Philosophy is an Activity

From "5 Minute Tute: Philosophy" by Rick Lewis (founder and editor of Philosophy Now) on


"Most academic disciplines are defined by their subject matter, but with Philosophy this is tricky, because its subject matter is, well, everything. We could say that Philosophy is a critical investigation into any aspect of the universe or of human experience. Maybe Wittgenstein’s approach is more useful here: he said that Philosophy is an activity rather than a subject. It is the activity of rational reflection, of challenging assumptions and asking questions.

Can we all be philosophers?

Yes of course – it doesn’t even require any expensive equipment! We all stumble across philosophical problems at one time or another: Is there a God? Should we eat meat? What is life for? What comes after death? Is it sometimes all right to lie? How should we deal with this or that ethical dilemma? Some of these problems are inescapable, so the only question is whether we deal with them well or badly. Sadly, many people deal with dilemmas on the basis of emotional responses, tradition, or peer pressure rather than reasoned argument. As Bertrand Russell said, 'Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do.'"


Despite the simplicity of the above entry, there are aspects that clearly illustrate the purpose behind Wittgenstein's philosophical method. It has been written before, "Don't Think! Look!" which takes on a different quality here. Wittgenstein repeatedly urged his reader to look at how phenomenon was applied rather than explain or judge based upon expectations. For instance, one should assess religion by examining the various practices of religion rather drawing judgements based on a pre-established criteria, such as the scientific probability of the religions claims. Similarly, one should prepared to change perspectives if evidence comes to substantial alter one's expectations. By applying such a presumption, one fails to see what the practice of religion may offer individuals in a particular form of life.