Philosophical Method (or philosophical methodology) is the study and description of how to "do" Philosophy, arguably the "Mother" of all the Arts and Sciences. The basic feature of such a method is the questioning of "given" things, or things assumed to be true. The method also has to do with one's motivation in studying Philosophy or Science. We often find ourselves believing things we do not understand, whether a God, our own Subjectivity, Nature, Society, or Ethics. We may not even understand why we believe something, and so, philosophical method is a way of getting deeper. For example: How do some things cause other things? What is my Mind? What is Reality? What is Beauty? Why should I be good?
- Doubt and Wonder: As Aristotle wrote in his "Metaphysics", philosophy depends greatly upon our basic capacity to wonder about what's "out there". Philosophizing may begin with some simple doubts about accepted beliefs, and our initial philosophizing may arise from our suspicion.
- The Nature of the Problem: Next, we must formulate our questions to be answered, our problems to be solved, with a working assumption. The more clearly our questions are stated, the easier it is for us to identify the issues, and eventually, the solutions.
- Find a Clear Solution: As a result, we have a theory, that is, a definition or analysis, which constitutes an attempt to solve the philosophical problem. Sometimes a philosophical theory can be quite brief, and sometimes very complex, requiring a book-length explanation.
- Support the Solution: We can use Logic to construct "arguments" as a set of statements which support our theory. The "conclusion" is what "follows" from these "premises". Philosophical arguments are like bundles of reasons, the premises, and the claim, or claims, they ultimately support, the conclusion.
Philosophy is, therefore, often a quest for the best arguments. A good argument is a clear, organized, sound statement, the "reasons" which cure the original doubts in a problem. However, in Philosophy, something which concerns the most fundamental aspects of the Universe, the experts rarely agree. So, philosophical criticism, including scientific criticism, is constructing "counter-arguments" and "refutations" to engage someone else's arguments, and is all a part of what makes Philosophy social and enjoyable...
...at least when we're winning the argument!
Some content adapted from the Pseudopedia article "Philosophical method" under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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