philosophy One conception of philosophy is that it is about the rigorous *critical examination of fundamental assumptions that people usually take for granted, if they are even aware of them (or, for short, being pedantic about presuppositions). Thus it may appear to some people to be a sort of intellectual trouble-making and the enemy of *common sense. And they will be right. But philosophy includes a very practical trouble-making on which much human progress ultimately relies. For, pace Shelly (1792-1822), it is nearer the truth to say that philosophers rather than poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) did not have it entirely wrong, although aiming at “Maxims for *revolutionists”, when he wrote that, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” At least if “unreasonable” is taken to mean ‘intellectually uncompromising’, for philosophy is inherently reasonable. In *fact, there is not much more to it as an activity—for it is not really a subject in which there is a clear body of knowledge—than insisting on being scrupulously reasonable. Out of philosophy’s fundamental reasonings are born most *ideological and *moral theories. And ultimately these are what ‘rule’ each *society.
Philosophy has four main branches: ethics, epistemology, metaphysics and logic. Ethics, or moral philosophy, is about how people ought to behave and live. Epistemology is about what and how, if at all, things may be known. Metaphysics is about what kinds of fundamental things exist and the nature of that existence. Logic is about the principles of valid inference. There are various other branches, including *political philosophy. But almost any subject, issue or assumption can be treated philosophically. We should also note that most major disciplines started as philosophy and only became independent once they were sufficiently developed. And some philosophers, including this one, do not accept that they can be genuinely independent (for instance, science cannot avoid metaphysical assumptions and is thus a subset of metaphysics).
includes ideology and morals. It was revived in the previous century largely by
John Rawls (1921-2002) in his A Theory of
Justice, 1971, (see *original position). Thanks to the response to Rawls’s book by Robert
Nozick (1938-2002) in his Anarchy, State,
and Utopia, 1974, *libertarianism has been
taken more seriously in *academia. And since then
libertarianism has experienced a considerable revival; for it is really only
classical *liberalism. If libertarianism is ever again to
become the dominant ideology of the *intellectuals and eventually even common sense, then Nozick’s book will
have been the leading philosophical catalyst. However, this is not to imply
that all or even most of his arguments on this subject are the ones that best
survive critical scrutiny. Nor is this to downplay the importance of *economics in defending *liberty.
A balance of philosophy and economics has been attempted throughout this work.
A Libertarian Dictionary