Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Philosophy Etymology

 There are many layers of meanings hidden within the word philosophy. There is the surface meaning, and there are also many philosophical issues that act as subtext to this. I will begin with a discussion of the etymology - which can be very revealing if you look at it closely:

The etymology of the word philosophy is something that has been discussed by many over the centuries. It was said to be coined by Pythagoras, who thought that philosophy should be a way of life.

The word itself has Greek origins, and when you look at its definition in the dictionary, it is clear that there are many different meanings for this one word. For example:

The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

The love of wisdom.

The general study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

The word philosophy comes from Greek words φιλοσοφία (love of wisdom), or φιλεῖν (to love) and σοφία (wisdom). It is often translated to mean the "love of knowledge". But I think this translation does not do justice to the original. The ancient Greeks were more concerned with what we would now call ethics, rather than questions about semantics or truth. So it seems a better translation could be 'the love of goodness', which results in 'philosophical' being synonymous with 'moral'. This definition seems intuitively correct as well; philosophy's primary concerns are indeed moral issues: What is good? How should we act? What is right, wrong, fair? And so on.

This definition also has the advantage of being fairly simple; it does not rely on vague terms like 'knowledge' or 'wisdom'. It is also easier to define, as good and bad can be more easily defined than knowledge and wisdom. Many other words are similarly derived from Greek: politics comes from πόλις (city), biology from βίος (life) and λόγος (speech). But in these cases we know the origins of those words because they have been identified in ancient texts. Philosophy simply means 'love of goodness', but no one yet knows exactly when this was first used.

Another interesting point is that the word philosophy comes from a female Greek deity, ἡ φιλοσόφη (or philo-sophia). This goddess has no other known purpose in mythology than to inspire people with thoughts about virtue and beauty. She was often depicted holding her symbol of love for wisdom; an owl.

I think the idea that philosophy is about love of goodness, rather than knowledge or wisdom, is particularly useful when discussing ethics. It seems to me that no one ever claims to be an expert on good and evil; everyone has their own ideas, which may contradict with those of others. There are many different philosophies on morality and ethics in the world: Christian theology suggests God as a source of morality, whereas Buddhism focuses more on self-control. And so forth.

I think it is very important to distinguish between the love of goodness (philosophy), and good itself (goodness). Philosophers are primarily concerned with the latter, but not the former. In order to define or discuss something, we need first to understand what that thing actually is. This is why topics like 'love' are so difficult: how can you even begin talking about things if you don't know exactly what they mean? The concept of philosophy may be a little vague, but at least it does have a clear meaning.

I think being a philosopher is about asking questions. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? How should we live our lives? The answer to these questions may not be known by anyone, but that doesn't stop us from wondering and thinking about them.

Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Or perhaps, philosophy is a search for wisdom. In any case, it could be said that we are all philosophers in our own way.

When we are born into the world, we arrive as a tabula rasa. We know nothing about this world and have no preconceptions of what is true or false in it. Our minds are blank slates.

At that point, our brains are open to all the ideas we come across. We absorb knowledge of the world as it is presented to us.

We learn about our physical surroundings, the people and animals that inhabit it, the history of what happened before we arrived in this world.

At the same time, we learn about our place in that world and how to navigate through it.

As we grow older, our minds are filled with the ideas and concepts that surround us in this world.

Defining philosophy is difficult, because it has many uses. Like the word "theology", its etymology is Greek--from the root words 'philo' (love) and 'sophia' (wisdom). So, in a sense, to be "philosophical" is to love wisdom or knowledge.

In the ancient world, one could describe philosophy as a form of wisdom. Philosophy begins when people ask questions about the meaning of things and how to live in harmony with them.

The word philosophy comes from the ancient Greek 'philosophia', which meant love of wisdom. The earliest philosophers were called "sophists" and taught their wisdom in an oral tradition.

Philosophy was a way to understand the world and human existence. The Greek word 'philosopher' means 'one who loves wisdom.' It is said that Socrates, Plato, Aristotle were some of these early philosophers.

Philosophy is a way of thinking, and it has many branches. The history of philosophy includes such thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes and Mill.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates--who was the teacher of Plato and Aristotle--said that knowledge is virtue. He believed we should question everything to understand it.

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