Skip to content
November 21, 2019 / Congau

What Is Philosophy?

Philosophy is pure thought. All other sciences (except one) rely on some sort of observation of the world and the universe. They perform experiments and pursue physical evidence for their theories. That is the basic difference.

However, it is scarcely possible to draw a strict line between philosophy and the other sciences. It is also a matter of degree and somewhat arbitrary conventions.

In ancient times all sciences were counted as philosophy, even the most physical ones. Among the ancient Greeks everything was the subject of pure speculation rather than physical involvement, so it made no sense to separate anything out. As in the course of history (and especially after the renaissance) more fields of knowledge were to be targeted for concrete experimentation, the domain of philosophy became smaller, and what remains after all the science have been subtracted is now considered philosophy proper.

However, a great deal of philosophy remain in many sciences, especially the humanities, social sciences and psychology. And vice versa, within certain branches of philosophy there are strong elements of physical observation. Practical philosophy, that is ethics and political theory, is naturally based on some experience of the world, which makes the thought less “pure”.

The only pure and undeniable form of philosophy is metaphysics. It is not based on anything physical whatsoever, but exactly that has made some deny its entire relevance and express the wish to exclude the most philosophical branch from the realm of philosophy.

Still, although we cannot expect to find a full-proof denomination, we must retain the notion of purity of thought as the distinguishing factor. The point is not to designate an absolute label, but to give an idea about the subject matter.

One odd science escapes categorization within this scheme: That of mathematics. It is pure thought as it doesn’t rely on any observations of the world and there are indeed good reasons to include it in philosophy. But what makes mathematics special even in that field, is the possibility for absolute proof. Philosophy, on the other hand, though it is the search for truth can never yield certainty. Even after it has been stated that two plus two equals four, doubt remains and speculation persists.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: