Philosophy in the broadest sense is the study of the world as a whole. It seeks to discover the ultimate meaning of life and of the universe. Philosophers often think analytically and critically about basic issues such as democracy, propaganda, class warfare, human rights, the global environment, religious tolerance or ethical behavior. They often ask what these matters are, how they relate to each other, and how we should respond to them in our society.
Philosophy makes an important contribution to society by illuminating the patterns of societal organization and interaction. The best examples of this are in the areas of global justice and social science, with philosophy departments in most universities. These philosophers develop specific methods to deal with particular problems that arise in society. Most of these problems are caused by poverty, injustice, power, gender imbalance, environmental degradation, racial prejudice, and political/economic unjustices.
The goal of philosophy is the betterment of social life. It looks deeper into history and society to uncover the causes of wrongs, the practices that perpetuate them, and the means to overcome them. By increasing public awareness and concern for social problems, philosophers have helped turn philosophy into a positive influence on society. They have sought to answer questions that are often asked about why some things happen while others do not.
A good example is the work of Aristotle. Beginning in the 3rd century BCE, Aristotle sought to give a rationalistic explanation for the existence of moral facts. In his naturalistic philosophy, he distinguished between the physical world and the values derived from it, including virtue, beauty, goodness, truth, friendship, justice, courage, and virtue.
Many of today’s most prominent philosophers reflect the views of Aristotle. The social world, both within human societies and among the larger cosmos, is intimately connected with the philosophical view of the world. Philosophy helps us understand how we can know the truth about what exists and how we can use reason to know what is good or bad. By engaging in philosophy courses, graduates will be able to see how different perspectives about the world and its institutions contribute to understanding society as a whole.
Philosophy of law has long been regarded as one of the most important branches of philosophy. Just as it is with other branches of philosophy, law must be applied with a degree of objectivity in order to be examined effectively. While there are many different opinions about what the ideal type of legal system might look like, all agree that justice is the standard that society should aspire to. Philosophy of law attempts to explain how and why justice plays an important part in society, as well as how to apply and improve it. Philosophy of law helps students discover the relationships among justice, property and persons, in addition to identifying particular harms and the means to prevent them.
Philosophy of international relations generally addresses the causes of war and examines how to bring peace to the world. Many philosophers of international relations argue that the peace of the world can only be guaranteed through a process of diplomacy. In other words, the goal of philosophy of international relations is to help individuals and nations reach agreement on rules of conduct and diplomacy that they can use to ensure the security of their countries and the freedom of their citizens. Philosophy of international relations is particularly useful when combined with other courses, such as philosophy of law. This pairing of courses unites knowledge about international law and the practices involved in it with the ability to form alternative views on controversial issues that face humanity today.
Philosophy of politics requires that individuals and societies share certain beliefs about what is just and right. Philosophy of politics often brings into question the very basis of societal authority. By examining the ways that unjust beliefs are formed and the way that wrong ideas gain support, philosophy of politics helps people understand how to live together and peacefully coexist. By providing individuals with a sense of the foundations of right and wrong, philosophy of politics helps people learn how to respect one another.