What is Philosophy?

Lisa asked, "what is philosophy?"

Alas, the questions is hard to answer, but a fair one given that some of you may have taken psychology courses but not any philosophy courses.

The word means "love of wisdom," but that does not explain much.

The easiest answer is that philosophy is a tradition of study coming down from Plato and Aristotle to today, concerned with a range of problems that include:
I like to think of philosophy as a discipline of clearing the path at the limits of knowledge. When something is well understood, philosophers move on. Thus, philosophers were the primary people thinking about motion, but then once physics was founded as a science philosophers (mostly) stopped worry about this and let physicists focus on these problems. A similar story can be told for many questions in other sciences and in mathematics. The questions of mind were the sole concern of philosophers, before psychology was founded. When psychology becomes a mature science, I expect philosophers will leave many of these questions behind.

Given either way of thinking about the philosophy, the role of philosophy in this course is to ask question in epistemology and logic about the method of psychology; to ask questions in metaphysics about the nature of mind; and overall to help clarify certain questions about the mind so that perhaps we can better answer them in the future.

I noticed with chagrin that the very fine Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (at this web site) studiously avoids having an entry for "philosophy" alone. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once famously said, all of philosophy is a footnote to Plato; in that spirit, one might peruse the encyclopedia's entry on Plato.