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DATE; 30-10-2016
Introduction: Every academic discipline ultimately exists for a purpose
the provision of solutions to certain problems affecting human beings.
Philosophy is also like every other academic discipline in this regard. It
studied and practiced with the belief that it matters for meeting certain
human needs. The most important thing is to know what philosophy is,
by examining philosophical problems in the various problems
addressed in philosophy.
The key to understanding philosophy is having an insight into the
activities the practitioners of the discipline have undertaken since its
inception and this was Oladipo (2008:11) suggest when he holds that is
possible to provide a fairly acceptable characterization of philosophy by
considering “the preoccupation of philosophers-professionals and nonprofessional alike_ down the ages and cross culture.”. This approach to
the study of philosophy enables one to understand the goals that the
progenitors of the discipline set for it and how the practitioner of this is
important enterprise have practiced the trade since its inception. This
approach also enables one to see how the discipline has evolved over
The Milesian philosophers- Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes–
had as their main preoccupation speculating about the basic
constituent of nature and explaining change in nature. The Milesian
philosopher departed radically from the kind of explanations that
prevailed in their society at the same time and gave rational once by
adducing reasons in support of their positions. The answers that these
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three philosophers gave in their attempts to account for change and in
their aspiration to name the fundamental entity making up things
differ. For Thales, it is water; for Anaximander, it is Ape iron (infinite or
boundless); for Anaximeners, it is air (See stump f 2003:5-11;
Onigbinde 2009:243-249).
Some things can also be deduced about the nature of philosophy
from the way the Milesian philosophers practiced the discipline. The
first thing is that philosophy beings from “wonder”. For the Milesian
philosophers, the postulation of basic constituent of reality started out
of wonder of whether or not through the various changes in the society
in which these philosophers lived there was something unchanging,
which may be identified as the basic stuff of reality.
The second thing that may be deduced from the way the Milesian
philosophers engaged in the philosophy is that philosophy tries to
resolve puzzles in order to aid our understanding of phenomena so as
enable humans deal better with the phenomena in question.
It may also be inferred from the way Milesian philosophers
practiced philosophy that philosophy is a discipline in which reasons are
adduced for any position held. In it, rational explanations are given for
those ideas that are basic to our existence. When we submit to the
authority of reason we are reminded that:
The ideas and ideals-core aspects of world-views-we live by are
best regarded as tentative guides, which can be re-examined from time
to time in the light of new knowledge or information and our
understanding of our socio-cultural condition and its existential
demands at any given time ( oladipo 2008:16).
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The branches of philosophy may be divided into two broad categories
the cardinal branches of philosophy and philosophy as a second order
discipline. The cardinal branches are:-metaphysics, epistemology, ethics
and logic, while the second order disciplines include philosophy of
sciences, philosophy of education, and philosophy of law, philosophy of
social sciences, philosophy of education, and philosophy of law, history,
among others. Firstly discussing about:
METAPHYSICS: Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with
the study of reality and most basic issues regarding existence. Issues
and problems in metaphysics are addressed in two sub-branches
cosmology and ontology. Cosmology deals with the study of the origin
and structure of the universe, while ontology deals with being or the
nature of existence.
There are also a few perennial problems addressed in this
traditional branch of philosophy and they include the problem of mindbody problem, substance and accident, appearance and reality,
existence of God etc.
EPISTEMOLOGY: Is a branch of philosophy that subjects to rigorous
analysis issues and problems relating to the origin, nature, justification
and limit of human knowledge. According to Michael Williams in his
book, problems of knowledge: A Critical Introduction to Epistemology
(2001), identifies five problem tackled in epistemology as a cardinal
branch of philosophy. The first is analytic problem. The second is the
problem of demarcation. The third relate to the problem of method.
The fourth problem tackled is the skepticism that addresses itself to
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weather it is possible to obtain knowledge at all. Finally the last
problem of value which considers weather knowledge is worth having,
why and what for?
Ethics: Humans are social beings and most of their action or inaction
has implication for other creatures that they share the biosphere with.
Ethics, also referred to as moral philosophy, is the branch of philosophy
that deals with moral rules that ought to guide social relations among
humans as well as regulate how human beings ought to relate with
other living and non-living entities around them. It is concerned with
the evaluation of human actions in order to determine whether these
actions are right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust. It helps furnish
humans with “direction on what is the appropriate way to conduct
ourselves in the pursuit of what is good over evil, what is right over
what is wrong, and what is just over what is unjust, among others”.
Logic: Philosophy involves the construction of good argument, that is,
arguments that are devoid of errors in reasoning. Philosophy also deals
with evaluation of people’s arguments in order to subject to thorough
scrutiny the premise(s) on which they rest. As a branch of philosophy,
logic deals with the inculcation of skills that are crucial for the
construction of good arguments and for evaluation of arguments made
by others.
Apart from the primary concerns philosophy studied in the four
cardinal branches discussed above, there are other branches which may
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be categorized under the second order disciplines of philosophy. A
second order discipline in that a first order discipline in that a first order
discipline examines a particular subject-matter. For example, Physics is
a first order discipline that studies matter and energy while Biology, as
a first order discipline, studies living things. Other first order disciplines
include Sociology, Economics, English, Law and Chemistry. Philosophy,
as a second order enterprise, examines salient issues in other academic
fields like Law, Social Science, Science, and Education and so on
We have projected an understanding of philosophy by trying to see
what can be gleaned from the way the progenitors of the discipline
have practiced it. From this approach, through the exploration of the
way Milesian philosophers started off philosophy, it is shown that
philosophy as a discipline has wonder as it origin; is committed to
addressing puzzling events or explanations with the aim of
understanding of phenomena in order to enable people deal better
with them; demands reasons for any position advanced; involves
constructing and assessing arguments: and employs critical reflection in
engaging its subject-matter.
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