Philosophical concerns are evidenced from the beginning of human literature, which have no obvious connection to philosophy’s mainstream epistemological and metaphysical problematic. I reject the views that the nature of philosophy is a philosophical question, and that the discipline is united by methodology, arguing that it must be united by subject matter. The origins of the discipline provide reasons to doubt the existence of a unifying subject matter, however, and scepticism about philosophy also arises from its a priori methodology and apparent lack of progress. In response, I argue that philosophy acquired a distinctive subject matter when the concept of transcendence was introduced into attempts to gain a systematic understanding of the world and our place within it; philosophy thereby pursues the same aim of achieving a synoptic vision of reality as religion, but resembles science in its development and employment of rigorous methodologies. Philosophy’s subject matter explains why it must be pursued a priori, and it only appears not to have progressed when aims are neglected, and it is inappropriately assimilated to science.
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