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What Is The Meaning Of Philosophy?

1152 words - 5 pages

What is Philosophy ?Before I explain what it is, it might be worthwhile clarifying what it isn't. Philosophy is not about two old men sitting around the fireplace discussing themeaning of life. Unfortunately, that is the type of mental picture most people have of the discipline. It is generally seen as having little connection to reallife, and something you might engage in if you had nothing better to do with your time. The worst myth about philosophy is the belief that it is a subjectfor the intellectual elite, with no relevance to the common man.That this is society's conception of philosophy is pitiful. However, philosophers have only themselves to blame for the present state of affairs. They alone are responsible for detaching philosophy from the real world. A case in point is the prevalent acceptance of Plato's dichotomy between mind/soul and body. This distinction has been presented in many forms : real vs ideal; spiritvs flesh; earthly vs ethereal; temporal vs eternal; imperfect vs perfect.If the layman were looking for support that philosophy has nothing to do with life in the real world, he could find no finer advocate than Plato, who in the Phaedo speaks through Socrates and suggests that to do philosophy is to prepare for death. In fact, to practice being dead! Why? Because of his acceptance of the idea that when you die the soul is separated from the body. In Plato's eyes,doing philosophy is separating the soul from the body, precisely so that one is not thinking about the here and now. In other words, you have to remove yourselffrom life in this world to be able to philosophize.The reason why I am so condemnatory of modern philosophy is because it has generally accepted this dualism of Plato's uncritically, when his star student Aristotle did not. My grievance is not simply that any philosopher took Plato's position on this dualism, which means basing their theories on the nature of existence and knowledge, in the realm of the mind, soul or ideal. Indeed an equal number took the opposite view, and rejected the existence of mind, soul, intellect and consciousness. Their philosophy is grounded in experience and perception, and that alone. This perspective dominates today under the bannersof materialism, scientific determinism, logical positivism and naturalism.Thus, modern philosophy has had two schools of thought in its history. Both accepted Plato's dualism, but simply picked opposite sides of the same coin. Rationalist's selected the mind and rejected the world. Empiricist's selected the world and rejected the mind. The problem is that it is the coin itself which is counterfeit. There is no dichotomy between mind and body, real and ideal, orany other dualism. A physical world exists. So too does mind, intellect, consciousness, concepts and "free will". The Achille's heel of modern philosophy has been its acceptance of a flawed premise stemming from the first great philosopher. The bane of modern philosophy is that Plato's successor...

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