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WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY
Prof. Arlyn V. Pinpin-Macapinlac
(Edited Version of Part I of the paper presented in the 4th Annual UP System wide Enrichment Lectures in Philosophy I held in UP Diliman on July 20, 1999)

When I first learned from Prof. Acuna that the speakers are expected to say their piece about what philosophy is, I said to myself it is a tall order. The question what is philosophy? can be interpreted as one which requires a definition for an answer. Answering this question is a tough task because the definition itself of philosophy is a recognized problem in philosophy. There is no identified single universal definition that would perfectly capture its very essence. Various ideas have been associated to our common usage of the word philosophy:

It sometimes means a kind of attitude as in I approve of my grandmas philosophy of doing business.

It is also used to refer to mans reflections on life as in the famous lines: An unexamined life is not worth-living by Socrates; or

Life is like a box of chocolates. Youll never know what youll get from Forrest Gump played by Tom Hanks.

It is simply taken by some as another field of study like Mathematics, English or Science;

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while some others would just settle for its etymological definition love of wisdom coming from the Greek terms philos and sophia.

My answer to the question what is philosophy? is not an attempt to put the controversy on philosophys definition to an end; rather, Ill just share my thoughts on this; and I wouldnt at all be surprised if some of you will find them acceptable or difficult to chew. Despite the numerous meanings used to describe philosophy, I am more inclined to agree with some authors description --- that it is more of an activity of the mind than just a field of study. That is, that the best way to understand philosophy is to actually practice it to philosophize. Now, what are the activities involved in philosophizing? Here are some examples: Making inferences Doing analyses and reflections Critical evaluation or examination of things

Now let me ask you is there anyone here who could boast of not having analyzed, examined or evaluated anything; not having speculated or reflected on something? Who would stand up and say Maam, from the time I was born until this very moment no one, not even my mom convinced me to make use of my mind that is, TO THINK. If you are that type, then you should be proud of yourself. CONGRATULATIONS! you are one of a kind! Can you count how many times you used your mind, contemplated or analyzed anything? That too is a tall order. It is like asking how many times you have been drinking water from the time you were born. My only point here is that these activities of the mind are those that we cannot live without. They are part of being alive. They are as inevitable as breathing. It is undeniable that we all engage in these activities involved in philosophizing and thus for me, since we are all philosophizing, I can say that there is a philosopher in each one of us. To simply put it WE ARE ALL

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PHILOSOPHERS. However, not everyone would of course feel comfortable being called a philosopher. This may be true to those who have reserved the name philosopher to minds like Plato, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Socrates and other renowned philosophers. And I agree that not everyone possesses minds as great as these thinkers; but my point is we are all thinkers. While I believe that all of us are philosophers, I too think that there are different levels of philosophizing. That means that some may have more profound and more serious reflections than others. But one thing remains clear we all philosophize and we are all philosophers. I usually distinguish between two groups of people doing philosophy: the plain men and the academic/professional philosophers. Below is a table illustrating some of their differences:

PLAIN MEN

ACADEMIC/PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHERS

Not

aware

that

they

are

Aware that they are philosophizing Study philosophy hence philosophize in an academic manner

philosophizing

Without training in philosophy Illustration1 What he said sounds absurd. He is contradicting himself.

Illustration He violated the Principle of Noncontradiction because X cannot be both X and not X at the same time and in the same respect.

You dont have to be an academic/

The statement illustrates what it means to

professional philosopher to identify philosophize in an academic manner. Techniques and principles learned from contradictory assertions. Illustration 2 studying philosophy reverberate in the evaluation. Techniques, concepts and principles

If you ask a balut vendor if he learned from philosophy come in very handy philosophizes, chances are that you when doing philosophical reflections and

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would hear a big NO for an answer. reasoning. And if you further inquire about his primary consideration when making moral decisions, you can expect him to say his piece on the matter. He may answer that it is the possible consequences of his decision or the happiness of the majority. He can go on discussing his personal view on why these are significant considerations and how he has actually applied these factors to some particular moral decisions he made. In philosophy, these lines of moral reasoning echo consequentialism and utilitarianism. Understandably, you cannot expect the balut vendor to tell you that he adheres to these philosophical principles due to his lack of familiarity with them. And like the balut vendor, you may also be a consequentialist or a utilitarian at times but are not aware of this. The point that I would like to make is that the lack of knowledge about these philosophical theories will not prevent the plain man from doing moral reasoning. Consequently, the absence of formal training in

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philosophy will not stop him from philosophizing. However, while it is true that we are all endowed with philosophical skills, these skills can be further improved practice. Take note that even within the same group there can still be different levels of philosophizing. through training and

The above illustration reiterates the point that we all have philosophical skills which can be further developed. This goes to show that by undergoing training in philosophy, the door is wide open for the plain man to turn into an academic philosopher.

[edited on June 1, 2009 avpm]