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Philosophy and its main areas
“Philosophy” sounds like a daunting topic to many, something incredibly complex and boring. But, in its most basic form, it is very close to what we all did as children: ask questions about the world.
Philosophy is a field of study that attempts to answer questions that cannot be answered by providing some fact, but that require a deeper understanding of the question itself. For example:
What is the meaning of “beauty”? (Aesthetics)
Which actions do we consider to be right or wrong? (Ethics)
How can we make correct arguments and avoid mistakes in thinking? (Critical Thinking)
What it means to really “know” something? (epistemology)
What is science and what is the proper way to do science? (philosophy of science)
What is the ultimate nature of things? (metaphysics)
What is a good state or government? (political philosophy)
What is ethics?
Ethics is the study of how we ought to behave, and why. There are many different theories of ethics, for example, utilitarianism (we ought to behave so that we maximise benefit for all), or Kantian ethics (we ought to treat all human beings as ends). Ethics only becomes relevant when our behaviour affects others and not only ourselves.
Philosophy’s aim is to clarify the questions we ask
Because of this focus that philosophy puts on asking the right questions, it has sometimes been labelled “the study of asking the right questions.” This is particularly important because we sometimes tend to ask questions that cannot be answered because the question itself is asked in the wrong way. For example:
“Does God exist?” This question cannot be answered like that. We first would have to clarify what “existing” means for a being like God. We can see and touch physical, material things, but not everything exists in the same way as a bottle or a table. For example, numbers. The number 42 certainly exists, but where is it? I cannot point at anything in the material world that is the number 42.
Or that idea for a poem that I had yesterday. Certainly, in some way, my idea exists. I can remember it, I can recite the poem. But where is it? Is my idea lying on the table over there? No. Numbers, ideas and many other things exist in a different way from material objects, but they certainly do “exist” in a real way. Christianity exists too, but I cannot locate it.
Originally appeared on Daily Philosophy Read More