The Facets of Philosophy

The Facets of Philosophy

The ubiquity of philosophy is already reflected in the very usage of the word. In the common language, any perceivable adherence to principles (regardless of whether they have ever been explicitly formulated), any inner consistency of one's behavior is called one's (personal) philosophy. Philosophical principles can easily become stock phrases. In such traditional occurrences philosophy seems to mainly regulate the ethical aspects of people's everyday life, almost coinciding with normative morality. Since this worldly wisdom often looks like arbitrary prescription, following it can only be explained by psychological reasons, personal predispositions and inclinations. However, the presence of philosophy on this level is much wider; it is built in every human activity as its universal background determining a range of routine solutions for every practical task. In this syncretic form, philosophy is a kind of projection of the current culture into the individual, a social framework of personal development.

It is important that, even on the syncretic level, philosophy demands a conscious attitude to the ways of one's action, a kind of deliberateness. While something is being done by mere habit, in an automated manner, there is no philosophy behind it. As soon as the choice is justified in any way, we come to philosophy. In particular, the same habitual acts could assume a quite different air when one is intentionally following the tradition; this is an entirely ideological decision.

However, the universal character of conscious activity also means universal cooperation, and hence conversation. People do not only share the ways of doing things, they also pass them to each other. As soon as this exchange becomes a separate activity, one becomes aware of one's own modes of action and able to consciously organize them. In this analytical reflection, philosophy becomes represented by special cultural formations, philosophical categories, or universals. Philosophizing is an essentially analytical activity aimed to developing categories and establishing their interdependencies. Universals are different from mere concepts, since they do not refer to a particular thing, but rather to what in the thing is in common with the whole Universe, to the thing beyond its concept. On the other hand, universals differ from the images of art in that they exist in an essentially objective way abstracted from the possible implementations. This means that philosophical categories can never be named, pictured, designated. Any name is limited, while universals are beyond any limits. Any image presents something special, while universals are unrestricted generality. That is why developing philosophical categories is so difficult, even painful. And that is why, despite its millennia long history, philosophy has not yet become a definite cultural sphere well distinguishable from the other forms of reflection.

Obviously, the analytical level of philosophy does not properly satisfy the demand of universality. After a temporary detachment from the diversity of life, philosophy is to return to it with a general scale allowing us to uncover the universal significance of every individual act.

For every type of activity, philosophy will take a specific form, often imitating the forms of that very activity. Thus, in the arts, the taste of an artist develops within a particular aesthetics. In science (including the syncretic and applied levels), the choice of the way is directed by some logic. To determine the social attitudes and the general framework of judgment, philosophy is to take the form of ethics. One could speak of the philosophy of lifestyle, the philosophy of love, the philosophy of farming, industrial philosophy, political philosophy etc. This provides an external subdivision of philosophy into many special disciplines reflecting the real cultural differentiation.

Within philosophy, one can distinguish numerous hierarchical structures referring to various specific aspects of universality. Thus, the universal structure of any activity can be expressed in the triad objectsubjectproduct or, in the abbreviated form, OSP. This abstract notation is convenient to account for different manifestations of the same scheme. For instance, when applied to the world as a whole, it represents the hierarchy naturespiritculture, retaining the same relations between the levels. Correspondingly, while philosophy is interested in the objective aspect of the world, it appears as ontology; considering the subject in its relation to the object and the product, philosophy becomes gnoseology (in a narrowed sense, also known as the theory of cognition, or epistemology); finally, to discover the universal necessity of activity (the correspondence of its product to its idea), we need philosophy as ideology. Any philosophical reflection requires a specific balance of all the three levels, sometimes putting accent on one of them while the others are still retained in the background.

Of course, one is free to choose any other approach and develop a different hierarchical structure. All such complementary structures will reflect the different aspects of the same. For example, one could consider the general hierarchy operationactionactivity, with the operational level giving the meaning of an action, and the embedding activity determining the action's sense. In this respect, philosophy applies to any area of conscious action in two complementary ways, as its methodology and axiology.

Yet another hierarchy reflects the possible cultural forms of the philosophy. In this respect, we distinguish individual (private, personal) philosophy from a philosophical teaching (or school); philosophical schools usually belong to some wider philosophical currents (e.g. positivism); on the highest level, there are fundamental philosophical trends (like materialism and idealism) allowing to judge about any particular philosophy in a universal way.

The major part of philosophizing comes from amateurs. People need some philosophy for their practical purposes, and they often have to invent it from scratch, eclectically combining the fragments of quite different philosophical teachings. This is a natural consequence of the deficiency of philosophical education which is mostly confined to the vulgar history of philosophy, dumping together the sayings of well-known philosophers (or other eminent people) without any system, seasoned with tales and libel. Very few people spend any appreciable effort to examine original texts and even less people try to derive an integral view of their own. There are professional philosophers; but they rarely differ from amateurs in the scope of their interests or in the level of education. A modern philosopher is mostly engaged in developing a very special set of categories within a limited domain. Such a petty philosophy may comprise a few universals; in the rest, it arbitrarily extrapolates an individual viewpoint onto the whole world, in the interests of a definite social group.

Thus philosophy as a unique level of reflection becomes many specific philosophies. The unity of all these partial manifestations can only be achieved in people's practical acts. Of course, the elements of an integral world view will grow within the present society, but a truly comprehensive philosophy is to reflect real cultural unity, which is impossible in class societies based on the division of labor and competition.

[Philosophy] [Unism]