What Is Philosophy?

I feel it is ncessary for me to do a series of “What Is” posts; posts that define and explain certain complex concepts that I use im my writing. This blog is intended to be somewhat scholarly in its approach to serious subject, in case you’ve not noticed! So, to try to make my ideas as clear as possible, these “What Is” articles are necessary.\

Yesterday’s post actually was the first one in the series. It set up the basic definition of what politics is. I will continue that series today in a second post, but right now I want to define what philosophy is. We all have some training in philosophy, even if we never took a philosophy course in our lives.

Most of us learn philosophy in the process of living: our education, our on-the-job training, even by going to a religious service. Everything and every concept we learn in life is grounded in one philosophy or another. We cammot function as thinking beings without one. But, the purpose of this blog is to get you to be more <STRONG>self-aware</STRONG> of what you think, to be <STRONG>reflective</STRONG>, to think <STRONG>critically</STRONG>. So, let’s talk philosophy!

Philosophy, as it commonly used, refers to a worldview, a usually somewhat amorphous system of beliefs and ideas that each of us uses as the basis for how we live our lives. Most people are not even really very conscious of what their beliefs and ideas about life are. These beliefs are so deeply embedded in our being that we use them without ever taking them out and looking at them.

The philosophy we will be doing here will be somewhat more disciplined and a conscious analysis of these systems of beliefs. Each of our personal systems of belief is learned starting when we were small children. It is embedded in the language we learn as children, We add to this system and it becomes more rigorous (more organized, more coherent) as we grow older. A great deal of the rigor and coherence is learned during our years of formal education.

At this early point of our discussion it will be necessary to talk in broad generalizations. As we move along in the discussion, rest assured that I will refine and narrow these generalizations. Please remember that these generalizations are mental constructs – tools of explanation and understanding – not truths about things as they really are. Explanation, understanding, things as they really are are all some of the questions that philosophy addresses and so we will too, but before we talk about those questions we need to establish some groundwork for those discussions.

There are two basic world views. There is the Western one, which is linear and based on a “scientific” approach to reality. It tends to see reality in <STRONG>finite</STRONG> terms. Westerners define reality in terms of what can be apprehended by sight, smell, sound, taste and touch, often aided by various tools such as telescopes, microscopes, radar, etc

The <STRONG>Eastern</STRONG> worldview tends to be more circular. Traditional Eastern worldviews see reality as <STRONG>infinite</STRONG> and existing on levels beyond the sensory. Some Eastern worldviews see the world of the sense as unreal, illusion or even deception.

At least for starters, we will focus on Western world views. That is my own area of expertise and it seems that the Western worldview, grounded in science and the view that reality can only be apprehended by the senses, is becoming the predominant world view, even in traditionally non-Western cultures. That’s what comes from imperialism!

Let me qualify that statement a bit here. I believe that there is a basic underlying Western worldview, but there are all kinds of variations</span> on that. Dependinng on how much hair-splitting we want to do, we can even say that every socio-cultural entity has its own worldview. By socio-cultural entity, I usually mean a counry, but not always. These entities can also be an ethnic community or a religious one as well. For instance, the Basques, the African-Americans, or the Jews of the Diaspora, and I sometimes think that there is some validity to a gender-specific variation of the Western worldview. I thoroughly expect we will be returning to these variations often in our long-term discussions.


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