Definition of Philosophy


The definition of philosophy — judging, at least, from very nearly every philosophical dictionary on the planet — has confounded philosophers for centuries, the concept being “too large,” it is sometimes said, to properly capture in concise fashion. Yet at the same time, in all branches of philosophy, minutia is cataloged to complete weariness.

This fake problem is nothing more than skepticism and its little bitch postmodernism running amok again. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, for instance, a thoroughly postmodern compilation, says this:

“Some readers might be surprised to find that there is no entry simply on philosophy itself. This is partly because no short definition will do.”

That statement — and all others like it — is flatly false.

Philosophy is the science of rudiments and foundations: it is the study of fundamentals.

A philosophy is an organized system of ideas and arguments.

Etymologically, the word, as you know, comes from the Greek term philia (meaning love) or philos (meaning friend or lover); and sophia (meaning wisdom).

A fellow by the name of Diogenes Laertius claims that the term “philosopher” was coined by Pythagoras, in place of the word “sophist,” which meant “wise man.” But Diogenes Laertius was squirrelly, and his Pythagorean claim is dubious.

Oxford — evidently not as equivocal as Cambridge — defines philosophy thus:

“The investigation of the most general and abstract features of the world and the categories with which we think, in order to lay bare their foundations and presuppositions.”

Not bad, not bad. Better still, however, is Penguin’s philosophy dictionary, which says that philosophy “studies the most fundamental and general concepts and principles involved in thought, action, and reality.”

And yet the best of them all comes not from a philosophical dictionary, exactly, but from a man named Désiré-Félicien-François-Joseph Mercier — a.k.a. Cardinal Mercier — the late nineteenth-century thinker, who spoke well when he spoke thus:

“[Philosophy] does not profess to be a particularized science [but] ranks above them, dealing in an ultimate fashion with their respective objects, inquiring into their connexions and relations of these connexions.”

Philosophy, Mercier continues, “deserves above all to be called the most general science” (A Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy).

Lexically, here’s all one really needs to know:

Philosophy comes first, and last. Philosophy is the alpha and the omega. It is the most fundamental science because it studies the foundations of all subsequent knowledge, and that is why all the other sciences depend upon it: because knowledge forms a hierarchy.

For humans, to live is to think.

Philosophy provides an ultimate context — a gauge — for human knowledge. It systematizes the proper methods by which we are able to know.

And that is the definition of philosophy.


  • Denny

    April 25, 2010

    Hi Ray,

    Philosophy-what we perceive from within and relating it to what is or could be….simple but unique!

    What do you think,Ray? Simple enough???

    I finished reading your book the other week! Been involved on the continuing saga in my immediate life as whether the House will sell at the Sheriff’s auction on the 15th of this month. It didn’t.

    You did a “phenomenal” job on your latest book! You didn’t let me down, My Friend!!! Especially when it started on page 126 on onwards. You really get “Philosophical” from there on…Very interesting and “deep”. It all made sense for me…I could even relate it with the “Spiritual” connection it has. For a “young Man” you definitely saw Life in it’s complexities early, didn’t you?? I have been “Spiritual” since a very early age but couldn’t put it all together until I got out into the World. Now as you have seen, the “Holy Spirit” comes in with a flood of energy that IT only knows what words I should convey…This happened to me last week as I was emailing a response to my “cousin’s Sermon she showed me…It happened thru these words and unexpectedly…

    In Essence Of Me, I’m Called Many Things
    For Will The Light Take Me Where I Need To Go?
    Will I Loose Sight Of Life From Within?
    My Most Gracious Answer Is “NO”!
    For I Am Who I Am
    Nothing Has Precided Me, Nothing Will Come After Me!
    For The Lamb Has Spoken, And Though Him, I’m One With You
    Can I Seek More? Will There Be More? Surely You Just!
    Truely In The Most High, I Speak To You With Heart And Pureness!
    It’s As Simple As The Sun Before Your Eyes, And The Stars At Night!
    For What I’ve Taken In Blood, I’ve Given You More Thru My Eyes
    In Need Shall It Be…For I Console Thee, Comfort Thee, For Yes
    I Am The Lamb! The Meek And Humble Shall Inherit This Earth.
    And In Gratitude, I, The Beginning, The End, Give You Eternal Life


    This all happened within less than 5 minutes and typing as fast as I could…If you showed me these words 10 minutes later and I hadn’t written or typed them down, I wouldn’t have remembered them for they are “not” from me…I’m sure their are people who don’t believe me…For that is OK but what I speak is for you, Ray. Your understanding “confirms” all that I thought “is” in this World. I appreciate it very much.
    I see you on the Mentalphysical and me on the Megaspiritual sides of this Earth.

    Great Job on the book!
    Best Of ALL Regards,

  • Ray

    April 25, 2010

    It’s good to see you, Denny. Thank you so much for your kind words about my book.

    Thank you for reading, and thank you for dropping by.

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