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What is philosophy


This website informs about a branch within philosophy. When philosophers comment on the subject philosophy, sweeping statements like "seeking wisdom" are common. The area is sometimes called "metaphilosophy". Serious discussions about the contents of modern philosophy are rare and a definition of this term is therefore discussed below.

Until the acceptance of the scientific method (about 1700) all attempts of theoretical considerations were regarded as philosophy.

When the philosophers of that time began to use a method of verification, communication of results and to build further on previously communicated results, this resulted in an intellectual and technological development that rendered this type of philosophy a high reputation because if was demontratable credible.

Dali philosopher created by AI Midjourney
Dali-inspired cliché of "philosopher" created using the AI Midjourney

By time areas with connected and verified hypotheses were demarcated and began to be called scientific areas.


A complication for philosophy


A significant problem for the discipline of philosophy is that a philosophical area transforms into a scientific area when empirical foundations becomes accepted within the area. soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible, this subject ceases to be called philosophy, and becomes a separate science.

Russell (1912) - The Problems of Philosophy, p.240

Humanity gradually collects empirical evidence within increasing number of areas, thereby decreasing the possibilities for significant contributions within philosophy.

This is especially notably within what in the 18th century was called natural philosophy, and today is called natural science.



Definition of the term philosophy


The term "philosophy" can be defined as:

Philosophy implies discussion without references to empirical foundations

Persson (2013) -

A softer definition is "discussion about how something may be, or could have been" (as opposed to how something is shown to be).


The contents of the definition of philosophy



The term "discussion" is included in the definition above in order to distinguish between philosophy and an arbitrary statement. The demarcation stresses that philosophy should include some type of argumentation for what the discussion wants to highlight.

Only the phrase "a stone can be grey" should therefore, in my view, not be covered by the term philosophy.

...without references...

If a discussion is based on references to any matter of fact, it is categorized outside the area of philosophy.


Some examples are history of philosophy (when the discussion covers other philosophers have expressed) or natural science (when the discussion refers to physical objects). Conclusions based on combinations of such references are still within the same areas.

In order to be philosophy, a discussion about rock colors, according to above, should not consider the real appearance of rocks, because it would in that case be categorized as geology.

...empirical foundations...

With "empirical foundations", unlike "observations", is meant something that is reported in such a way that the risks of errors are decreased. For example "I feel that..." is not, in my opinion, an empirical basis, although it may be said to be an observation.


An earlier definition of the term philosophy:


Curt Ducasse defined philosophy as:

Formulated spontaneous appraisals

He discussed the term in the book "Philosophy as a Science: Its Matter and its Method" (1941).


Chapter headings in Part 1:

• Philosophy as More General Than Science
• Philosophy as Logically Articulated Faith
• Philosophy as Poetic Literature About the Cosmos
• Philosophy as Light On Social Problems
• Philosophy as Identical With Logic
• Philosophy as Systematic Study of Meaning
• Philosophy as Logical Syntax of the Language of Science


Comparison between the definitions above


Both definitions above are compatible to a certain degree.

The terms "discussion" and "formulated appraisals" indicate that philosophy is something further than an arbitrary statement.


The terms "without references to empirical foundations" and "spontaneous" indicate that philosophy is not concerned with pure matters of fact.


Details about philosophy: "point of view"


When an area is not discussed from what is assumed to be known within that area (empirical foundations), a common procedure is to treat it from certain "points of view". Other expressions for this are to adopt certain premises or perspectives.

"Point of view" within philosophy often becomes what some other philosopher has claimed or some other dogmatic comprehension, e.g. a religious or cultural conviction.


"Points of view" hence do not necessarily imply properties in our perceived reality. They only imply such factors that are defined and limited by the premises.

Within scientific work, the points of view are everything relevant for the area that is reported in scientific publications.

To find reports from relevant work is a tedious work that is paid back when the scientist's knowledge about the area is supposed to represent the research front.