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What It Means to Be a Philosopher Self Evaluation Essay

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Updated: May 27th, 2022

Philosophy has been a popular discipline for many centuries, but not many people know what it exactly is. Some consider it to be a superset of rhetoric, while others believe that philosophy is dealing with questions that have no use in practice. Despite these assumptions, philosophy has played an essential role in human progress because it affects how people do science. To have a more detailed understanding of philosophy, it is critical to consider the primary traits that philosophers possess. The first part of this paper provides an examination of these characteristics and explores the concept of paradigm with a real-life example of Socrates. The second part is a personal account of what constitutes a philosopher, and if the author considers himself a philosopher.

Argumentative Piece

Traits of a Philosopher

One of the most significant parts of the philosophic enterprise is the questions it provides. These inquiries are not simple in the sense that they cannot be answered to the full extent because of human’s limited understanding of the universe and its mechanisms (Introduction: What is philosophy, n.d.). Instead, answers to such questions are only improved over time as the science progresses. The ability to wonder about the world and construct these enduring questions is the first trait a philosopher should have. An example of an enduring problem is, “How do we know that we exist in reality and not in our imagination?” Solutions to such issues have changed over time as human beings learned more about the surrounding world and have made significant developments in scientific disciplines. There is a possibility that answers will be altered further as time passes, and new inventions and discoveries will be presented.

After giving an enduring question, a philosopher should have the capacity to answer it. Not all solutions suffice because they must meet the criteria of rational consideration. Therefore, the second trait of a philosopher is their ability to think and answer questions rationally (Introduction: What is philosophy, n.d.). One may ask what rational thinking is, however, which makes the author switch the context to the field of critical reasoning. Rational thinking is the ability to engage in independent reasoning activities and evaluate conclusions based on logical connections between its supporting premises. When one says that a philosopher should be able to think rationally, they mean that philosophers need to be proficient in logic, argumentation, and unbiased reasoning. Critical thinking is a significant constituent of philosophy, but it also has a place in many other fields of studies, including mathematics, computer science, and jurisprudence (An introduction to arguments, n.d.). Therefore, it can be considered that philosophy has an influence on other scientific disciplines and may have an impact on the course of their development.

The final trait is connected to questions or instruments for answering them. It is more associated with the environment and people around a philosopher. When discussing what philosophy is, some parties consider it to be an essential component of happiness. They argue that a person cannot be happy without a rational appreciation of events and phenomena around them. However, not all people are born philosophers, which necessitates experienced critical thinkers to teach others so that everyone can be happy. Therefore, the third trait a philosopher must have is the ability to empower others and relieve them from prejudice and bias. He or she should be able to free their thoughts and teach them about reflection and show them how to wonder and seek rational answers. Such skills have influenced people’s imagination, which is manifested in arts and inventions. Philosophers are at the root of human progress, and this field of study should not be perceived as useless construction of impractical questions.

Paradigmatic Socrates

Socrates did not produce philosophical works, but his contributions to the field are undisputed. Most of the information that people have about him came from second-hand accounts. Therefore, to evaluate whether or not Socrates is a paradigmatic philosopher, one needs to rely on the teachings of his students and feedback received from other parties. The first criterion to judge for being paradigmatic is whether or not Socrates was an individual that wondered and asked enduring questions. Socrates believed he knew nothing, which implies that he was always in search of understanding. The presence of the Socratic Method, which is asking questions to improve conclusions and general knowledge about the world, indicates that Socrates was a person that possessed this trait.

The second criterion is the ability to engage in rational thought process and proposing conclusions based on the critical evaluation of premises. There are at least two pieces of evidence that suggest Socrates meets this requirement. Plato, who was Socrates’ student, believed that a greater understanding of the universe could be attained with the help of intellect rather than senses (Plato’s Euthyphro, 2016). In other words, he believed that rational examination is much more effective than the subjective perception of information that comes from sensory organs. Another supporting evidence is the confrontation between Socrates and Euthyphro. When the latter claimed to possess expertise in theology, Socrates did not immediately accept Euthyphro’s statements, but instead critically evaluated the presented arguments (Plato’s Euthyphro, 2016). This process is called the rational dialectic, and Socrates practiced it ubiquitously.

The third and last criterion is the empowerment of others. Socrates meets this requirement successfully because besides thinking rationally and providing critical arguments, he taught others. Plato is an example of how empowering others can have an influence on many generations. Socrates’ teaching method was also unique and was aimed at leading a person to the liberation of their thoughts. In other words, Socrates did not provide specific instructions and did not show what is right or wrong. Instead, the Socratic method was focused on helping a person to arrive at a more favorable conclusion by themselves (Plato’s Euthyphro, 2016). Therefore, it can be considered that Socrates was an empowering individual.

Conclusion

Philosophy is a complex discipline and encompasses various interrelated subjects. Philosophers have three general traits that serve as the requirement for being considered a paradigmatic philosopher. Firstly, a philosopher must wonder about the world and construct questions that will help attain a greater understanding of it. Secondly, a philosopher needs to be able to reason critically and without bias. Critical thinking is the most vital constituent of the philosophical enterprise. Lastly, a philosopher needs to transfer their knowledge to other people so that they also can engage in rational thought process and improve their assumptions about the world. Socrates meets all these criteria and can be considered a paradigmatic philosopher. He constantly sought truth through posing enduring and thought-provoking questions. Socrates also believed in the importance of rational reasoning and taught it through the use of his Socratic method.

Personal Epilogue

Am I a Philosopher?

Wondering about how the environment works and tinkering with what one touches and sees is the core attribute of children. Primary questions that are asked during this period are related to the practical sides of surrounding items. In other words, children are generally interested in how a particular object will respond to external influence. As people grow up, the same level of wondering may still be present, but the nature of questions changes. Instead of inquiring about an item’s reactions, we start to ask about its roles in the broader context. However, not all people become philosophers because of the lack of interest in gaining an unbiased understanding of the world. I can use the same three criteria to judge whether or not I am a philosopher.

Like most people, I do wonder, but one has to understand the purposes of this wondering process to determine if it suffices to be considered a philosopher. Most of the time, I seek answers about how the world works, and most questions can be answered with the help of a simple web search engine query. For instance, I often contemplate about how our universe works and how it came to existence. Questions that rely on scientific data may not be considered philosophical, but the fact that I am interested in such matters is a clear sign that I can ask interesting questions. Besides inquiries about the universe, I often think about the purpose of human beings. I believe in having the capacity to wonder and ask enduring questions, which makes me meet the first criterion.

I was not acquainted with critical thinking until I decided to read a book about it. After completing, I realized that I often made invalid arguments and was also misguided by them. However, today, I know about the process of argument construction and have the capacity to identify premises that do not support a given conclusion. I do not meet the third criterion, however; I have not had a chance to teach others because I am not an experienced philosopher. I can apply the concepts to real-world situations, but do not have enough knowledge be a teacher of philosophy. In summary, although I only have two out of three traits, I consider myself a philosopher.

Benefits of Being a Philosopher

We are living in a digital age where information is the primary constituent of power. Therefore, people are given facts from all sides, which often causes confusion. It also creates space for manipulative actions on behalf of businesses and politicians (Hacker, 2018). For instance, a computer manufacturer may claim that the new generation of its devices is three times faster. However, as a critical thinker, a consumer must ask about what and how the company is comparing it to. Therefore, being a philosopher is essential in contemporary society in order to make rational choices and filter information effectively (Hacker, 2018). It also benefits others, including the politicians – they must improve how they speak and deliver information in order to convince a philosopher.

Conclusion

Philosophy is a critical discipline, and all people should learn its main principles. Being a philosopher helps mitigate manipulative behavior on behalf of others and learn how to seek the truth. Socrates is an example of a paradigmatic philosopher because he possessed all the required traits. I consider myself to be a philosopher to some extent, but I need to learn how to empower others.

References

An introduction to arguments: Deduction and induction [PowerPoint slides]. (n.d.).

Hacker, P. (2018). Why study philosophy? IAI News. Web.

Introduction: What is philosophy [PowerPoint slides]. (n.d.).

Plato’s Euthyphro [PowerPoint slides]. (2016).

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