What is Philosophy? I. Introduction The word philosophy literally means “love of wisdom”. This does not tell much except the nature of philosophy, or at least its followers. The followers do not necessarily mean that they are wise, but they love searching for wisdom…
Wisdom about origin, therefore, can be said to have come from traditional religious practices, from people who are thought to have supernatural powers as declared by “God”. These are very religious by nature. However, by 6 BC there are non-religious thinkers in Greece that were called the Milesians. Unlike the traditional, supernatural people, these people are thought to have conducted their thinking through reason and observation, not by tradition or by a right from the Gods. These people are the first philosophers. Although their view is quite simple, the basic thought of thinking (which is secular inquiry) is considered philosophy. However, there are many forms of secular inquiry these days, so what makes philosophy different from, say, science? Before, at the beginning, there was no distinction but as time went by, they went and formed new disciplines. First, it was mathematics then it was natural philosophy (or science, as it is called now). Now, whenever a question cannot be answered by these two fields, it is then referred to modern philosophy. Questions like “What is the meaning of life?”. But of course, philosophy is best known for asking the most difficult and most basic of questions, like if Gods do exist or not, or what is good or evil. Philosophy is also defined by its methods. Although not as conceptual as science, philosophy is governed by logic. Like scientists, though, they formulate hypothesis that would answer the question by reason. Unlike religion, which is usually found on mysticism. There are four branches of philosophy: logic, epistemology, metaphysics and axiology. II. The Milesians The earliest known philosophers are from Miletus, hence they are called the Milesians. They are Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes. They are also called Presocratic Philosophers – basically philosophers before Socrates. Thales is most famous for his three beliefs: everything is made up of water, magnets have souls and everything is full of gods. Now back then, everyone thought that matter is made up of four distinct elements: water, air, fire and earth. These elements, with different combinations, can transform into different objects. Now, Thales argued that these elements are actually just other forms of water. Thales probably observed that water has three forms and phases: solid, liquid and gas – leading him to say that. Perhaps, he thought, that water in the solid state could become metal; it would be vapor at some point and it may form fire. There is also this theory that Thales observed that when you water the plant, the plant becomes healthy – as if water is transformed from its liquid state and into a plant. Magnets have souls – magnets seem to have life as they behave like living things. They move. Thales took this as evidence that magnets have souls. Ancient Greeks have this distinction between living and nonliving things. Things with souls are alive and anything with a soul would be active. For him, the soul is not something that is added onto an object that can be separated, but rather, it is an inseparable part of an object. For the third belief about “everything is full of gods”, then maybe Thales is insinuating that maybe everything is also full of souls as in souls = gods. If that is the case, then Thales would be insinuating that all things are living things but they may not move actively like the magnets that only move at certain times and situations. Anaximander claims that everything is mad ...
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