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This is a question about philosophy. Reading the beginnings of Wikipedia's

This is a question about philosophy. Reading the beginnings of Wikipedia's timelines of Eastern and Western philosophers, we find Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Guang Zhong, Confucius, Sun Tzu and a few more as the first philosophers. By the time these guys lived, there were other written non-fiction (or allegedly non-fiction) works. What is the difference between philosophy and the other non-fiction stuff (especially in those times)?

Any responsible answer to this question has to be highly qualified and surrounded by admissions of ignorance. I’ll try not to get bogged down by describing what we don’t know, but you should realize how inconclusive any answer to your excellent question has to be.

I don’t know enough about non-Western philosophers to tackle that part of the question. Let me say a few words about Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, and the rest. Not too long ago the standard claim about them was that they turned thinking decisively away from mythical thinking. Where myths described a world before the world we occupy, an earlier time in which different causes made things happen, these philosophers confined themselves to the world we know and the natural processes at work in this world. So, if they were to describe the origin of the universe, that origin would have to follow causal laws akin to the laws in effect today.

This is our own scientific understanding of the universe today, incidentally. Whatever brought the world into existence must be comprehensible in terms of the processes that bring about changes today.

A few generations after the beginnings of Western philosophy, Melissus of Samos articulated a principle that can be read as an overt statement of that belief. What is now was always the case. Aristotle’s student Palaephatus repeatedly quotes that line from Melissus, and Palaephatus treats the saying (whatever Melissus in fact may have meant by it) as a manifesto about proper explanations. Whatever we assert to have happened then must be of the same order of things as what happens now.

You can see one weakness of this approach to the first philosophers. Palaephatus is writing after Aristotle. The entire tradition of pre-Socratic philosophy already precedes him. He understands philosophy as a break with mythic explanations; I would also argue (and I think most people would agree) that Aristotle understands philosophy in the same way. Aristotle praises Pherecydes for combining general principles of explanation together with his mythological explanations, as if to say that Pherecydes marks a philosophical advance over earlier writers on those grounds.

Where Plato stands on this question is more complex, in my opinion, and I won’t try to address the topic. I will content myself with saying that by the time of Aristotle and then Palaephatus, philosophers were thinking of philosophy as decidedly different from the mythic writing that preceded it.

It doesn’t follow however that the people we’re talking about – Thales and the rest – would have articulated or did articulate their own writings in those same terms. Why would Thales have spoken of magnets having souls, if he took himself to be breaking with mythical frames of reference? Why would Anaximander, whom some consider the first philosopher, have said that things come into existence and then pay the penalty for their injustice in existing, with what sounds to us like a personified story of existence and non-existence, if he were denying the value of mythical modes of explanation?

And yet something is right about this old explanation. Something does change when Thales predicts a solar eclipse on May 28, 585 BC (2,598 years ago yesterday). For now the sun’s eclipse is being treated as a phenomenon to study and to form generalizations about, not a spontaneous intrusion of divine action into the world.

Something also changes when Anaximander, not too long after Thales, proposes that human beings evolved from earlier animals, rather than having been made by gods. Anaximander seeks to explain the origins of the human in processes that would still be at work in the nature of his time.

So, although the simplistic earlier stories about humans making progress out of myth/religion into philosophy/science are one-sided, too easy, and too insensitive to complicating details, there is still an element of truth in those stories that is worth recognizing. This is the beginning of an account of the first philosophical writings.

I have 17 years I am really into philosophy . I would give everything to go and

I have 17 years I am really into philosophy . I would give everything to go and study it . But there is one problem. My parents doesn't know where can philosophy take me(job , career ) . I never thought about it so if you could help me PLS

Dear Friend - I have a couple of ideas about careers, but we can get to that in a minute. Since you are already a fan of philosophy, I won't bother telling you its virtues. But you might want to try telling your parents what you love about it and show your passion for it so that they have a sense that your interest is sincere and lasting.

Some ideas about careers: First of all, studies show that (at least in the US) a young person starting out today will have an average of 6 different careers in her lifetime. That is not 6 different jobs -- I mean 6 entirely different careers (first a soldier, then student, then nurse, then nursing administrator, then medical get the idea). So a degree today should be flexible in that it will help you in the many different paths you will follow. A degree in today's accounting practices, for example, won't help you if accounting practices change tomorrow. So a philosophy degree is a good fit for someone starting out because philosophers know how to think through complex problems, evaluate different solutions, and then clearly communicate the best way forward. I have seen philosophy students succeed in medical school, in business, in law, in many different kinds of fields. Contrary to popular belief, philosophy majors find all kinds of jobs. There is even a list of famous business tycoons here who majored in philosophy:

All that being said, I am sure your parents will still want to know what kind of job you will get when you are done with your studies. As a college professor, I can tell you exactly who gets the jobs: those who work persistently at getting them. Plan on doing three internships if possible, even if unpaid and not exactly 'philosophical.' Make sure you have good computer and interpersonal skills. Always be on time, reliable, and engaged. Go beyond what is expected of you. Excel at an internship by making yourself an indispensable part of the organization, and the organization will have no choice but to offer you paid work.

While it may weaken what I said about studying philosophy, I find that your particular course of study -- in the end -- will be less important than having analytic, writing, and technical skills, and a solid work ethic. Good luck!

After studying philosophy, I am now so skeptical of everything that I no longer

After studying philosophy, I am now so skeptical of everything that I no longer know what I should believe in. I have no idea whom I should vote for in election or whether I should be voting at all, what religion I ought to believe in if any at all, why I should bother getting married, or even why I should bother getting out of bed in the mornings. Have you found that philosophy leads to more skepticism and knowing nothing rather than clarification?

This is a terrific question/problem, and Stephen's response is a very good one. I merely want to point out that it's possible to have another kind of response to the situation you're confronting. I would characterize the situation as one where you realize that everything is ultimately connected to everything else, every belief has infinite implications that require exploring before they are rationally affirmed, to every position there is an objection, to every objection there is a response, and the whole process never ends ... Now if you believe that in order to know anything, or act in some rational way, the process of inquiry that produces that knowledge or action must be "completed", then you'll be in the bind you describe. But maybe THAT is the belief to be given up (and maybe the bind you describe is itself a key argument for giving up that belief). Instead recognize that deliberation and explanation must always come to a temporary end at some point -- and that you should always believe/act with the best set of principles that are available to you, with the information that is available to you, at the time of believing/acting, w/o pretense that the process is complete. Then, rather than feel frustrated, you might even feel exhilarated by realizing that the process of inquiry never ends: the world is infinitely richer, deeper, more interesting than we can possibly realize. (By way of rough analogy: if you find "life" interesting, beautiful, exhilirating, then when you discover that the number of possible life forms may be infinite, is that a source of frustration or exhilaration? Frustration if you believe that unless the process of cataloging life forms is complete then something is missing; exhilarating if you celebrate the infinite set of possibilities.)

Or from another direction. Suppose you realize that you have no better reason (ultimately) to get out of the bed in the morning than to stay in bed. If so, then that infinite process of deliberation is neutral with respect to whether you get out of bed. So don't bother undertaking it, at least not every morning. Instead do your ordinary, limited deliberation: "well sleeping is lovely, but so is keeping my job. So I better get out of bed." That is pretty darn good reasoning, if you ask me, even if it isn't "ultimate" or "completed" reasoning -- but it's also the only kind of reasoning that matters on a day-to-day basis. (And when you realize how awesome is the infinite set of deliberations that you could ultimately undertake, you might find it quite exhilarating to get out of bed -- because after you get off work today you can get home and do a little philosophy ....)



Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to

Why is such a high value placed in reading the "Classics"? It's one thing to honor the past and honor the fact that, but for those who came before, we wouldn't be where we are today, and another thing entirely to pretend that those "classic" thinkers and thoughts of the past are worthy of the scrutiny of self-respecting truth-seekers today. If I'm being honest, the Pre-Socratic writings are simply idiotic by today's standards, claiming matter is all "water", or "fire", or some other random element. Leibniz, Spinoza, and those guys aren't any better. None of them had even the most rudimentary concept of physics. JS Mill and Kant read like some High Schooler, discoursing at length about Happiness and motivation without even a whiff of suspicion about the basic facts of psychology, treating those terms as if they were transparently obvious, monolithic concepts. Even an idea like the more recently vaunted Veil of Ignorance seems ludicrously vulnerable to someone of even mediocre intelligence, like me. It...

I can't resist piping up to defend Rawls's Veil of Ignorance. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls anticipates and rebuts the questioner's objection. The deliberators behind the Veil of Ignorance are choosing the most general principles of justice that will govern their society, and hence they have no basis for the specific prediction that a given principle will make "90% of people happy and 10% utterly miserable": as Rawls says, behind the Veil of Ignorance such numerical estimates "are at best extremely insecure" (p. 154). Given that insecurity, Rawls argues that it would be irrational for you to risk being among the utterly miserable, particularly if your gain in happiness (compared to what you'd experience in a less unequal society) is small compared to what you'd lose if you end up among the utterly miserable. His argument may not be conclusive, but I don't think it's as easily dismissed as the questioner suggests.

Is it possible that all branches of philosophy will one day be obsolete and

Is it possible that all branches of philosophy will one day be obsolete and replaced by activities yielding precise answers, similar to the way that the scientific method replaced natural philosophy? May Leibniz's vision of the calculating machine and the end of all disputes yet be realised? If so, I think this might be the ultimate goal of philosophy: to destroy itself, by superseding speculation with experimentation and calculation.

You seem to suggest that all questions, or maybe all questions worth trying to answer, might be answerable (at least in principle) by experimentation and calculation alone. But I can't see how they could be. Let Q1 be any question. Now consider the normative question, Q2, "Is Q1 worth trying to answer?" I can't see how Q2 could possibly be answered by experimentation and calculation alone. So there will always be questions of that normative kind left over. You might reply that those leftover questions aren't worth trying to answer, but that reply would itself be a normative claim that we couldn't assess using experimentation and calculation alone.

It may also be that Gödel's incompleteness theorems imply that the answers to at least some questions will never yield to experimentation and calculation.

How important is the study of logic in philosophy, independent of any one

How important is the study of logic in philosophy, independent of any one particular philosopher or school of philosophy? Is 'logic' considered a 'neutral' subject about which 'everyone' agrees? or are there some contentious issues about what 'kind' of 'logic' applies in different kinds of situations?

I'd answer your three questions as follows. (1) Very important. (2) No: There are lively disagreements in logic concerning particular issues, and there may be few if any issues in logic on which everyone agrees. (3) Some philosophers say that different situations call for different kinds of logic. For what it's worth, I disagree: I'm not persuaded that there are any situations to which standard (or "classical") logic doesn't apply.

Many philosophers say that philosophy is neither an art nor a science yet

Many philosophers say that philosophy is neither an art nor a science yet philosophy departments are usually in Arts Faculties at universities. How do you feel about this and do you think philosophy should be its own faculty? Are there any contemporary neo-logical positivists who think it should be classified as a science?

Many philosophers would love to have their own "faculty" or "school" or "college" within a university administrative structure, if only because then the "chair" of their department would become a "dean" who has more power over the purse strings than a mere "chair" :-)

More seriously, the location of a philosophy department in a college or university is typically more of a political than a (if you will excuse the expression) philosophical decision. At my university (State University of New York at Buffalo), philosophy used to be in a Faculty of Social Sciences (so, depending on whether you think that social sciences are sciences or not, there's an example that appears to classify philosophy as a science), but, as I understand it, that was for political reasons: the then-new Faculty of Social Sciences was perceived to have more political or financial clout than the Faculty of Arts and Letters. It is now in a College of Arts and Sciences, so it's unclear how our administrators think of it.

On the more philosophical side, certainly there are philosophers who feel more at home with literary scholars and there are philosophers who feel more at home with scientists. I know of no universities that prevent philosophers from doing research or scholarly work (must less associating) with people in other disciplines. Again at my university, many philosophers are doing research (on ontology!) with medical researchers in our medical school.

Can you give me a clear example of a problem that philosphers are generally

Can you give me a clear example of a problem that philosphers are generally acknowledged to have solved? Thanks.

I'm not sure whether this is "generally acknowledged" (or whether it counts as "solving a problem") but I think the following might be an example: In explaining human action, many people are quite tempted by what has come to be called 'psychological egoism': the view that each person has but one ultimate aim in acting, namely her own welfare (or self-interest). On this view, there is no such thing as genuinely altruistic action--action aiming ultimately at another's welfare--but only ever action that, at best, appears altruistic but is really ultimately self-interested. But in his Fifteen Sermons (1st ed., 1726), Joseph Butler (a philosopher and Anglican bishop) showed fairly decisively that this sort of view cannot be right.

For more, see Part 1 of the the Stanford Encyclopedia article "Egoism":

Can anyone become a philosopher at any age? If not, what are the IQ and age

Can anyone become a philosopher at any age? If not, what are the IQ and age requirements?

Anyone and everyone can become a philosopher by asking questions about knowledge, existence and ethics. Being a philosopher is like being a writer--democratic in that the opportunity and the identity are available to all, but tough in that making a living at doing it is a privilege that most societies only support for a few people.

How reliable are philosophical works written in Germany during the Nazi period

How reliable are philosophical works written in Germany during the Nazi period in terms of genuine thought and feeling? Heidegger never admitted to hating the Jews as part of his Dasein, but is his later refusal to repudiate his Nazi membership indicative of the former?

We should not confuse a good philosopher with a good person. If we study someone's thought we have the right to expect them to have something interesting to say, but not to be nice.

Plumbing is part of Dasein but we should not look to Heidegger for advice on how to unblock a toilet. Similarly, his views on politics and Jews were no doubt reprehensible, but that is not what we go to him for.