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Definition and Meaning of Philosophy – Part 2

The Concept of Philosophy 2

E. PHILOSOPHY AS FOUNDATION OF OTHER DISCIPLINES

    This definition sees Philosophy as the only Science, which is the science of itself as well as the science if other sciences. It is, so to speak, the mother of all disciplines. Originally, Scientific Cognition was identified with Philosophical Cognition. Over the course of time, the tree of the Philosophical Cognition of reality sowed its sedss, and from them arose the contemporary forest if vibrantly growing science.

    Philosophy therefore is the highest of all branches of Human Knowledge and is in the true sense, wisdom. The other disciplines, Sciences and Non Science, are subject to Philosophy, in the sense that it judges, governs, and scrutinizes their postulates. Philosophy on the other hand is free in relation to the sciences, and only depends on them as the instruments, which it employs.

F. PHILOSOPHY AS ULTIMATE SEARCH FOR MORAL VALUES AND TRUTH

Β From an ethical perspective, Philosophy can also be defined as an attempt to fashion out standards of behaviour befitting the nature of man. Man exists in nature with beings higher than him and with his fellow man. To maintain ontological cum moral balance or equilibrium among these beings, there is need to set up principles through which social and ontological orders are maintained.

    The good ought to be done and evil ought to be avoided if the society is to realize the “Summum Bonum” of existence. This is why Philosopher like Socrates maintained that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is a clarion call on man to examine his daily activities, to evaluate them in order to know whether they are good to be done or the evil to be avoided.

    The Philosopher is like the gadfly awaking people from their dogmatic slumber. He functions like the prophet reminding people of the need to reexamine their life in the light of basic ethical principles and reason. This is why we say that to be moral is to be reasonable. Both involve conscious chouce or the freedom to choose one course of action as against another. Conscious of this prophetic function, the Philosopher has the added duty of constantly reminding us of the reasons for being moral, especially in the university, of the reasons for building a good philosophy of life that is morally oriented – (not to join cult, not to cheat at examinations, not to steal, or engage in other kinds of social misconducts that can truncate the future of our intellectual life.)

    Coupled with the search of moral value is the persistent search for truth. Philosophy is a search for truth, truth about God’s existence, man’s existence, the origin of the Universe and truth about man’s relationship to one another and to God. The search for the truth about man is to enable us answer such questions as whether man possesses an intellect which sets him absolutely apart from the other animals, whether he possesses a soul, if he has been made to enjoy God’s favour as creatures, etc.

G. PHILOSOPHY AS IDEOLOGICAL PRESUPPOSITION

    This definition sees Philosophy from the ideological dimension as projecting a socio-political agenda. One of the major problems bsettibg the world today is how to organize a set of ideas through which the world can be socially, economically, culturally, and politically organized so as to ensure the common good, peace, solidarity and unity.

    Political Philosopher like Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, John Locke, K. Marx, J. J. Rousseau, Nkrumah, Azikwe, Awolowo, have all contributed toward the various ideologies like Democracy, Capitalism, Socialism, and various shades of ‘Utopia’. Some of these ideologies have been taken by some Third World Countries with some difficulties. Philosophy in some of these countries has become less speculative and more of praxis. Some argue thant any philosophy that cannot help man to practically realize the goals of his daily existence should be left behind. Such philosophy is nothing but sophistry and illusion.

H. PHILOSOPHY AS A SCIENCE

     Finally, Philosophy as a science aims at logical clarification of thought. It is a consistent, coherent and systematic way of organizing our thoughts, life, our perceived goals and objectives. Together with the Empirical Sciences, it shares the concern for constructing a system of interconnected objective certitudes about things and their causal relations, but it differs from the endeavour of the latter in a variety of ways.

(a) it concerns itself with all things, including those which are not accessible to empirical verification which, the Empirical Sciences demand: it has a vision of the totality;

(b) it pushes its causal explanation beyond the limits of metaphysical implications;

(c) it aims, therefore, wherever possible, at achieving not merely a moral or physical certitude, but seeks its ideal in absolute or metaphysical certitude, i.e. a certitude the contrary of which would be absurdity.

THE MEANING OF PHILOSOPHY

   From the previous and above definitions, it is obvious that not a single definition is able to tell us what Philosophy is all about. The general agreement is that it concerns itseg with the totality of reality – the reality of the really existing world. It is true that Philosophy raises a lot of questions bordering on the dia ti (why) of existence and attempts to find solutions to them. It is pertinent to state that raising the questions is more important than the answers proffered. On many points, the Philosopher must be content with probable solutions, either because the question goes beyond the actual scope of his discipline, or it cannot be verified within the scope of reason.

   The various definitons of Philosophy explain the different meanings of Philosophy. From a metaphysical perspective, there is the conclusion that there is a need for the ultimate cause as explanatory ground of reality. From the epistemological perspective, there is need to build up a body of knowledge and seek for their justification. From the ethical dimension there is need to examine our lives and actions to see whether there are right or wrong, good or evil or whether “our insides are clean and true,” and finally from a logical angle there is need to examine whether communication with our interlocutors are valid, consistent, systematic, coherent, organized, and whether our thoughts are clarified and purified of all logical muddles, pitfalls and fallacies.

    In sum, Philosophy, the oldest kind of rational human knowledge, has always been regarded as the crowing form of such knowledge. Many thinkers today, both Philosophers and Non Philosopher, are of the opinion that Philosophy which crowns the experience of the science and life is wisdom. “Wisdom, in turn is not a further extension of knowledge through newly discovered aspects of the world, but a reflective grasp of what and how we know.” Wisdom is the ultimate theory of reality, beyond which there is no possibility of appealing to any higher science.