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We deal with philosophy in one form or another, multiple times every day. For instance, every time we form an ethical viewpoint or act on such, we are forming a philosophical (ethical) idea or applying an existing philosophical principle.

But what is philosophy and how should one define it?

My Collins dictionary defines it as follows:

"Study of realities and general principles; system of theories on nature or on conduct."

The Britannica defines it as follows:

"The critical examination of the grounds for fundamental beliefs and an analysis of the basic concepts expressed in such beliefs."

However, these are poor definitions. I will define it more comprehensively and accurately below:

"The universal, fundamental study upon which all other knowledge are claims of knowledge are founded; the study of the nature of reality (and how to gain knowledge of such) and man's proper relation to it. A field of study [properly] carried out by forming abstract conclusions upon the evidence of concretes."

In short, it is the study of the nature of existence, how man should gain knowledge and it is the appropriate behavior of mankind according to his view of existence.

Philosophy is divided into three primary areas, each dealing with a number of other sub-categories:

Metaphysics: the study of the nature of reality.

Epistemology: The study of the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired and how it is managed by the human mind. It also deals with what limits, if any, apply to human knowledge.

Ethics: The study of what is right or wrong, ire. How man should respond within his environment given his view of existence.

And branching off of these is:

Politics: The study of the proper operation of society and the role of government.

As I indicated earlier, there are numerous other sub-categories that come under these main branches. For instance, the philosophy of law which is based on ethical and political philosophy.

The greater your understanding of correct philosophy, the greater your understanding of reality is likely to be and, therefore, your knowledge of how you should act in a given context

Given such a definition of philosophy and an overview of some of the questions it commonly addresses, it should be clear that philosophy encompasses countless aspects of our daily lives. Let us look further into the importance of philosophy and how it is critical to every human being.

Before we can do anything else we have to identify some basic facts about the nature of reality. What is reality? Is it possible for reality to contradict itself? Is reality subject to our wishes, or must we be content that what is, is and that nothing can change it (apart from certain types of human action acting in accordance with the laws of nature)?

Knowledge is one of the most important things any rational person wishes to live must acquire; without certain bits of knowledge such as to avoid deadly situations, objects or beings, or how to provide the necessities of life, man could not possibly survive in the long-term. For instance, if we do not know to avoid running into large fires or to stay submerged in water for too long, we would not stay alive for very long. If one does not know how to acquire food, he will soon die of starvation.

But what is knowledge? How does one go about acquiring it? How does one separate the knowledge that is the most important from the stuff that is less important? Why should you bother to learn in the first place? Is it really important that I learn a bare minimum or as much as I can? How do I identify what is real and what is not? What is it possible to know? What are the limits to human knowledge if any?

Philosophy (and epistemology in particular) deals with the nature of knowledge and learning. It allows you to determine what counts as knowledge. That is - the difference between unvalidated/unproven assertions. Also, it deals with how to acquire that knowledge, how to validate it and how to prove it.

However, the importance of philosophy goes far beyond basic questions of epistemology.

Man does not have instincts to guide him through life as do animals. He must act consciously or subconsciously on the principles he has formed throughout his life. Principles allow man to unite the perceptual data, i.e. the evidence of his senses, into abstract ideas. It allows man to form the conceptual ideas he needs in order to deal with the countless problems he encounters in life given that he does not have instincts that tell him what he should do. But he needs a way to integrate these abstract ideas into a unified system that he can use to answer the key problems he needs to be able to answer in order to live.

For example, he needs a view of existence. No matter what one might say, everyone has a view of existence, as incoherent or as inconsistent as it may or may not be. Some consider reality some sort of shifting illusion, some as a collection of absolutes that man must be able to correctly identify if he wishes to live. Man needs a view, even if it is an incomplete and largely incorrect one so that he can form other principles. He needs a setting to apply other principles to. He needs a basis upon which to be able to say "OK, this is how I think things are. Now what to do given that I have some idea of what the world around me is?"

Another example: Man needs to be able to have some idea of how he is to learn what he needs to do to live. Should he just wait for mystical insight from some divine being? Or should he think and seek to learn more about his world and try to integrate what he learns into a coherent system of knowledge he can use? Should he try to steal what he has from someone else or should he provide his own means of survival?

He must have some idea, wrong or right, of what his existence is and how he should act so that he can attempt to achieve his goals and indeed just to live.. His views in the realms of metaphysics and epistemology tell him what is, and how he can know it. These tell him what is the proper behavior for man. If he believes that reality is a shifting swamp, and that man cannot really know anything, then he will not have an objective moral system. He will cry that morality is defined by whatever arbitrary whim he feels is right for the moment. He will not be able to consistently apply the proper principles man needs to apply in order to live, but will only live as much as he does apply such principles or by however much he can take from the productive, those whom do apply correct principles and for as long as he has such victims. It is this sort of failing which most people today are guilty of, and which will eventually destroy society if it is not addressed. What is needed in order to address this problem? Philosophy.

The answers to the questions of philosophy give you a concept of the nature of existence, its elements, how you can come to acquire knowledge of such elements and allows you to form a basis on which to know how to deal with such elements. The greater your understanding of correct philosophy, the greater your understanding of reality is likely to be and, therefore, your knowledge of how you should act in a given context. If your philosophy is right, you will correctly understand what is and can rationally expect to be able to succeed on your own ability. If your philosophy is wrong and does not agree with reality, do not expect to be able to thrive on your own power.

Philosophical failings are responsible for many of the problems of the world. One's actions are based on one's philosophical beliefs, even if not consistently so.

For instance, a root cause of socialism is a misunderstanding of the concept of rights. Part of the confusion is that people believe that collective rights exist. They do not exist, only individual rights exist. It is a problem of people confusing need and right. A problem of people confusing whom is responsible for meeting one's needs. Note that society is not responsible for ensuring the survival of an individual; that individual is.

Flawed philosophies tend to breed evil and injustice

Collective rights are a contradiction in terms because, if you exercise a so-called 'collective right', you generally end up infringing on individual rights, and you cannot have the 'right' to act in a way that infringes on individual rights.

Consider the homeless bum on the street. How did he come to be there? Well likely because in his past he did not value his future enough to ensure that it did not come to nothing. Instead of learning a profession (even if it was only sweeping streets) that would enable him to acquire money, a necessity for life out of the gutter, he valued something(s) which destroyed him. Be such things alcohol, drugs, or the desire not to live. Instead of wanting to live life to the fullest, they merely wanted to stay alive as parasites feeding off the handouts of others, or what they scavenge. In other words, his philosophy is critically flawed. He did not choose values consistent with his being a productive member of society, and values are derived from one's philosophy.

Imagine the injustice if Thomas Edison had invented the light-bulb but no one had been interested in buying it because they did not value technology. Because they did not value one of the means that would greatly enrich their lives. Ultimately such people do not fully value their lives.

Such a scenario might seem unlikely. However, cases of this sort of thing are numerous. New technologies are rejected for no good reason. People fear the unknown, even if the unknown would clearly bring them enormous benefit. They fear it, so they do not wish to think about it, and so are blind to how it might greatly enrich their lives.

Take the Linux operating system, which is a viable alternative to Windows. A lot of computer users flatly reject it without trying it, because it is apparently 'too difficult'. The fact is, though, that if they tried Linux, a lot of these people would be better off. But they fear to try Linux essentially because it is an unknown element that they do not wish to think about.

A similar thing exists among hard-core Linux users. Many of them have never seriously tried Windows and likely never will because someone told them that Windows is not worth the effort. Now, the person/people that told them this quite probably failed to provide any well-supported facts, only biased, unrealistic opinion. But the hard-core Linux user has been taught that he should believe the arbitrary claim of those around him. After all, who are they to say that person is wrong? Whether or not Windows is an inferior product is all a matter of opinion, independent of the reality of the situation they might have one think. Perhaps they believe that arbitrary whim influences the reality of which is better or not.

They have accepted the junk-philosophy of others, and not bothered to use philosophy to check the premises of that which they have accepted. If they had done so consistently and rationally, they would find that many of the beliefs they hold are grim, black shells, not the intellectual food their minds need to prosper honestly and independently in this world.

Philosophy is critical and indeed impossible for a being with a volitional consciousness to avoid. Having volitional consciousness basically means that you have the ability to influence your consciousness through choice, and this is the role of philosophy. It allows you to analyze the information you have and, hence, to shape your consciousness according the conclusions you draw through a series of analysis of that information. No conscious human being can totally avoid this process, no matter how they might try.

It is philosophy that determines one's views and behavior. It is philosophical views that determine the good/evil of a person and society. Flawed philosophies tend to breed evil and injustice. Good philosophy tends to bring forth good and justice.

However, the realization of good philosophy is not automatic. It does not come from nothing. It must be acquired by a rational mind through extensive thought and study. Just as you cannot build a robot without an extensive chain of knowledge, you cannot understand correct philosophy without an extensive chain of knowledge. Also if you read the BAD philosophies and understand them enough to be able to refute them and to be able to recognize their specters that you will encounter in your life, you will be able to say "NO! I know what you are, and I reject you!" This is what most people in not studying philosophy, or even attempting to rigorously, consciously, apply philosophical principles do. They accept evil philosophies because they do not know the right alternatives or even understand the consequences of their beliefs and, therefore, their actions which are based on their beliefs.

Just as knowledge must have a source, philosophy must have a source, and that source is of course thought. And without the most basic philosophical foundations, you cannot come to understand the philosophical questions that are critical to your existence as a productive, independent, member of society.

For instance, if you want to be brilliant, honest businessman, you have to be willing to act to protect your rights. But if you do not understand what your rights are, this is clearly going to be rather difficult to say the least!

I am not suggesting that you all go out and get a philosophy major. Only that you think about philosophy rationally and discover the basic principles behind the right philosophical systems and that you learn to recognize the applications of bad philosophies for what they are.

For those whom might be considering studying philosophy academically, I give you this warning: do not do it unless are damn sure that you can take spending a lot of time dealing with mostly bad philosophy (which is presented as though it is true and makes sense in many cases). Unless you really want to know the nature of the philosophical spear stabbing into the heart of rationality and, therefore, rational philosophy and destroying the minds of today's youth, the subject matter you will cover, according to what I can discover, is flawed.

Today's philosophical papers ask questions such as "is knowledge possible" and "is free will possible". Questions which no truly rational person would doubt. Questions which the nature of the human mind makes clear: YES to both. There is but should not be debate of such clear facts. Both are possible, but often trivialized by those whom do not wish to properly think. Just as the people of today have accepted philosophical waste as valid, so have the philosophical intellectuals they look to for philosophical guidance.

You must make certain fundamental choices in your life. One of the most fundamental choices is whether or not to value correct, rational philosophy as a critical guiding field of knowledge. Whether or not you value rationality and right as the motive forces of your actions and philosophy will allow you to answer this question. Only then will you understand the correct philosophies. By 'correct' philosophies, I mean philosophies that are the most compatible with the existence of man according to the true nature of man.

To sum up, your philosophy is the major and most fundamental determinant on the path of your life. Use philosophy to live your life well, to enjoy your life as the most precious thing you will ever have. It is your only life you will ever have so don't squander it!

DISCUSS!

Original posting by DwayneDavies on Feb 20, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=475

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