Part One, The Meaning

Part One, The Meaning of the Word “Philosophy” To Us

In everyday usage, the word “philosophy” means a general statement of something fundamental. When an advertising executive talks about his department’s “marketing philosophy” he means that his company has a general understanding of how it does marketing, and this understanding in some way lies at the heart of all the marketing decisions. The statement is, of necessity, general and is somewhat vague. It is not vague as to it’s meaning, but it is very vague-in fact it has practically nothing to say- about how exactly the philosophy will be applied in the particular actions of, say, picking out colors for ads, or going to meanings, or deciding who has to talk to which client. One could, however, tie all these decisions in some way back to the “marketing philosophy”- though no one would ever really be inclined to do so.

Philosophy is by nature a statement of something fundamental, and for that reason it must have a general character (because it must apply to many particular and diverse actions). Because it is of a general character, it must be indistinct (general and indistinct are here synonymous) and every indistinct thing is in one sense vague, but also very complete. It is vague because it does not tell us about all the particular things in their particularity (what does a “marketing philosophy” tell someone about, say, allowing a casual Friday?) But at the same time, the philosophy is present in each of the particular decisions (it is, after all, a statement about what the employees are supposed to be doing there). The philosophy tells us everything about the whole marketing department, taken as a whole: but it tells us nothing about the whole marketing department in terms of its various particular parts. Some other more particular knowledge tells us about those.

And so any thing calling itself a “philosophy” has at least three characteristics: 1) It is a thing which concerns fundamental things; 2) It is general, and for that reason indistinct; 3) it concerns the whole, taken as a whole. Philosophy simply speaking (as opposed to a “marketing philosophy” or a “legal philosophy” or “my philosophy of life”) seeks after those things which are most fundamental, most general, and which concern all things inasmuch as they are all things. Philosophy does not tell us about the particulars inasmuch as they are particulars. Philosophy does not tell us about how to do particular things, neither is philosophy distinct knowledge of any particular thing- since it applies to all things generally taken.


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