CHAPTER ONE What is Philosophy? What s In It For Me?

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1 CHAPTER ONE What is Philosophy? What s In It For Me? General Overview Welcome to the world of philosophy. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, an inevitable fact of classroom life after the introductions have been made and the syllabus handed out is that hand shooting up from the back corner of the room followed by something akin to one of these two questions: Is there really a creator-god? or I think I m really interested in the subject, but I m not quite sure what philosophy is all about. Whatever it is, can you tell me if it is relevant to what s going on in my world? Though you can attempt to address both questions the first day if you re up to an interesting challenge, you might want to put off answering that first question until you get to the fourth chapter called, Epistemology, Metaphysics and God and try to stick to answering the second. In this chapter the student is presented with a rich narrative that portrays philosophy both as an intellectual pursuit - that side of philosophy that traverses both histories and cultures - and as a subject that has practical applications to the everyday world of the student. It is assumed that the student has had little, if any, exposure to the subject and therefore the first part of this chapter provides the student with some of the basic terms and concepts to be used throughout the text. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to a broad overview of the subject material that will be explored throughout the text. Class Suggestion: After starting the class off with a few of the definitions and key concepts provided in the next section, you might want to take a few minutes and do the first Know Thyself self-diagnostic (1.1). It can work as a great icebreaker for that first day of class, and more importantly, help the student develop an awareness of their preconceptions about the subject of philosophy. Just so you know, all the statements in the self-diagnostic about philosophy and philosophers are false.

2 CHAPTER ONE What is Philosophy? Key Concepts and Talking Points Philosophy Defined (from the Greek): philos = love; sophia = exercise of one s intelligence/wisdom. A philosopher is a lover of wisdom. Western Rational Tradition Approach to fundamental ideas about cosmic reality, human nature, knowledge and society using forms of rational objectivity. Reasonable A balanced and lucid approach to life and human inquiry. Critically-minded To examine or criticize an argument/position with reason. Questioning Attitude Verification of factual claims, and repudiation of blind faith or poorly reasoned arguments. Rational Justification Principles used to validate a particular position, argument, or action. Seekers of Truth Philosophers are those that seek both wisdom and truth. Open-minded Consideration of opposing position, idea, or action. Individual Qualities: 1. Objective 2. Impartial 3. Respectful of others 4. Cognizant of differing points of view

3 Wisdom: The Object of Love Wisdom Sound and serene judgment regarding the practical conduct of life. Qualities can included (but not necessarily so): 1. Knowledge fact or condition of knowing something. 2. Intelligence ability to learn or understand new situations. 3. Experience direct participation in events. Sense of Perspective Finding unity in separated things, and connectedness in things that appear disparate/isolated from one another. Integrated Mode of Existence Living a balanced, purposeful life that is fully engaged in the world. Perennial Wisdom The Wisdom of the Ages that over time often reflects a pattern of similar truths and insights. The Practical Value of Philosophy Intrinsic Value Value in pursuing knowledge or wisdom for its own sake. Pure Research Research into theoretical problems and their possible solutions. Applied Research Application of theoretical outcomes to concrete problems. Instrumentally Valuable Philosophy is both a pursuit of pure wisdom and a means to an end. Provides insights into the day-to-day living experience. To quote Anthony Falikowski:

4 Theory without application feels empty. Application without theory is blind. Reason is their devoted matchmaker, laboring in the temple of the mind.

5 Philosophy as Liberating Experience The search for the truth shall set you free. Philosophy can be a guiding light to existential liberation. Philosophy can eliminate barriers created by: 1. Subjective Bias narrow-minded perspective of the world expressed by individual or small group. 2. Ethnocentrism narrow-minded perspective of the world expressed by one culture only. 3. Gender Bias narrow-minded perspective of the world expressed by one gender only. Therapeutic Applications of Philosophy: Back to the Future Alienation People and/or ideas being cut off or fragmented from a unified or idealized reality. Hellenistic Tradition Philosophical traditions influenced by such Greek/Roman philosophical schools as (c. 400 B.C.E. 350 C.E.): 1. Epicureans 2. Skeptics 3. Stoics Philosophy is practical way of dealing with stress, anxiety, suffering and alienation. Philosophical Counseling Developed in the 1980s by Gerd Achenbach. Therapeutic philosophy to help people address problems from new perspective.

6 Philosophy s Relevance in an Age of Information and Emerging Technologies Information Age Post-Industrial Age of mass media, rapid communication of ideas via television, Internet access, fax machine, cellular telephone, etc., and emerging, innovative technologies. Danger: Quick information without understanding can be perilous. Is-Ought Fallacy A technology s existence does not mean its application is beneficial or morally good. Philosophy examines the ethical and moral ought to do something from the is being done of empirical experience. Fields of Philosophy Metaphysics Branch of philosophy that studies ultimate reality, human existence, personhood, freedom, God, causality, space and time. Epistemology Branch of philosophy that studies the nature, source and limits of knowledge. Logic Branch of philosophy devoted to determining what counts as solid, disciplined, reasoned thinking. Ethics The study of moral rightness and systems of social behavior. Axiology The study of human values. A sub-field called aesthetics concerns itself with artistic values, beauty and aesthetic appreciation.

7 Social-Political Philosophy Study of society and foundations of state and political institutions. Two major components: 1. Study of individual s relation to the state/social policies (e.g., forced busing and integrated schools, quota systems, corporate welfare, funding for stem-cell research). 2. Study of forms of government and political systems. Foundational and Disciplinary Philosophies Serve as theoretical bases for all different human activities and academic sub-disciplines (e.g., philosophy of education, philosophy of science). Philosophies of Life An individual s reasoned and balanced approach to life. Includes underlying principles/values of one s lifestyle, belief system and chosen actions. As many philosophies of life as intelligent thinking beings in the world. Approaches to Philosophy Masculine Approach vs. Feminine Approach Masculine Traditional history of philosophy a male perspective. Feminine New questions about male norms as basis of ethical evaluation. A General Perception of World Philosophies 1. Western philosophy is strongly influenced by religion. 2. Eastern religion is strongly influenced by philosophy. 3. Ethno/racial philosophy (Native, African, etc.) tends to be transmitted orally with qualities that are emotive, intuitive and spiritual (e.g., Medicine Wheel).

8 Rational Philosophy vs. Nonrational Rational Philosophy Committed to ideals of reason and logic. Nonrational Not all philosophy based on discursive reasoning proceeding from premise to logical conclusion. For example: a) Symbols in spiritual practice b) Meditation c) Enneagrams Historical Periods of Philosophy Ancient Philosophy Period of philosophical thought from 6 th century B.C.E. to 3 rd century C.E. Medieval Philosophy Period of philosophical thought from 4 th century to 16 th century. Modern Philosophy Period of philosophical thought from 16 th century to the 19 th century. Contemporary Philosophy Incorporates 20 th century thinkers such as Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Betrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and those currently involved in philosophy during the infancy of the 21 st century. Philosophy Types Analytic Contemporary philosophy that tends to focus on conceptual analysis. Continental Contemporary schools such as the Existentialists and Phenomenologists that concentrate primarily on matters of being, authenticity, freedom and meaning.

9 Postmodernism Rejects the ideas of cultural certainties or Grand Narratives on which life in the West has been structured.

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