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What Is Philosophy Essay

Philosophy is integrated into every individual’s life. This essay will analyse the differences between Western, Chinese and Indian traditions. It will evaluate what it is that constitutes a valid philosophical enquiry and investigate different branches of philosophy. It will also look into the ways in which philosophy is utilised in contemporary society and the ways in which language impact on philosophy. Greco-Roman tradition originally came from Greek and Pagan culture, later gaining influences from other cultures.

When the belief in the actual existence of Gods and Goddesses died, reasons needed to be provided for human existence, the purpose of life, and the problems of living in a civilisation. This saw the Greek philosophy grow and the traditions main issue was to define and describe human life and conditions. The tradition later became known as Western tradition, as the Greek’s and Roman’s used ideas from other cultures and ingrained them within their tradition. This still remains a key feature of Western tradition today.

There are few surviving original sources of the tradition, preserved by Catholic and Orthodox monasteries, despite their differences to Christian teachings. The influences from Western tradition are key features in society today. It provided reason and science which can be seen as the ground works for technology and science today. “From the Greco-Roman period came respect for the rule of law, the idea of natural law, and, for its day, toleration of religious beliefs. ” (Pappas, 2005) If anything was so prevalent in society today it would be that thought.

The ability to live among others with different beliefs but still all follow the same laws is a necessity in todays society. The Western tradition taught us to question who we are and respect individuality, a teaching which lives on to this day. Dissimilar to Western tradition, which looks to define human life and conditions, the Chinese traditions main aim is to keep harmony at all times. Confucius was China’s most famous philosopher. “The most important thing to Confucius was Jen, or human kindness, love of man.

Jen is the ideal feeling of warmth, kindness, dignity, and respect that should develop between two people. ” (Powell, 2000, p. 95) The Chinese tradition is one of practicality, therefore the importance of logic is paramount. Logic sees that everything is subject to change, and that opinions and beliefs are of their time and place. Differing to the Western tradition, the Chinese took few ideas from other cultures, highlighting the desire for China to remain separated from other societies. It did however, take influence from Buddhism, but even this was adapted to suit Chinese culture.

The Chinese tradition believes that to remain harmonious is of more importance than finding the truth. Followers of Chinese tradition may not see it fit to unburden themselves of their woes onto others as this is not harmonious. Arguably the oldest surviving tradition, Indian tradition aims to eliminate unhappiness and create nirvana, the cessation of suffering. Unlike the Western tradition, both the Chinese and Indian combine philosophy and religion. Indian tradition however does so more harmoniously by combining them both equally.

Because of this, Indian tradition is compared to a Banyan tree, with its deep roots and tangled canopy representing the intertwining of Indian philosophies and religions. Buddhism is originated from India. This philosophy believes in karma, that what you are reincarnated as is a reflection of your past life. From a cynical point of view, it could be seen that followers of Buddhism are kind only to protect their reincarnation, and that it is not a selfless act they are carrying out, just one which will benefit them in their next life. It is important that all philosophical enquiries are valid so correct outcomes are produced.

There are many elements that constitute a valid philosophical enquiry. It must not be biased or favour one side. It must be non-emotional and it must be able to bring together the deductive and inductive methods of reasoning. It is arguable that for the enquiry to be valid it would need to be proven. This may not be the case and it could be believed that it would just need to not be disproved. For example, it has not been proved that God ever existed, however it has not been disproved. Therefore, the question as to whether there is or was a God, is a valid philosophical enquiry.

A valid philosophical enquiry should only be based on evidence and not include feeling or opinion. The final conclusion of the enquiry should then be interpreted and evaluated. No hasty predictions should be made as it should be based just on fact. Descartes provides his process when producing a philosophical enquiry in Discourse on Method. (See appendix 1) There are many different branches of philosophy. Romanticism is originated from 18th century Germany. Romantics react negatively to what the modern world does to people, for example the effects modern day technology have on human interaction.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau marked the way for the Romanticism movement as he “believed that civilisation was a corrupting influence on people, who are instinctively good… ” (Kindersley, 2011, p. 144) Romantics are very much against the dehumanisation of the modern world where technology replaces people. A romantic might argue that the self-service check outs provided at most supermarkets have a negative effect on human interaction as there is no need to communicate with people face to face now when shopping. Romanticism links with another branch of philosophy, Environmentalism.

This philosophy is concerned with keeping the planet green. Environmentalists, like Romantics, are concerned with the developments happening in society and the effects they could have on the planet and those within in the future. In complete contrast to Romanticism and Environmentalism, The Enlightenment is another branch of philosophy. It also originated in 18th century Western Europe but is closely allied with science. It challenges the rule of religious superstition and tradition and uses science to provide most, if not all, of the answers. It sits well with the development in human beings and their surroundings.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that moves with the times. As society, religion, and politics move forward, so do the ethics within those institutions. It is perfectly possible that the ethical issues one experienced in their upbringing could totally differ from those they experience in their adult life. Ethics is a system of values where certain things are “right” and certain things are “wrong”. Abortion is a subject that has always been surrounded by moral and ethical issues. (See appendix 2, BBC, 2013) Until 1967, abortion was illegal in England. This however, does not mean it did not happen.

In the 1950’s, when abortion was still illegal, mothers carrying unwanted babies would seek non medical personnel to carry out abortions. This was highlighted in a recent episode of Call the Midwife, a drama series based on the personal experiences of an East End midwife in the 1950’s, where a mother had an illegal abortion which lead to her contracting septicaemia. (‘Episode 5’, 2013) Times have clearly moved on, and today abortions are far more available and medically safe. But that does not mean that the ethical views of some have changed with the times, regardless of whether the law has changed.

It is important to consider teleological and deontological theories when dealing with ethics. Teleological theorists believe that it is the end result of an action that determines whether the action was good or bad. Deontological theorists however, believe that each action in itself is good or bad, regardless of the consequences. (Harrison-Barbet, 2001, p. 186) There are many ethical issues raised in the arguments against abortion, one of the main being that killing an innocent human being is wrong. (BBC, 2013) This is a deontological argument. It is arguable as to when you consider a foetus a human being.

Is it at the conception stage when it is simply a collection of cells, or is it when the heart begins to beat and when the brain starts to function? At around 18-22 weeks a foetus acquires sentience, the awareness of pleasure, pain and perception. As it stands, abortions can be carried out on females up to 24 weeks into pregnancy so ethically one could argue that carrying out abortions this far through in pregnancy is wrong. (Lacewing, 2010) Arguing from a potential perspective creates further questions as to whether contraception is as wrong as abortion.

People who oppose abortion may argue that although the foetus may start off as just a collection of cells, it has the potential to become a human being who has the right to life. Therefore, even using contraception is wrong as it prevents the potential of life. Pro-abortionists however may argue that potential means that something does not yet exist so why treat it with the same ethical values as something that does exist. (Lacewing, 2010) Pro-abortionists would also argue that the pregnant female has moral and ethical rights and these may outweigh the foetus’ rights.

This could be the case if the female was a victim of rape and would suffer mentally and emotionally if they went through with the pregnancy, or if the continued pregnancy could have detrimental effect on the female’s health. In conclusion, abortion faces many ethical issues from both pro and opposing viewpoints. It is a subject that cannot be determined as right or wrong by science or philosophy. In the end, the most important viewpoint that should be considered when making such a decision is the pregnant female.

The impact of language on society is a lot more prevalent than one may assume. Umberto Eco believed that we learn through our knowledge of languages, and that translating between one language and another is not just about comparing them both, but interpreting them in the ways they were written, based on culture. The philosophy of language looks at what the nature of meaning is. John Searle explains that language is crucial in the understanding of human life, and to look into human characteristics without language would be impossible.

(YouTube, Unknown) Language is what distinguishes human from animals, the ability to understand the concept through language, which would not be possible through just observation. The development of language continues through time. Words used in an offensive manner now, were often used many years ago in day to day language. In Gloria Bertonis’, Stone Age Diva, she talks about the word ‘cunt’ and how its original meanings of woman, queen, and female genitalia, should evoke pride in females and that the word should not offend.

It encourages females to reclaim words that have been used as weapons against them and recapture them for their positive qualities. (Bertonis, Date unknown) Such a word would once have just been used to describe a part of the body, like head or knee, but the context in which it is now used has turned it into a derogatory term. Semiotics is the study of the meaning of linguistic expressions. Clear examples of this are apparent every day. The letter ‘M’ presented in such a way is no longer just the letter but also an expression for McDonalds. The same applies to the letter ‘f’, which is now universally seen as a symbol for Facebook.

Therefore, applying philosophy to language gives the language itself a whole new meaning. It is not just the letter and words that need to be taken into account, but also the context in which it is received. “A paradox is a statement that contradicts itself or a situation which seems to defy logic. ” (Unknown, 2012) The liar paradox is a clear example of this. If one were to say they are lying, and were truly doing so, then they are actually telling the truth. (See appendix 3, Unknown, 2012) There are four primary paradoxes (see appendix 4). This essay will discuss knowability paradox.

This is the recognition that some truths are not currently known but that they are all knowable. This means that we as a world do not know everything, so truths that may be proven in the future, could make what we consider as known truths today untrue. (Salerno, 2009) An example of this could be developments in medical science. With the constant developments in medicine, something we thought we knew as true 50 years ago, may now prove to be untrue because of new medical knowledge. In conclusion, it is clear that all individuals use philosophy in day to day life, whether they are aware of it or not.

Philosophy aids us in learning more about ourselves and the world, which is what humans naturally strive for. It helps us be reasonable, which is a characteristic which helps one fit in to society and live among others who may be different. It also helps us be moral and ethical, as discussed previously in this essay. Without morals and ethics we would have no guidance as to what is right and wrong. Therefore, the world would not be as it is today without philosophy, and may be a much harder world to live in without it. ‘Episode 5’ (2013) Call the Midwife, Series 2, episode 5. BBC One Television, 17 February

BBC. (2013). Ethics Guide. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from BBC: http://www. bbc. co. uk/ethics/abortion/philosophical/introduction. shtml Bertonis, G. (Date unknown). Say It! The Origins of Cunt. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from vdaysunyoswego: http://vdaysunyoswego. worldbreak. com/custom2. html Harrison-Barbet, A. (2001). Philosophy. New York: Palgrave. Kindersley, D. (2011). The Philosophy Book. London: Dorling Kindersley. Lacewing, M. (2010). Philosophy for A2. Oxon: Routledge. Pappas, J. (2005, September 24). Our Greco-Roman Heritage. Retrieved March 2, 2013, from Liberty and Culture: http://libertyandculture.

blogspot. co. uk/2005/09/our-greco-roman-heritage. html Powell, J. (2000). Eastern Philosophy For Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers Publishing, Inc. Salerno, B. B. (2009). Fitch’s Paradox of Knowability. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/fitch-paradox/ Unknown. (2012). Famous Paradoxes. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from BrainDen. com: http://brainden. com/paradoxes. htm YouTube. (Unknown). John Searle on the Philosophy of Language: Section 1. Retrieved March 3, 2013, from YouTube: http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=jOlJZabio3g.


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