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What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the contemplation of questions that emerge from reflection on

ones self, and our place in the natural world.
It involves contemplation of philosophical questions
It is a rational activity: philosophers want to develop views that are rationally
Philosophers are someone trained in examining and clarifying ideas; to
understand how concepts are constructed, what they mean and suggest
The primary activity of philosophy is the critical analysis of arguments about
many different sorts of subjects. Critical analysis aims at the development of
good reasons for the positions and views we hold (rather than finding
weakness in others arguments).

Define philosophy as a field of study and distinguish philosophical

from non-philosophical questions
Any activity intended to increase ones knowledge involve philosophythe
exercise of intelligence and curiosity
As disciplines such as art, math, physics, medicine became more specialized
with questions that can be answered, they break away from the philosophy
canopy and become their own field of study
Philosophy constitutes the residue of these disciplines and philosophical
Philosophical questions are questions that do not have definite answers but
incites contemplation; anytime a question attains a definite answer it ceases
to be in the field of philosophy and moves to its own discipline
Ex) Classification of Pandas in bears vs. raccoon= philosophical until scientific
breakthrough allowed genetic testing to provide definite answer- at that point
the question ceased to be philosophical
The nature of philosophical problems

There is no area of human enterprise or inquiry that philosophers consider off-limits.

Philosophical questions are peculiar in 2 ways:

There is no unanimous agreement as to what are the correct answers

There is no well-attested, generally accepted method of arriving at correct
answers to them

The second characteristic set philosophical questions apart from non-philosophical

Being perplexed by a philosophical problem is like being lost in unfamiliar territory:
we do not know how to extricate ourselves from the difficulty. As Russell argues, it is
this sense of having nothing to rest on that accounts in part for the recurrent
fascination and frustration with philosophy.

However, these features are the very essence of philosophical questions. For as
soon as we discover solutions to the questions, or a clear methodology for providing
the solutions, the questions cease to be philosophical. Thus, as philosophers meet
with success in their subject, their kingdom diminishesleading Russell to
characterize the task of philosophy as that of doing away with their subject.

Describe the five major branches of philosophy

1) History of philosophy
This branch looks at schools of thoughts, movements, and philosophical
questions from a historical perspective
It considers the contributions of key individual philosophers to different
History of philosophy is divided into 4 periods:
750 BCE 300 AD
300 AD 1400 CE
Early Modern
1400 CE 1850 CE
1850 CE - present
2) Value Theory
This branch examines practical and theoretical questions involved in
moral, political and aesthetic judgments.
It includes:
a) Aesthetics (Philosophy of Arts)
b) Political philosophy
c) Ethics (moral philosophy)
3) Epistemology and Metaphysics
Argued to be the fundamental branches of philosophy
Epistemology (theories of knowledge)
Metaphysics (theories of reality)

= study of knowledge: what do I know? What do I know about __? It is about what
we know of reality and existence (therefore, closely related to metaphysics)
First questions encountered in Epistemology:

What is knowledge?
How does knowing something differ from believing, conjecturing,
guessing, supposing, or assuming that something is so?
What standards must an item of information meet if it is to count as an
item of knowledge?

The next questions encountered in Epistemology after the first are:


Does anything meet the standards to be counted as known?

Can we really claim to know anything? Can we claim to know, for example,
that there is an external world that exists independently of our
perceptions? Or that the sun will rise tomorrow? Or that animals and other
human beings feel pain, but that plants and rocks do not?
If we claim to know these things, how do we know them?
What could we say to one who challenged us for a proof?

One of the most longstanding debates in epistemology is over whether or not

anything can be known as a priori (latin for before experience). Some
philosophers argue that we simply could not make sense of our first experiences
unless there were some things we came into the world already knowing. Other
argue that such philosophers have confused certain facts about neurobiology with
ideas in the mind, all of which, they maintain, are the consequences of and not the
condition of experience.

= study of existence: what is out there? It is the study of existence and the nature
of existence.
There is no crisp line dividing epistemology and metaphysics. Metaphysics= theory
of reality.
A classic question in metaphysics is: What is there in the universe?

If we try to catalogue the kinds of things that there are in the universe,
what would appear on that list?
An answer by the materialist: in their view, the universe contains
nothing but various sorts of material objects or forces; everything can
be accounted for in purely physical terms.
Doubts for the materialist views include:
o Are human beings nothing but special kinds of material objects,
differing from things like thermostats only in their degree of
complexity? Or do they, in addition to having bodies, also
possess some mental or spiritual component that cannot be
accounted for in physical terms?
o Dualism view: If we say that they dothat human beings are
composite of a mind and a body, what is the relation between
these things?
o Can the mental influence the physical? And if so, how can
something non-physical interact causally with something

Another well-known metaphysical problem is freedom of the will: Do we have free


It is commonly believed that we do have free will, that for many actions we perform,
we could have done otherwise. It is also believed that universal prediction is
possible, that if we knew enough about the character and circumstances of an
individual, we could with certainty predict each and every one of his or her actions.
These beliefs, however, seem inconsistent: if a person could have acted other than
he or she did, it is hard to see how universal prediction is possible, and if we can
make predictions of the above sort, it is hard to see how one could ever also have
acted otherwise.
Philosophy of Religion falls within metaphysics. Only working in this area will be
concerned in part, with the interpretation and reasons for belief in God and Gods
goodness: Can we prove that God exists by rational argument? Does God follow
what is good or decide what is good?
Philosophers in this field are also concerned with reasons for disbelief in God.
One alleged proof for Gods nonexistence is the argument from evil. God, it is said,
has the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. If God is
omniscient, then God knows about evil; if omnipotent, God can eliminate evil; and if
omnibenevolent, God wants to eliminate evil. Yet evil exists; and this means that
God, as traditionally construed, cannot. Is there any way around this conclusion? If
so, what is it?
Also within the realm of epistemology and metaphysics are questions about the
nature of reality, what there is and what there will be, the nature of mind and
thought, about freedom, identity and autonomy, and about the state of our
knowledge and the reasons that guide our beliefs.
4) Logic
Branch of philosophy that deals with rules of reasoning and rationality
2 sub-branches are:
Formal logic
Informal logic (Critical thinking)
Logic is a tool that can be used to tackle philosophical problems
5) Discipline specific philosophies
This branch of philosophy comprise of a wide range of issues that have
arisen in consequence of questions pertaining to specific nonphilosophical fields
Philosophy of Education
- What are the nature and aims of education?
- With whom does educational authority lie?
- To what extent are governments responsible for educating population?
- How should curriculum be developed to maximize outcomes for
different kinds of learners

Philosophy of Language
- How do words acquire their meaning?
- What is the relationship between meaning, interpretation and truth?
- Is there a specific logical structure that governs all language?
- Can there be thought without a natural language?
Philosophy of Psychology
- What counts a psychology?
- What is the relationship btw personal & sub-personal levels of
psychological explanation
- Is there a distinction between perception and cognition?
- What is the scope and limitations of common sense (or folk)
Philosophy of History
- Is history a science?
- Are there rules of historical reasoning?
- Are historical investigations based more on objective evidence or
subjective interpretation?
- Does language distort truth in historical accounts?
Philosophy of Law
- Is there natural law?
- What is the relationship between law, rights, and justice?
- How should law serve society and the individual?
- Is there a connection between rules, order, and morality?

Distinguish between arguments and non-arguments

Identify the structure of arguments, including premises and
Distinguish between deductive and inductive arguments
Define validity as an assessment tool for deductive arguments
Unit 1 Study Questions

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