Introduction to philosophy – is arguably the cornerstone of understanding the first principles of the art of philosophy. I refer to philosophy as an art because that is what I believe it is. People usually think of the arts as relating to music and movies, but in my perspective, art manifests itself through people’s creativity. When people think and present persuasive propositions to change minds or cause people to reflect on life’s circumstances for greater societal utility, that is philosophical art. Philosophy is an intellectual art. The very definition of philosophy means the love of wisdom. The definition gives a clue to the motivation of a philosopher, that the philosopher has an intriguing, curious, and passion for knowledge and truth. The pursuit of knowledge and truth is philosophy. Philosophy is the precursor to science. Science cannot exist without the philosophical mind asking the questions that lead to a scientific conclusion. Philosophy can never lose its relevance because the philosophical inquiry extends beyond the measures that science cannot define.
Introduction to ethics – is relevant because it systematically studies morality, right, and wrong behavior concepts. Debatably, human morality is the foundation to resolving ethical behavior and conflicts. Ethics seeks to define abstract ideas such as evil, good, right, and wrong. Making the application of these definitions and how to live amongst each other requires an understanding of moral concepts. Moral concepts may transcend into sociology; however, the foundation begins with philosophy. Moral theories are often a standard of how society behaves toward one another. Many are passive and merely obey civil laws or behave in a way that may come naturally. Nevertheless, some people do not ask themselves why they should behave in a particular manner dictated by a body or group of people. Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) developed a critical moral theory called the Categorical Imperative (CI). The CI reads as follows, “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” (Cahn 83). The CI is a complex theory to understand. I’d establish an understanding by first realizing how Kant defines an imperative. Secondly, understand how the definition distinguishes between hypothetical and categorical imperatives. In short, the CI is a rational method of resolving a moral problem. It provides the thinker a reasonable opportunity to justify a moral decision by weighing its value as a universal commandment. If the final moral decision or circumstance is an end in itself and reasonable enough where all people can follow as an unconditional universal law, in that case, the CI proves the moral action is right.
Logic – The word logic is rooted in the Greek word “logos,” it is challenging to define logic itself. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy defines logic with few hundred words; too long to paraphrase or quote. Although definitions seem slightly ambiguous depending on the philosopher, their practice and application are concrete. Those that dedicate themselves to the study of logic are considered logicians. Logicians analyze arguments and study the structure of propositions. Logic does not necessarily focus on the persuasion of the argument but instead the structure of what is said. Logic assists in realizing the presuppositions of someone’s thought based on a person’s sentence. Considerably, a sentence is the physical property of a person’s thought. When a person thinks, that person speaks, and when the person speaks, a person’s thoughts are revealed. A person trained in logic can measure how sound and valid an argument is. Ultimately, the intent is to determine which argument is true or false.
Ancient western philosophy – is the study of the first philosophers of the ancient western world. Many people believe it began with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The three had become the father figures of ancient western philosophy. However, there were philosophers before them and are categorized as the presocratics, meaning the philosopher before Socrates. One of the most famous works on ancient western philosophy was written in 1945 by Bertrand Russell, “The History of Western Philosophy.” Russell summarizes a period from the presocratics to 20th-century philosophers. The study of western philosophy reveals to the reader the depths of western culture, which begins with the Greek presocratics. Understandably, some may argue that such a study is a waste of time. But what motivates someone to make such a statement? If not only because of lack of interest, then a lack of ignorance. Bertrand Russel wrote, “men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education” (655). Russell was alluding to Locke’s “tabula rasa,” which suggests that people are born without established knowledge and what we know is dependent on our experiences. If we are born ignorant as a blank slate, and our knowledge depends on our experiences, then it is critical to understand our history and philosophy and ensure our thoughts are our own; otherwise, those who know the ignorance of the population hold power over knowledge and control of people’s minds.
Medieval philosophy – covers the middle age period of western philosophy and religion. During this period, the works of Plato and Aristotle were revived and studied diligently. Arguably, the rekindling of Plato and Aristotle became the revival of ancient western philosophy. Medieval philosophy made noteworthy improvements to the branches of metaphysics, logic, and religion. In addition, Christian theology became the basis for a large portion of medieval philosophy. One of the most notable theologians of that era was Thomas Aquinas. There are debates on whether Aquinas was more a theologian or philosopher. Some argue that all of Aquinas’ philosophy is grounded in theology, and therefore he is a theologian. On the other hand, professor of medieval philosophy and author John Marenbon asserts that Aquinas’ writing reveals himself as an expert in logic. Many of his propositions are highly reasonable. Furthermore, “if Aquinas is first and foremost a theologian, he is also a philosopher’s theologian who is worthy of attention from philosophers” (243).
Metaphysics and epistemology – Finally, the branches of philosophy that, in my opinion, encompass all the fundamentals of philosophy. Metaphysics studies the issues of existence, reality, and being. It revolves around the question, what is real? Epistemology studies the issues of knowledge and belief. It revolves around the question of what is certain? Metaphysics is an integral part of western philosophy reaching as far back as Plato. Plato has a metaphysical theory of ideas that teaches the objects identified in this physical world as existing objects; are imitations compared to the true essence of ideas. Epistemologically, Plato argues that the theory of forms is the most precise way to account for actual knowledge. There have been advances in metaphysics and epistemology since the time of Plato. Some may wonder what the real issue is, since it is self-evident that any physical object we observe certainly exists. However, in Rene Descartes’ Cogito Ergo Sum and Method of Doubt philosophy, Descartes reveals the vulnerability of the sensory perception and places rationality and reason as superior over empirical evidence.
Cahn, M. Cahn. Exploring Ethics: An Introductory Anthology. New York. Oxford UniversityPress. 2009. Print.
Russell, Bertrand. The History of Western Philosophy. New York. Simon & Schuster, INC.1945. Print.
Marenbon, John. Routledge History of Philosophy Volume III: Medieval Philosophy, edited byJohn Marenbon, Taylor & Francis Group, 1998. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/apus/detail.action?docID=179185.