What is Philosophy?

We all think of the world and our place in it in a unique way. To do so, however, we rely on general ideas shared by all such as the self, knowledge, truth, reality, time, nature, the supernatural, the division between mind and body, language, freedom, happiness, the good, responsibility, love, etc. Most of the time, these ideas appear obvious to us.

Rarely do we get the time or opportunity to reflect on these ideas. Philosophy provides us with just this opportunity.

Academic philosophy is divided in different branches. Some of them take us far from the sphere of ordinary experience. This is the case of metaphysics, which questions our conception of ‘reality’, or epistemology, which explores the nature of knowledge. Others focus on issues we struggle with on a daily basis, such as ethics, the branch of philosophy which explores the conditions of happiness, the nature of values, and our conceptions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

Critical thinking and the study of logic traditionally play an important role in philosophy because they teach us how to reason well. The history of the discipline also plays a central role in a training in philosophy, because it is often by examining the insights (and insightful mistakes) of past thinkers that we are inspired to come up with our own insights in the exploration and assessment of ideas.

Curious to learn more?

Try one of our introductory philosophy courses without prerequisites, including:

Click here for a full list of courses in the Department of Philosophy