nature of value: is value a fulfillment of desire, a pleasure, a preference, or simply an interest?

        2. Criteria of value: de gustibus non (est) disputandum or do standards apply?

        3. Status of value: how are values related to (scientific) facts? What ultimate worth, if any, do human values have?

      2. Axiology is sub-divided into two main parts.

        1. Ethics: 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.

        2. Aesthetics: the study of value in the arts or the inquiry into feelings, judgments, or standards of beauty and related concepts.

    2. Epistemology: the study of knowledge. In particular, epistemology is the study of the nature, scope, and limits of human knowledge.
         
      1. Epistemology investigates the origin, structure, methods, and integrity of knowledge.

      2. 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 poles).

        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.

      3. As further examples, consider two well-known problems in epistemology.

        1. 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?

        2. Suppose everything in the universe (including space) were to expand uniformly a thousand times larger. How could we ever know it?

        3. Russell's Five-Minute-World Hypothesis is a philosophical problem; the universe's expanding is a scientific problem since can be answered by elementary physics.

    3. Ontology or Metaphysics: 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 human intellect."

      1. What kinds of things exist? How is existence possible?

      2. 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.)

      3. E.g. the truths of mathematics: in what manner do geometric figures exist?

      4. What is spirit? or soul? or matter? or space? Are they made of the same sorts of things?

  3. Further characteristics of philosophy and examples of philosophical problems are discussed next.

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