The Philosophy at a Glance
It is difficult to define the philosophy in precision, and the attempt to do so forms an interesting and important part of philosophy itself. If you go through the dictionary you will find that the term philosophy is derived from two Greek words – PHILOS & SOPHIA, means “The love of wisdom or knowledge.” Right from the early period the term philosophy has taken on something of this meaning. First of all the philosophy is different from other subjects in its attempt to discover most general and fundamental underlying principles.
But philosophy is also different in its method that can be described as rational reflection. So philosophy is not much different from simply the act of thinking hard about something. Unlike the science, the philosophy does not discover new empirical facts but instead reflects on the facts we are already familiar with. The philosophy differs from other subjects in being normative. By normative we mean that unlike other disciplines philosophy tries to distinguish, in very broad ways, what is from what ought to be.
But still in order to define the subject this question is to be answered that what is the subject matter of philosophy? In principle any area of human concern can become the subject of philosophical interest. Originally philosophers were interested in everything, and much of what would now be classified as Physics, Zoology, Anthropology, Political science, Sociology and even Mathematics. In addition the ancient Greek philosophers also were interested in the principles of reasoning, the nature of beauty in art, the principles that regulate human conduct, the standard for distinguishing just from unjust societies, and even the nature of reality itself.
That’s why today if you ask a philosopher who is concerned with the principles that should govern human actions, you might be told that ethics is the heart of philosophy. On the other hand, a philosopher who is fascinated by the nature and function of language might tell you that the most important task of philosophy is linguistic analysis that dispels the ambiguity and confusion. A political philosopher might insist that the really important task of philosophy is to discover the principles of social justice. There we can say that the state of affair in philosophy is not so different from what you might find in physics. There are many different area investigated by physicists.
Some are concerned with understanding atomic and subatomic reality. Others directed their attention outward to the exploration of space, and they would insist that astrophysics is the real subject matter of physics. Similarly each of thinkers raises its own questions and these may be the part brought to the surface by other events. For example, advances in medical science have forced the philosophers to deal with the wide range of bio-ethical issues. Environmental pollution and ecological imbalance have forced philosophers to think about environmental ethics and sustainable development.
.Of the many matters with which philosophers concern themselves, it would be difficult to say that any one is the real task of philosophy or that any one of the various questions dealt with by philosophers today is the most important, because what may be the most important to you may not seem to be as important to someone else. This explains that why it is so difficult to come up with a single definition of philosophy that all philosophers would accept as completely adequate.
Dr. AMBUJ SRIVASTAVA