What Is Philosophy?

The Oxford Dictionary defines Philosophy as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. However, philosophy means much more than this basic definition encompassing a vast body of work and this essay examines the various aspects of what is philosophy.

Philosophy deals with the fundamental questions about the meaning of our existence. It delves into queries such as who are we? Is there a god? What is the purpose of human life? Do ethics have a reason to be followed? Is this world real or is it an illusion? It deals with issues such as knowledge, truth, beauty, law, validity, the workings of the human mind, and linguistics. Philosophy is a methodology that helps to learn about a wide range of issues with clarity, analytically and logically. The dialectical and argumentative style of reasoning used in philosophy becomes useful in everyday life also such as law, computer programming, physics, and a host of other human endeavors.

Philosophy has many branches such as Metaphysics; that deal with the nature of being and the world, Aesthetics that look into arts, sensory perceptions, and beauty, Epistemology which examines all aspects of what constitutes knowledge, Ethics that examine what is Good, Bad, and moral, Logic which studies the premise of thinking and its patterns, Political philosophy that governs the study of governance, Philosophy of mind which examines the workings of the human mind and concepts of cognition, and the Philosophy of language which studies how languages are used and have evolved together with their effects on human interaction.

Spatially, two major strains of philosophy have evolved which most say are independent in origin from each other, namely Western Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy. Western philosophy is typified by its analytical, logical, and often linear approach.

Eastern philosophies on the other hand have a syncretistic approach, relying on a synthesis of concepts which is quite different from the Western Approach. Tenets of Western philosophies include Realism, Nominalism, Rationalism, Empiricism, Skepticism, Idealism Pragmatism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, Structuralism, Analytical Philosophy, Positivism, and Consequentialism to name a few. Eastern philosophies include Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Shintoism to name a few.

Philosophy affects every aspect of human life. Its fundamental nature and quest for seeking answers to basic questions of human existence and human affairs make philosophy the base on which human interactions are built upon. The applications of philosophy are wide-ranging and touch every aspect of human life. Philosophies evolved in different parts of the world reportedly independently into two strains; Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy. While Western philosophical thought favors analytical, logical, and linear thinking, the Eastern strain favors a syncretistic approach. Nonetheless, both are equally valid and important for mankind..