Monday, December 11, 2023

What is Philosophy? Definition, Origin, Nature, Scope or Subject Matter of Philosophy

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are known as the three fathers of philosophy. But Socrates is regarded as the founding father of philosophy. If we talk about modern philosophy, then we must call René Descartes the founder of modern philosophy.

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According to the philosopher Immanuel Kant, philosophy is the ‘science of knowledge and criticism’. According to another philosopher Fickt, ‘philosophy is the science of knowledge’. So philosophy is a broad subject whose scope is difficult to define. But only the philosopher is the seeker of truth or knowledge. And philosophy is the basic formula of thought to discover the truth and search for the logical basis of the basic questions of the life-world. For this reason, along with discussions regarding the origin and form of knowledge, the issues of values, truth and goodness and badness are also discussed. Philosophy has a close relationship and link with other subjects close to life such as religion, science, history, epistemology etc. In the present unit nature of philosophy, content, method of philosophical discussion, relationship between philosophy and life, origin and content of knowledge, criteria of truth.

Definition of philosophy

Some common and modified definitions of philosophy

Philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.

Specifically, philosophy is a branch of knowledge about how people should live their lives (ethics); what kinds of things exist and what is their nature (metaphysics); What does true knowledge mean and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic); Discuss these issues.

Philosophy is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language.

Definition of philosophy by authors

  1. Definition of philosophy by Aristotle is “Philosophy is applying reason to observation as a means of understanding the riddles of our world and making the most of our lives.”
  2. According to Socrates, “Philosophy is a daily activity”.
  3. According to Plato, “Philosophy is the acquisition of knowledge.”
  4. According to Karl Marks, “Philosophy is the interpretation of the world in order to change it”.
  5. According to Fickt, “Philosophy is the science of knowledge”.
  6. According to Hegel, “Philosophy is that which grasps its own era in thought.”
  7. Kant Immanuel Regards philosophy as “the science and criticism of cognition.”
  8. According to Bertrand Russel, “Philosophy properly deals with matters of interest to the general educated public, and loses much of its value if only a few professionals can understand it.”
  9. According to Henderson – “Philosophy is a rigorous, disciplined, guarded analysis of some of the most difficult problems which men have ever faced.”
  10. According to John Dewey – “Philosophy is not a panacea (remedy for all kinds of diseases/troubles) for the problems of men, but is that which emerges out of the methods employed by them to solve their problems.”
  11. Aristippus thinks that philosophy is “the ability to feel at ease in any society.”
  12. According to John Armstrong, “Philosophy is the successful love of thinking.”
  13. According to Marilyn Adams, “Philosophy is thinking really hard about the most important questions and trying to bring analytic clarity both to the questions and the answers.”
  14. According to Edger S. Brightman – “Philosophy is essentially a spirit or method of approaching experiential rather than a body of conclusions about the experience.”
  15. According to Humayun Kabir, philosophy “seeks to give knowledge of the whole.”
  16. According to Anthony Kenny, “Philosophy is thinking as clearly as possible about the most fundamental concepts that reach through all the disciplines.”
  17. H. Dumery defines philosophy as a “critical reflection on concrete action.”

Definitions of philosophy according to worldwide famous dictionaries

According to the Oxford dictionary, philosophy is the study of the nature and meaning of the universe and of human life; It is also a particular set or system of beliefs resulting from the search for knowledge about life and the universe. Oxford dictionary also defines philosophy as a set of beliefs or an attitude to life that guides somebody’s behaviour.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, philosophy is the study of the basic ideas about knowledge, truth, right and wrong, religion, and the nature and meaning of life.

According to Cambridge dictionary, philosophy is the use of reason in understanding such things as the nature of the real world and existence, the use and limits of knowledge, and the principles of moral judgment.

Content of philosophy

The English word ‘Philosophy’ is derived from the Greek words ‘Philos’ and ‘Sophia’. Philos means Loving and Sophia means Knowledge or Wisdom. Hence the etymological meaning of the word philosophy is love or affection for wisdom. And judging from this point of view, the person who likes knowledge or wisdom is a philosopher. 

In short, the love of wisdom is the philosophy, and the lover of wisdom is the philosopher. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras (ca. 572-499 BCE) gained recognition and fame as a philosopher for that reason. Although the word ‘Darshan’ in Bengali is different from the English word ‘Philosophy’, there is a lot of similarity between the two in terms of content and objective. Both aim at knowledge or wisdom. Considering the similarity of the subject, Bengali Indian scholars have been using the word Darshan as a Bengali synonym of Philosophy. So if there is any difference in it then it must be negligible.

Philosophy and Philosopher

Philosophy is a subject of knowledge and wisdom which is difficult to give a universal definition or say in one word.

However, it can be said that the philosophical doctrine means that it will be a logical combination and result of the surrounding conditions of the philosopher concerned i.e. the overall environment, such as his social, cultural, political and economic conditions. And so philosophy is not a fixed thing; Rather, it is always in motion. Because philosophy changes and expands with time. So philosophy has contemporary commentary. 

Philosophers only present their philosophy in a new form keeping pace with the wheel of change. As a result, injustice can be observed in the history of philosophy while keeping pace with the change of era. In short, philosophy and philosophers are always in motion. Hence it is never possible to grasp the nature and significance of philosophy through a mere simple definition. But the philosopher Russell thinks that we can understand the nature of philosophy based on the fundamental problems that philosophy has been discussing since modern times.

If we consider it from that point of view, we can understand it from the discussion table of philosophy and the analysis of the nature of philosophers. Eg: As prophets are philosophical terms, so are pragmatists. Again, philosophers like Hegel, Karl Marx is also a great philosopher. Both of them may have differences in doctrine, but there are some deep similarities in topics and methods. Both these philosophers have a universal and logical discussion of fundamental problems. In the same way it can be said about philosophy that just as discussion of theology is a topic of discussion in philosophy, so opposition to this discussion is also a topic of discussion in philosophy. A famous book written by the famous philosopher Harbati SavliWe also see a discussion about that  in the book ‘Appearance and Reality’ .

This proves the wide scope of philosophy and also proves that the philosopher alone has a liberal outlook. From that perspective any branch of knowledge can be called philosophy and any person involved in knowledge can be considered a philosopher. And so all philosophers can be called philosophers in all subjects of knowledge such as biology, physics, jurisprudence, medicine, agriculture, literary history and others. Due to this prevalence of philosophy, the title of ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ (Ph.D) or Philosopher is awarded when one is successful in researching any subject. So philosophy is a comprehensive subject that includes all branches of knowledge, and the philosopher is only a liberal mind engaged in the search for facts and truth in the pursuit of knowledge.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are known as the three fathers of philosophy. But Socrates is regarded as the founding father of philosophy. If we talk about modern philosophy, then we must call René Descartes the founder of modern philosophy.

How philosophy originated

There is considerable disagreement among philosophers about the origin of philosophy. For example, some think philosophy originates from curiosity and skepticism, while others think philosophy originates from truth-seeking or the desire to know. Others think it originated from practical necessity. Many also consider spiritual motivation and thirst as the reason for the origin of philosophy. Below are the theories on the origin of philosophy in historical order of philosophy.

Philosophy from the pursuit of truth and knowledge

The goal of philosophy is to seek truth. And the philosopher’s job is to identify problems in civilized inquiry, to analyze explanations and provide logical foundations. And it is also a human innate desire. 

Every man wants to know more or less the truth. From that point of view, every human being is a philosopher by birth. Because all people think and think about life-world and problems. According to the philosopher Perry, “Man is not only a latent philosopher, but he is also partly an overt philosopher. Because he has already thought about philosophy. Philosophy is therefore not something accidental, not something miraculous but philosophy is inevitable and normal.

Visions from wonder, skepticism and curiosity

When a human baby is born, it cries out as soon as it is born. Because his environment and surroundings are completely new and diverse. Slowly as he grew older his curiosity grew. That is, curiosity is his natural nature. Then he wants to know his life and world with wonder, sometimes doubt. And this curiosity and wonder of people gives rise to philosophy. He never stops learning new things and discovers and establishes great things. In the words of the poet Nazrul, it can be said, “I will see the world in the palm of my hand”. The indomitable desire of man to grasp the world gives rise to philosophy. 

The modern Western philosopher René Descartes, father of modern philosophy, identifies skepticism as an acceptable source of philosophy. In his words, philosophy means doctrine verified and tested on the hard rock of logic. Any fabricated discussion or blind faith and superstition can never be called philosophy. For this reason Descartes doubted all his previous philosophical doctrines. Then he developed his own philosophy. It is true that without skepticism and skepticism, nothing new can be discovered. And this saying applies not only to philosophy, but also to religion. For example, the famous philosopher and theologian Gautama Buddha was able to establish new religions by doubting his previous religions.

Philosophy from various needs of life

Many people think that searching for the answer to the basic questions of life is not only philosophy, but also the practical needs of life and many other needs. Philosophical discussion originates. The utilitarian philosophical doctrine began with an emphasis on practical application. William James, John Dewey, FC Schiller etc. are the main proponents of this philosophy. John Dewey pointed out in his theory of education that education that does not serve people is not real education. They give more importance to manual education and technical education.

The famous philosopher Cunningham also thinks so. Human needs are what make man think about the world. In the same way, existentialist philosophical doctrine is developed due to the need to protect human existence. Existentialist philosophers Jean-Paul Satre, Kierkegaard, etc. believe that people are born in a helpless state in this world full of problems and face various problems as they grow older. Among thousands of situations he has to make decisions exclusively for himself. In that case he has to make decisions in the light of his own needs and problems.

He cannot ignore, neglect or deny any of his needs. Therefore, it is seen that the person tries to determine the goal and value of life by giving importance to the human existence, which the existentialist philosophy journeys by giving importance to the problems or needs of the people. Thus it can be seen that philosophy is thought to have its origins in solving various needs and problems of life. Indian Charvaka philosophy also arose out of human needs.

Philosophy from people’s spiritual thirst

Man is composed of both physical and mental. He works for ages in pursuit of mental satisfaction and peace. Spiritual thirst and need is one aspect of the eternal human problem. Realization of the Supreme Being, undisturbed peace, melancholic peace etc. give birth to mysticism. 

According to Indian philosophers, philosophy originates from fulfilling spiritual needs. Maharishi Kapil (introducer of Sankhya Philosophy) said, in this world, people are heated in this triple heat of spiritual, meta-divine and metaphysical. Philosophy originates from the attempt to get rid of this turmoil.

Scope and Subject Matter of Philosophy

We have learned in the previous discussion that philosophy is an all-encompassing subject. Philosophy encompasses all aspects of human experience, including the fundamental problems or questions of life and the world. This is why Dr. Schiad says, “There is no aspect of human experience, nothing of the whole realm of being, which is beyond the scope or reach of philosophy, or towards which philosophical inquiry does not extend.” The content of a subject can be called the scope and content of the subject as philosophy is an all-encompassing subject so its scope is very broad and extensive. To facilitate your understanding, students, the content of philosophy is discussed in five parts.


Metaphysics is one of the branches of philosophy. The English term for metaphysics is derived from the Greek words Meta and Phiscis. Meta means ‘after’ and the Bengali word Charangarpong means physics. So etymologically what comes after physics is metaphysics. The branch of philosophy that deals with the real form of things that lies behind their primitive forms is called metaphysics. It predominates in discussions about the true nature of the universe. From some metaphysics questions we can get a clear idea about the nature of metaphysics. For example, what is the soul, immortal or immortal? What is God? How to prove the existence of God? What does country-time mean? What is the relationship between body and mind? Is there a world beyond our senses? What is the relationship between creation and the creator? Which is the real world? Etc. The branch of philosophy called metaphysics analyzes and searches for answers to questions.


Epistemology is one of the most important areas of discussion about philosophy, which is the origin of knowledge, nature of knowledge, sources and methods of thinking, truth and its criteria, content of knowledge, limits of knowledge, validity of knowledge, ways and methods of obtaining knowledge, such as- intellectualism, empiricism, intuitionism, judgmentism. Discusses etc. The issue of validity, like truth, is also an epistemological question, so the issue of validity of knowledge is also a topic of epistemology. The English equivalent of Epistemology is Epistemology. 

The term epistemology was first used by J. in the book called ‘Institutes of Metaphysics’ . F. Fourier. The term Epistemology is derived from the Greek words Episteme and Logos. The Bengali meaning of Episteme is Knowledge and the Bengali meaning of Logos is Vidya or Science. Therefore, from the etymological point of view, the term Epistemology (Epistemology) in Bengali means epistemology or knowledge.

Axiology of Philosophy of Values

One of the main tasks of philosophy is to promote the welfare of humanity. And so philosophers have been scrutinizing everything related to value since ancient times in grasping the origin of world-life. The branch of philosophy which deals with the nature of ideals or values ​​is called Values. Values ​​are divided into three categories, namely- Logic, Ethics and Aesthetics. Logic deals with the nature of truth, ethics deals with the nature of goodness and aesthetics deals with the nature of beauty. Therefore, it is seen that Values ​​is one of the branches of philosophy where what is the value or ideal, what is the nature of value, whether value is personal or material, what is the relationship between value and being, determining the meaning of the terms related to value and uncovering the nature of absolute ideals such as truth, beauty and goodness. religious values,

Philosophy of Mind

This branch of philosophy has recently become one of the branches of philosophy history. This branch called philosophy of mind deals with the nature of mind or soul, relationship between body and mind, freedom of will, immortality of soul etc.


The term Cosmology is derived from the Greek word Kosmos. Which means Ordered Universe. This branch of philosophy deals with the aspects of the universe that we are witnessing such as inanimate matter, life, age, evolution, change etc. 

Nature of Philosophy

From the discussion so far we have got some ideas about philosophy. To facilitate your understanding, we will now discuss the nature of philosophy separately. However, in this context, it should be remembered that if we want to know the nature of philosophy, it depends to a large extent on the topics discussed in philosophy, the goals and objectives of philosophy, philosophical problems and the methods of its discussion etc. Therefore, to determine the true nature of philosophy, we need to give importance to those things. They are as follows:

  1. Philosophy of goals and objectives
  2. Philosophy in terms of topics
  3. Philosophy in problem solving
  4. Systematic Philosophy
  5. Philosophy in the light of life-philosophy.

Philosophy of goals and objectives

Its form is closely related to the purpose or goal of philosophy. Philosophy seeks to establish a holistic view by providing logical explanations of fundamental questions of life and the world. The aim of philosophy is not to look at the life-world in fragmentary form but to explain and evaluate the life-world as a whole. 

Therefore, in terms of goal or purpose, philosophy can be said to give direction to an all-encompassing subject. From that point of view, we can say that the subject or branch of knowledge which analyzes the fundamental questions of life and the world in a logical manner always informs us about its true significance and goal is called philosophy. That is why Patrick said that philosophy is the art of thinking about things or trying to think about things. But the true nature of philosophy cannot be determined only in the light of its aims and objectives.

Philosophy in terms of topics

Just as the nature of a philosophy can be determined in the light of its aims and objectives, it is also largely determined in the light of its subject matter. Since philosophy includes all branches of human experience and knowledge, its nature or form is general and comprehensive. According to the famous philosopher Butrand Russell, whether consciously or unconsciously, some questions arise in people’s minds that have no reasonable answer in theology, and science does not bother with them at all. 

For example, whether we have freedom of action, or whether it is predetermined by the destiny by which we are constantly driven, what is the relation of the soul to the body? No rational explanation of such questions can be found in theology. Theology gives the answer to all this in a religious perspective; But some science minds may not be satisfied with that. So they look to science for answers. And it is in this uncharted realm between theology and science that philosophy wanders. And this is why Russell called philosophy a No Man’s Land between science and theology. 

Philosophy in problem solving

We have already discussed that philosophers deal with fundamental and universal problems related to the world and life. Philosophical problems are inherently different from everyday and factual problems. For example, if someone thinks that his business is not profitable; Or what is cooking today at noon; Or whether to go for a walk today or not; Such problems are daily and personal questions. Such questions are not the subject of philosophical discussion.

But who am I; Why was this world created; Whether there is a God; What is the soul; Is the soul immortal or mortal; How and by what means is knowledge acquired; Human life ends with death; Or is there such a thing as resurrection or revival; What is morality; What is virtue and integrity; It is the task of the philosopher to investigate the problems of life, whether morality and integrity are hereditary or personal.

Thus it appears that the task of philosophy is to provide a logical solution to the fundamental, universal, unique and unique questions of life and the world. And from that point of view, without a doubt, philosophy is a fundamental matter.

Systematic Philosophy

Since philosophy is a logical search for the fundamental questions of the world and life, philosophy is reflective on the one hand and constructive on the other.

Logical analysis is the proper method of philosophy. Hence there is a substantial difference between philosophy and science in methodological terms. Whereas in science various methods such as observation and observation are applied, philosophy attempts to solve problems by advancing the scientific method. Because Argument and Analysis is the correct method of philosophy. Therefore philosophy is methodologically very different from science. Basically, the nature of philosophy from a systematic point of view is that it is always judicial and constructive. 

Philosophy as a philosophy of life

Life does not merely explain the nature and meaning of being, nor can it be said to be a logical analysis of the fundamental questions of world-life or a systematic discussion of philosophical problems.

Many people think philosophy means philosophy of life. What is meant by philosophy must be close to life. That which is not related to life, or does not serve any purpose in life, cannot be a philosophy. A famous philosopher of Bangladesh G. C. Dev in his book titled ‘Amar Jeevan Darshan’ defines philosophy as ‘philosophy of life’. However, he did not separate theory from the necessities of life. He was engaged in trying to make philosophy acceptable in the work of common people.


Philosophy should be engaged in the service of mass people. Human life has two aspects, worldly and spiritual; Life cannot be completed without one of them; A meaningful life is formed by combining the two. Those who misunderstand that philosophy is only a matter of observation must be changed. Because the true nature of philosophy is such that it is never a matter of standing still and it is a dynamic and analytical approach to life that establishes a solid foundation through a logical explanation of life and the world.


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