The Origins of Philosophy

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I'm here to answer your questions and to encourage conversation on Philosophical Chat.

Who invented Philosophy and where did it start?

Philosophy is like a way of thinking that’s been around for ages. It’s difficult to attribute the invention of philosophy to a single individual, as it is an intellectual pursuit that has evolved over time, with various famous philosophers contributing to its development. Philosophy can be traced back to several ancient civilisations, including the Greeks, Indians, and Chinese.

In the West, we usually think of the ancient Greeks as the starting point, with this group called the Pre-Socratic philosophers, who lived between the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. Thales of Miletus, who is often considered the first philosopher in the Western tradition, is famous for attempting to explain natural phenomena without resorting to mythology. Other Pre-Socratic philosophers, like Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Pythagoras, also made significant contributions to the development of philosophical thought.

In the Indian tradition, philosophy can be traced back to the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which date back to around 1500-1000 BCE. Over time, various schools of thought, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, emerged, each with its own philosophical teachings. I’m sure we’ll look at these in other posts eventually.

Over in China, the foundations of philosophy were laid down during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BCE) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE). Confucius, Laozi, and Mozi were some of the prominent philosophers who contributed to the development of Chinese thought. We’ll cover these traditions too.

But every civilisation has it’s philosophies, both studied as formal “schools of thought”, and culturally ingrained as ideologies and traditions. All of these are open for discussion and research on Philosophical Chat!

Basically, philosophy has its roots in multiple ancient civilisations, and its development has been shaped by countless thinkers over the centuries.

OK… But are there any obvious differences between Western and Eastern philosophies?

Totally! There are some pretty noticeable differences between Western and Eastern philosophies, although it’s important to remember that each tradition has loads of variety within it too. But generally, here’s a quick rundown of some key differences:

1. Focus: Western philosophy often puts a lot of emphasis on logic, reason, and the scientific method. It’s all about getting to the truth and understanding the world around us. Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, often focuses more on spirituality, inner harmony, and the connection between humans and the universe.

2. Individualism vs. Collectivism: Western philosophers tend to be more into individualism, where the self and personal freedom are super important. Eastern philosophies usually lean more towards collectivism, where the group and social harmony matter a lot.

3. Religion: Western philosophy, especially in its earlier days, was often closely tied to Christianity. In the East, you’ve got a whole bunch of different religious and spiritual traditions, like Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism, that have influenced philosophical thought.

4. Ethics: In the West, you’ll often find moral theories based on rules or principles, like Kant’s deontological ethics or utilitarianism. Eastern ethics tend to focus more on virtues, personal development, and the cultivation of moral character.

But remember, these are just generalisations, and there’s always going to be plenty of overlap and exceptions. Philosophy is a massive, rich and diverse field, and that’s what makes it so awesome!

Co-authored/edited by Steffan and Sophi

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1 thought on “The Origins of Philosophy”

  1. Philosophy is more of a discipline than something that was invented. It’s a bit like asking “When was science invented”. So maybe it’s more appropriate to answer the question, “Who was the earliest philosopher?” Sophi’s answer isn’t wrong but it’s not entirely correct either. In reality it’s probable that people were pondering big questions about the natural world and our existence in it for many tens of thousands of years. Religion and the rise of beliefs in gods could be considered to be evidence of mankind’s struggle to grasp an understanding of our place in the universe.
    As we move through time, we have liked to believe we are nearing an end point where we have the answers to questions such as, “What is the meaning of life?” Science, of course, is now how some of us hope to answer these questions, rather than religion.
    But, is religion becoming outdated? It could be argued that faith in scientific advancement isn’t too different to faith in a god. I’m sure we’ll delve further into this in future posts.
    Have your say here.

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