Existence & Knowledge
From the beginning of human history, human beings have asked questions about the world and their place within it.
For early civiltied, the answers to the most fundamental questions were found in religion of under determined aspects they offered and still offer different Insights about the how of the actions of God (or of the gods) and explaining the fuctioning of the universe, the technology that provides a framework for human civilizations.
If it hasn’t been though religion teachings, it is through the observation and explaination of nature that human history has started to move toward the realization of plans and purposes serving as a guide for presenting as a system, at least in broad outlines, what would otherwise be a planless conglomeration of human actions.
When the first true philosophers appeared in ancient Greece some 2,500 years ago, it was the world around them that inspired their sense of research and of wonder.
They saw the earth and all the different forms of life inhabiting it; the Sun, Moon, Planets, and Stars; and natural phenomena such as the weather, earthquakes, and eclipses.
They researched explanations for all these things–not the traditional myths and legends about the gods, but something that would satisfy their curiosity and their intellect.
The first question that occupied these early philosophers was “what is the universe made of?”, which was soon expanded to become the wider question of “what is the nature of whatever it is that exists?”
This is the branch of philosophy we now call metaphysics. Although much of the original question has since been explained by modern science, related questions of metaphysics such as “Why is there something rather than nothing?” are not so simply answered. Because we, too, exist as a part of the universe, metaphysics also considers the nature of human existence and what it means to be a conscious being.
How Can We Know?
How do we perceive the world around us, and do things exist independently of our perception? What is the relationship between our mind and body, and is there such a thing as an immortal soul? The area of metaphysics concerned with questions of axistence, ontology (the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being) is a huge one and forms the basis for much of western philosophy.
Once philosophers had started to put received wisdom to the test of rational examination, another fundamental question became obvious: “how can we know?”
The study of the nature and limits of knowledge forms a second main branch of philosophy, epistemology. At its heart is the question of how we acquire knowledge, how we come to know what we know, is some (or even all) knowledge innate, or do we learn everything from experience?
Can we know something from reasoning alone? These questions are vital to philosophical thinking, as we need to be able to rely on our knowledge in order to reason correctly. We also need to determine the scope and limits of our knowledge. otherwise we cannot be sure that we Actually do Know what we Think we Know, and haven’t somehow been “deceived” into believing it by our senses and what we think to know.
Author: Cristina Capucci