What Philosophy Is, and Why You Can’t Avoid It
by J. Brian Huffling
Many Christians believe that philosophy is a pagan discipline that is practiced either by ivory tower professors or Starbucks hippies.This belief has led some to object to the relevance of philosophy, as either they believe only a relatively few can do it, or that it deals with such weird and abstract issues that it is a waste of time. Many Christian theologians object that philosophy is rooted in paganism, and thus has no place in Christian theology. After explaining what philosophy is, it should become clear that not only do these objections fail, but philosophy is unavoidable.
‘Philosophy’ literally means “love (phil) of wisdom (sophia).” It is the quest for knowledge, truth, and how to live the good (moral) life. There are several overall branches of philosophy. One, and the most foundational, is metaphysics. Metaphysics is the study of being, or what it means to be real. While biologists study life insofar as things are living, and mathematicians study being as quantified, and physicists study being that is physical or in motion, the metaphysician studies what it means to “be” in general. They ask questions like, what is the difference between Snoopy and a beagle one can take for a walk? Another branch of philosophy is epistemology, which is the study of knowledge. Epistemologists ask questions like, “How can knowledge be attained,” “What is knowledge,” and “Is there a difference between knowledge and belief?” Moral philosophy seeks to know what it means to be good in the moral sense. Where does goodness come from, and what makes something good? Logic studies right reasoning and the mistakes (fallacies) that are sometimes made when trying to make a rational argument. Aesthetics studies the nature of beauty, and asks “What does it mean to be beautiful? Is beauty objective?” And so on.
From these categories there are any number of other philosophical fields…