How should philosophy be defined? This is a difficult and in a sense a technical question. To understand its nature is to realize that common definitions such as “the love of wisdom” while not wrong are inadequate. A definition that is linguistic does not suffice – partly because language is only a stage in philosophy and partly because philosophy occurs before the development of theology and science as separate disciplines. In fact only in the last half century has it become fully clear that there are only three possible theoretical standpoints. This realization has taken three thousand years of human civilization to come to fruition – hence only now is it possible to fully develop theoretical truth. Again another difficulty arises in that “theoretical” must be understood as not “practical”. Theory is always in itself an abstraction – sadly most of humanity’s self-inflicted wounds are the result of not understanding this distinction.
To grasp the elemental in philosophy we must distinguish philosophy from religion and science – this means that we must understand three historical occurrences as unique intellectual events. The first is the discovery of philosophy by the ancient Greeks. The second is the discovery of the distinction between philosophy and religion by the medieval Christians. The third and final distinction is the modern European discovery of science as a distinct discipline coming fully into its own only in the twentieth century. Now that these occurrences have been instantiated historically – that is as intellectual manifestations of living beings – we are faced by the fact that there are no other possible intellectual distinctions that can be lived.