Philosophy is a subject that we can use to discover a lot of truth about the world we live in. There are several reasons why it is so important:
1) Philosophy has a broad definition
One definition of philosophy that I thought fit philosophy pretty well is “the love of knowledge”, or as Webster’s dictionary defines it, “the pursuit of wisdom”. These definitions fit as a general definition of philosophy because almost any type of knowledge that we have involves philosophy in some way. Another simple way to describe philosophy is, “using reason to ask questions and draw conclusions about the world we live in.”
2) Philosophy separates good arguments from bad arguments
One way we engage in philosophy is through arguments. I do not use the word “argument” in reference to a back-and-forth verbal fight with another person. I refer to the definition, “a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion.”
This definition flows into a logical aspect of philosophy, where we can use logic to draw conclusions about the world. A logical argument involves premises that lead to a conclusion. A premise is basically a statement that claims certain things within itself, but is also part of a series of claims that lead to a conclusion. In order for an argument to be sound, all of the premises must be true and the form of the argument must “follow” to the conclusion.
An argument follows when the first premise leads to the next premise logically, and that premise leads to the next premise logically, and on and on until the last premise leads to the conclusion. If an argument does follow logically, then the truth of individual premises need to be proven false in order to prove the entire argument false.
The easiest way to understand how an argument works is through an example. Take the following example:
1. All cats are not dogs (1st premise)
2. Felix is a cat (2nd premise)
3. Therefore, Felix is not a dog (conclusion)
This first premise involves a subject, cats, and claims something about that subject. To follow up that premise, the 2nd premise establishes that Felix is that subject. Thus, what is true about that subject is also true about Felix. Felix, like all cats, is not a dog. The argument flows logically, and the premises follow to the conclusion.
In order to refute the argument, you would need to show that #1 or #2 are false. For example, you could get Felix and show that he is actually a mouse. If that were the case, the entire argument would be invalid. The conclusion may still be true, and the argument still would follow, but the means to reach the conclusion would be improper.
This next example shows an argument that does not follow, and is basically non-sensible:
1. When I wear shoes, they are always red
2. I am wearing shoes
3. Red is a color of the rainbow
Assuming #1 and #2 are true, the argument seems to work until you try to transition from #2 to #3. There is nothing that connects premise #2 to the conclusion. There is some sort of breakdown in the argument; you cannot follow the argument from premise #1 to the conclusion in a way that makes sense.
Using this logical form is one way we can determine if an argument holds up (a good argument) or breaks down (a bad argument). Arguments can have fallacies that show that the argument is a poor one. But why does the entire argument have to be false if one of the components of the arguments is shown to be false?
That question leads to a situation where assumptions need to be made. In this case, we need to assume that logic can be used to discover truth about the world. If an argument in not logical, it is not true.
There is not an argument that can be made to “prove” logic works; it is just an assumption that we need to make in order to form arguments in the first place. If there was a way to show that logic exists, it could be simply through personal experience. We obviously seem to be able to draw conclusions about our world in this logical way.
Once you establish the assumption that you can use logic, then the idea of making an argument and verifying its truth works. And this idea of assumptions leads to the final important aspect of philosophy I will discuss.
3) Philosophy establishes assumptions that are necessary to make conclusions using other areas of truth
Philosophy’s penetration into all knowledge becomes evident when you consider that the assumptions we use every day are based in philosophy. The assumption that we can use our mind to form reasonable conclusions branches out to every other area of truth. If that philosophical assumption were not established, any truth claim a person makes would be meaningless and untrustworthy.
This basic assumption is called an axiom, or a self-evident truth. Other axioms include the continuity of nature, the existence of time, and the existence of truth. All other areas of truth are dependent on philosophy to some extent because of these necessary assumptions. One example is science, since the scientific method is built off certain philosophical assumptions.
So does that mean that philosophy is self-sustaining, where it does not need to involve the other truth areas I discussed in this blog? Even if that is the case, I do not think that is an important issue. The question that is more important is “does philosophy cover all truth about the world?” I think the answer to that is no. When you focus on one area of truth and ignore the rest, you miss many opportunities to discover truth about the world. Philosophy is no exception. You can make logical arguments that follow perfectly using philosophy. However, if those arguments are not supplemented by history, science, religion, and other areas of truth, they will be much more difficult to prove.
That ends this little introduction on the area of philosophy. This blog is almost done with “building” a foundation for what I am going to talk about next. My next post will be about the truth area of religion.