Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is an ancient discipline, which probably began as early as human civilization, that sought knowledge of all things on earth and in heaven.

Knowledge of natural things and their causes lead to the creation of physics and metaphysics. Knowledge of human affairs and their constitutive relations lead to the creation of ethics, politics, and the philosophy of history. Knowledge of heavenly things leads to cosmology and speculative theology. Philosophy in the ancient world was the parent of most scientific disciplines.

In order to understand philosophy you must not only grasp its subject matter, such as metaphysics and ethics, but also its method. In western philosophy the method to obtain knowledge is rooted in the philosopher's ability to form and evaluate arguments. In Asian philosophy there is greater emphasis on knowledge of the Way (Dao) to live a life harmonizing the individual with her natural and social world. But in all cultures philosophy requires that we think critically: to be clear, precise, well-organized, truthful, complete, and able to handle objections. The study of critical thinking is called logic.

Thinking based on reason and evidence

To be philosophical is to be a logical thinker who seeks knowledge of the whole. In this way philosophers avoid unsupported beliefs but base their views on good reason and evidence. Philosophers demand of themselves and others that they have reasoned logical belief.

The study of philosophy is varied. Since philosophy seeks knowledge of the whole, that is, of all things that are subject to disciplined inquiry, there are virtually endless kinds of philosophy. Traditionally most students of philosophy study the history of philosophy, and systematic areas of philosophy. These two ways complement each other, since the articulation of philosophical problems and proposed solutions have developed over many centuries, and philosophical history often defines how the problems and proposed solutions are understood today.

A wide range of specialized inquiries

Beyond the traditional sub-fields of philosophy lie a host of specialized inquiries, such as, Philosophy of Mind, which investigates the nature of mind, Language, which studies how we communicate linguistically using signs; Philosophy of Law which studies how legal theories apply to specific cases; The Philosophy of Science, which deals with knowledge in the sciences; Environmental Ethics, which deals with the application of ethical theories to moral issues in humans' natural environments; Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of Rock Music, Philosophy of Pop Culture, Philosophy of Sex and Love which deals with how ethical and social theories relate to understanding and evaluating the status of women, homosexuality, and pornography, the Philosophy of Emotions, which investigates the nature and scope of emotions, and many more.

Both traditional and cutting edge

With small class sizes and a faculty that is committed to undergraduate education, the Philosophy Major at TRU provides a solid grounding in both traditional fields of philosophical study and cutting edge courses in contemporary issues and ideas.

Students of philosophy often seek extensive knowledge in one or more of these areas as well as in the traditional areas. Philosophers are, then, pursuers of knowledge who seek both the knowledge of the whole as well as specialized branches of study.

A discovery of truth for the common good

Philosophers are intellectuals who typically speak and write well. They favor debate and the testing of conventions and beliefs. They are "gadflies" who ask questions which disturb those whose beliefs are uncritically accepted. Philosophers seek to understand themselves through a comprehension and evaluation of positions, arguments, ideas, and belief systems. They are usually committed to discovering truth and acting for the good.

Philosophers when they accomplish their goals are often wise and contented individuals. They show that philosophy is not simply an academic discipline; it is a way to live.


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