The Department of Philosophy: An Introductory Note

Prof. Mahfuza Begum, Head of the Department of Philosophy, Dhaka College

Philosophy has a number of different definitions, but most people agree that philosophy is the study of knowledge, nature, existence and the personal beliefs that surround these subjects. Historically, philosophers were held in high regard by different communities and many people turned to philosophers for advice. There is a large variety of books written by famous philosophers such as Aristotle and Nietzsche that are now studied by students of philosophy. Highly regarded liberal universities offer philosophy degrees for those wanting to delve deeply into the study of general knowledge and theories and put that education into action.

Today, philosophy is micromanaged by being broken down into different branches. Philosophers tend to focus on one or two particular areas rather than specializing in philosophy as a whole. However, the basic idea behind studying and pursuing wisdom and relating it to the natural environment is still the same. Thanks to the intense study of philosophy by some of the world’s most notable philosophers, there are now many fields of philosophical thought.

The unveiling of philosophy goes all the way back to the B.C. era, when philosophers like Thales, Euclid and Pythagoras were asking questions about the universe, figuring out what stuff it was made of, determining if empty space actually exists and uncovering logic and mathematical theories. No one can state for sure who the first philosophers were, since not every theory and philosophical ideas were recorded in writing. There are even questions about whether or not women were involved in some of the earlier philosophical theories or at least influenced the ideas of some of the notable male philosophers. When discussing historical philosophy most people divide it into eastern and western philosophy practices.

Historically, western philosophy began in Greece. The word philosophy is even derived from the Greek language and means a love of wisdom. Ancient western philosophy had three main branches: ethics, logic and physics. These three branches have now broken into even smaller sub-sections, covering everything from epistemology to aesthetics. Socrates was a large influence on western philosophy, but there was a pre-Socratic era that covered philosophical topics. These philosophers attempted to answer questions such as: why were things created? where do things come from? and can nature be explained using mathematics?

As philosophy advanced, many of the pre-Socratic answers for these questions were rejected, although most philosophers still researched the same questions. Christianity helped to abolish the thoughts of ancient philosophers and ushered in the era of medieval philosophy, which boasted both Aristotle and Plato. The thinkers of the Renaissance were introduced after medieval philosophy followed by more modern and contemporary philosophy.

Eastern philosophy has its roots in religion, specifically the Abrahamic religion. This makes eastern philosophy more concerned with asking questions about God and how the world relates to God. The eastern world is sometimes considered to be the home of religious philosophy, although these philosophers also deal greatly with transcendentalism. Some of the most notable eastern philosophers are Buddha, Confucius and Zhang Zi.

The way eastern philosophers created theories on knowledge and religion has led people to practice the philosophies of certain philosophers without adopting all aspects of that branch. For example, some people may consider themselves believers in the Buddhist philosophy, but they never actually go and worship

Buddha. The eastern philosophers historically believed that religion was a large part of the study of philosophy. Contemporary practices of eastern philosophy often remove the religious part.

Islam impacted much of what we now consider eastern philosophy, meaning that most branches have a religious aspect. The most common branches of eastern philosophy include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Maoism, Shinto, Confucius, and Legalism. There are differences between western and eastern philosophy, and many easterners argue that westerners do not spend enough time studying the basics of eastern philosophy. However, both regions can attribute a large amount of current philosophical thought to some form of religion. The eastern world chose to embrace religion as their main pursuit of knowledge, while the western world broke philosophy into a bunch of different branches.

Modern philosophy is a category of philosophy that originated in Western Europe in the 17th century and is now common worldwide. It is not a specific doctrine or school and thus should not be confused with Modernism, although there are certain assumptions common to much of it which helps to distinguish modern philosophy from earlier philosophy.

The 17th and early 20th centuries roughly mark the beginning and the end of modern philosophy. How much if any of the Renaissance should be included is a matter for dispute; likewise modernity may or may not have ended in the twentieth century and been replaced by post-modernity.

Contemporary philosophy is the present period in the history of Western philosophy beginning at the end of the 19th century with the professionalization

of the discipline and the rise of analytic and continental philosophy along with Existentialism.

Analytic philosophy, sometimes termed as analytical philosophy otherwise, is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand, the vast majority of university philosophy departments identify themselves as “analytic” departments.

The term analytic philosophy can refer to a broad philosophical tradition characterized by an emphasis on clarity and argument often achieved via modern formal logic and analysis of language and a respect for the natural sciences.

Continental philosophy is a set of 19th and 20th century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes movements like German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of a number of late 19th and 20th century philosophers, who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject which was not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling and living human individual. In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been

called the existential attitude or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience

The study of philosophy is interesting if you truly love the pursuit of knowledge, enjoy creating logical arguments to refute or prove a point, like delving deeply into a particular subject and strive to find answers to those age-old questions like, why are we here and what is the meaning of life? A number of reputable universities offer different degrees in the field of philosophy. Those who want to dedicate their lives to the field can get a doctoral degree and spend their life studying, researching and teaching about philosophy and philosophers.

Philosophy is more than just having beliefs on certain subjects. it is asking questions, looking for answer and then asking questions about those answers. Many people believe they have a philosophy about life simply based on their personal feelings, but true philosophers spend years formulating their theories and questions and many still do not end up with concrete beliefs on a particular subject.

The department of Philosophy in DhakaCollege is as old as the college itself. With the establishment of Dhaka College as an intermediate educational institution, logic was offered as a very important subject. It went on to continue being one of the disciplines to be offered to the students when the college was upgraded as a full-fledged degree college under the authority of Dhaka University. Eventually, all colleges of the country offering Bachelor courses became affiliated with the National University after it had been founded and Dhaka College was not any exception. The fact that many departments already introduced Honours and Masters courses in their respective fields inspired the then serving teachers of Philosophy Department to open the similar courses. The National University initially gave approval for M.A. preliminary course in 1997 and finally the Honours stream was introduced in 1999 with only four teachers. Now the department takes pride in imparting education to more than 700 students through its dedicated team of twelve full-time faculty members.

Since its inception, the department has always been in close contact with the students and looked after their academic and personal well-being to make them praiseworthy citizens. The trend of overall quality shows an upward increase over the years. A seminar library having a large collection of reference books by various renowned authors on different concepts of Philosophy caters to both the students and the teachers.

Not only the students are focused on their academic studies, but also they spontaneously participate in other extra-curricular activities of a range of sorts like debate, sports, cultural programmes and so on.

Finally, Philosophy has been an interesting discipline of study and it helps students to solve many academic, ethical, social, cultural and many other realistic problems related to human life. This department believes in continuous process of development. Through action-oriented endeavors. Keeping this ethos in mind, the teachers are striving hard to instill better education and values among students so that they can have utmost benefit.