There are many broad definitions of philosophy, including Merriam-Webster's simple "pursuit of wisdom"[1]. I think something useful can be learned from thinking about this a little harder. When I reread the definition I put forward in this post, I understand the goal of philosophy[2] much more clearly and have an idea of how to troubleshoot hard philosophical problems. Here is my proposed definition:

Philosophy is the process of creating a definition D for concept C such that:

  1. when average people read D, they intuitively feel that it is a good definition for C, and
  2. all cases are treated the same under D as they are under C (i.e. the thing-space boundary for D is the same as the thing-space boundary for C), and
  3. D is more useful or more simple or more obvious in its interpretation than C 

As an example, Plato's definition of knowledge was "justified, true, belief"[3]. This 1) sounds intuitively right, and 2) seemed to cover all the same areas that the word "knowledge" covered (in the sense of "knowing that", as opposed to "knowing how" or "knowing by aquantance"). It also fulfilled 3) because it provided a useful sort of checklist. However, Gettier showed cases where someone would be said to have justified, true, belief but not knowledge. Philosophers have since begun providing alternate definitions of knowledge that attempt to better cover requirement 2 (accuracy) while still covering 1 (intuitiveness) and 3 (usefulness).

  1. ^
  2. ^

    Of the 7 main philosophical areas listed on Wikipedia as of writing this, I think this definition applies best to Epistemology and Ethics while working somewhat for Aesthetics, Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of mind, and Philosophy of science.

  3. ^
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