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Philosophy is a field of study in which people question and create theories about the nature of reality. It includes diverse subfields such as aesthetics, epistemology, ontology, ethics, logic, metaphysics, and law. Philosophers concern themselves with such fundamental and mysterious topics as whether or not God(s) exist, what is the nature of being and the universe, what is truth, what is consciousness, and what makes actions right or wrong. The fundamental method of western philosophy is the use of reasoning to evaluate arguments. However, the methodology of philosophy is itself debated, and varies according to the philosophical and cultural traditions of people all over the world.

Origin and meaning of term

The term philosophy comes from the Greek word Φιλοσοφία (philo-sophia), which means "love of wisdom." If one were to ask the ancient Greeks for the meaning of "wisdom", their answers would have dwelt on virtue, the quest for genuine knowledge, and the eradication of false opinions. However, the term is notoriously difficult to define today (see definition of philosophy) because of the diverse fields of study to which it has been popularly applied. The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy defines it as the study of "the most fundamental and general concepts and principles involved in thought, action, and reality". It goes on to observe that philosophy differs from science in that philosophy's questions cannot be answered empirically, and from religion in that philosophy allows no place for faith or revelation. However, these points are called into question by the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, which states: "the late 20th-century spirit of the subject [...] prefers to see philosophical reflection as continuous with the best practice of any field of intellectual enquiry". Indeed, many of the speculations of early philosophers in the field of natural philosophy eventually formed the basis for several kinds of modern scientific explanation.


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