FUNDAMENTALS OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY

M. James Ziccardi

Copyright 2010 by M. James Ziccardi

Smashwords Edition

Section 1 - Preface

Whether political, economic, cultural, or religious, all aspects of our lives are grounded in some sort of philosophical belief (even the United States Constitution has its origin in the teachings of Aristotle). Philosophy is the discipline that deals with the foundation and nature of these beliefs. Unfortunately, whether by design or otherwise, philosophy is no longer seen as the valuable component to education that it once was. Today, education concerns itself more with what to know rather than how to know. Consequently, many of us have been conditioned to accept the world as it has been presented to us by others, and without any critical thought of our own.

M. James Ziccardi has written this book to help counter this dangerous trend. His objective is to provide a starting point for those who wish to have a better understanding of the beliefs that have shaped Western Society into what it is today. His hope is that by providing a better understanding of the origin of these beliefs, we will better be able to distinguish between those that have led to prosperity and those that have led to ruin.

Section 2 - Introduction

A good way to embark on a study of philosophy is to begin by looking at the word philosophy itself. The word philosophy translates directly from the Greek to mean “love (philo) of wisdom” (sophia). Since the “love of” portion of the word is pretty self-explanatory, we are left then with “wisdom”. When we think of wisdom, we think of knowledge, or to have knowledge. But to say that to have wisdom means to have knowledge is really nothing more than a circular definition, for all we are really doing is defining a word by a synonym, which in rhetoric is known as a tautology, and tautologies give us no more information than we had when we started. We could try again by saying that to have wisdom means to have understanding, but then again, we run into the same problem. After giving this a little thought, it becomes clear that providing a sufficient definition to words such as wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is not as straightforward as it would seem to be. This is where philosophy comes into the picture, for among other things, philosophy is where we attempt to gain knowledge of knowledge itself.

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