What is philosophy?

I have been struck by the number of posts that are tagged in WordPress blogs as “philosophy.” Given that philosophy is a central interest of mine I naturally have tag surfed “philosophy” from time to time. It has been somewhat of a disappointment to find, even on the most charitable of interpretations, that much of what is classed as philosophy, bears little or no relevance to philosophical thinking.  

The Greek term, φιλοσοφία (philosophia), means the “love of wisdom” or the “quest for truth” (Liddell and Scott). But most people take this as denoting a definition for philosophy when, in fact, this doesn’t distinguish the philosophical outlook from any other inquiry that would have wisdom and truth as virtues.

It has to be admitted that philosophy has been different things at different times in its history –  we’ve had “natural philosophy” (Newton); and philosophy in the service of theology (philosophia ancilla theologiae – Aquinas) to name but two conceptions. I defy anyone to pin down philosophy in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. This said, there are three typical philosophical activities:

* conceptual analysis

* high-level theorizing

* the investigation of aporias (problems)

One or more of these activities are found in current philosophy and can be said to offer some sense of historical continuity from Plato to Danto.