... What do you think the building blocks of philosophical thought are? ... what do you need to know to be able to think about philosophy?
Agree with Thomas on the definition. Though imprecise as it may seem, "Love of Wisdom" is as good as its going to get.
As far as building blocks go...
- Before anything (and I'm surprised no one's mentioned this), one must have the desire (curiosity or interest) in philosophical matters. It has no worth to someone who has no motivating 'need'.
- Next, one must have some sense of humility. If you don't think there is wisdom or knowledge to be gained, your mind is closed.
- An ability to step out of our own perspective (empathy, abstract thought)
- The ability and desire to read relatively well
- The ability to recognize the rational and irrational
From that point on, depending on which direction you're going to go, requisite tools can vary. While a vast array of philosophical subdivisions exists, I tend to gravitate (or categorize) towards the five basics: Metaphysics, Ethics, Logic, Epistemology & Aesthetics. Each urges its own, sometimes unique abilities.
A few replies/comments if I may:
... philosophy also includes areas where we do not have knowledge in that area so there is no automatic "correct" answer and that is where philosophy is. The early philosphers did not have the knowledge we have now and devised methods of gaining that knowledge such as questions, data gathering and correct sentence structure to avoid contradiction. There are still much that humans do not know and that is where philosophic thoughts come. How do we handle this? What is the next action to take? How to avoid repeats of earlier mistakes?
Great point. A few things to keep in mind: Throughout the eons, people have rationalized (or attempted to deduce) knowledge and wisdom. I've had a real blast recently; studying Ptolemy and Capernicus, who came to very different conclusions in figuring out the earth's place in the cosmos. Both were "sure". The short answer
, I believe that we can't really avoid the mistakes of the past; though we need to be brave and humble enough to strike out with the risk of making them. Gaining knowledge, insight and perspective is a tedius process filled with mistakes that are necessary. I suppose in this light I'd recommend that we be "forgiving" of those trying to learn and understand - at the risk of bombastic cliche-tossing: Mistakes are how we learn.
In many cases, one learns to think philosophically by reading philosophers, by garnering different perspectives, and---with careful reading---learns the various methods of philosophical articulation and expostulation.
Think I got enough of philosophy in 10 mini reading about "spontanous genesis" and "Kirkegaard, then having a few discussions with philosophers irl babbeling about "i think therefore i am". I pave my own roads.
This is probably the best way to go about it. One needn't pour over arcane texts for years while wearing a hood and engaged in self flagellation. A simple "seed" of curiosity is all that's needed. You can then take it as far as you like... or not. Complete and comprehensive coverage in all aspects isn't necessary and its worthless to the average human being who has no personal
connection and direction (i.e., own road) to the material being considered. This works better with some branches of philosophy than others; as IFrank mentioned, Logic is so much more strict; very specific pitfalls and specific methodology without which one's likely to go awry. Others are more flexible - some even require the ability to "dream", so to speak.
Ding an Sich wrote:
My second "building block" consisted of an in-depth understanding of the history of philosophy. This involves reading the works of other philosophers to garner an understanding of the problems that have sprung up...
I'm glad someone mentioned this. It occurred to me but I hadn't the presence of mind to bring it up. Having a basic understanding of philosophy canons is valuable for a very simple reason: Methods, ideas and theories that have widespread credibility - and were enunciated well - form "alternate possibilities" in the mind of the reader. That they have this "over time" credibility speaks to how far and wide these notions have "rung true" for many. Dive into some recommended readings on epistemology and you'll find that "how do we know what we think we know" has more potential answers than one might have realized.
I'll again take this opportunity grind an axe: Debate and argument isn't always necessary, indeed its often counterproductive and comprises but one of many possible approaches. To my thinking, Philosophy has 5 typical 'phases':
- Curiosity: Where one realizes their interest in <whatever>
- Self-Assessment: What do I know? Think I know or Believe?
- Investigation: Read and Learn about the conclusions others before you came to
- Ponder/Marinate: Let all before you coalesce in your mind. Critically examine what your mind tells you with the validity of others
- Initial decision: What you believe, what you know, what rings true and fits with what you recognize as true, meaningful and valid.
- Share: Share with others your thoughts, process and conclusions.
Its in this "Sharing" aspect that "debate", "insult" and "argue" tend to come in. If this is going to be at all valuable, sharing involves listening and responding; the more adversarial the environment is, the more likely emotion rears its ugly head to overload the rational thought process. Yes, sometimes it can be productive, but that's regrettably rare.