This post is inspired by many questions I am asked daily on philosophy in general and on philosophers in particular. As a philosophy teacher, it is my duty to address misconceptions about this field and to untangle philosophy from other disciplines that falsely want to use it for higher purposes.
What are the main encountered confusions?
Let’s start with definitions since philosophy is the science of definitions and it always starts with defining and describing the object of study.
You might hear people say: “My philosophy of a workout/life/career/love etc. is this and this”. The right word to be used in this is “perspective” which is an interpretation based upon one’s experience. While philosophy will create representations and perspectives, it is not per se a perspective. Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. In other words, philosophy creates concepts. After figuring out what is the fundamental nature of all the aforementioned, then we can have a perspective on life, on fitness, on love, on career etc.
Design, architecture, advertising etc. use the word concept as an idea about their product. This is misuse of the word concept. A concept is not a simple theoretical idea to be concretely realized in a tangible product. For Deleuze, concepts are not identity conditions or propositions, but metaphysical constructions that define a range of thinking, such as Plato’s ideas, Descartes’s cogito, or Kant’s doctrine of the faculties. A philosophical concept “posits itself and its object at the same time as it is created.” So there is a concept of an idea, as the basis and the structure of the idea, the ontology of it. To go back to the confusion mentioned before, there is a concept of the idea which will be realized in a product. A concept is a meta-idea.
Philosophy vs. psychology:
While philosophy was the first to study consciousness and human’s mind, and was and still a type of therapy as I explained it shortly on this post: Therapy through philosophy. a short explanation. However, philosophy and psychology can’t be swapped. Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. It is the study of the mind, how it works, and how it affects behavior. Psychologists and psychiatrists work together to help people with mental health conditions, but they are not quite the same. Psychology and philosophy in its practical branch are both therapies focusing on a patient; philosophy in its broader branches doesn’t deal with individuals but with concepts.
I hope I cleared out some confusions around philosophy as an academic discipline. More posts will be written about this subject, because misconceptions like these drive me nuts!