Philosophy is a way of developing new ideas. There are perennial questions philosophers and others have asked and continue to ask such as what the meaning of life is. Some of those questions have been answered and some may never be answered. Philosophy is a way of developing questions and answers for challenges that may not already exist. Often the data is abstract yet one may also consider purely empirical issues.
An example could be in fisheries management. One of America’s largest rivers, the Stikine of S.E. Alaska, had so few king salmon returning this year (in 2018) (to spawn) that all fishing was closed. The pitifully low number of 740 fish to repopulate a river that formerly had hundreds of thousands or millions could not be reached. Fishermen, politicians and others can’t manage the fishery well at all. A philosopher might suggest practical ways to restore the fishery such as working with Russia and Canada to halt all fishing for king salmon across the North pacific, Alaska, Canada and Siberia for seven years to let the fishery recover and limiting the annual harvest after restoration. Though it is a realistic plan politically it is unfeasible. A philosopher might further inquire into the reasons why.
Philosophers may classify all knowledge into fields that seem appropriate places to file the data. The history of ideas has many divisions. Philosophical inquiries perhaps occupy just a fraction of those.
Ways of thinking about ideas and the objects that are represented in ideas about objects are a basis for reviewing the nature of ideas human beings have about objects, occupational activities and knowledge built up in technical work. Over time technical work can build up quite a lot of material. Non-philosophical writers may express the knowledge of technical fields in books or tracts.
Technical writings describing occupations and scientific data and methods can be voluminous. Fields such as metallurgy and auto mechanics sit beside astronomy and ocean diving, botany and anatomy. In times past philosophers among other examined many of those technical works and brought concepts from them together to form synthetic and new interdisciplinary ideas.
That brings me to the essence of this essay on what philosophy is. That is it is more than simple technical writings in the field of philosophy known mostly to historians of philosophy and some academic philosophers pursuing those technical fields such as ethics and logic. Philosophy is also an activity that examines data from several disciplines to construct new ideas. It is a process quite like one method of making inventions. The inventor researches and studies up a lot of scientific and technical material and lets his mind and subconscious combine the ideas to form something new. A philosopher can research several academic disciplines such as theology, philosophy and cosmology and write about ideas that are newly combined at least for the philosopher and comprise a synthetic, non-methodical approach to writing an essay or developing a different perspective with a unique or nearly unique point of view.
In the United States occupational speculation does not permit much time for interdisciplinary research. Even academic people tend to need to remain within their field of specialization. An historian for instance would need to find an elaborate explanation for why he or she spent most of their time studying insects instead of Western Civilization if that was their area of educational responsibility. Philosophers shouldn’t have any problem like that.
In fact philosophers might consider the role of insects on various stages of western civilization or the way music corrupted it, if it did, when it became fashionable among aristocrats. Philosophers might combine history with anthropology and sociology to ask if Aristotle’s politics was anything besides meaningless speculation of no interest to ordinary people or even royals for nearly 2000 years after he wrote about the cycles from democracy to tyranny.
Philosophy can be simply the construction of interdisciplinary essays about virtually anything drawing from material that already exists within field specialization to construct or invent something new. In doing so they may find more things true.