• As a field of study: it is a branch of philosophy that deals with the study of arguments and the principles and methods of right reasoning
  • As an instrument: it is something, which we can use to formulate our own rational arguments and critically evaluate the soundness of other’ arguments
  • It Is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth
  • a rational and critical enterprise that tries to answer fundamental questions through an intensive application of reason – an application that draws on analysis, comparison, and evaluation
  • It involves reason, rational criticism, examination, and analysis

Lesson 1: Meaning and Nature of Philosophy

  • philosophy etymologically – “love of wisdom
  • as a pursuit of wisdom, philosophy refers to
    • the development of critical habits, the continuous search for truth, and the questioning of the apparent
  • Giving a clear-cut definition of philosophy is difficult. because philosophy has no a specific subject matter to primarily deal with
  • Philosophy deals primarily with issues. issues, which are universal in nature
  • Philosophy is not as elusive nor is it remote from our various problems
  • the best way to learn and understand philosophy is to philosophize; i.e.
    • to be confronted with philosophical questions
    • to use philosophical language
    • to become acquainted with differing philosophical positions and manoeuvres
    • to read the philosophers themselves, and to grapple with the issues for oneself
  • Socrates once stated: “Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder”
  • We all have touched and moved by the feelings of wonder from which all philosophy derives. We all participate, more or less, in philosophical issues 
    • thinking alone cannot make us philosophers
  • the word “philosophy” comes from two Greek words
    • philolove
    • sophiawisdom
Literal definition of philosophy is “love of wisdom
  • ancient Greek thinker Pythagoras was the first to use the word “philosopher” to call a person who clearly shows a marked curiosity in the things he experiences
  • Not all wisdoms are philosophy
  • The wisdom that philosophers seek is not the wisdom of the expertise or technical skills of professionals
  • According to Socrates, wisdom consists of a critical habit and eternal vigilance about all things and a reverence for truth, whatever its form, and wherever its place
  • Based on the Socratic understanding of wisdom, philosophy, as a pursuit of wisdom, is
    • the development of critical habits
    • the continuous search for truth
    • the questioning of the apparent
  • To interrogate the obvious means to deal creatively with the phenomenal world, to go beyond the common understanding, and to speculate about things that other people accept with no doubt
  • questioning/criticism is not the final end of philosophy, though
    • raising the right question is often taken not only as the beginning and direction of philosophy but also as its essence
  • The philosophical enterprise, as Vincent Barry stated, is “an active imaginative process of formulating proper questions and resolving them by rigorous, persistent analysis”
  • Philosophy has
    • Constructive side: it attempts to formulate rationally defensible answers to certain fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality, the nature of value, and the nature of knowledge and truth
    • Critical side: it deals with giving a rational critic, analysis, clarification, and evaluation of answers given to basic metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological questions
  • Philosophy is an activity. It is not something that can be easily mastered or learned in schools
  • The product of philosophizing is philosophy as a product. However, what makes someone a great philosopher is not the produced philosophy, but his/her outstanding ability to philosophize

Lesson 2: Basic Features of Philosophy

  • philosophy has its own salient features that distinguishes it from other academic disciplines
  • Philosophy is a set of views or beliefs about life and the universe, which are often held uncritically
    • It is informal sense of philosophy or
      • Having a philosophy
    • referring to an informal personal attitude
  • Philosophy is a process of reflecting on and criticizing our most deeply held conceptions and belief
    • It is formal sense of
      • Doing philosophy
Note: two senses of philosophy “having” and  “Doing”
    • cannot be treated entirely independent of each other
    • if we did not have a philosophy in the formal, personal sense, then we could not do a philosophy in the critical, reflective sense
    • BUT having a philosophy is not sufficient for doing philosophy
    • A genuine philosophical attitude is
      • searching and critical
      • open-minded and tolerant
      • willing to look at all sides of an issue without prejudice
    • To philosophize is not merely to read and know philosophy
    • To philosophize also means to generalize
      • Philosophers take a second look at the material presented by common sense
      • accumulation of knowledge does not by itself lead to understanding, because it does not necessarily teach the mind to make a critical evaluation of facts that entail consistent and coherent judgment
    • Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others disagree, because
      • they view things from different points of view and with different assumptions
      • they live in a changing universe
        • Some people are responsive and sensitive to change; others cling to tradition and the status quo
      • they deal with an area of human experience in which the evidence is not complete
    • Despite these disagreements, however, philosophers continue to probe, examine, and evaluate the material with the hope of presenting consistent principles by which we can live
  • Philosophy is a rational attempt to look at the world as a whole
    • Philosophy seeks to combine the conclusions of the various sciences and human experience into some kind of consistent worldview
    • Although there are difficulties and dangers in setting forth any worldview, there also are dangers in confining attention to fragments of human experience
    • Philosophy attempts to bring the results of human inquiry into some meaningful interpretation that provides knowledge and insight for our lives
  • Philosophy is the logical analysis of language and the clarification of the meaning of words and concepts
    • all philosophers have used methods of analysis and have sought to clarify the meaning of terms and the use of language
    • Some philosophers see this as the main task of philosophy, and a few claims this is the only legitimate function of philosophy
      • consider philosophy a specialized field serving the sciences and aiding in the clarification of language
      • This outlook has gain support during the twentieth century
    • Not all linguistic analysts, however, define knowledge so narrowly
      • many of them think that we can have knowledge of ethical principles and the like, although this knowledge is also experientially derived
    • From this narrower point of view, the aim of philosophy is to expose confusion and nonsense and to clarify the meaning and use of terms in science and everyday affairs
  • Philosophy is a group of perennial problems that interest people and for which philosophers always have sought answers
    • Philosophy presses its inquiry into the deepest problems of human existence
    • The following some questions are all philosophical or have philosophical importance
      • What is “truth?” and What is the distinction between right and wrong?
      • fundamental life issues: What is life and why am I here? Why is there anything at all?
      • Is there really a fundamental distinction between right and wrong, or is it just a matter of one’s own opinions? What is beauty?
      • Where does knowledge come from, and can we have any assurances that anything is true?
      • Is there a possibility of a life after death?
    • The attempt to seek answers or solutions to them has given rise to theories and systems of thought, such as idealism, realism, pragmatism, analytic philosophy, existentialism, phenomenology, process philosophy
    • Philosophy also means the various theories or systems of thought developed by the great philosophers
      • Without these people and their thoughts, philosophy would not have the rich content it has today
      • we are constantly influenced by ideas that have come down to us in the traditions of society

Lesson 3: Metaphysics and Epistemology

  • The term metaphysics is derived from the Greek words
    • meta” means (“beyond”, “upon” or “after”)
    • Physika” means (“physics”)
Literally, it refers “those things after the physics
  • studies the ultimate nature of reality or existence
  • deal with issues of
    • reality, God, freedom, soul/immortality, the mind-body problem, form and substance relationship, cause and effect relationship, and other related issues
    • some of the questions that Metaphysics primarily deals with:
      • What is reality?
      • What is the ultimately real?
      • Can reality be grasped by the senses, or it is transcendent?
      • What is mind, and what is its relation to the body?
      • Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between reality and appearance?
      • Does God exist, and if so, can we prove it?
      • What is time?
      • What is the meaning of life?
It is evident that the question of reality is not as simplistic as it appears

Metaphysical questions are the most basic to ask because they provide the foundation upon which all subsequent inquiry is based

  • Metaphysicians seek an irreducible foundation of reality or “first principlesfrom which absolute knowledge or truth can be induced and deduced
  • Historically: Aristotle’s writings on “first philosophy” came after his treatise on physics, therefore, Aristotle’s editor, Andronicus of Rhodes, named them metaphysics
  • Metaphysical questions may be divided into four subsets or aspects
    • Cosmological Aspect
      • study of theories about the origin, nature, and development of the universe as an orderly system
      • Question like: How did the universe originate and develop? Did it come about by accident or design?
    • Theological Aspect
      • Theology is that part of religious theory that deals with conceptions of and about God
      • Question like: Is there a God? If so, is there one or more than one? What are the attributes of God?
    • Anthropological Aspect
      • Anthropology deals with the study of human beings
      • Question like: What is the relation between mind and body?  What is humanity’s moral status
    • Ontological Aspect
      • the study of the nature of existence, or what it means for anything to exist
      • Question like: Is basic reality found in matter or physical energy (the world we can sense)? Is it fixed and stable?
  • derived from the Greek words
    • Episteme, meaning “knowledge, understanding
    • Logos, meaning “study of
  • studies about the nature, scope, meaning, and possibility of knowledge
  • deals with issues of knowledge, opinion, truth, falsity, reason, experience, and faith
  • referred to as “theory of knowledge
  • epistemology covers two areas: the content of thought and thought itself
  • questions/issues with which Epistemology deals:
    • What is knowledge? What does it mean to know? What are the sources
    • What is truth, and how can we know a statement is true?
    • What is the relationship and difference between faith and reason?
  • Epistemology seeks answers to a number of fundamental issues. One is whether reality can even be known?
    • Skepticism: the position claiming that people cannot acquire reliable knowledge and that any search for truth is in vain
      • expressed by Gorgias: asserted that nothing exists, and that if it did, we could not know it
    • Agnosticism: profession of ignorance in reference to the existence or nonexistence of God
  • other issues foundational to epistemology
    • whether all truth is relative, or whether some truths are absolute
    • the questions of whether knowledge is subjective or objective, and whether there is truth that is independent of human experience
sources of human knowledge
  • Empiricism
    • knowledge obtained through the senses
    • appears to be built into the very nature of human experience
    • Sensory knowing for humans is immediate and universal, and in many ways forms the basis of much of human knowledge
    • The existence of sensory data cannot be denied. Most people accept it uncritically as representing “reality”
    • danger of naively embracing this approach is that data obtained from the human senses have been demonstrated to be both incomplete and undependable
      • Example: seeing a stick that looks bent when partially submerged in water
      • Fatigue, frustration, and illness also distort and limit sensory perception
    • advantage of empirical knowledge is that many sensory experiences and experiments are open to both replication and public examination
  • Rationalism
    • view that reasoning, thought, or logic is the central factor in knowledge
    • emphasizing humanity’s power of thought and the mind’s contributions to knowledge
    • claim that the senses alone cannot provide universal, valid judgments that are consistent with one another
    • Rationalism in a less extreme form: people have the power to know with certainty various truths about the universe that the senses alone cannot give
    • Rationalism in its extreme form: humans are capable of arriving at irrefutable knowledge independently of sensory experience
    • Formal logic is a tool used by rationalists
      • advantage of possessing internal consistency
      • risk being disconnected from the external world
      • Systems of thought based upon logic are only as valid as the premises upon which they are built
  • Intuition
    • direct apprehension of knowledge that is not derived from conscious reasoning or immediate sense perception
    • Immediate feeling of certainty
    • occurs beneath the threshold of consciousness and is often experienced as a sudden flash of insight
    • The weakness or danger of intuition
      • it does not appear to be a safe method of obtaining knowledge when used alone
      • It goes astray very easily and may lead to absurd claims unless it is controlled by or checked against other methods
    • distinct advantage of being able to bypass the limitations of human experience
  • Revelation
    • differs from all other sources of knowledge because It presupposes a transcendent supernatural reality that breaks into the natural order
    • has been of prime importance in the field of religion
    • Believers hold that this form of knowledge has the distinct advantage of Being an omniscient source of information that is not available through other epistemological methods
    • disadvantage of revealed knowledge is that
      • It must be accepted by faith and cannot be proved or disproved empirically
  • Authority (it is not a philosophical position)
    • knowledge is accepted as true because it comes from experts or has been sanctified over time as tradition
    • it has both advantage and disadvantage
      • Civilization would certainly stagnate if people refused to accept any statement unless they personally verified it through direct, first hand experience
      • if authoritative knowledge is built upon a foundation of incorrect assumptions, then such knowledge will surely be distorted


  • one source of information alone might not be capable of supplying people with all knowledge
  • It might be important to see the various sources as complementary rather than antagonistic
  • most people choose one source as being more basic than, or preferable to: use it as a benchmark for testing other sources
  • in the contemporary world, knowledge obtained empirically is generally seen as the most basic and reliable type

Lesson 4: Axiology and Logic

  • the term Axiology stems from two Greek words
    • Axios”, meaning – value, worth, and
    • logos”, meaning – reason/ theory/ symbol / science/study
Axiology: philosophical study of value (the worth of something)
  • Axiology asks the philosophical questions of values that deal with notions of what a person or a society regards as good or preferable, such as:
    • What is a value?
    • How do we justify our values?
    • What kinds of values exist?

Axiology deals with three areas


  • also known as Moral Philosophy
  • the philosophical study of moral principles, values, codes, and rules, which may be used as standards for determining what kind of human conduct/action is said to be good or bad, right or wrong
  • raises various questions including:
    • What is good/bad?
    • What is right/wrong?
    • Is it the Right Principle or the Good End that makes human action/conduct moral?
    • What is the ultimate foundation of moral principles?
    • Why we honour and obey moral rules?
  • Ethics can be grouped into three broad categories
    • Normative Ethics
      • study and determine precisely the moral rules, principles, standards and goals by which *human beings might evaluate and judge the moral values of their conducts, actions and decisions
      • Examples of normative ethical studies: Consequentialism or Teleological Ethics, Deontological Ethics, and Virtue Ethics are the major
    • Meta-ethics
      • deals with investigation of the meaning of ethical terms, including a critical study of how ethical statements can be verified
      • concerned with the meanings of such ethical terms as good or bad and right or wrong
      • Examples of meta ethical studies: Moral Prescriptivism, Moral Nihilism, and Ethical Relativism Moral Intuitionism, Moral Emotivism
    • Applied Ethics
      • a normative ethics that attempts to explain, justify, apply moral rules, principles, standards, and positions to specific moral problems, such as capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion
  • It is the theory of beauty
  • studies about the particular value of our artistic and aesthetic experience
  • deals with beauty, art, enjoyment, sensory/emotional values, perception, and matters of taste and sentiment
  • typical Aesthetic questions:
    • What is art? What is beauty?
    • What is the connection between art, beauty, and truth?
    • Why works of art are valuable?
    • Does art have any moral value, and obligations or constraints?
Social/Political Philosophy
  • studies about of the value judgments operating in a civil society, be it social or political
  • questions Social/Political Philosophy primarily deal with:
    • What form of government is best?
    • What is justice/injustice?
    • What is society? Does society exist?
    • Are we obligated to obey all laws of the State?
    • What is the purpose of government?
  • study or theory of principles of right reasoning
  • deals with
    • formulating the right principles of reasoning
    • developing scientific methods of evaluating the validity and soundness of arguments
  • questions raised by Logic:
    • What is an argument; What does it mean to argue?
    • What makes an argument valid or invalid? sound argument?
    • How can we formulate and evaluate an argument? What is a fallacy?

Lesson 5: Importance of Learning Philosophy

  • related with the necessity of studying philosophy there is a famous philosophical statement – “The unexamined life is not worth living”
  • philosophy provides students with the tools they need to critically examine their own lives as well as the world in which they live
  • psychologists point out that human beings have both maintenance and actualizing needs
    • maintenance needs
      • refer to the physical and psychological needs that we must satisfy in order to maintain ourselves as human beings
      • Example: food, shelter, security, social interaction
    • actualizing needs
      • associated with self-fulfilment, creativity, self-expression, realization of one’s potential, and being everything, one can be
  • philosophy can assist us to actualize ourselves by promoting the ideal of self-actualization
  • There are many characteristics of self-actualization to whose achievement studying philosophy has a primordial contribution. Here below are some of them
    • Intellectual and Behavioural Independence 
      • the ability to develop one’s own opinion and beliefs
      • helps us not only to know the alternative world views but also to know how philosophers have ordered the universe for themselves
      • we can learn how to develop and integrate our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and actions for ourselves
    • Reflective Self-Awareness
      • a clear knowledge of oneself and the world in which one lives
      • help us to intensify our self-awareness by inviting us to critically examine the essential intellectual grounds of our live
    • Flexibility, Tolerance, and Open-Mindedness
      • As we confront with the thoughts of various philosophers, we can easily realize that no viewpoint is necessarily true or false – that the value of any attitude is contextual
    • Creative and Critical Thinking
      • ability to develop original philosophical perspective on issues, problems, and events; and to engage them on a deeper level
      • we can learn how to refine our powers of analysis, our abilities to think critically, to reason, to evaluate, to theorize, and to justify
    • Conceptualized and well-thought-out value systems in morality, art, politics, and the like
      • studying philosophy provides us with an opportunity to formulate feasible evaluations of value; and thereby to find meaning in our lives
  • Philosophy helps us to deal with the uncertainty of living. It helps us to realize the absence of an absolutely ascertained knowledge
  • Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom


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