American writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce defined philosophy as, ‘a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.’ Now, he wrote this in his nonfiction, satirical book entitled The Devil’s Dictionary, where he defined Religion as, ‘A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable,’ and Happiness as, ‘An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.’ So anything from a background such as that has to be taken with a grain of salt.
That being said, I think there is a certain degree of merit that can, and should, be given to a statement like that. Philosophy is, in a sense, everything. It is selfish. It is controversial. It is personal. It is subjective. But there is no way to specifically state, ‘Philosophy is this,’ or ‘Philosophy is that.’ It is nowhere near black and white enough for that. So, in that sense, philosophy is nothing.
But, I don’t think philosophy is a ‘thing.’ That sounds far too passive. Rather than a thing, philosophy is an action. It is the process in which you take, not the destination you hope to reach. Philosophy is asking. Rather than answering questions, philosophers question answers, and endlessly ask why.
So, why do philosophers ask instead of accept and question instead of answer? Because it is a fundamental part of human nature, we want to know more, deeper and further. Excepting those who are, by definition, idiots, it is in who we are to question and argue, to want to make better sense of our place in the cosmos.
So, while Mr. Bierce’s satirical definition of philosophy has little in common with my definition, Plato’s definition, or Joe Average’s definition, that is the beauty of philosophy. It doesn’t have to.
And we can all still be equally right.