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What is the realm of philosophy? Is it to ponder the universe and derive answers from ones' self? And if so, what can make something true when it's based purely upon someone's own concepts? Nothing can do this. That notion is impossible. No one can make something valid merely by using their own opinions. Therefore nothing can be derived from merely ones self.

To ponder the universe, one would need to see it from a perspective outside the universe, and the definition of universe can't allow this. The true definition of universe is "all that is known, in space and time" and to be in a place other than the universe is to know that place, which makes it part of the universe, and thus invalid for viewing the universe with an unbiased eye. I hate revolving logic.

Of course, all of which I am saying is relative (due to the definitions I use created by a biased observer of the universe), and therefore wrong, so screw it.

Err, well, I have absolutely no idea what the writeup above mine was saying.

According to the Philosophy 101 class I took last semester, anything question that absolutely positively CANNOT be answered for sure by any mortal means is in the realm of philosophy (although, interestingly, all great philosophers by definition think they have all the answers).


What is the color of my hair?
--not philosophy, experience/fact based

Why do I have brown hair?
--not philosophy, answerable via genetics

Why do I have hair?
--not philosophy, since hair is an evolutionary trait to deal with the cold

Why do I prefer to comb my hair to the left?
--philosophy


Why? Because preference is a personal taste, and personal tastes cannot really be logically defined--you simply have them. You can say "I prefer to comb my hair to the left because I think I look good that way", but that doesn't really get you any mileage because the new, identical (philosophically identical, that is) question is, "Why do I think I look good with my hair parted to the left?"

The philosophical answers, depending on which philosophers you listen to, might be:

A) God wants me to like my hair parted to the left.
B) Me liking my hair parted to the left is completely random, and is only up to me (free will, sorta).
C) I like having my hair parted to the left because I am the sum of my experiences, and my particular experiences lead to me liking my hair parted left.
D) LIttle mice, in actuality the smartest beings on earth, demanded that I part my hair to the left..
E) Any, all, or none of the above.

And, as always, your mileage may vary.
It has been a long time since I took anything that would even resemble Philosophy 101, so I don't think I can blame what I have to say upon any professor, or, I suppose, make any claims to factuality in this node. Nevertheless, here goes:

I have always liked the apollonian dictim Know thyself, and for myself, it has been the starting point of my own quest for knowledge, and for wisdom--though I think I have accumulated much more of the former than the later.

It seems to me that the word, philosophy, has within it the realm which is the goal of this node: I look to the meaning of the word, which has been used for so many years, in a way that is now lost to so many. Coming from the latin, philosophia, or love of knowledge.

How little do we love knowledge today, that we cannot see the value of thought itself, preferring to value mere external information.

And how much less do we value wisdom, which if we know ourselves, and our knowledge, we cannot avoid.

The technical, and somewhat archaic answer, is that all knowledge and inquiry is the realm of philosophy. That is, everything that is now a science or a department at a university was once a part of philosophy, and still is, in a way. Science -- all of it -- was once called "natural philosophy." Almost all the greatest mathematicians in most of the history of mathematics have "also" been what we would today call philosophers.

And today the term is used differently. As it is used in universities, philosophy usually means all those questions that have yet to be "farmed out" to one of the "sub-disciplines." There are no inherently philosophical questions -- just questions that are still philosophical. "Why do I prefer to comb my hair to the left?" (rimrod's example above) has been a philosophical type question for a while, but psychology and cognitive science are arguably ready to take it on. And even the question "Why do I have brown hair" could, before genetics, have been discussed as a philosophical one.

Chomsky makes a handy distinction bewteen problems and mysteries: Problems are questions for which we know what an answer would look like. (ie How does the human genome work?) Mysteries are questions for which we still have no idea what the answer would look like. (ie the Mind/Body problem, which by this terminology is actually the Mind/Body mystery). One role of philosophy, as I see it, is to turn mysteries into problems, and guide them on their way to being answered.

Now, there are some things that philosophy deals with that just don't seem to be amenable to being turned into problems. Ethics is a good example -- can we have a science of ethics? Or how about that wonderful question -- "How shall we live?" As well, some issues come back to philosophy for seconds: in cognitive science, for instance, philosophers are on call all the time, for diving in to mysteries like language and thought.

Because of its nature, the issue of its own realm is itself a philosophical question. We reserve the right to change it at will.

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