A prime example for my question would be the Communist Manifesto (where I believe Marx would be considered a philosopher) and Mein Kampf (where I do not believe Hitler to be considered a philosopher). Mein Kampf criticized Marxism, and the goals of the Marx party, and proposes an alternative while presenting the issues inherent in the application of Marxism. Is this presentation, or others like it, appropriate for a philosophical question on the topic if Mein Kampf were the center of the question and discussion? The question is, namely, can we discuss "philosophies" or does this necessarily need to be "philosophies as presented by philosophers"?

  • 1
    If they have a philosophy, they are a philosopher. Oct 18, 2016 at 20:26
  • And if a person tells a lie, they are a liar? I play a song on the piano, and that makes me a pianist.
    – J D
    Nov 20, 2019 at 7:34

3 Answers 3


On the one hand, we can't too sharply restrict our topics to merely a single brand of philosophical chosen ones (everything here is in "how sharply" we can restrict it).

On the other hand, this place doesn't work as an SE or have any topical unity if it is a generic anything thought about anything domain (which would seem to be a consequence of opening the door to anything that is in some sense philosophical -- the hinge here is on the "philosophical" bit and its scope).

Obviously I'd rather err more towards the former than the latter because the latter to me has the more destructive consequences for this SE. It would seem to make it so that nothing is ever off-topic except on easily contestable grounds. But I do think the reality has to be some where in between.

So, a narrowly focused critique of marxism on largely philosophical grounds in Mein Kampfe seems like it could be on topic if we're being asked to work through the accuracy of its interpretation of marxism. Conversely, I'd suppose (having not read it) there are large sections of it that are completely off-topic and not about "philosophy" in any normal construal of the word.

  • So, if I am to understand you correctly, you believe the presentation of philosophy is subjectively determined, if the topic of exploration is adequately infused with philosophical elaboration by the author of said philosophy? Jul 21, 2016 at 11:35
  • I don't really understand your comment, but as best I can read it, it seems to be misunderstanding me. There's several turns of phrase I don't follow , If I am to understand you correctly (this seems like it's leading into some sort of argument) , presentation of philosophy (the answer isn't about the presentation of philosophy; it's about what fits on an SE), subjectively determined (this seems to be about defining philosophy -- which isn't the point of the answer but I'd never say it's subjectively determined), adequately infused , and philosophical elaboration
    – virmaior
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:50
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    Again, the answer is about what sort of question could work on philosophy.SE which requires us in my to navigate the two polls I supply. Is there a difference between philosophy and non-philosophy? Yes (though perhaps imperfectly). Do we need a perfect definition of philosophy or precise agreement on it for the purposes of the SE? No. Roughly speaking, I think we can work from the Western canon as a base (including mirrors in other cultures), but there's no reason to hash that out precisely.
    – virmaior
    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:53
  • Hopefully this manner of consensus will be adequate to argue the presentation of philosophies not currently represented on SE. Jul 21, 2016 at 13:05

On Demarcations of Philosophy and Meta of Philosophy Stack Exchange

I am going to argue more on the liberal and "looser" side of this topic, namely philosophies of non-philosophers.


Personally, I would argue philosophy is more a style of inquiry rather than a field of specific knowledge. On the other hand, canon and/or academic philosophy is a field of knowledge.

Philosophy does not have a (strong, at least) demarcation to begin with. It thus overlaps with literature, history, theology, politics; etc., etc.; more than folks realize.

This is evidenced by the fact that there is a sub-field of philosophy dedicated to discussing the epistemology and thus demarcations of philosophy.

This sub-field is known as meta-philosophy, and is sometimes described as "philosophy of philosophy."

"Why do I have a throat infection?"

[1] Medicine might cite a type of bacteria and poor health-hygiene.

[2] A philosopher could state that suffering serves a type of function in the universe.

I would argue philosophy is more a style of inquiry rather than a field of specific knowledge; consider statement [2].

The style of inquiry here is different depending on the field on study. However, bacteria and/or infections are not normally a topic in academic and/or canon philosophy.

In regards to metaphilosophy: Even then academic philosophy is already extremely broad in-of-itself. You can try browsing the table of contents at the SEP.

I reference the topic of quantum computing to show how broad academic philosophy can get.

I present an example of a borderline case here:--

Where is the appropriate place to ask about Shahab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardi, cited as founder of the philosophy of illuminationism?

Sources and References:--


Other References and Further Reading:--


"Philosopher" is merely an honorific term. Especially when "philosophy" is used in the sense of "a way of looking at things" even the likes of Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Jacques Derrida, Slavoj Žižek, or fictional characters like Socrates, Morpheus, Gandalf, Jesus et cetera can be considered "philosopher".

When philosophy is used in the sense of the translation from the Greek, all one need do is reject false argument, rationally assess the truth value of claim(s), or advance knowledge claim(s) for minimally adequate use of philosopher as descriptor. Philosophy is, after all, respect for obtaining knowledge and this translation has stood for 2500+ years. One is a philosopher (or not) on basis of the nature of the propositions and method of verification (or falsification) employed. And the same with philosophy. The language of philosophy and the language of poetry (or manifesto) are logically and epistemologically distinct. The former deals with "what is", the latter with "what is to you"; the former deals with hypotheses, the latter with sentiment; the former concerned with advancing a hypothesis, the latter trafficking a weltanschauung; the former is confirmed by verification, the latter by agreement. And as regards agreement: were that the proper basis for determining "what is", the earth would be flat and you could sail off.

Philosophy is something you do regardless of whether or not considered a philosopher. Marx's or Hitler's characterization of a state of affairs to serve their competing weltanschauung, however, are not philosophy.

  • Socrates is not a fictional character: Plato, Aristophanes, and Xenophon all wrote about him, their discussions, and his philosophy. Unless your claim is that secondary writing makes anyone 'fictional', which doesn't have a basis in this discussion and is a far tangent, I'd say he was as real as the others on your list of 'real people'. Jul 18, 2018 at 10:13
  • @NationWidePants Plato and Aristophanes were playwrights, and Xenophon not present at events he claims. No eye witness accounts and no writings attributable to Socrates. For all we can know about Socrates he is little more than John Frum. Hearsay and fiction do not make a claim true.
    – MmmHmm
    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:18

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