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Philosophy -

There are many definitions of "philosophy" but - if we want to agree on anything at all - to say that "there are as many definitions of the term "philosophy" as there are people pretending to be philosophers" is not helpful.

Here follows a definition from an excellent English dictionary that I find generally useful because it seems to draw the right distinctions in clear natural language:


the Shorter

Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells us is

1.      (In the original and widest sense.) The love, study, or pursuit of wisdom, or of knowledge of things and their causes, whether theoretical or practical.

2.      That more advanced study, to which, in the mediaeval universities, the seven liberal arts were introductory; it included the three branches of natural, moral, and metaphysical philosophy, commonly called the three philosophies.

3.      (= natural p.) The knowledge or study of natural objects and phenomena; now usu. called 'science'.

4.      (= moral p.) The knowledge or study of the principles of human action or conduct; ethics.

5.      (= metaphysical p.) That department of knowledge or study that deals with ultimate reality, or with the most general causes and principles of things. (Now the most usual sense.)

6.      Occas. used esp. of knowledge obtained by natural reason, in contrast with revealed knowledge.

7.      With of: The study of the general principles of some particular branch of knowledge, experience or activity; also, less properly, of any subject or phenomenon.

8.      A philosophical system or theory.

9.      a. The system which a person forms for the conduct of life. b. The mental attitude or habit of a philosopher; serenity, resignation; calmness of temper.

This is as clear a definition as any, and I shall presume it for my subject.
Later I will add other definitions of philosophy that have some interest.

last update:
March 12, 2013