Importance of Philosophy
All human beings orient their lives around ideas about what reality is like, that they believe explain their experiences, and ideas about what reality and human beings should be like, that they use to guide their behavior. The first of these kinds of ideas is a metaphysical theory, the second an ethical or moral theory.
Human beings seem to need metaphysical and moral ideas because they are not born with instincts that determine for them what they should think and want, and are born with the capacities to make up their own minds and to question any belief they have or meet.
It is evident that most of the ideas in history that people have used to explain human experiences have been false or unfounded in many respects, and it is also evident that most of the ideas in history or direct human behavior have been harmful to other human beings or to themselves.
On the other hand, it is also evident that whatever adequate understanding people have of themselves, of others, and of their environments and possibilities, is based on the asking and answering of the type of general questions that are philosophical and scientific, and that there seems to be no way of being human without trying to ask and answer such questions.
All ideas about philosophy or science, including those that ridicule or condemn philosophy or science, are themselves philosophical ideas, and such as declare all philosophy useless, trifling, or impossible are little better than a refusal to do any serious philosophical or scientific reasoning.
The ideas people live and die for, go to war for and kill each other or let themselves be inspired to the making of great art or science, are all philosophical ideas.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy responsible for the study of existence. It is the foundation of a worldview. It answers the question “What is?” It encompasses everything that exists, as well as the nature of existence itself. It says whether the world is real, or merely an illusion. It is a fundamental view of the world around us..
Epistemology is the study of our method of acquiring knowledge. It answers the question, “How do we know?” It encompasses the nature of concepts, the constructing of concepts, the validity of the senses, logical reasoning, as well as thoughts, ideas, memories, emotions, and all things mental. It is concerned with how our minds are related to reality, and whether these relationships are valid or invalid.
Ethics is the branch of study dealing with what is the proper course of action for man. It answers the question, “What do I do?” It is the study of right and wrong in human endeavors. At a more fundamental level, it is the method by which we categorize our values and pursue them. Do we pursue our own happiness, or do we sacrifice ourselves to a greater cause? Is that foundation of ethics based on the Bible, or on the very nature of man himself, or neither?
It is the study of force. Politics tells you how a society must be set up and how one should act within a society. Except for hermits, this comes up a lot.
Esthetics is the study of art. It includes what art consists of, as well as the purpose behind it. Does art consist of music, literature, and painting? Or does it include a good engineering solution, or a beautiful sunset? These are the questions that aimed at in esthetics. It also studies methods of evaluating art, and allows judgments of the art. Is art in the eye of the beholder? Does anything that appeals to you fit under the umbrella of art? Or does it have a specific nature? Does it accomplish a goal?