Six Ways of Doing Philosophy.
There are six ways of doing philosophy—as we philosophers like to describe engaging in philosophical thought and discourse. We do philosophy. It's primarily an activity, more than a collected body of thought. What's been done before helps us to do it now. So we read it in order to do it well. But now, to the six ways.
First, there is an important distinction between theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. Both modes are based on analysis, but in theoretical philosophy, analysis is tested mainly by argument, and in its practical mode it's tested mostly by action, observation, and further reflection. Theoretical philosophy focuses mostly on intellectual understanding, whereas practical philosophy turns our attention to issues of human achievement and well-being. The theoretical side has largely dominated most university philosophy departments for nearly a hundred years. It's technical, formal, and uses lots of insider terminology that's meant for precision and efficient debate, but that often fails to serve its proper purpose. As a result of those qualities, it can seem esoteric, abstruse, and quite divorced from the day to day challenges of our lives. Practical philosophy, by contrast, features issues that impinge on us all as we seek to live good, successful, and happy lives in a world that frequently challenges such intentions. At its best, the important enterprise of theoretical philosophy informs, undergirds, and guides the practical endeavor. At its worst, it merely disdains and dismisses it.
Then, within the domain of practical philosophy, there is the big scale and the small scale. Big scale practical philosophy focuses on the most fundamental questions of politics, economics, scientific practice, and the general structures and dynamics of societies as they change and develop. Small scale practical philosophy, by contrast, concerns itself for the most part with the aspirations, challenges, and accomplishments of individual lives, friendships, and partnerships, as well as addressing questions of what it is to act effectively and well in private or public organizations, whether they are governmental or not. Small scale practical philosophy focuses on such issues as how to live successfully and well, what happiness is and how it fits into human flourishing, how best to deal with change and difficulty, what it is to attain and use the rare gift of self knowledge well, handling properly the vicissitudes of emotion, and the ongoing challenge of how to accomplish good things together.
Having begun my career as a philosopher deep diving into the theoretical side, I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly in the practical domain, immersed in the small scale issues, with an eye toward their broader implications.
And now, after many books of practical philosophy generously and hopefully classified as nonfiction, I've discovered the mode of philosophical fiction, and a greater joy in doing philosophy than I've ever experienced before. To see how it goes, if you haven't already, visit the website, www.TheOasisWithin.com!