Philosophy: General term I use
for my own philosophy, that may be seen as a kind of
until ca. 1800 "natural philosophy" was a near synonym for "science" as
opposed to "metaphysics" and "theology".
The reasons for and general outline of
Natural Philosophy are given in this entry and in the entries
Natural Realism and
Rules of Reasoning:
Philosophy, so the Shorter
Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells us is
the original and widest sense.) The love, study, or pursuit of
wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether
theoretical or practical.
more advanced study, to which, in the medieaval universities,
the seven liberal arts were introductory; it included the
three branches of natural, moral, and metaphysical philosophy,
commonly called the three philosophies.
natural p.) The knowledge or study of natural objects and
phenomena; now usu. called 'science'.
moral p.) The knowledge or study of the principles of human
action or conduct; ethics.
metaphysical p.) That department of knowledge or study that
deals with ultimate reality, or with the most general causes
and principles of things. (Now the most usual sense.)
used esp. of knowledge obtained by natural reason, in contrast
with revealed knowledge.
of: The stude of the general principles of some particular
branch of knowledge, experience or activity; also, less
properly, of any subject or phenomenon.
philosophical system or theory.
The system which a person forms for the conduct of life. b.
The mental attitude or habit of a philosopher; serenity,
resignation; calmness of temper.
This is as
clear a definition as any, and I shall presume it for philosophy. It
also immediately poses a problem we have to give some sort of initial
fundamental problem of presuppositions
If we want to know or study "ultimate reality"
(whatever that will turn out to be), what may we or may we not
presuppose? This is a relevant question, if only because it
seems that whatever we do presuppose will have some influence on
whatever we come to conclude while also it seems we cannot conclude
anything without presupposing something: To reach any conclusion one
needs some assumption(s).
It is clear
that any human philosophy is the product of people who already know
and suppose something, in particular some Natural Language to reason
and communicate with. So any human
being concerned with philosophy uses and presumes in some sense some
Hence we start with
presuming some Natural Language
consisting of words and
statements (both sequences of letters) that enable its
speakers to represent things to themselves and to other
speakers by pronouncing or writing down the words or
statements that represent those things
in which, at least initially, we
can frame philosophical questions and provide philosophical
answers, where we take "philosophy" in the sense just given,
or in brief as: The search for rationally tenable explanations
for all manner of things;
and it is also clear that each
and every human being that speaks a natural language therewith
has a means to claim about any of its statements that it is
true or not, credible or not, necessary or not, and much
more ("probable", "plausible",
"politically correct", "sexist",
"morally desirable" a.s.o.)
purpose of doing philosophy, in the sense of seriously attempting to ask
and answer general questions, some natural language must be considered
given, for without it there simply are no questions to pose or answer.
And indeed, all philosophy, including any philosophy that concludes there
is no human knowledge, in fact presumes some natural language.
itself a fact of some philosophical importance that is often
disregarded. One of its important applications is to show that people
who propound skeptical arguments to the effect that human beings
cannot know anything, or cannot know anything with certainty, or
cannot know anything with more or less probability than its denial
(these are three somewhat different versions of
skepticism, that also
has other variants that are less easy to refute) must be mistaken,
since thy all presuppose some natural language known well enough to
state claims that nothing can be known.
It should als
be noted with some care that a natural language is not given to human
beings in a completely clear, perfect and obvious way (since, for
example, it is very difficult to clearly articulate the rules of
grammar one does use automatically and correctly when speaking it),
but it is given to start with as a tool for communication and
expression that may be improved and questioned, and that enables one
to pose and answer questions of any kind.
language is, in other and somewhat technical words, a heuristic, i.e.
something that helps one find out things. What other heuristics do
come with being human? Every Natural
Language includes many terms and many - usually not very explicit and
articulated - rules that enable its users to represent their
experiences, and to reason or argue with themselves or others. We
shall call this body of terms and rules