Introduction to Philosophy
Week 1: What is Philosophy? Rough Transcript for Lecture 1: What is Philosophy?
Hello! Welcome to the course. Idea is to give you a brief intro to some of the main areas of philosophy Aim for this week: to think about what philosophy is Five short parts: Introductory part, where we try and get an initial idea of what philosophy is Next 2 parts where we try and assess some common claims made about philosophy: that it’s (somehow) fundamental and that it’s about important questions Case study: how a philosopher (or anyone) might address the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ Finally, we’ll look ahead to the rest of the course, thinking about how the topics we’ll cover there relate to what we’ve said about philosophy this week. So… 1. What is Philosophy? Easiest definition: Whatever it is that philosophers do… - This is what the course is designed to show you! - Might be true that this is the most important def: I’ll suggest philosophy importantly involves activity, so actually doing it is the best way to understand what it is - So you’ll learn more about what it is by working your way through the course than by (just) listening to what I have to say… 2nd easiest definition: The love of knowledge (from the Greek philosophia) - But what does it mean to love knowledge? Will any knowledge do? 3rd easiest (route to a) definition: Google what other people have said about it: - Wilfrid Sellars: ‘The aim of philosophy, abstractly formulated, is to understand how things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest possible sense of the term.’ - Martha Nussbaum quotes Epicurus: Philosophy is an activity that uses reasoning and rigorous argument to promote human flourishing - Barry Smith: Thinking clearly and well about reality and our place in it. - Attempt to think systematically about the presuppositions of a given topic I think these are all right, and our job for this week is thinking a bit more about what they mean. Stab at a definition of my own that tries to capture what I think is important in all of them: Philosophy is the activity of working out the right way of thinking about things
Introduction to Philosophy - On this understanding, what is philosophy is a philosophical question… We’re trying to think about philosophy in the right way. So we’re doing philosophy about philosophy…
Week 1: What is Philosophy?
- Note that many philosophers won’t agree with what I’ve said. - In this case I’d listen to them, I’d try to understand the reasons behind their disagreement, and I’d think about whether or not I wanted to change my mind about anything I previously believed – or perhaps I’d want instead to try and change their mind about something important I thought they were wrong about. - This is an instance of the general process of philosophy – working out the right way of thinking about things – so at the end of every video on this course, you should spend some time stepping back and thinking about what’s just been said: - ask yourself if you think it’s consistent: do all the points that have been made make sense together? Can they all be true at the same time? In this case, I’ve said a few of different things about philosophy – can they all be true together? Tensions? - And ask yourself if it’s compelling – does what’s been said seem right to you? If not, can you say why that is – in particular, can you say why in a way that would convince those who you disagree with to change their minds? - In this case, do you think I’ve said anything about philosophy that's just wrong, or that doesn’t make sense? Or do you think that I’ve left out some important aspect of philosophy in talking about what philosophy is? How would you convince me that I should agree with you? - To get the most out of this course (and to get the best understanding of what philosophy is), you should step back and think critically about the points that are made on this...
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