1. Introduction to Philosophy

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The traditional view of a philosopher is probably an old man, with a beard, sitting in a wing back chair, overcomplicating the apparently simple. It will not surprise you to hear that this wide of the mark. What is true however, is that many things that appear simple may not be as straightforward as they appear. Straightforward statements that we take for granted in everyday speech have a whole host of assumptions that Philosophy attempts to unpick. “What do you know about chess?” may seem like a straightforward question but before answering it a Philosopher interested in Epistemology (the study of knowledge) would first want to ask “how do I know?”, “what can I know?” and “what is knowledge?” all before he even starts on chess. If all of that sounds very abstract to you then you might be right - Philosophy is a very broad subject and some areas are more grounded in the real world than others. Areas of philosophy include Epistemology (mentioned above), Metaphysics (looking at the ultimate nature of reality), Philosophy of Religion, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy and many more.

The key to being a good philosopher is to question but it is also not to question too much – if you are considering freedom and the nature of human rights, it is probably not the time to consider whether the world we see around us really exists. That is a legitimate question but to make headway on freedom you will need to temporarily simply assume the existence of other cognisant beings. There are no hard and fast rules as to where to stop but experience will show you what works and what doesn't. 




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