Q: What is philosophy?
A: Attempting to answer philosophical questions?
Q: What are philosophical questions (DRAFT: Liable to change)

Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham
(Philosopher in a Computer Science department)

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The best way to answer the question: What is Philosophy?
is to provoke the questioner into doing philosophy

Philosophical questions can grow out of other questions, including questions that arise in the study of mathematics, physics, biology, psychology, history, ethics, theology, music, literature, painting, sculpture, politics, medicine, architecture, engineering, computing, ...

An example from mathematics
What's a prime number? We stick to positive whole numbers (PWNs), e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... Two PWNs, N1 and N2, can be multiplied, producing a PWN as result, which may be the same as one or other of N1 or N2, or different. Multiplying gives 2 and 3 6 4 and 3 12 3 and 3 9 The results on the right can easily be checked by testing with groups of physical objects (e.g. buttons, stones, bananas) or items drawn on paper e.g. circles, dots, pictures of bananas, etc. Why does multiplying 2 and 3 give 6? You can demonstrate with examples, where each example has 2 groups of objects and each group contains three objects, like these two groups: Group Number of groups result x x x x x * * * * * * Some numbers can be factorised, i.e. shown to be products of smaller numbers.


Maintained by Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham