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What is Philosophy?

Inspired by this post that I discovered on my favorite website, The Browser.

I am arrogant enough to think I can answer this question in a way that is unique.

The science of philosophy is a methodological study of how we use information to form arguments or opinions.

You can break philosophy down into metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, aesthetics, etc. but at the end of the day, you are still going to be exploring and critiquing the methodologies used to explore those problems, and if you are not, you are not really “doing” philosophy as a science. Ultimately, all these separate branches of philosophy just form schools of thought that have developed through the use of the philosophical method of inquiry.

I’m willing to admit my definition seems biased toward epistemology as a sort of higher form of philosophy, and probably much of that has to do with my own fierce belief in empiricism. I ultimately believe that you can’t approach ethical or metaphysical questions in a non- empirical way and draw any meaningful conclusions. In many ways, metaphysics and empirical knowledge are just two sides of the same coin, with empirical science constantly chipping away at what we consider to be metaphysical (of course, empiricism never seems to make any significant progress in relation to the size of the metaphysical problem set). Metaphysics occasionally fights back and reclaims large swathes of empirical knowledge, as we find out we didn’t know quite so much as we thought we did. I see empiricism as the act of refining and defining, while skepticism is the act of negating and boundary blurring. You can’t be a true empiricist without a large amount of skepticism, and it is no accident that skepticism often pushes problems into the realm of the metaphysical.

Granted, this could be entirely personal, but I don’t consider most religious doctrine to be philosophical (Buddhism being the notable exception, but I don’t consider Buddhism a religion per se, and I will admit to not knowing as much as I should about Hinduism or Islam. My understanding of Islam is that it suffers from the same conceit as the other Abrahamic religions: there is only one God, this book is his word, and if you can’t believe that, you might as well go home).

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