In the following pages a number of these definitions will be set forth and examined. A word of warning is offered to the beginning student of philosophy. The beginner may despair over diverse definitions. Students who come from a scientific background frequently expect concise, clear, and universally accepted definitions.
This will not be true in philosophy and it is not universally true concerning all issues in any science or non-scientific study or discipline. The diversity of opinion in philosophy becomes a source of embarrassment for the beginner when asked to explain to parents or unknowing friends just what a course in philosophy is all about.
It might be expected that one of the oldest disciplines or subjects in academia should achieve some uniformity or opinion, but this is not the case. Yet in spite of diversity, philosophy is important. Plato declared that philosophy is a gift the gods have bestowed on mortals. Socrates' famous statement, "Know thyself," reflects this aim of philosophy. Plato also warned against the neglect of philosophy.
He wrote that "land animals came from men who had no use for philosophy. But more seriously, men live by philosophies. Which one will it be?
We now turn to consider several definitions of philosophy. These will include the historical approach, philosophy as criticism, philosophy as the analysis of language, philosophy as a program of change, philosophy as a set of questions and answers, and philosophy as a world-view. Along the way we will also analyze the definitions and attempt to reach some conclusions about this analysis.
The Coherence View of Truth
Remember our question: what is philosophy? According to this approach philosophy is really the study of historical figures who are considered philosophers. All are considered philosophers. What holds them together since they are so diverse in many of their views? One answer lies in their common set of problems and concerns. Many were interested in the problems of the universe, its origin, what it is in its nature, the issue of man's existence, good and evil, politics, and other topics. This may serve as a link to another definition to be considered later.
The argument for the historical approach is that no real understanding of philosophy can be had unless one understands the past. Philosophy would be impoverished if it lost any of the names above. Some argue that knowing the history of philosophy is required for a positive appreciation of philosophy, and necessary if one is to make creative contributions to the advancement of philosophy.
Truth - Wikipedia
This definition of philosophy has its problems: l it tends to limit philosophy to the great minds of the past and makes it an elitist movement, 2 it restricts philosophy to an examination of past questions and answers only, 3 it is not really different from the study of history of ideas. This would make philosophy a sub-unit of history. The value of the historical approach is that it introduces the student to the great minds of the past and the confrontation one has with philosophic problems that are raised by thinking people in all ages.
This is desirable in itself even though this is not the best definition of philosophy. This is one of the more extreme definitions of philosophy. This definition began as an emphasis in philosophy at about the turn of the century. A growing revolt took place against the metaphysical systems in philosophy. More of this will be forthcoming in the fifth definition. The analysis-of-language-emphasis rejected metaphysics and accepted the simple, but useful modern standard of scientific verification.
Their central thesis is that only truths of logic and empirically verifiable statements are meaningful. What does scientific verification mean in this context? If you can validate or reproduce an experiment or whatever, you can say it is true.
If there is no way to reproduce or validate the experiment in the context of science, there was then no claim for truth. How do verification and language work together? Try this example. How do you know when to take a statement as referring to a fact?
We can use three sentences: l God is love, 2 Disneyland is in California, and 3 rape is wrong. These sentences are constructed in a similar manner. But only one is factual, i. Thousands of people go yearly to Disneyland and anyone who doubts can go see for himself. But you cannot scientifically verify that rape is wrong and that God is love. I can say factually that a person was raped and may even witness the event as a fact, but how can I verify the word "wrong? Are these statements meaningful? Plato, cir. One of the greatest names in philosophy, was born in Athens, knew Socrates as a youth, and desired to enter politics until the death of Socrates.
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Plato founded the Academy in Athens which may be called the first European university. Plato's dialogues are classic as a model of simplicity of philosophic expression. The conclusion reached by analytic philosophers is that anything not verifiable is nonsense. All of the systems of the past that go beyond verification are to be rejected as nonsense. This means that the realm of values, religion, aesthetics, and much of philosophy is regarded only as emotive statements.
An emotive statement reflects only how a person "feels" about a topic. Declaring that rape is wrong is only to declare that I feel it is wrong. I may seek your agreement on the issue, but again it is not an objective truth, but two "feelings" combined. Other analytic philosophers moved beyond the limitations of the verification principle to the understanding of language itself. Instead of talking about the world and whether things exist in the world, they talk about the words that are used to describe the world.
This exercise in "semantic ascent" may be seen in contrasting talk about miles, distances, points, etc.
Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy
Language philosophers such as Quine spend entire treatises on the nature of language, syntax, synonymous terms, concepts of abstractions, translation of terms, vagueness and other features of language. This is a philosophy about language rather than being interested in great issues that have frequently troubled the larger tradition of philosophers.
It becomes a method without content. This definition is as one-sided as the definition it rejected. The analysis of language has been an important part of philosophy from the time of Socrates and others to the present. But language connected with verification and restricted by that principle places great limitations on areas that philosophy has often regarded as important.
This limitation is seen particularly in the areas of morals and ethics.
Related Philosophical Truth: or Truthful Philosophy
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