Especially when you hear something about philosophy or philosophizing for the first time in school or privately, you ask yourself what it actually is and what makes a philosopher or what someone who philosophizes does at all.
On this page I would like to bring some light into the darkness and try to explain as far as possible all questions simply.
Table of Contents
- What is the meaning of philosophy?
- Can everyone philosophize?
- But where to start philosophizing?
- What does a philosopher do for a living?
- Is it worth it to study philosophy?
- Philosophizing with children
What is the meaning of philosophy?
The word philosophy comes from antiquity and translated means “love of wisdom”.
It is pronounced “Fi-lo-so-fi”.
Through it, one tries to better understand and interpret everything – life, man, our existence and many other aspects.
One of the most famous questions that philosophers like to ask (jokingly) is “What is the meaning of life?”.
Secretly, of course, this question contains so much more, because other questions arise at the same time, such as.
“What are we living for?”,
“What is the meaning of our existence?”,
“What is our task as a human being?”.
Likewise, this then raises questions about a divine authority and whether it exists at all.
In doing so, a philosopher can proceed quite differently when considering such questions. However, the core elements of philosophy are logic, ethics and metaphysics.
Especially the latter sounds quickly daunting, but it is the branch that deals with being and reality. It deals, so to speak, with the ultimate questions that can be asked, such as “Is there even an immortal soul?”, “Does man have free will?”.
Also questions about an otherworldly world arise here and what we can know about it at all.
The philosophy has still further subranges and differs also in its kind e.g. between the occidental and Asian philosophy.
In Europe, there is an increased focus on Western philosophy, i.e. philosophy that originated in Greece, which may be due to the fact that this was more of a focus of education here.
However, philosophy as such is difficult and not universally defined, even if one knows that it is about the love of wisdom.
By the constant questioning, the methods, the knowledge production or principles, philosophy affects constantly other sciences and helps so with a further hypothesis formation.
Except for medicine, law and theology, all sciences originate from philosophy, which is why it is often called the “mother of sciences”.
But there is no uniform method that philosophy follows, as in other sciences, which is why one or the other asks the question whether it is a science at all.
In general, however, it can be said that philosophy deals with the existential questions of man and being. Only that there can be no ready and above all correct answers to these questions.
Can everyone philosophize?
You don’t have to have studied philosophy, read many philosophy books (although reading books can be very helpful), or studied the great philosophers to philosophize.
Everybody can philosophize.
It is not about specific techniques or methods, but more about the attitude one takes towards the world.
Children, for example, are natural talents in pestering their parents or their environment with questions on all kinds of topics. The older they get, the more this questioning is often lost and in adulthood it is hardly present anymore.
Sometimes one’s own life is then questioned as an adult, when one is at the mercy of strokes of fate.
The questioning attitude towards the world is therefore crucial and can also be cultivated as an adult, even without strokes of fate.
So it’s about the attitude to the world and that one questions apparent certainties. One could also speak of a wonder about the world.
Just as the Greeks in antiquity were no longer satisfied with their myths about gods and the natural phenomena they justified as explanations, they began to fundamentally question this mythology and looked for logical (rational) explanations.
Especially the philosopher Socrates is often quoted with his open statement “I know that I do not know”. He always drew many different experts of different fields into his conversations and involved them in discussions, not only shaking their supposedly certain knowledge, but at the same time searching for answers with them.
So you see, everybody can philosophize, if he or she takes the necessary attitude towards the world.
But where to start philosophizing?
This can be done in very different ways. On the one hand, you can turn to the questions I gave as examples in section 1 and try to fathom them.
Or perhaps this approach will also help:
One takes one’s own conviction for which one stands. You now consciously question this conviction; you take a counter-view, so to speak.
Is my conviction correct at all? Why is it so? What do others say about it?
Taking a critical stance on one’s own convictions is very helpful, because it reveals different perspectives. What speaks against this conviction or what can one object to as an argument?
Likewise, research on this topic and its counter-position can help, so that one can include further thoughts.
Asking others for their opinion on this view can also be very helpful, because dialogue quickly raises further questions or views that have not been considered before.
The most important point, however, is that you have to be willing to throw your previous beliefs and opinions completely out the window if they do not stand up to the arguments of others. It is elementary to be open to other opinions and thoughts.
What does a philosopher do for a living?
That can be quite different.
On the one hand, we have lecturers who are needed, both at universities and in adult education as a whole.
At the same time, there is a need for teachers in schools, which is why there are some who study this subject for a teaching degree.
Likewise, journalists can be found in many other disciplines, such as journalism, publishing houses, the cultural sector, various social associations and organizations, but also in the field of marketing and advertising.
Some have also become book authors and this does not even have to be in the field of philosophy.
It always depends on which subjects were studied in addition, which further education one had or which additional inclinations one brings along professionally.
Of course, you can also try your hand at blogging, but professionally, it doesn’t pay so much that you can live off it.
Diogenes would be the right keyword here.
Is it worth it to study philosophy?
An acquaintance of mine is an artist and was once asked after an exhibition of her works: “And, was it (the exhibition) worthwhile?”
She had to smile, because it always depends on what goal you are pursuing and what you mean by “worthwhile”. Two three pictures were sold, which was perhaps less worthwhile financially.
At the same time, she has seen many great people, had conversations and made contacts. This has certainly resulted in something sustainable for the future, which, however, is not yet apparent.
With such things, the question always arises as to what the actual goal is.
Is the study of philosophy worthwhile for someone who is interested in philosophy and wants to go deeper into this matter? In any case!
Und wie sieht es mit jemandem aus, der später finanziell ein gutes Einkommen haben will? – Kommt drauf an.
Zwar schwärmen einem viele Internetseiten über das Gehalt von Philosophen immer etwas vor, dass sie nach 10 Jahren bei locker über 50.000 Euro liegen würden, wenn nicht sogar noch viel höher, aber ganz im Ernst: Das ist teilweise nur beschönigtes Wunschdenken.
Die Tatsache ist, wenn man nur Philosophie studiert (damit meine ich nicht auf Lehramt) und keinen Fuß in der Tür irgendeiner Firma hat, durch diverse Praktika, wird man es schwer haben und das nicht zu knapp, das kann ich aus eigener Erfahrung sagen.
Ist jedoch die Liebe zur Weisheit so tief in euch, dass das Finanzielle zweitrangig ist, dann kann ich nur sagen: Es lohnt sich, mag es noch so steinig sein.
Ganz am Ende müsst ihr euch selbst entscheiden, dass kann euch niemand abnehmen. Jedoch müsst ihr euch im Klaren sein, ob ihr auch mit eurer Entscheidung leben könnt.
Philosophizing at school
For some time now there have been philosophy classes at school (in Germany). In the past, this subject was known as “Values and Norms” or “Practical Philosophy” – this seems to have (been) different depending on the federal state.
Today, however, this is usually called ethics instruction and differs once again from philosophy instruction at the Gymnasium or the Oberstufe (seems to be the case in Saarland).
Moreover, nowadays philosophy can even be chosen as a basic or advanced course at the gymnasiale Oberstufe.
In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, by the way, philosophy is even taught continuously from the first grade on, here it is called “philosophizing with children” and is also a substitute for religious education here.
Ethics instruction in general is less about learning facts as such, but rather about perceiving a problem and developing an understanding for it. It is equally important to formulate one’s own question and to find answers to it through the power of one’s own thinking.
This sometimes happens in discussions with classmates.
The biggest differences between the subjects of philosophy and ethics education are that philosophy education is more analytical and reflective, while ethics education is more social and affective (sudden).
A particular problem that arises in ethics or philosophy classes is that in many schools they are only partially taught or not at all, due to the lack of teachers.
In this case, it often happens that teachers from outside the subject area design these lessons and give the lessons and thus philosophy the flavor of a substitute subject; which, in the final analysis, could actually be taught by anyone.
“Philosophy is a fundamental human right. I don’t understand why it’s not granted in school. I feel sorry for you!”Raphaël Enthoven
With this, the French philosopher is not entirely wrong. Germany is a country of enlightenment and thus philosophy should not only be taught at all schools, but also seriously pursued. The fact that philosophy is now often taught here rather as a marginal subject because there is such a great shortage of teachers is very worrying.
Especially for students who want to go deeper into the topics of philosophy, I have created extra sections both here and in the forum and hope that they can be filled piece by piece with content.
Philosophizing with children
As already mentioned, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (a state in Germany) follows its very own model starting in the first grade for students.
Especially in the first years of school, children can be taught well what constitutes certain philosophical methods and how to approach a problem.
Through the different methods, students and teachers become a kind of investigative community.
The focus of the lesson is to encourage students to think. At the same time, however, the focus should also be on the horizon of experience and understanding, with regard to past and current philosophical approaches.
In particular, Kant’s four questions, which he posed in 1765 in his lectures on logic, are in the foreground:
- What can I know? (Epistemology)
- What should I do? (Ethics)
- What may I hope? (Philosophy of Religion)
- What is man? (Anthropology)
I have also created an extra area for children (or their parents), which is intended to deal even more with philosophizing with children. At the same time, there is of course also the possibility for parents to register in the forum and ask questions or join in the discussion.
If you feel that you want to philosophize with me about one or another topic, you are welcome to contact me without obligation.
Otherwise, feel free to look around on my blog or the podcast. Maybe you will find one or the other thing that you think is worth to be rethought.