Document Type

Conference Paper

Department/Unit

Department of Religion and Philosophy

Language

English

Abstract

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.

Keywords

defining philosophy, self-knowledge, applied philosophy, authenticity

Publication Date

2018

Source Publication Title

Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume

22

Start Page

81

End Page

85

Conference Location

Athens, Greece

Publisher

Philosophy Documentation Center and Greek Philosophical Society

DOI

10.5840/wcp23201822529

Link to Publisher's Edition

http://dx.doi.org/10.5840/wcp23201822529

ISBN (print)

9781634350389

Included in

Philosophy Commons

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