What is Philosophy?

It is common to hear that philosophy is “the pursuit of wisdom” or “love of wisdom.” After all, that was Socrates’s definition from Plato’s Dialogues.  Philosophy, more explicitly, is concerned with the fundamental principles of nature and the human condition.  In other words, it is the study of nature and human condition as it inhabits said nature and relates to said nature.

The formalization of philosophy was given to the Western philosophical tradition by Aristotle.  Aristotle listed five major cores of philosophy: metaphysics (“beyond nature” or, “first principles,” e.g. the first principles of nature), ontology (the nature of being, derivative of metaphysics), epistemology (knowledge and what constitutes as knowledge), aesthetics (beauty), and social and political philosophy (or ethics, civil society, and the nature of civil society).  Necessarily related fields would be anthropological philosophy (philosophy dealing with the nature of humanity), sociology (the study of human society, especially as it relates to civil society, community, etc.), natural philosophy (the study of the natural world), logic (understanding argumentation and interpretation), philosophical theology, and philosophy of history.

Philosophy, at its heart, since it is the study of the principles of fundamental reality, demands the cultivation of one’s intellect.  The cultivation of intellect is primarily aimed at being able to understand the pursuit of wisdom, but also to be thought, critical, and self-introspecting.  Philosophy is diverse, pluralistic, with many traditions and points of view.  While philosophers have notoriously disagreed with each other, unlike many other disciplines of study, there is no “formal orthodoxy.”  The only orthodoxy of philosophy is that you cultivate your mind to understand the views and presentations of other people.  You can then judge for yourself what is worthwhile or possibly in error or faulty.

Over time, in this blog, we will due case by case, book by book, studies of famous philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Philo, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Maimonides, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Khaldun, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, George Hegel, Karl Marx, John Rawls, Leo Strauss, and Roger Scruton, etc.  The mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Philosophy fundamentally understands this.  Philosophy is the basis of formal education, university purpose, and, per Hegel, the highest intellectual discipline one can study and engage in (and with).

To understand the world, and to understand the nature of politics, one needs to study philosophy – or, at the very least, have a strong understanding and familiarity with philosophy.  I hope you will be able to find that here, and in time, emerge from the Cave from which you’ve been shackled.