Introduction to Philosophy
What is philosophy? An innocent enough question; but one that will drag you through the gutters and raise you to the peaks of human civilization. Philosophy is essentially the subject which questions, unlike science which uses mathematics for its arguments, philosophy uses reason and language (and ultimately questions language itself) for its problems.
The very word ‘philosophy’ comes from ancient Greek meaning ‘Lovers of Wisdom’ Philosophy, in one sense, does exactly what art does – look for truth all that really differs is the end point. Philosophy, coming Existentialists and the like say that truth is relative, while artists like Keats are prone to have rather romantic and somewhat unrealistic ideas like all truth being nothing but beauty (beauty being a woefully subjective term).
The perfect example of this dichotomy is the writing of the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant and Faust by Goethe, two almost perfectly contemporaneous works which look at pretty much the same thing, the life of reason, as opposed to the life of experience. This, in essence, is all that philosophy tries to figure out; where human knowledge, reason, language, values and ultimately the mind begins, why it progresses the way it does and where it must invariably end.
Well, having understood what philosophy is, one should also know what a philosopher is. One last throwback to ancient Greece will clarify what exactly they are. In the time of the Ancient Greeks, there were people called sophists who were essentially travelling wise men who earned their living by teaching, whereas philosophers did not care to earn from their wisdom.
Philosophy is rarely a subject one can profit from, and only very few people have the mental makeup to be a philosopher. None the less, philosophy’s questions are made to prompt thought and reason in every individual.