Is every person who has ever questioned what they did or what they are going to do a philosopher? Does this idea fall under philosophy in any way, or is it merely a semantic debate?

  • 1
    I was considering trying to add some more content to lead the OP to develop a bit more, but the question is so simple I'm not sure you can add much more without sounding like broken record. As a question, it reads fine now but it might be somewhat borderline as to whether it's "philosophical".
    – stoicfury
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 3:19
  • possible duplicate of What is Philosophy?
    – Dennis
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 21:45
  • No but everyone has a philosophy.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 18:07

8 Answers 8


Philosophy comes from the Greek words philo (loving) and soph(ía) (wisdom). Philosophers are thus—in a very liberal sense—simply "lovers of wisdom". However, I would imagine virtually everyone loves wisdom; at least in some way we all want to be "wise", and thus the term would apply to everyone and not really be of any real value.

In the modern sense, it is thus used to refer to:

  1. a person who offers views or theories on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.
  2. a person who is deeply versed in philosophy.
  3. a person who establishes the central ideas of some movement, cult, etc.


  • 3
    At the beginning of C.S. Peirce's 11th Lowell Lecture, he asserts that "All men philosophize...[t]hose who neglect philosophy have methaphysical theories as much as others–only they are rule, false, and wordy theories" (Lowell Lecture XI).
    – Jon
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 18:27
  • 1
    Do women philosophize too?
    – Kenshin
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 3:53
  • 7
    @Chris: Since "φίλος" is male and the female form is "φίλη", women do not philosophize, but philesophize. :-)
    – celtschk
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 20:01
  • 1
    I'd agree that those who neglect philosophy are ruled by them. Commented Nov 30, 2012 at 23:47
  • "profound questions" - Who determines what is "profound"? How is it determined?
    – Vector
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 16:04

In the absence of context, this is definitely a semantic debate.

Is anyone who ever played a note on a musical instrument a musician? Is anyone who has ever written a word on paper a writer? Clearly not, for most intended purposes of those terms.

When we speak of someone as "a philosopher", we are usually intending someone whose dominant activity has been an engagement with the philosophical tradition-- but this usage will vary on context.

  • Anyone who ever played a note? Argument from the absurd/extreme. There is clearly a continuum of experience within music in which someone is called a musician after they play one note and before they earn income or spend greater than "x" hours a week at it. Many very good enthusiasts/hobbyists exist in the arts and areas like philosophy who have found it much easier to make a living at something else.
    – LightCC
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 2:19

Philosophy is, at its simplest, the application of reason to life. Anybody who conceives of, or has adopted a particular application of reason has become a philosopher.

I believe a degree in Philosophy shows not that one IS a philosopher, but rather that one has studied the history of philosophy.


Philosophy is not something measured by a degree.
If we measure it like that neither Plato nor Aristotle would account as philosophers.

Philosophy is mainly about a way of life.
Plato in Faidon defines philosophy as teaching people how to die.

So I would say that philosophy is not an accumulation of knowledge, but the application of it in everyday life.
This is what philosophy is trying to teach through the centuries, how people should live in a way that justifies their internal questions.

This is why deep down you are perhaps asking this question.
Because people with a philosophy degree do not convince you as philosophers.

After all Socrates drunk the conium for what he believed.... How many people can do that? Is this something that can be taught in a university curiculum?


Like Ellin (Ελλην) that I am I like to give a more accurate description to the word philosopher that is Elliniki word.

Philoshophos is the one that is try to reach the enlightenment. How ? Philoshophos comming from Philo+shophos

Philos (φίλος) is the Friend, is the one we love, the one that we like to be together most of the time.

Shophos (σοφος) we decode it if we reverse the word shophia, σοφια -> αι+φως -> αιωνιο+φως -> meaning the "forever light".

Philosophos is NOT yet sophos, but try to be by working with it, lean more, "is friend" and loving the knowledge, and better love some other that is sophos and try to lean from him. From the myth of the cave of Plato, the one that gets out of the cave is see the light, and this is now the sophos that is get back to the cave and get again back with the rest that is not see the light. The one that love this one are philosophers, the rest that not believe him are not. All of them are not sophoi yet, not see the light.


Philos=to love, sophem=wisdom. I would define "love" as a passion and "like" as an acknowledgment, or a sort of respect. Most seem to blindly "like" wisdom, though they don't seem to even know it. We humans are by nature philosophers in this respect, but to be a philosopher to me is to have taken a step further and ACCEPT the path to wisdom as an endless trail of a lifetime. That is what a passionate student of wisdom would do. Therefore, I think being a philosopher means being human by nature, but also having taken this next step. Both have "seeking wisdom" in common, but one lacks this understanding. Using boolean logic to answer this question based on these observations:

(Human_by_nature AND Accept_the_need_for_wisdom)

evaluates to false if both are not true. Which I guess answers this question pretty well...

  • 1
    Are there no alien philosophers? :o
    – stoicfury
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 17:29
  • Only if they seek truth. Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 4:46

Is anyone who has ever sung a musician? Is anyone who has ever drawn an artist? Is anyone who has ever written an author? Is anyone who has ever spoken an orator?

I think not...

The same holds true for philosophy.

  • What is it, then, that distinguishes a great philosophers from an ordinary individual who just ponders his own life? What is it that distinguishes a musician, an artist, an author or an orator from the rest of us? Is it knowledge, talent or both? Commented May 11, 2015 at 16:57

Personally, I would argue that anyone who ponders the nature of the universe and the nature of the human condition not only qualifies as a philosopher but is an authority no more or less reliable than anyone else in the field of philosophy.

Or to quote Terrence McKenna:

We all must try to understand what is happening. We need to try to understand what is happening, and in my humble opinion ideology is only going to get in your way.

Nobody understands what is happening. Not Buddhists, not Christians, not government scientists. No one understands what is happening.

So, forget ideology. They betray. They limit. They lead astray.

Just deal with the raw data and trust yourself. Nobody is smarter than you are.

And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you? People walk around saying, "I don't understand Quantum Physics, but somewhere somebody understands it." That's not a very helpful attitude towards preserving the insights of Quantum Physics.

Inform yourself. What does inform yourself mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience.

What do YOU think when YOU face the waterfall? What do YOU think when YOU have sex? What do YOU think when YOU take psilocybin?

Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So, liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.

-- Terrence McKenna

In contrast with that notion, I would also argue that the wisdom of the greatest philosophers is rarely achieved and the average human even lacks the very capacity to reach that very level. Or to quote University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor Louis Mackey:

When you come to think of it, almost all human behavior and activity is not essentially any different from animal behavior. The most advanced technologies and craftsmanship bring us, at best, up to the super-chimpanzee level. Actually, the gap between, say, Plato or Nietzsche and the average human is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human. The realm of the real spirit, the true artist, the saint, the philosopher, is rarely achieved.

-- Louis Mackey

So basically, everyone qualifies as a philosopher and even an authority in philosophy, but great philosophers are nevetheless few and far between, simply because geniuses are few and far between.

Neither having a degree in philosophy nor having studied the writings of classic Greco-Roman philosophers makes someone a better philosopher.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .