What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is a kind of critical thinking: it is critical thinking about presuppositions (claims we take for granted and usually don’t analyze). For philosophy, presuppositions are controversial. “Philosophy does not answer questions; it questions answers.”
Consider two major groups of presuppositions:
This distinction cannot be rigid. Naturally, all academic disciplines take for granted the presuppositions of ordinary life listed below, in addition to presuppositions specific to the discipline.
The following table shows some presuppositions of ordinary life and corresponding branches of philosophy:
The following table shows some presuppositions of academic disciplines and corresponding branches of philosophy (note that some presuppositions of academic disciplines are also presuppositions of ordinary life):
Some philosophical debates take place only in the world of professional philosophy. Even professional philosophers drive cars and eat food, without seriously questioning whether there is a world, or whether the future will resemble the past. Other philosophical issues, especially ethical ones, have direct impact on ordinary life. For example, should I be vegetarian? Should I give to charity? Who should I vote for? Should I pursue a boring but lucrative career or follow my dream?