What is philosophy?

Philosophy was the name given to the pursuit of wisdom by the ancient Greeks: the word derives from “philos” [love] and “sophia” [wisdom]. A philosopher is a lover of wisdom.  

As science expands, knowledge proliferates, and opinions multiply, humans need the skills to be able to step back, analyze, and assess the information we are bombarded with. We also need to be able to reflect on the value of what we are doing, for ourselves, for others, for other species, and for future generations. In short, we have an urgent need to cultivate wisdom.

Though the discipline called “philosophy” is unfamiliar to most people, philosophical questions are present throughout our lives: in our interactions with others, in our use of technology, when we appreciate art and music, when we make major decisions about our lives.

While the questions posed by philosophy are also addressed by the sciences and other humanities, philosophy approaches the questions from a different standpoint. Philosophy attempts to delve deeply into the very meanings of the questions themselves, the concepts and presuppositions that we take for granted as we go about our daily activities.

Long ago, Socrates argued that "the unexamined life is not worth living". Since then, philosophical inquiry has proceeded from the conviction that it is better to examine our beliefs, values, and behaviors than to live with uncritically accepted assumptions, prejudices, and habits. Philosophy inspires us to self-awareness and carefully considered action; its practice enriches our lives as well as our minds.

Although philosophy is characterized by questions, it is not really a subject matter, so much as an activity. It is defined not primarily by its content, but by its methods.  Philosophy students are trained to do philosophy, not just to recite what philosophers have said.

Philosophy students are trained to reflect on, and scrutinize, the fundamental concepts that define who we are, and that give direction to our lives. They also explore the assumptions and methodologies that

They develop their skills in clarifying concepts, defining terms, analyzing the structure of arguments, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various theories.

In particular, Philosophy demands that we use good arguments and evidence for every claim we make and teaches us how to recognize inferior arguments, self-serving thinking, and unjustified opinions.

Address Muhlenberg College Philosophy Moyer 307 2400 Chew Street Allentown, PA 18104