Philosophy

"Scholars spend their time maximizing their minimal differences"    Anonymous

The term 'philosophy' is from Greek, from phil- (affinity or loving) + Sophia (wisdom).  The Grecian divine figure of Wisdom was called Sophia or Lady Wisdom.  Philosophy is literally the “love of wisdom.”

Academic philosophers study problems that relate to knowledge, existence, reality, reason, values, mind and language.  In everyday matters, “philosophy” refers to our basic beliefs, concepts and attitudes.

Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe and about society.  The ideas in philosophy are abstract – “things that cannot be touched”.  Some say philosophy is the 'science of the whole' and that the ultimate synthesis of the parts of different sciences is philosophy's main concern.  In general, philosophy is the humanities discipline that 'thinks about thinking'. 

Main Theories
In general, philosophy consists of three main theories: 
 1) Theory of Value (Axiology).
 2) Theory of Reality (Ontology and Metaphysics).
 3) Theory of Knowledge (Epistemology).

Two Grand Divisions
For simplicity, the Golden Seat divides philosophy into two major areas:

(1) THE PRACTICAL
Plato’s Natural Theology:  The Good
Behavioral guidelines based  on what is the best outcome for individuals and society.  The study of ethics, human behavior, morality (right and wrong, good and evil) and  responsibilities of people to each other and society.  The word 'Axiology', the Theory of Value, is from the Greek axios (worth, value) and logos (study).
Ethics:  value for the individual - "What ought I do as an individual?"
Social & Political Philosophy:  value for society - "What ought we do together?"

(2) THE SPECULATIVE
To ponder a subject and arrive at conclusions (‘speculate’ is the Latin verb “to look at”). Speculative conclusions can never be verified (‘philosophical doubt’). 
Plato’s Natural Theology:  The True

Plato’s natural Theology:  The Beautiful.
Theory of Value (Axiology): Aesthetics.  The value in fine arts and natural beauty.

Besides the “Two Grand Divisions” there are, as always, special fields of philosophy:
 • Philosophy of Education
 • Philosophy of Language
 • Philosophy of Mind
 • Philosophy of Religion
 • Philosophy of Science
 • Political Philosophy

In ‘History of Western Philosophy’ Bertrand Russell uses a three-tier model to categorize the Western philosophical traditions or schools of philosophy:

Ancient Philosophy
 • Pre-Socrates:  Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus, Protagoras.
 • Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
 • Post-Aristotle:  Cynics, Sceptics, Epicureans, Stoics, Poltinus.

Catholic Philosophy
 • The Fathers: Christain philosophyJewish philosophy, Islamic philosophy, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Benedict, Pope Gregory the Great
 • The Schoolmen: John the Scot, St. Thomas Aquinas

Modern Philosophy
 • Renaissance to Hume:  Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes. The Empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, Hume. The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz.
 • Rousseau to Present Day:  Rousseau. German Idealists: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel. • Byron, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx, Bergson, William James,  John Dewey.

Western ‘modern’ philosophy began during The Age of Reason (17th-century) and the Age of Enlightenment (18th-century) from which evolved two distinct schools:  Empiricism and Rationalism.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is noted for bridging the dominate western philosophical schools of Rationalism and Empiricism (German Idealism).

Contemporary Western philosophy has been largely dominated by two philosophical traditions:

1. Analytic Philosophy – dominated by Anglo-Saxon philosophers (Britain, No. America) who primarily focus on pragmatic and empiric-analytic studies.  That philosophy should apply rigorous methods of inquiry, logical techniques and be consistent with the formal methods of reasoning of modern science (‘exterior’ folk).  Key figures include Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, George Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (‘Tractatus’).  Wittgenstein has come to be considered one of the 20th Century’s most important philosophers, if not the most important.

2. Continental Philosophy – dominated by European philosophers (Germany, France) who primarily focus on the interpretive aspects of philosophy (‘interior’ folk).  The term ‘Continental’ is a catch-all label for everything else, which, in very general terms, rejects Scientism and tends towards Historicism (that the self or the world exist in the contexts and backgrounds that have a history, a development; not “pregiven”).  Key figures include Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger. 
In the second half of the 20th century, four main schools dominated Continental Philosophy: Existentialism,  Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism.  Structuralism is the broad belief that all human activity and its products (even perception and thought itself) are constructed and not natural, and that everything has meaning only through the language system in which we operate.  Post-Structuralism is the reaction to Structuralism, which stresses the culture and society of the ‘reader over that of the author’.  Post-Modernism isn’t easy to define – kind of a “pick’n’mix” openness to a variety of different meanings.  Key figures of Existentialism include Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir.  Key figures of Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism include Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida (Derrida’s work has been repeatedly accused of pseudo-philosophy and sophistry).

A Living Philosophy
The above exposition is largely a brief historical overview of philosophy.  The Golden Seat’s purpose, besides being a pleasurable piece of art, is to harmonize Science, Religion and Philosophy and to be guidepost to a living philosophy.

In the Lengthy Introduction it was discussed that the ‘frame of mind’ of The Golden Seat is spiritual.  And that there are two grand movements in Religious and Philosophical matters:

Ascend:  Matter to Spirit.  The Many to One.   Transcendent.  The path of wisdom.
Descend:  Spirit to Matter.  The One to Many.  Immanence.  The path of compassion.

The worldview of German philosopher Friedrich Schelling provides a living philosophy that successfully integrates the Ascending and the Descending.

Schelling understood that development or evolution was a spiritual movement.  Spirit is present at each and every stage of the evolutionary process, as the very process itself.  That spirit is the only reality. That nature is objective Spirit (what Schelling calls slumbering Spirit), where Spirit has not yet become self-conscious. With the emergence of mind, Spirit becomes self-conscious and conscious morals develop. Spirit begins to awaken and grow.  It seeks to know itself through symbols and concepts, and the result is that the universe begins to think about the universe.  A world of reason develops where mind is subjective Spirit.

Schelling enlightens our understanding of mankind’s pain of reconciling the battle between mind and nature, between transcending nature for moral freedom and becoming one with nature for wholeness, is a necessary part of Spirit’s awakening. We moderns must go through this fire.  No other period has had to face this fire on a collective scale.  Going backward simply avoids the fire, it does not transform it.

According to Schelling, the third great movement of Spirit is the synthesis, which is the transcendence of both nature and mind and their radical union. Of Spirit directly knowing itself as Spirit, a direct mystical intuition. Spirit goes out of itself to produce objective nature, awakens to itself in subjective mind, and then recovers itself in pure Nondual awareness, where subject and object are one pure immediacy that unifies both nature and mind in realized Spirit.

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