Philosophy A Visual Encyclopedia
About this book
Throughout history, people have wondered about the world around them and their own place in it. They have puzzled over what is real. They have discussed what it means to know and believe things. They have argued about the nature of truth. They have asked what it means to lead a good life. And through wondering about all these things, they have tried to understand the world more fully. Philosophy is about asking these big questions about life, so that we can deepen our understanding and act more wisely
A LOVE OF WISDOM
Whenever people look at the world with fresh eyes, think things through more clearly, and ask new questions, they are practicing philosophy. The word “philosophy” comes from a Greek word meaning “the love of wisdom.” But although the word is Greek, philosophy happens all over the world, and in very different civilizations. In some cultures philosophers have always written their ideas down, while in others ideas
have been passed on by word of mouth. There are many separate traditions of philosophy around the world.
Some of the world’s major philosophical traditions are found in India, China, and across Europe and the Middle East. Philosophers such as Siddhaˉrtha Gautama in India, Confucius in China, Ibn Sıˉnaˉ in Persia, and many ancient Greek thinkers, have left a strong mark on history. Their thinking has shaped the cultures of Asia, Europe, and beyond. But philosophy is not limited to these traditions. It happens wherever people wonder about the world around them.
PHILOSOPHY AND BELIEF
The world’s cultures are rich in the traditions of myth and religion. These belief systems, like philosophy, can help people to make sense of their place in the world and decide what is right and wrong. Reason plays a part in many religions, but beliefs are often viewed as matters of faith—they are taken on trust. Philosophers must rely on reason alone to investigate beliefs.
REASONING ABOUT REASON
All the different branches of human knowledge use reasoning (the ability to think things through) to understand the world. Sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology combine observation, experiment, and reasoning to understand the natural world. But what makes philosophers different is that they often step back to ask questions that scientists don’t ask: What is reason? What does it mean to understand? Philosophers don’t just use reason as a tool. They go further, and even reason about the ability to reason itself.
Philosophers use many methods to explore the questions they are interested in. One tool that they often use is a thought experiment. This involves creating an imaginary scenario that allows them to fully explore a problem. Throughout this book, wherever you see a question mark inside a thought bubble close to an illustration, a philosopher is asking you to “imagine” a particular scenario as a thought experiment, to help you think a philosophical problem through.
WHY PHILOSOPHY MATTERS
Learning about philosophy helps people to think and reason more clearly. It encourages you to ask deeper questions about the world. It gives insights into your own culture and its traditions, and the cultures and traditions of others. And it can help you find your own solutions to the question of what it means to lead a good life.
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|February 24, 2021|
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