In college, I majored in philosophy. On the very first day of the very first course that I took in philosophy, the professor wrote the word philosophy on the chalkboard, then broke it down to show its etymological origin. The word comes from two Greek words, which is appropriate, for the Greeks are usually seen as the founding fathers of Western philosophy. The prefix philo comes from the Greek word phileō, which means “to love.” The root comes from the Greek word sophia, which means “wisdom.” So, the simple meaning of the term philosophy is “love of wisdom.”
When I came to understand this meaning, I assumed that by studying philosophy I would learn about wisdom in a practical sense. However, I soon discovered that Greek philosophy stressed abstract questions of metaphysics (the study of ultimate being or of ultimate reality) and epistemology (the study of the process by which human beings learn). It’s true that one of the subdivisions of philosophy is ethics, particularly the science of normative ethics — the principles of how we ought to live. That was certainly a concern of the ancient Greeks, particularly Socrates. But even Socrates was convinced that proper conduct, or right living, is intimately connected with right knowledge.
Continue reading Wisdom and Knowledge.