phi·​los·​o·​phy | \ fə-ˈlä-s(ə-)fē How to pronounce philosophy (audio) \
plural philosophies

Definition of philosophy

1a(1) : all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts
(2) : the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology a doctor of philosophy
(3) : the 4-year college course of a major seminary
b(1) archaic : physical science
(2) : ethics
c : a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology
2a : pursuit of wisdom
b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means
c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs
3a : a system of philosophical concepts
b : a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought the philosophy of war
4a : the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group
b : calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

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Examples of philosophy in a Sentence

There's plenty of blame to go around: poor regulation, eight years of a failed Republican economic philosophy, Wall Street-friendly Democrats who helped stymie reform, misguided bipartisan efforts to promote home ownership, Wall Street greed, corrupt CEOs, a botched rescue effort, painfully fallible central bankers. — Daniel Gross, Newsweek, 9 Mar. 2009 Broadly speaking, philosophy has three concerns: how the world hangs together, how our beliefs can be justified, and how to live. — Jim Holt, New York Times Book Review, 15 Feb. 2009 Almost none of the kids were older than twenty-five, as if there were a sell-by date on radical social philosophy, a legal age limit after which one must surrender lofty ideals and shave off all dreadlocks. — Matthew Power, Harper's, March 2008 In their mission statement, the editors bragged of their firm commitment to equality and social justice, but their philosophy didn't prevent them from summoning Lindsey to perform all their menial tasks. — Kim Wong Keltner, The Dim Sum of All Things, 2004 Her degree is in philosophy and religion. The group eventually split over conflicting political philosophies. Her main cooking philosophy is to use only fresh ingredients.
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Recent Examples on the Web Early ideas for this setting were inspired by the art and architecture of ancient Greece, the cradle of Western philosophy, and world’s fair exhibitions, but those references seemed too culturally specific. John Jurgensen, WSJ, "How Pixar Brings ‘Soul’ and Existential Ideas to Life," 23 Dec. 2020 So the new skin-care products are the latest extensions of this philosophy. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Morphe 2 Skincare Is About to Give You More Ways to Get Glowing," 17 Dec. 2020 If there is one preseason box score line that tells the tale of the Spurs’ new philosophy, it is 3-pointers attempted. Jeff Mcdonald,, "Spurs’ continuity has yet to bear preseason fruit," 16 Dec. 2020 Interpretation of scripture has become a matter of political philosophy. Washington Post, "Joe Biden goes to church. Politics remains outside.," 9 Dec. 2020 There a class in the history of philosophy reaffirmed her belief in the value of the field. New York Times, "Judith Jarvis Thomson, Philosopher Who Defended Abortion, Dies at 91," 3 Dec. 2020 There are other things at stake if Disney were to decide not to do business with China, says Nicole Hassoun, an ethics scholar and a professor of philosophy at Binghamton University in New York. Stephen Humphries, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Hollywood turns a blind eye to China’s human rights abuses," 17 Nov. 2020 This phrase, often attributed to author and newspaperman Horace Greeley, is a central exhortation of 19th century Manifest Destiny philosophy, but the idea resonates, even after the West was won. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Max Winkler’s boxing road movie ‘Jungleland’ packs a punch," 5 Nov. 2020 That’s part of the philosophy behind allowing federal waivers for Medicaid expansion programs, federal officials say. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, "In a first nationwide, feds extend Indiana's Medicaid expansion alternative for 10 years," 27 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'philosophy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of philosophy

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for philosophy

Middle English philosophie, from Anglo-French, from Latin philosophia, from Greek, from philosophos philosopher

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Time Traveler for philosophy

Time Traveler

The first known use of philosophy was in the 14th century

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Statistics for philosophy

Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Philosophy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for philosophy


How to pronounce philosophy (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of philosophy

: the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.
: a particular set of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life, etc.
: a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live


phi·​los·​o·​phy | \ fə-ˈlä-sə-fē How to pronounce philosophy (audio) \
plural philosophies

Kids Definition of philosophy

1 : the study of the basic ideas about knowledge, right and wrong, reasoning, and the value of things
2 : a specific set of ideas of a person or a group Greek philosophy
3 : a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live Live and let live—that's my philosophy.

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