Definition of Philosophy

1. Search to expand the knowledge and understanding of reality, based on research, reflection, and questioning, as a unique capacity of the human being.

2. Construct of thought based on a convergence of knowledge to direct or guide the ways of conceiving the different aspects of life.

3. Body of precepts that make up a manifesto of principles of thought.

4. Individual or collective style associated with a set of particular characteristics. Examples: ways of healthy eating; routine performance of physical activities; get away from material things and stay close to nature.

Etymology: by latin philosophyas ‘thought’, ‘wisdom’, ‘school’, on the reference of the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophy), regarding ‘love and the search for knowledge’, regarding φιλόσοφος (philosophos), formed by the prefix ϕιλο- (philo-), in the sense of ‘love/passion for’, and σοϕός (sophós), for ‘wise’.

Grammatical category: noun fem.
in syllables: philosophy.


lilen gomez
Professor in Philosophy

The word philosophy (from the Greek philosophia, to refer to “love for wisdom”) designates in everyday speech the set of knowledge that organizes and bases knowledge of what exists. Figuratively, it refers to particular philosophical doctrines (by saying, for example, “Platonic philosophy”) or, even, to the ways of life of particular people (“his philosophy is…”).

Philosophy as knowledge of beings qua beings

One of the first definitions of philosophy has been the one given by Aristotle in Book IV of his Metaphysics. For Aristotle, metaphysics constitutes the central nucleus of philosophy, on which its other parts depend (gnoseology, ethics); and, in turn, metaphysics is the knowledge that deals with beings as beings and that which constitutes their foundation. Consequently, philosophy is a theoretical knowledge, that is, it is dedicated to the knowledge of the entity in general (not of particular entities, but as entities, that is, in its essence).

In certain currents, the origin of the question about beings has been explained (why are there beings and not rather nothingness? What does the being of the totality of beings and of each one of them consist of? What does say “being”?) by virtue of the mental temper of the human being, namely, for example, the philosophical astonishment before something that causes surprise, such as the very existence of the world that surrounds us and of the human being himself. For Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), that mettle has been the boredom existential.

The question about the foundation of things, throughout history, will have very different answers, even contradictory among themselves.

Philosophy as invention of concepts

Another possible way is to think of philosophy, not as knowledge about what exists, but as an art dedicated to the invention, in this case, of concepts. Therefore, it does not consist in an approach towards the ultimate foundations that are already given, but in an operation of creation. Thus, it would not be a question of contemplating the Ideas, as Plato proposed, in such a way that with it the human being could know the truth rationally; since, for this exercise to take place, in the first instance, it was necessary to invent the concept of “Idea”.

This line of thought has been opened by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). In an analogous sense, the famous “Theses on Feuerbach” by Karl Marx (1818-1883) maintains: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, but what it is about is transforming it”. Both ideas will be widely recovered by different traditions of the 20th century, among which we can mention, for example, the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari —who have dedicated themselves especially to the question of what is philosophy?

philosophy and science

Usually, philosophy has been distinguished from the sciences, posing it as the main “trunk”, from which the different sciences about particular entities emerge as ramifications. In this sense, the distinction between the two would be that the sciences, unlike philosophy, do not raise a concern for the ultimate foundations, but start from assumptions about what exists to later formulate hypotheses and derived theories.

It is also worth mentioning that, currently, the study and practice of philosophy have acquired the configuration of an academic profession, generally within educational institutions. In this sense, it is possible to draw a distinction between philosophical praxis as such and the way in which it has become a profession, rather linked to the study of the history of philosophy and to production in the field of research, following methodologies close to those of the human sciences.



Carpio, A. (2003). Principles of Philosophy. Buenos Aires: Glaucous.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1993. What is philosophy? Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama.