An intro to the topic of Philosophy.

What It Is

Philosophy is most often concidered a field of study in areas of reality, cause and effect, and principles underlying being and thinking. The study of philosophy usualy deals with the collective works of historic and current philosophers. In simpler definitions philosophy has been termed the study or 'love of wisdom.' A philosophy usualy means a certain philosophers approach to life or existence. An answer to some of the questions and/or a methedology for answering others. The field of Philosophy, though some might say has a methodology itself, is about asking the questions. To be curious about life is to be in the realm of philosophy. In the past much of what we concider the modern sciences has its root in philosophy leaving philosophy to mostly deal with the sort of questions which are foundational and abrstract in nature, questions not necessarily amenable to experimental process.

Modern philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence. Thus where philosophy deals with all aspects of the Universe that exist, the special Sciences - biology, physics, ect. - deal only with particular aspects of the Universe that exist in which their field focuses. So it can be thought of as such that the special sciences are the children from which grew out of philosophy. Philosophy strives to answer questions of existence such that we can understand its nature. Philosophy also tries to answers those questions of the nature of man or more importantly man's consciousness and character, thus giving rise to the study of man's mind, again more specifically knowledge and how we gain it. Further philosophy takes this understanding of reality - existence - and man and applies them to the studying of man's relationship with existence. To tie them together there are three main questions that respectively each would try to answer: What is existence?, How do I know it?, What do I do?. To a certain extent a Religion is a philosophy because religion tries to answer some of those questions. But where every religion is a philosophy not every philosophy is a religion. Religion's main aspect is not in asking questions but the laws to answers of Metaphysics and Ethics. Philosophy deals in a broader scope with Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, and Esthetics.

However, philosophy does not tell us the answers to our questions, it gives use the means to finding them. Philosophy's role is to provide us the means to get a comprehensive view of existence in which a person can base their actions. Metaphysics, the basis of theoretical philosophy, deals with the study of existence, thereby learning the nature of the Universe. Epistemology, the second half of theoretical philosophy, is the theory of knowledge, which is the study of man's means of cognition, asking the questions about the nature of man and how we know what we know. Where metaphysics and epistemology deal with all that exists, ethics applies only to man's life. Ethics defines the standards for which to guide man's choices and actions therefore defining man's character. The next branch depends heavily upon ethics, for it is ethics that determines how man treats man. Politics uses ethics to define the principles of a social system where people can come together and make agreed ethics common law. Esthetics, the last branch, is the study of fine arts that deal with the nature and expression of beauty in any shape or form, which is based on the other areas of philosophy.

Philosophy has had a very important impact in our History. This pursuit of answers has shaped our past to the very foundation of who we are today. The philosophers throughout the times have had a great influence in the societies they lived, great wars resulted from disagreements in philosophical and religious ideas, and indeed great discoveries were made because of philosophy. People such as Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus, and Socrates have shaped our past. It is these people who asked questions and came up with answers that we perhaps take for granted in our daily lives. The wars throughout our history are perhaps the easiest to see as having influenced the world. Wars like World War I, World War II, and even the regional Crusades were caused because of religions or philosophical contentions. Though power was at the forefront of the World Wars and other wars, behind them were philosophical and religious ideas that drew those people to fight. But not all philosophy is bloody, there have been great advancements in our understanding of the Universe and the sciences that govern it. Philosophy having given us the means of understanding the Universe also gives us the means to apply this knowledge in the sciences. It is this that without philosophy science as we know it today would not have resulted simply because we would not have the tools to understand the way things work.

You may say, and indeed many other people do as well, that you have no need of philosophy, that you don't need to think in such abstract terms as philosophy does. You have real life concrete problems to deal with in your life. But you do need philosophy, you cannot even escape it, so that you can deal with real life concrete problems. Abstract ideas are conceptual integrations of concrete meanings from which we can explain an innumerable amount of individual concretes into one abstract idea. In other words we use abstracts to simplify very complex things. Without abstracts it would be as if every object that came your way would be as a new phenomenon, you would be unable to compare similar objects and integrate them together into a single conceptual idea. So long as you are a living, thinking person you have no choice in integrating your observations, experiences, and knowledge into abstract ideas. These abstract ideas are your principles, and your only choice is what these principles end up being. The whole of these principles, what you use to govern your life, is integrated by the use of philosophy. Man's philosophy is the integration of principles that form a fundamental view of life. This is very important, for a man's view of life determines his values and emotions.

Up above I said that philosophy does not tell us the answers to our questions. This is true, yet there are philosophies that do just that. The subject of philosophy gives you the tools to create a philosophy, and these philosophies in some respect are like religions. However, religions are widely known to deal with specifically an aspect of the creation of reality; our existence. Most religions, if not all, have at least one deity for which the religion revolves around. A philosophy does not necessarily have anything to do with a deity. A philosophy will have some answers to those questions that we have asked. While all this is well and good, why study philosophy? More importantly, first, you should ask why you should study your philosophy? The answer: To gain an understanding of the values you hold. By understanding our values we understand why we have the emotions we do. Emotions are a constant report of our reaction to our surroundings based on the values we hold. Having such a big impact in our lives it is important to understand them. Next, to study a philosophy that is not even our own gives us safeguards from which to protect ourselves against them and also reflect against our own philosophical ideas. You cannot defend your own philosophy or refute another philosophy if you do not know them, and to not know your own philosophy is to leave yourself open to blatantly false philosophical ideas. If nothing else, you reaffirm your beliefs so that you can be secure in them and their affect on you. While it is stressed in this essay the importance of philosophy and why we all must study it at one point in our lives, it is not my goal to show people how to think. I will make a recommendation that it is good to remember that one of your first choices is whether to define your philosophy by your own rational thought or someone else's irrational thought.

Other Resources

posted by dharh 4:31 PM Oct 4th, 2006

Someone made the point that democracy is not necessarily bad and freedom is not necessarily good. It's not a good thing to allow people the freedom to kill others. This may be true, but the points I was making was that fundamentally freedom is better than democracy. If a people in a democracy vote to allow mistreatment of woman that's not a good thing either and is strictly against the notion of freedom. The point can be made that you need to restrict some freedom to collect taxes and keep a society functioning. But this argument does not carry that things like oppression or religious persecution are necessary. These things are evil. Freedom opposes all these things, democracy doesn't.

posted by dharh 6:45 PM Feb 13th, 2006

We need to stop talking about fighting for Democracy. We need to stop going around the world talking about forcing people into Democracy and start talking about Freedom. That is a worthy ideal, all people should be free, free to choose whichever government they want. There are many forms of Democracy and Republics yet there is only one form of freedom.

posted by dharh 8:15 PM Feb 5th, 2006

Though I personally don't download illegal music and movies off the internet it's not necessarily out of deference to the MPAA or RIAA, both organizations I actually abhor. Their tactics are dumb, not helpful to their cause, and antagonistic to even those who understand the idea of stamping out piracy. I mainly don't download music or movies for the same primary reason that I don't buy many CDs and DVDs. I just don't want to watch or listen to most of their crap. I already own most of what I want. If once in a while something good does come around I do buy the DVD.

Music is a different beast. I am very much a fan of the idea that if I buy a CD or a song I am buying the right to hear that song or album anywhere and anyway I want. My license should be able to be temporarily shared out to someone else as either both me and other people can listen to said music when we are both in the same place or someone else can use my license so long as I am not using it. This seems a bit weird to many people but I believe it is a direct extension of how we use CDs and DVDs. We can invite friends over to watch a movie or play music on our stereo, though not for profit. This type of license is what we have come to expect from those medium by the end of the 20th century and should try to maintain it going into the 21st century even though the medium itself may change.

I fully expect in the 21st century to be able to buy music over the internet either piecemeal or in bulk rather cheaply to reflect the cheeper cost of distribution compared to CDs. DRM like that used in iTunes from Apple, though I hardly like to be treated like a potential criminal, is leagues better than the DRM used by the likes of Sony. I would prefer watermarking in conjunction with minimal DRM where any music I download is watermarked with my license information so that bots can monitor the illegal or even legal trade of music. The current DRM being pushed by companies like Sony BMG are another large reason why I don't buy CDs. I shudder to even put a music CD into my CD drive as now I can't know what programs are going to be installed that can not only install programs onto my computer without my knowledge or permission but can wreak havoc on my computer and violate my civil rights. The computer is the primary way I listen to music. I don't have a normal CD player and don't want one.

While I'm on the subject of legal license I would mention that I am in favor of shorter length of patents and copyright. You can see way down at the bottom of this page that I have a Creative Commons non commercial license for all the content on this cite. I believe it is a form of injustice to keep what quite obviously should be in the public domain as it has becomes ingrained into the consciousness of a civilization, far exceeds the limit of time needed to gain profit for the loss of R&D, and in too many cases is not even being sold or used by the parent company anymore (or whomever may currently now own the rights) but is kept for their licensing portfolio. If companies can't turn out a profit unless they keep their one single money maker for even up to 120 years, quite a bit longer than current average American lifespan of 75 years, that is a clear sign of a bad business which needs to be choked off and the way made clear for slimmer less bloated companies to take its place. Why exactly does the surviving estate of a dead creator need to keep a copyright for 75 years after said person has died?

Also what is this scary trend of companies who's sole purpose is to create or collect intellectual property (IP) in bids to essentially hold entire industries ransom after the whatever invention becomes ubiquitous (READ JPEG and SCO)? I think after a certain time if a company or someone invents something yet doesn't tell anyone about it they forfeit their copyright if someone else 'invents' the same thing. They certainly shouldn't be able to wait until the company turns a huge profit to suddenly strike and sue them. I do know part of the problem is a slow as molasses patent office and for that matter a dumb patent office. Why for the love of all that is holy should a company be able to patent parts of the human genome or naturally occurring elements? Handing out patents for any damned thing is detrimental to the health of the economy, stifling innovation rather than promoting it. Also allowing companies to change a small aspect of their patent as a loophole to continue keeping it out of the public domain is criminal.

Oi. For a good rundown on frequent misconceptions about copyright go here.

posted by dharh 2:02 PM Jan 17th, 2006

I was just thinking about something my cousin was talking to me about some years ago. How it seems that you rarely ever see a movie or read a book that doesn't have the title in it. So, anyway, I wanted to point out that no I don't hate America. I love it, the problem is, as Bill Maher has said, I am also embarrassed by it. Go here for some of the comments others have made about the previous post.

Work on neTodo has stalled due to lack of time lately and will continue for at least another week due to things mentioned in the title.

posted by dharh 12:30 PM Oct 12th, 2005

What makes a Mac, a Mac? It's the user experience. I keep hearing that the a Mac is all about OS X. While this may be true of the exact moment, what Apple really is about is the user's experience. It's about the elegance, the look, the feel, the service, the tangibility that says this product not only feels better than any Wintel or Lintel box running around out there it IS better. Sure Apple and their Macs are a niche market, despite the iPod, but that's a good thing. I believe any move that makes them anything but is a disaster to both the company and the consumer. In the end becoming just another computer company churning out computers, though making a few bucks, won't put your name in the history books and certainly won't create the loyal following like Apple has today. There is always a need for that white sheep in a sea of black sheep to remind us that while cheep is all well and good, when you want something better here it is. I must add that though I have used a Mac and used OS 9 and OS X at work, I have never owned a Mac.

So I had a discussion with my friends today over coffee about third world countries versus first world countries. We talked about supposed utopia and complete equality. I don't believe that people are necessarily born equal in every way. Not physically, mentally, nor really should they be treated as such. However, there are a few things things people should be treated equal about. First everyone should be able to have the same medical care, everyone should have the same opportunity for education (whether everyone goes to AP classes or not is another matter), everyone should be protected equally under the law. We have some things right, not everything. I think that a society without competition, without adversity, is a stagnant society. One which will inherently fail because a society that has nothing to strive for doesn't strive for anything. How do we connect the one argument with the other? Well, perhaps I dunno. Life does what it does, let's keep it going and maybe get the answers we seek.

posted by dharh 10:12 PM Jun 9th, 2005

As I do nearly every weekend I went and saw a movie, this weekend I saw "What the bleep do we know?", which was an interesting documentary about quantum physics. There were two main parts to it, the story and the documentary, both revolving around the central theme of quantum physics and how we are effected at the very small quanta levels. One of the more interesting things I brought out of the movie was the idea that we can tell ourselves to have positive thoughts but instead what we get is a very thin line or layer of positive thought surrounded with our normal negative thoughts or feelings. Leading us to think we've pushed the negative away when really we have not. Another interesting idea, which Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto experimented with, that water can be affected by human thought, vibration, words, and music by different crystals forming such as with thoughts like love and hate. I leave you to follow the links to research on your own for now.

posted by dharh 11:54 AM Oct 11th, 2004

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