University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper



The term philosophy is taken from the Greek word philos (filoj), meaning “love” or “friendship,” and sophia (sofia), meaning “wisdom”. Philosophy refers thus to “the love of wisdom”.  Socrates, Plato’s instructor, used the term philosophy as an equivalent to the search for wisdom.

Philosophizing about Philosophy

“What is philosophy?” is itself a philosophical question (the what is x? question). This gives us a clue about the nature of philosophy. Philosophy includes itself in its scope. What is clear is that philosophy is, in some sense, thinking about thinking. This is why some philosophers have described philosophy as a question of language since it can be perceived as being the attempt to dig deeper in search of the definitions of things that go beyond the everyday definitions we take for granted.

Philosophy is all about asking questions or, as the Muslim philosopher Ja‘far al-Saadiq put it, “knowledge is a lock, and the question is its key.”

Branches of Philosophy

In order to narrow the aims of discussion, philosophy has been broken into branches. During the lecture, we briefly presented: (1) Metaphysics, (2) Epistemology, (3) Ethics, and (4) Logic.

The whole of philosophy is about asking questions about three verbs which are central to our life:


Verb                 Question                                  Branch

TO BE:                    What is BEING?                                         Metaphysics

                                    What is really real?


TO KNOW:            Can we really know?                           Epistemolog/Theory of Knowledge

                                    What and how do we know?


TO DO:                     What must be done?                              Ethics

                                    What is the right thing to do? 



As you will surely imagine, many other disciplines exist within the umbrella term “philosophy.” You can ask metaphysical questions about us as humans. For instance, what does it mean to be human? What makes us be human? In this case, this will be called Philosophical Anthropology (Greek: anthropos = human; logos = word, reason, discourse), i.e. the Philosophical Discourse on Humanity.

To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)