An Introduction to  Philosophy

PREFACE

Philosophy is a human endeavor that has changed the course of history.  We are all what we are, in part, because of the ideas of philosophers.  There are not too many people who believe this.  There are not that many people who think very much of Philosophy at all.  Yet Philosophy has and does impact the lives of just about every thinking person on the planet.  In fact, the very way in which we think is partly the result of the ideas which philosophers have produced over the ages and in all cultures.  Just how is this the case?  This is something that is not immediately obvious in contemporary culture.  Today philosophy, if it is thought about at all, probably is thought to be some obscure and complicated subject for intellectuals that has no bearing on the important matters of everyday life.  Yet this is not the case at all.  In fact there are many things that people think are true and believe that are not true at all.  In fact there are many things that appear to us to be so clearly understood that are, in fact and reality, not the way they actually appear to us to be.

Philosophy is a manner of thinking about the most basic questions and problems faced by human beings.  Most people believe they have nothing to do with Philosophy and it has nothing to do with them.   However there are times that such basic and important questions and problems will occur and be experienced by most human beings.  It is at these times that Philosophy has arisen all over the world and within every culture.

People will experience the death of others and they will wonder whether or not there is anything more to our existence than life in the physical body.  Questions will arise as to whether or not there are actually souls or spirits. Do they survive the death of the body?   Are they real?  These questions get into Metaphysics, a branch of Philosophy!   Are stories about ghosts and spirits of the dead true?  What is truth anyway?  These questions get into Epistemology, a branch of Philosophy!  Is there a god, many gods?  What is God like?  What is religion all about?  Are the stories true?  These questions get into Philosophy of Religion!  Are we free to make decisions for ourselves or our we the product of our genes and environment interactions?  This matter of human freedom is also rich material for Philosophy!  Why do we need to pay taxes?  Why can't everyone just work for themselves?  Why do I need to pay so much in taxes?  These are questions that are very much what Social Philosophy focuses upon.  Why do we need to obey government?  Why should we obey what we think are unjust laws?  These are matters for Political Philosophy.  Many people believe that each person is entitled to decide what to believe is the morally right thing to do. How do we know who is right and who is wrong?   What then are we to do when there are conflicting views about what is the GOOD thing to do?  This is material for Ethics, a branch of Philosophy!  

So, there are many questions that arise in the lives of "ordinary" people that are actually questions that are at the center of Philosophy.  The materials in this text will attempt to introduce the reader to what Philosophy is, what the issues have been and continue to be, and how those perennial questions are as alive today as ever and have a relevance for the lives of every thinking human being.  At the same time it is hoped that the manner in which this is approached will be engaging, interesting, a bit entertaining and rewarding!

In this text it is my task to challenge the reader, to invite and to encourage the reader to think and to think critically concerning these basic and important questions and problems.  I shall often present material and questions which challenge the accepted view, the predominant view, the popular view, and the view which most people acquire through their culture and assume to be not only true but the only view.  The aim is to broaden and expand awareness.  The aim is to develop reasoning skills and critical thinking abilities.  It shall be my aim to get the reader to think about new things. This is education.  I shall also attempt to provoke the reader to think about things in a new manner.  This is also education but it may not be what some expect or want.  It involves growth.  Sometimes people resist thinking about familiar subjects in new ways.  Sometimes people resist changing their minds for they fear leaving the comfort of familiar ideas for the uncertainty and disturbance of the new and different.  However, sometimes it is necessary to endure some discomfort and even some anxiety in order grow intellectually and to develop a better understanding of the matter or to solve the problem.  If I succeed the reader should expect to be challenged.

It is hoped that all who attempt to read this text and to take this course will realize those aims.  The author is open to suggestions as to how he might accomplish those in more effective manner.  Please do not hesitate to email me with your ideas.

Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2000. All Rights reserved.

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