The word “philosophy” was born when the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras of Samos (572-497 BC) was asked if he thought he was a wise man. He answered no, he was merely a lover of wisdom – a phileo sophia. The philosophers who came after him were not as humble. Since philosophy was the study of just about everything, they dubbed it the “queen of the sciences”. Philosophy reigned supreme until Christian times when the theologian Clement of Alexandria (150–215?AD) demoted philosophy from the “queen” of the sciences to the “handmaid of theology”. The Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) also regarded philosophy as a “handmaid” – but to the sciences. He said that the job of philosophy is to clarify assumptions, concepts and definitions, and interpret, analyze and synthesize the results of the sciences (Locke, 1961). Locke clearly describes what it means to do philosophy; however, he did not think that philosophy consisted of a distinctive body of truth. Most philosophers agree that philosophy is a handmaiden, yet there are areas in which it still holds claim to the throne, most notably in logic and (despite the best efforts of theologians) ethics.The other classical divisions of philosophy are metaphysics, which is concerned with the character of reality; epistemology, or the study of the nature, origins, and extent of knowledge; and aesthetics, which is about the assumptions behind our judgments about the arts.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Edward Elgar. This book chapter first appeared in Leadership Studies: the Dialogue of Disciplines.

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