Sometimes people wonder about philosophy and regard it as a confusing jumble of vague ideas. I view philosophy differently than that. Actually I have a very simple view of philosophy.
Academically speaking philosophy has many divisions and areas of formal inquiry i.e. ethics, political, metaphysics, social, cosmology, ontology, logic etc. For myself, concerning cosmology and the phenomenon of being, I have distilled a three-piece philosophical outlook.
Like the historical accumulation of science, philosophy as a body of academic material has accumulated over millennia. Reading primary philosophical texts developed over the past 2500 years or so is therefore something of a venture in reading history. Explaining to others what Plato’s ideas were or how Plotinus used Plato’s ideas concerning a realm of forms in his Enneads (54 treatises) can be quite challenging outside the context of a course in ancient philosophy. Yet the ideas of ancient philosophers quite often built upon the work of their predecessors and that process continued unto the present. Modern symbolic logic has its origins in the classical logic formalized by Aristotle. Learning the history of philosophy is something of an historical reading program that has a lot of abstract ideas in it rather than descriptions of battles, dynasties and social events one finds in general histories of civilization.
Philosophy as a historical body of work has a certain inert status to it. There is more to philosophy than that, for one may sort through the ideas and evaluate them as one learns and eventually classify some ideas as remaining useful and others as being of archival value. Modern philosophy tends to be more live and valid than much of the old, yet that is just a general paradigm rather than a comprehensive one. Some of the ancient ideas remain valid and may be infused with new ideas arising from philosophers and even physicists.
At the end of much reading of philosophy over the years one tends to develop their own outlook on things; that could be regarded as a philosophical viewpoint, and though learning the history of philosophy may be time consuming and complex especially when comparing the ideas of one philosopher with others, the result of the personal evaluation of systems and addition of additional concepts from other sources can result in a very simple view. My point of view on matters of philosophy is quite simple these days therefore.
I have two live philosophical interests in addition to one besides the history of philosophy and its content that may be view as a kind of large scale scaffolding that allows one to assemble their own Mt. Rushmore of most valuable thought. My two ideas are Christian faith and the convertibility of matter and energy. Those two ideas are easy to say. Each of course has great depth in concepts if one is interested in pursuing them farther.
Recently I read a book named ‘Mass’ published I believe, in 2017. It is a great book describing what mass is. The world and universe of solid objects is regarded as being made of ‘mass’, yet it is actually energy in a different form, and mass is a secondary quality of energy. The author pointed out that in Einstein’s 1905 paper on relativity that he actually used the formula M=E/c2 rather than E=M/c2. The Universe as pure energy is quite a mysterious topic. The Higgs field is thought to slow subatomic particle from light speed enough to allow them to have a third dimension instead of two dimensions flattened at relativistic velocity at c. Even two dimensional particles are energy though, and quantum field theory advances may have much more to learn about energy for-itself and its relationship to time and space.
The enigmatic and mysterious nature of pure energy in regard to matter, space-time and being is an example of how old philosophies can be tied in to new. The neo-Platonist philosopher Plotinus was considered by the early church to be pagan because he believed he could directly experience God in a mystical transcendence of matter that was named heyschasm. It is as if he could experience pure energy rather than matter and form as some kind of a stream of pure good or God. Plotinus had other ideas. He wrote of his idea of Plato’s realm of forms in relation to God, whom he called ‘The One’.
To make a long story short I will skip to the realm of forms idea of Plato’s. He though that some kind of abstract realm of forms existed from which everything that is in the material world is a copy. I would guess it is something like the Swiss patent office when Einstein worked there as a patent clerk having a copy of everything that was manufactured under patent in Europe in his day, except the realm of forms is more metaphysical and may exist in the mind of God. Plotinus thought the One emanated all that is from his perfect, omniscient, omnipotent being and the Intelligence presided over the realm of forms and selected what things would be made in the material world of mass and solid objects in which humans exist too.
The realm of forms could be compared to the quantum world in which all energy appears to become mass in certain forms from gluons to quarks, protons and neutrons to antiparticles and so one. If something exists it will need to be in a pre-fab form and build up from some of the 100+ elements of the periodic table according to certain physical behavior forms. That is somewhat remarkable.
My other idea of philosophical merit is Christian faith. Christian faith occurs subjectively, phenomenally and existentially. Soren Kierkegaard is regarded as the first existentialist philosopher and for good reasons; he viewed Christian faith and practice as personal and apart from social structures and values; phenomenally rather than socially. Kierkegaard was himself something of a social iconoclast. Like so many German 19th century romantic philosophers that considered society somewhat mundane and inferior with people following conventions as if they were drone ants following meat trails, Kierkegaard also view too much of society as following spiritually dead roles through life acting in what Socrates considered to be unexamined lives; that is they were philosophically dead and for Kierkegaard perhaps, spiritually dead.
Christian faith and being occurs in a world that is itself phenomenal. Solid objects seem solid because people are made of atomic elements that are bound in physical laws to experience particle compositions in pre-formed ways. There is no evidence against the existence of God anyplace in nature; ask an evolutionary biologist to show a particular physical form or material that does so and one will see the vacuity of response. The best an atheist scientist could do would be to leave science altogether and act as an incompetent anti-theologian bungling some malfeasant hermeneutics or misinterpretation of Bible scripture. Even theologians are in disagreement about interpreting the beginning and end of the Universe in Biblical hermeneutics (interpretations) as some as pre-millennialist, some post-millenialists and others amillennialists, for example.
Christian phenomenology and Christian existentially are nothing more than descriptions of a posture of Christians to the experience of life, matter and energy for those that care to consider it. Reconciling scripture with science is something that some try to do- even I have published a couple of books with my thoughts on the subject, in the Bible itself though God is recorded by history as having mentioned that what is wisdom to man is foolishness to God. Such wisdom and foolishness may include the idea of constructing cosmology about mass when energy is generic and incomprehensible for-others, as a kind of mystery that mass and human thought cannot really comprehend as secondary characteristic of energy. Time and history including natural history may occur though one knows that relativity and time, being and nothingness are phenomenal themselves though duration of even 13.5 billion years seems vast in one sense, from certain perspectives and might be as nothing at all from other viewpoints, or even from God’s if one could understand that.
Pro and con hermeneutics from theologians and anti-theologian scientists are interesting mildly, yet really not so much from a philosophical point of view, in the context of the history of philosophy as the third element of my own regard for the main stuff of philosophy. Simple material with M=E/c2 and Christian faith occurring phenomenally amidst much temporal and unknown physics. Augustine was himself a student of Plotinus and neo-Platonism before he became Christian. He was always looking in the right direction it seems.