What Are the Characteristics of Philosophy

Major characteristics of philosophy, and pictures of 4 philosophers.

Philosophy is considered the queen, or mother of science. It primarily deals with the problem of knowledge. Among the main defining characteristics of philosophy are its realistic and logical approach, as well as its argumentative style, and openness to critique. Philosophy is dealing with many questions pertaining to human life and conduct. However, the most basic question of philosophy is the meaning of life.

Origin and Purpose

According to historical records the term philosophy originated in the 6th century BC, in Greece. The origin of the term philosophy are the Ancient Greek words philia which means love or affection, and sophia which means wisdom. Its main motivation was to put aside the mythical and supernatural explanations that were common at the time. It is the search for answers to the great mysteries of life by pure reasoning.

Philosophical knowledge promotes a different, more realistic view of the world surrounding us. The main purpose of philosophy is to provide answers to fundamental questions about human existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind and language. To reach valid conclusions about the problems discussed, philosophers use different methods, such as questioning, critical discussion and rational argumentation.

Without philosophy, the world is nothing but an object at the mercy of gods and natural phenomena. The emergence of philosophy changed this outlook by proposing a way to reach conclusions logically and systematically. It is due to philosophy that humans began to understand the laws that govern the universe and human cultures.

Philosophy is divided into four main branches metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethics.
Philosophy is divided into four main branches metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethics.

Main Characteristics of Philosophy

The objective of philosophical knowledge is the creation of new ideas and concepts that, in turn, allow the development of new knowledge. It is an approach that also enables us to understand how ideas and reflections emerge, that is, where they have arisen and why. Philosophical methods are used to determine errors, contradictions and repetitions of the discourse itself and its conclusions.

In short, philosophy is about the studying of knowledge. It is a means to understand reality in its true form and provide reasonable explanations. Philosophy also defines which methods science should use, what content it should cover and the language it should use.

1. Systematic

Systematicity means that the philosophical method is highly systematic, that is, it is ordered according to a series of parameters. Philosophy seeks to order everything that relates to the experience of human life in the most logical way possible. That is, it uses structures and processes that allow it to explain and analyze different problems orderly.

2. Analytical

The philosopher aims to analyze and understand reality, one’s own knowledge, in an analytical and detailed way. Philosophical thought focuses on particular categories, concepts, themes and theories. Its objective is to analyze a specific topic, concept or a category in detail.

3. Rational

It is a rational knowledge, to which thinkers arrive through logic and reason. This means that it is free from emotion. Reason is the basic tool of philosophers and thinkers, which allows access to knowledge.

All definitions of philosophy are based on rationality. As we explained earlier, this implies that philosophical thinking does not permit any mythological or supernatural explanations. Rational knowledge is also more valuable and reliable than that generated by authority.

While philosophy is not an empirical discipline, at all times rationality is the basis of any philosophical argument.

4. Non Absolute

Knowledge is relevant to a specific historical context. That is, it is relevant to a specific period. The historical context includes certain events, and their social and political conditions. It is not considered “timeless” knowledge.

This characteristic is related to systematicity. Since philosophy is based on criticism and systematic evaluation of ideas, it cannot be absolute.

The ultimate goal of philosophy is to get as close as possible to the truth of all things. In this sense, each philosophical argument is only a step towards that greater goal.

Philosophy is based on argumentation. This implies that a fundamental part of it is closely related to deliberation and debate. Since the rules for conversation and feedback are well-defined, there is also openness to change.

5. Global

On the other hand, philosophical thought can encompass any possible reality. That is, different sciences, fields of study and disciplines. This type of thought can be applied in its entirety, although sometimes it only focuses on certain concepts.

6. Critical

Criticism is used to answer questions, clear doubts, and unravel mysteries. This tool allows thinkers to identify possible contradictions within the philosophical discourse. It also compels them to think with a greater degree of objectivity.

Since philosophy is essentially rational, it implies that it must be critical. In other words, philosophical arguments are critical because they are always open to reevaluation.

Likewise, a philosophical idea can be restated according to the perception of a different thinker. This way ideas get richer and more profound. The end goal of a philosophical argument is to have significant implications for humanity.

Critical attitude towards ideas means it does not accept presumptions without evidence. It is opposed to the dogmatic attitude. Critical approach to knowledge does not accept truths as fixed principles that cannot be subject to debate.

It rejects fanaticism, especially the religious because it lacks a scientific basis. Critical thinking raises radical questions that are at the root of reality and existence.

7. Objective

Philosophy bases its arguments on factors that are directly related to reality. For this reason, it is not necessary to explain philosophical concepts through supernatural elements.

This characteristic is of great importance. Philosophy was developed precisely with the intention of offering reasonable explanations to reality. In ancient times almost all explanations were associated with mythical and supernatural factors.

Arguments based on reality, enrich thought and allow thinkers to observe natural phenomena more precisely.

8. Individualistic

There are as many philosophical theories as there are philosophers in the world. This implies that philosophical thought arises as a consequence of the world view of a particular person. In most cases philosophies are duly attributed to their authors, anonymous arguments are never presented.

This has made it possible for different philosophers to study the works of others. It allowed them to complement concepts in pursuit of the ultimate goal of philosophy: learning the truth about reality.

9. Argumentative

The entire foundation of philosophical thought is supported by argumentation. That is, its concepts have been obtained through rationality and deliberation. Not a single philosophical concept was established by a predetermined thought rooted in tradition or other cultural element.

Through arguments, philosophers validate their notions and seek to convince the public about the theories they propose.

10. Relating to the Senses

In addition to being systematic and rational, philosophy also bases its arguments on sensible knowledge. Only through the senses it is possible to perceive the world around us. For this reason, they are essential to receive stimuli from which notions and concepts can be developed.

It is the knowledge that we can obtain about the material objects that exist in the world. It is the first approach to external reality. Only after we perceive reality through the senses, our brains give it meaning. In other words, we interpret reality based on our experiences and other elements that dictate our perception of the world.

11. Radical

This characteristic has to do with sensitive subject matters that philosophy deals with. This discipline concentrates its greatest efforts in areas that are crucial for human beings, such as the meaning of life.

These issues have a high level of sensitivity, so openly discussing them and proposing arguments in that context is perceived as a radical action.

12. Exceeds Common Sense

In this case, common sense is the perception of reality as it is observed, without questioning it.

Under this premise, it is not necessary to verify the legitimacy of the context, since it has always been the same way. Philosophical thought completely divorces itself from this notion and bases all its actions on questioning practically everything.

One of the strengths of philosophy is analyzing and understanding beyond the predetermined. For this reason the so-called common sense is not relevant for the mother of all science.


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