What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a continuing endeavour in which thinkers attempt to fashion comprehensive and satisfying accounts of the things of the world and how they fit together. Its central method is argument: through many small arguments, the philosopher constructs and presents her view of how things stand.

We ask philosophical questions, and use philosophical methods to address them, when the methods of arts and science begin to fail. Philosophical problems arise when we experience tensions in our thinking, when we notice that two ideas, each of which on its own strikes us as plausible or sound, conflict with each other.

For instance, we think what we do is up to us, and we think that for anything that happens there is a sufficient cause. We think that God is the perfect creator of the world, and we notice that the world is far from perfect. We think that this animal's being a cat is an objective matter of fact, and we think that the concept “cat” is a human construct answering to our purposes. We think we have duties independently of what we might want or like, and we think that we are motivated to act only by what we want or like.

In thinking philosophically, we seek to resolve these tensions, either by rejecting one of the two ideas or by finding a way to interpret them such that no tension arises.