For the love of wisdom!
Women philosophers have undeniably been the least credited and recognised thinkers for the very same reasons gender equality is a struggle today.
Two Greek words: Philo and Sophia (roughly translating as love and wisdom respectively) got together to make a most intriguing thing that leaves polite humanity struck with awe – Philosophy. Thus, they combine to coin the expression that is essentially of the nature to propel one to quench their natural curiosity which may not necessarily be backed by any empirical reason.
It is easier to define philosophy as a discipline than as an entity: that which has for its subject matter issues pertaining to what may be what may be called 'transcendental' (viz soul, god, being, essence, morality, etc.), or something more empirical (such as existence, knowledge, belief, its justification and criticism, and analyses of other such related concepts).
Ironically, Philosophy has for its formal subject matter those affairs which in structure do not fit in any other natural or social science, but in essence, forms the basis of almost every issue, matter, or idea extant. This is an interesting characteristic shared with another indispensable and highly formidable discipline – Mathematics. Busting an absurd myth, the actual reason why Nobel prize is not awarded in Maths is that it is too abstract (theoretical) an area of study. There ought to be no doubt about the validity and relevance of Maths because of this inherent characteristic.
René Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz were the pioneers of Rationalism (the epistemological view that reason is the ultimate source and test of knowledge). They were all mathematicians too. Descartes is credited as the father of analytical geometry - the bridge between algebra and geometry helpful in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus. Leibniz developed differential and integral calculus independently of Isaac Newton. Spinoza, besides his large body of work, held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion. This notion happens to be a key idea of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.
Philosophy has everything to do with thinking, deliberating, and meditating. Philosophy comes into play anywhere the mind processes in a rational and elaborate manner. The dominant and distinct fields of medicine, management, engineering, law, administration, etc., Philosophy is the arterial pathway for one to move on from a given premise to a gathered conclusion. A renowned polymath of ancient times, Aristotle was a philosopher not for his secluded romantic indulgence in deep and meaningful thoughts about everything that does not concern practical life. Aristotle left behind a massive body of work covering a range of areas including astronomy, biology, metaphysics, logic, theatre, music, politics, governance. It is also concluded that he frequently performed dissection on aborted fetuses from brothels to study human anatomy.
Philosophy is both a science and an art. It is a science of reason and an art of expression. It qualifies as a science because analysis is the very cornerstone of it and critical thinking is its backbone. A structured and systematic presentation is its validation. Philosophy manages to touch (perhaps) every aspect of everyone's life. This perception of (arguably) objective things from subjective perspectives makes Philosophy more like an art – a poetic outlook is inevitable and such an understanding and its expression can barely be made without a hint of romance. And quite like the deceptive ambivalence of romance, it may seem to have little to do with logic!
Talking about non-mundane matters of meditation, Philosophy beautifully and convincingly expresses the limitations of a means by that very means: like the Vedantiyan and the Mahayana Buddhistic explanation of the Ultimate Reality as that which is beyond the grasp of logic and language. Philosophy quaintly has a larger collection of analyses than of conclusions. This very characteristic makes it all-embracing. Its catholicity allows space for any kind of (rational or rationalised irrational) thinking and, for once, makes it possible to have absolute freedom of thought.
Women philosophers have undeniably been the least credited and recognised thinkers for the very same reasons gender equality is a struggle today. There happen to have been numerous Rishikas (female sages) in the ancient Hindu traditions but they remain confined historical information waiting to be revealed. Philosophies spring up as ideas which may go on to firm up as ideals. Ideals are those things that are debated before, after, and even during their dismissal and/or acceptance. Numerous ideals, personal or collective, have shaped and altered the course of humanity.
There is a conscious effort to keep intact the sanctity of Philosophy as a potential idea, as a pursuit, and as a passive method of inculcating valuable skills of problem-solving. The third Thursday of November every year is observed and celebrated as World Philosophy Day by UNESCO. It is common for distressed people to take recourse to some manner of Philosophy as an escape from any crisis escalated beyond control. But instead of last resort, if a quintessential philosophical attitude is encouraged to be built, it will be an exercise invested for better management of unforeseen uncertainties. Academic development in this realm is undoubtedly imperative.
(The author is Editorial Consultant and Senior Copy Editor with MillenniumPost. Views expressed are strictly personal.)