Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE).
A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy, which involves rational inquiry into areas that are outside either theology or science.
Mankind has evolved brains that allow for higher cogitative ability than any other known species on the planet. Although human and animal brains share a lot of similar neurological properties, there have been studies pinpointing areas of uniqueness in the human brain. Animals are clearly able to think, love, solve problems, use tools, etc. But it is generally believed in the scientific community that the level to which an animal can perform these tasks is underwhelming when compared to humans. As far as we can determine, humans are the only animals capable of philosophy.
So human kind has evolved the capability of philosophizing, meaning it is important for our survival and propagation. Many topics in philosophy will forever remain non-physical. Concepts of the soul, social ethics, moral reasoning are examples of this. Socrates and other philosopher's have made arguments on what they think is true regarding these topics, but they can not be proven using any scientific method, and many remain debated to this day.
It appears to me, there is a general contradiction here. If every claim has to be empirically proven with physical evidence in order to believe it, then how do we address any of the non-physical concepts of life? Your personal viewpoint on all of these concepts literally change the way you see the world and interact with the physical space. How do you know what you believe is true? And doesn't the very idea that we have evolved the capability to philosophize suggest that we need to continue doing so? But if we run our live's believing only that which is physical and measurable, then what do we do with philosophical thought?
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What do you mean when you say social ethics and moral reasoning are not physical?
The definition of Physical is "relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete".
Social ethics and ideas of morality and not physical according to the provided definition. Of course, you can implement certain principles, like the philosophical concept of "Socialism", into the real world, but this does not make it physical. Murdering someone is a physical act, but explaining the morality of that act is simply a thought exercise.
Does that clarify?
It can also be a "misfire" similar to our ability to create and enjoy music.
What non-physical concepts of life? Music?
It can also be a "misfire" similar to our ability to create and enjoy music."
Hmm...This is a good point. I suppose you are correct. I have read somewhere the idea that the ability for complex thought was just an unnecessary 'side-effect' of some other important piece of our brain's evolution.
This theory does not sit well with me though, it seems less likely.
I don't see the problem here. "Concepts of the soul, social ethics, moral reasoning" are all concepts and aren't true or real at all. The soul is a concept humans invented and doesn't actually exist except in wishful thinking. Social ethics and moral reasoning are just names we give to the work we as individuals and societies do to come up with a system of behavior that we accept and behavior that we condemn so that we keep things in working order. There are social sciences that explore exactly this.
Are there other examples of this "philosophical thought" that you're speaking of?
"The soul is a concept humans invented and doesn't actually exist except in wishful thinking."
Can you provide evidence for this claim?
It was a sloppy claim. I can't prove that it doesn't exist and can't be certain of that. But since there is no evidence that it exists, I assume it doesn't, just as I do with unicorns, goblins and Superman. I can't claim they don't exist either.
Hmmm . . . that's tricky because the English word soul is a problematic translation for the Hebrew ne′phesh [נֶפֶשׁ]; Greek psy·khe′ [ψυχή]. The writers of the Bible thought in terms that were much more concrete than the apostate adoption of Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato, who taught that the soul was an immortal part of us that moves on after we die. The English word soul itself comes from a root word meaning to bind. Primitive, superstitious people would bind the hands and feet of the dead to prevent them from harming the living.
The Bible 'soul' is the life, the experiences, and literally, the blood of any breathing creature. The person or animal itself. It dies Ezekiel 18:4 / Matthew 10:28 / Leviticus 24:17-18. Very real and does obviously exist.
"The Bible 'soul' is the life, the experiences, and literally, the blood of any breathing creature. The person or animal itself. It dies Ezekiel 18:4 / Matthew 10:28 / Leviticus 24:17-18. Very real and does obviously exist."
Sure. If you're defining "soul" as experiences and blood, then "souls" exist. This seems a silly thing to mention here, though, since that definition is obviously not the object whose existence we were discussing. In similar form: if the definition of "soul" is "a rabbit", then "souls" exist in that case as well.
Nonsense. Don't back down from backing down, it's making you dizzy.
Philosophy. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato's view of the soul is as you described it. Non existent. As the Bible describes it. Existent. The definition isn't a rabbit so forget about that.
How about the word pneuma? It is a word that often came when there are this type of discussions.
The word pneuma is Greek, translated spirit, from which the English word pneumonia and pneumatic comes. It basically means an invisible active force. For example, in addition to spirit the word can be translated as breath or wind or mental inclination. The spirit of the horse was broken, for example, or he's a mean spirited person. It corresponds with the Hebrew word ruach.
Ok thanks, is it what you call soul as existent in the Bible, because it seems it is.
As an addition, you used the word "psyche" in an earlier post.
At the age of 70, Socrates was convicted of atheism, treason and corruption of the young.
"But if we run our live's believing only that which is physical and measurable, then what do we do with philosophical thought?"
Philosophical thought is not the destination, but the beginning of a journey. It is used to uncover contradictions and sloppy thinking. Then that clears the path to uncover truths hidden behind the BS. Philosophy is a snowplow.
Philosophical thought can never prove anything. Instead, it provides a mechanism where we can learn how to find those proofs. For example, philosophy postulated the atom. At that time there was no way to determine if that concept was valid. But it did provide a very valuable clue for future scientific work.
"Philosophical thought can never prove anything. Instead, it provides a mechanism where we can learn how to find those proofs. For example, philosophy postulated the atom. At that time there was no way to determine if that concept was valid. But it did provide a very valuable clue for future scientific work."
This is very true. Of course before any theory is tested, you must first have a theory. But this is just one aspect of philosophy, and much more 'physical'. It is not much different than saying "I wonder if there is a chair in the room next door." And then looking and seeing there is.
What I am talking about in the OP are the concepts that reside ONLY in thought. Metaphysics deals a lot with this.
"Like mathematics, metaphysics is a non-empirical study which is conducted using deduction from that which is known a priori. Like foundational mathematics (which is sometimes considered a special case of metaphysics applied to the existence of number), it tries to give a coherent account of the structure of the world, capable of explaining our everyday and scientific perception of the world, and being free from contradictions. In mathematics, there are many different ways to define numbers; similarly in metaphysics there are many different ways to define objects, properties, concepts, and other entities which are claimed to make up the world. While metaphysics may, as a special case, study the entities postulated by fundamental science such as atoms and superstrings, its core topic is the set of categories such as object, property and causality which those scientific theories assume. For example: claiming that "electrons have charge" is a scientific theory; while exploring what it means for electrons to be (or at least, to be perceived as) "objects", charge to be a "property", and for both to exist in a topological entity called "space" is the task of metaphysics." -wikipedia
Do you believe there is nothing that science wouldn't eventually be able to touch?
"Do you believe there is nothing that science wouldn't eventually be able to touch?"
I believe that science can fully explore this physical world. Even at our current stage of technology, researchers are learning what is going on deep inside our thought process.
You appear to be tossing the word "theory" around casually. A theory is the end product of research, it is not the beginning. And for any scientific theory to be accepted, it has to undergo very rigorous scrutiny and many attempts to tear it down.
Do you not see that for philosophy and metaphysics, they are directly linked to something real and physical? They are a tool, just like a lab thermometer, to assist in learning about real things.
"Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality."
"You appear to be tossing the word "theory" around casually. A theory is the end product of research, it is not the beginning. And for any scientific theory to be accepted, it has to undergo very rigorous scrutiny and many attempts to tear it down."
You are correct. I should have used the word hypothesis.
"Do you not see that for philosophy and metaphysics, they are directly linked to something real and physical? They are a tool, just like a lab thermometer, to assist in learning about real things."
Yes, yes. Help me understand. Morality is discussed because the intent is to act morally. If you don't have the correct definition for it, then you can't be sure you are actually acting morally. But what is physical about this? Is morality physical? I agree with the analogy of the thermometer (or the bulldozer as someone else stated), but in this case, the thermometer is not physical...?
I was referring to philosophy as a tool because it serves no purpose on it's own unless what it does can influence this real world.
Morality is a tool in the sense it influences our decisions and actions in this real world.
A tool does not have to be physical. Couples therapy, thought experiments, and string theory do not exist physically but they are tools.
My personal definition is that "morality" is "well being". If I saw a child drowning and pulled it out of the water, I am acting for the well being of that child, I am performing a moral act. If I did nothing and the child drowned, then my inaction was not in the child's well being and my actions were immoral.
I need just that one reference point, that single definition to make moral decisions. But each moral decision stands on it's own, depending on the situation. There is no valid list of moral rules because every situation is different.
It has been estimated that an adult makes 35,000 decisions every day. Not all are related to morals, but many are.
@HumbleThinker Original Post:
I actually mostly agree with this assessment and think it is not a bad way to describe the difference between humans and other highly intelligent animals.
Not as sure about that. "Humans began to be highly succesful and dominate other lives and explode in population (survival) long before any of the major surviving works of philosophy. Stuff told around the campfire 5000 years ago probably was some of the earliest origins of "philosophy" but could we really call it philosophy and philosophy being important to our survival and propagation? I think that would be a difficult connection to make.
There is one way it can be proven, the study of people with brain deficiency. If certain portions of the brain are missing or not working correctly is a person capable of philosophical thoughts? Does the philosophical thoughts of souls, social ethics, moral reasoning survive without any humans that are capable of such thoughts? I think the answer here is a fairly obvious "no." until someone somewhere devises a way to prove this stuff does exist without the proper parts of a human mind.
With caution. With a general concept of, here is an idea, it is unproven, we can explore this idea, but we should be very careful to draw any conclusions from these ideas. Careful to put action behind the thought. In general a good way everyone should operate is the less that is known about something the more caution should be taken in regards to the idea.
You don't. All you can do is gather real, solid, tangible, repeatable evidence as you can on something and then with this knowledge gain increasing likelihood that the the concept/idea/reality will act and behave like you think it will. How do we know the sun will rise from the east tomorrow instead of the west? With the information available how confident can you be that the sun will rise from the east instead of the west?
We try and find ways to make it physical and measurable. For instance if someone were to dose someone else with powerful psychoactive drugs then control sensory input for that person to a certain manner we can begin to discover how even our base ideas can be greatly influenced by biochemical electrical reaction. I have little doubt that dosed with the right drugs, and with the right environmental inputs, someone could take a strong atheist like me and have me have a profound to me, religious experience amping up the known religious/spiritual parts of by brain to 11. The same areas that light up when a very religious person lights up when they pray, or sing about their lord idea.
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"But it is generally believed in the scientific community that the level to which an animal can perform these tasks is underwhelming when compared to humans. As far as we can determine, humans are the only animals capable of philosophy."
Personally, I will withhold judgement on that opinion. Only until the last few decades have animal behavior researchers delved into more than just cause and effect. There are now researchers going far beyond the traditional boundaries, and they are exploring how animals think. And since animals do think, I am not ruling that out.
At one time it was accepted that animals were unable to perform many functions we now accept.
I had two dogs one (Cuddles) who always reacted to a squeaky toy, and the other one (Molly) just selfish. If Molly saw Cuddles chewing in a chew toy, she would go and find a squeaky toy, bite on it to make noise. Of course Cuddles always dropped the chewy and went after the squeaky. Meanwhile Molly got the chewy.
Molly had to figure out that Cuddles had something she wanted.
Molly had to figure out how to get to that chewy without a physical confrontation
Molly had to remember Cuddles' attraction to a specific type of toy
Molly had to be aware that for an event that something else would follow. She was aware of time, and cause and effect
And this coming from a Pug, a dog that is not the sharpest knife in the dog drawer. Can we rule out that animals with higher brain functions, like the Orangutan or whale are not capable of basic philosophy?
We humans are arrogant.
Have you seen this interesting video of the bonobo named Kanzi preparing a fire? It can do a lot of crazy mental tasks.
It is true that a lot of animals, especially our closest ancestors, are capable of a lot of things. But is there really any question of our superiority?
Something I have been thinking about (especially after all of the dog comments): what kind of abstract thinking has to be involved in the ability to domesticate another species. This is unique to humans. But if we are so genetically similar to apes, why haven’t they domesticated other animals for their benefit?
HT, the notion of superiority is completely arbitrary. I could say that having fur is superior to bare skin, that a hawk’s eyes are superior, that a whale’s ability to stay submerged for so long is superior, that the ability of a virus to take advantage of a host cell is superior. Need I go on?
I hear ya Cyber, I do. Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
The same arguments arise when discussing which is the ‘Greatest Nation in the World’.
But let’s be honest here, I think what defines us as the greatest species on earth is our overall ability. Sure, a whale is great at breathing underwater, and a cheetah is fast, but that’s about it. Most animals excel at 1 or 2 things. Humans may not be the fastest, or fiercest, but overall, no doubt the most successful. You aren’t really going to deny that are you?
You’ll need to define successful. In general, however, no, I do not view homo sapiens as the most successful species. I think the jury is out on that.
Interesting. Is there a species you find ‘more successful’? Cockroaches perhaps? Please provide me with a more successful species and why.
I’ll iterate: how are you defining success?
Let’s go with the Merriem Webster definition of “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence“
Since you've suggested humans are the greatest or most successful, perhaps you should define it with something that has a magnitude; otherwise I think this is doomed to be subjective conjecture.
eta: Imagine if someone told you Mountain Dew is the greatest soda? How is that not totally subjective?
HT, really? Wealth, favor, eminence? What are those things?
Let’s just look at wealth as an example. I have $12.43 in my wallet. One of the squirrels that frequents my stoop has 632 peanuts stashed. Which of the two of us has more wealth?
Guys. Are you being honest? What the f is the value of a nut? If you don’t think then, that we are the greatest species on earth, please endulgebus with your definition of successful and please provide the name of the species you find most successful and why. Please use empirical data to support your answer.