What Is the Etymological Meaning of Philosophy?

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The word “philosophy” comes from the Greek word “philosophia,” which combines the words “philo” meaning “love of” and “sophia” meaning “wisdom.” Some common etymological definitions of philosophy are “love of wisdom” or “love of knowledge.”

The word “philla” (root word for “philo”) is one of three Greek words commonly used for “love,” the other two being “agape” and “eros.” “Agape” is a spiritual or unconditional love, usually used in reference to God’s love for man. “Eros” is the origin of the English word “erotic,” denoting a sexual sort of love. “Philla,” in contrast to the other two words, is a mental love. It is the sort of love that exists when the one loving benefits from the thing loved. For this reason, philosophy uses the word “philla” because the one calling himself a philosopher finds himself benefiting from the act of philosophy, the act of gaining wisdom.

It is commonly held that the word philosophy was first used by the Greek philosopher Pythagoras circa 500 B.C. The term was often contrasted with the word “sophistry,” which literally translates to “wise man.” The latter indicates one’s concern with knowledge as a status symbol, while the former indicates a genuine love of truth.