Philosophy means what…?

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    What does philosophy mean to me?

    Well, as I understand it:

    Philo – means love (like how a bibliophile is someone who loves books or book collecting, or philanthropy means the love of your fellow man, etc.)

    Soph – means wisdom (wisdom from Middle English, from Old English wīse; akin to Old High German wīsa manner, Greek eidos form, idein to see — more at wit… idein, eidos… to see – to ID)

    Etymologically, philosophy means the love of wisdom, or the love of seeing.

    “nanos gigantum humeris insidentes” or “If I have seen further, then it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” – Descartes, Newton, others, and me =)

    Personally, I love being able to see further, to understand more, and the pursuit of knowledge.

    Philosophers are distinct from sophists. The lexicology of “sophist” is: a person who has (or claims to have) wisdom. One who loves wisdom, as opposed to one who has wisdom. Sophists usually were expert orators, and cared more about being or identifying as people who were wise, than humbly pursuing greater wisdom. “I don’t know; I have yet to know, or; I would like to know” is not a phrase that one often hears from a sophist. Historically, sophists taught the political class how to make persuasive arguments (the study of rhetoric) among other subjects.

    Love, in many ways, is a lack, or yearning. To want more… Philosophy is often a humble acknowledgement that there is so much left to learn, and that to desire wisdom is, truly, a lovely thing.

    To misquote (or, rather, paraphrase) Socrates, as I often enjoy doing; The only true knowledge comes in knowing that we know nothing. As I interpret it; we can only ever, asymptotically, approach truth – we can never achieve perfect truth (kind of like a “confidence interval” in statistical analysis; e.g. “I’m 95% sure that A leads to B”)

    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle

    In philosophy things are held as tentatively true – based on reason and/or evidence – atop things that are held as axiomatically true. A philosopher is amenable to the truth and tends to change their outlook when sufficient reason and evidence disproves things previously held as true.

    “The only way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas and throw the bad ones out.” Linus Pauling, early biochemist, Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel Chemistry Prize laureate (a personal hero of mine, who was a chief architect of the Nuclear Arms Test Ban Treaty).

    Throw out bad ideas – be amenable to truth and wisdom.

    Many branches of philosophy begin with the axiom that existence exists, while other philosophies may start with the assumption that existence is an illusion (Full disclosure; I don’t assume we are brains in a jar or The Matrix. Descartes might say “I think, therefore I am”, and so perhaps one’s existence is proven by their ability to think, even if their senses are entirely tricked. Nor do I believe in “higher planes”, nor that life is “a sad veil of tears, as we wait for the next life.”). The method of determining the rationality and/or evidence for knowledge is its own branch of philosophy called epistemology. Basically – how do you know what you know? What is truth? How can we tell what is true? Does truth matter? And more!

    Philosophy is wonderfully open-minded and wonderfully skeptical. As a person of science (especially biochemistry), I’m what would be called a natural philosopher. I hold empiricism as my epistemological standard of truth-seeking; that reality is the standard and metric for truth claims, and that I love wisdom relating to the natural world (like physics and chemistry!).

    The love of wisdom sometimes means putting aside pre-judgments like personal biases, if one desires wisdom above what might be considered delusion.

    Personally, I believe that truth disabuses a person from delusion and that a life lived in harmony with the nature of existence – allows us to live better and make better choices (because an accurate acknowledgement of cause and effect allows us to cause better effects).

    There are many branches and schools of philosophical thought. I happen to be most interested in moral philosophy and natural philosophy (i.e. the natural sciences and resultant technologies, and rational secular ethics)… But there are so many more branches!

    I hope that you find your own love of wisdom. And, please, let me know what philosophy means to you! Definitions are wonderful tools to aid the transfer of wisdom. As Confucius said, “The path to wisdom begins by calling things by their proper name.” I encourage you to name some reasons why you love being able to see further and further.

    =) Have a nice day, and stay curious my fellow philosophical agents – keep loving that search for wisdom.

    Meadow Rain

    Thank you so well put. I might live in a utopian world of my own but I think philosophy to me is not only love of your fellow man but love of your community and beyond . I like to believe most philosophers spent time thinking about the welfare of the community and happiness of its people. In some of the first writings Plato tried to work on the good of the whole community by trying to place people in work he though was best suited for them (even though they were not the best scenarios) and of coarse foreigners, slaves or people snatched by war were always the low men on the totem pole. I think some had worthy ideas like, ‘there has to be more to life ‘, than working sleeping eating’..
    And I also hold philosophy in great reverence.. It was there before some least 500 years before Christ , there was Confucius (golden rule), Socrates and others who’s similar quotes were found in the bible…and I believe there were sub schools that continued a long time into Europe and have influences on religions today.


    thank you for sharing this, it is very much appreciated

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