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15 January 2014

Philosophy is more than a side of french fries

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When I tell people I am a philosophy major, I am often met with remarks about employment or other such practical concerns. I’m sure that many of my fellow humanities majors can sympathize.

However, I think this stems from certain misunderstandings that many people have about what philosophy actually is, and what its utility is. So, before I start to write opinion pieces that delve more heavily into philosophical issues, I think it is necessary to explain to you, the reader, why you should care.

Philosophy is one of the oldest human pursuits. It seems that we have been hardwired from our species’ inception to ponder philosophical sorts of questions. However, philosophy first began as a systematic study in Classical Greece with Plato and Aristotle, evolving through the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, right on up to as it is practiced now in places like the philosophy department right here at the U.

Philosophy, when broken down into its Greek roots, literally translates to “love of wisdom.” In practice, philosophy is the study of certain general and abstract problems. It is has a number of subfields such as metaphysics (the study of the general features of reality), epistemology (the study of knowledge), ethics (the study of what is good and bad), and logic (the study of correct reasoning), among others.

These may seem like overtly esoteric pursuits, but since our attitudes on these subjects form the foundation of all our knowledge, it is important that we at least consider them. And even if you decide that they aren’t important, that in itself is a philosophical position.

Unbeknownst to most people, everyone does philosophy. You are doing philosophy when you make an ethical decision, or go to a religious service, or read a novel, or watch the news, or make an observation about how the world works, or sit down on one of the gliders and begin to think to yourself.

All of these involve tacit philosophical attitudes and assumptions. The aim of doing philosophy is to bring these attitudes to light and examine them to see if they are consistent and if they are true.

In the future, this column will analyze philosophical issues in a colloquial, approachable and relatable manner. It will also work to analyze current events in everything from politics to pop culture in philosophical terms.

Everyone should, on some level, find their “love of wisdom.”

Joshua Myers is a freshman majoring in philosophy and psychology.