What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is a tool by which people can work out how to live, how to endure misfortune, how to think about the world around them, and how to relate to others. Finding “the truth which is true for me” is the business of philosophy – it isn’t a luxury, an abstruse pursuit for those with time to sit in an ivory tower.
Philosophy is essentially asking questions – the biggest imaginable. Over the 2500-year history of Western philosophy, philosophers have asked, and attempted to answer, questions such as:
- What is reality?
- Does God exist?
- How can we know if something is true?
- What is virtue?
- Is something “right” or “wrong” for all people, places, and times?
Philosophical questions are not susceptible to a single, correct or “true” answer. Trying to answer such questions is beset with difficulties, not the least because philosophers don’t agree on what constitutes “truth”, what it means to “know” anything, or even the status of the words used to express the questions and answers.
Dialogue of Philosophy
In discussing philosophical questions, we are continuing the dialogue that began with the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Yet, as time passes, the world we live in changes and the parameters of the debate shift.
Although the world we live in today is very different from the one that Socrates knew, the questions we ask are very similar. We still seek to live a virtuous life, ask whether or not there is a God, and strive to know what is true about the world around us. However, advances in scientific knowledge, exposure to very different societies and cultures around the world, and shifting social structures have changed the direction of the debate.
Background on Anne Rooney