What Philosophy Is

By Jonathan Awesome 
There is a certain kind of structure to knowledge. Some facts must be understood in some form before others can be fully understood. The most fundamental knowledge is the nature of existence and of man; philosophical knowledge. Philosophy is the base of the rest of man’s knowledge. And within philosophy there are several branches which are also grasped hierarchically, the higher level resting on the more fundamental. 

Before you set out to know anything else with certainty you must first know somethings, on some level, about your own mind and how it obtains information; how to establish certainty and obtain knowledge. The philosopher Ayn Rand defined Epistemology, in her groundbreaking book on the subject, as “a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge.” This is the most fundamental branch of philosophy from the perspective of the obtainment of knowledge. 

To discover the facts of reality you must also know somethings, on some level, about the basic nature of reality. The science that studies this sets the terms for all other sciences, including epistemology, and all other knowledge. Metaphysics is fundamental from a different perspective in that reality would still exist if there were no consciousness to perceive it. The basic facts of reality are understood implicitly before you can understand how to learn any facts. Once you grasp some method of discovering facts you can then turn that method on this implicitly understood information and make your understanding of it explicit. 

Once you have established what kind of world you live in and what kind of entity you are you can then consider how you should act and why. The how is the science of ethics, the why is meta-ethics. Ethics  gives us a set of principles to guild our actions. Meta-ethics explains why we need a code of values and how we can establish one by the proper method of acquiring any knowledge. Politics is an application  of ethical principles on a social scale. It defines the purpose of a government and explores a proper government’s limitations and sets the terms for the actions it may take. It also deals with such questions as why a government is needed at all. 

Based also on ethics, epistemology and, more than either of these, metaphysics is the science that studies the nature of art and the standards by which to judge it. The broader of the two branches of philosophy which depend on the three more basic branches is aesthetics. 

These are the five branches of philosophy.

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One thought on “What Philosophy Is

  1. ...

    If I think about my own mind and its limitations in regards to acquiring knowledge, I cannot follow your reasoning that the fundamental element of metaphysics is the existence of a reality external to a consciousness perceiving that reality. If one is not conscious to perceive what Is, how can one honestly assert what Is? We use sensory perception to acquire knowledge, that is, we interpret sense-data through phenomenological experience.

    On what epistemological basis does this claim to metaphysical reality rest? It is certainly not on the skepticism you’ve described in the second paragraph.

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