Department of Religion and Philosophy
This paper defends a simple and surprisingly adequate definition of philosophy: as suggested by the “know thyself” imperative, philosophy is the “self-defining” discipline. The task of philosophizing is therefore best described as the task of self-defining. In responding to various objections, I defend four senses in which this definition holds. First, when other academic disciplines seek to define the nature of their discipline, they are generally recognized as exploring the philosophy of their discipline; only for philosophy is such an inquiry self-referential, remaining fully within the discipline itself. Second, while some genuinely philosophical topics do not explicitly involve self-defining, philosophy as a way of life always has self-examination at its core. Third, even though psychology may have largely usurped philosophy’s classical role as the guardian of self-knowledge, the goal of helping persons to refine their own self-understanding is still crucial for philosophers today. Finally, in a deep but paradoxical sense, genuine philosophy is self-authenticating. While Socrates’ maxim, “the unexamined life is not worth living” should not be taken too literally, it does correctly convey the fact that only an authentic life is really worth living.
defining philosophy, self-knowledge, applied philosophy, authenticity
Source Publication Title
Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy
Philosophy Documentation Center and Greek Philosophical Society
Link to Publisher's Edition
Palmquist, S. (2018). Philosophy as the Self-Defining Discipline. Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy, 22, 81-85. https://doi.org/10.5840/wcp23201822529