What is Philosophy?

When I teach philosophy I usually start off by trying to explain what the academic discipline philosophy is. Doing this I use three quite different explanations, which I hope, eventually, will amount to the same thing, and one unified understanding, for my students.

Explanation 1 is historical and describes philosophy as the residual discipline. Explanation 2 is relational and describes philosophy as the ultimate discipline. Explanation 3 is internal and describes philosophy as the ontological and ethical discipline.

1. Historically, philosophy is the leftover academic discipline without any accepted method of achieving knowledge. Philosophy is what has been left in the dark whilst the other academic disciplines one after one have dawned upon us and been enlightened by evidence.

2. Relationally, philosophy is the fundamental academic discipline, being the intellectual foundation of all other academic disciplines. Philosophy is where you eventually arrive after consecutively having asked: “Why?”, regardless of where you academically started.

3. Internally, philosophy is the academic discipline basically dealing with metaphysics and value theory. Philosophy deals with the intellectual basis of the insistent and imminent pair: knowledge and behaviour. At each and every conscious moment you think and you act.