The field of philosophy involves the critical and systematic study of essential issues and questions concerning daily life and concerning other areas and disciplines. The type of questions this subject gives rise to can relate to reality and its very nature. For instance, does an outside world exist? What relationship exists between the mental and physical? Is God real and does he really exist? Other questions relate to human nature and the existence of people as purposeful, social, and rational beings. Do people behave freely? From what sources do a person’s moral responsibilities come? How are fair political systems and states constructed? Then there are other questions that concern the extent and nature of human knowledge. What is the difference between knowing something instead of simply believing it? Does all human knowledge derive from experiences of a sensory nature? Is human knowledge limited? Moreover, there are even more philosophy-type questions that concern the implications and foundations of other academic disciplines. What are explanations of the scientific variety? How does science contribute to what we know about the world? Do various theories – the theory of evolution or quantum mechanics for example – cause us to adjust our fundamental understanding of reality and our approach to the same? What is it that makes some particular object or other an artwork? How objective are aesthetic value judgments? And so the list goes on.
The primary objective in the field of philosophy is not so much to master a collection of hard facts as to be able to think our way coherently and clearly through any given collection of facts. To this end, students of philosophy are taught to read in a critical manner, and to assess and analyze arguments, uncover hidden meanings, build logical watertight arguments, and to express their thoughts accurately and clearly in both written and spoken form.
The classic Greek philosopher, Plato, laid the foundation for the majority of Western philosophy. He was a gifted mathematician, a brilliant writer and the founder of the Academy in Athens which was the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Plato’s works are the first complete works preserved and available for study today,...