1. Human beings can cooperate by means of communication. Communication is possible as long as we agree on a given set of basic concepts expressed by words (e.g. justice, love, virtu, science, good, evil, freedom, rationality, etc.)
2. The basic concepts are those ones which shape our basic cognitive and ethic objectives.
3. The problem of agreeing on these concepts within a community via communication is function of how like-minded people are: the bigger is the number of non-likeminded people the greater is the possibility of conceptual conflicts within the community that can be solved if and only if we find out shered point of views.
4. As the Ancient Greek history proves, democracy is the political background of the clash of thoughts due to exposition of a greater number of non-likeminded people with conflicting family and class interests in public political and juridical debates.
5. In this context, a new approach to public debates, called sophistry, started developing. Their goal was to conceive and apply tecniques to obtein not the truth but the consensus of the majority, simply because it's the consensus of the majority that democracy is based on. These tecniques made the individuals capable of interpreting traditions, truth of faith and laws in the best way to obtain the consensus of the majority (nowadays we would talk of demagogic tecniques).
6. Now, the occidental philosophical tradition that roots back to Plato and Aristotle is historically tightly related to the athenian ancient democracy. And their contribution to the society consists essentialy in contrasting the 2 ways of approacing public debates: that is faith (religion and tradition) and rhetoric (demagogy and sophistry).
7. To contrast faith and rethoric means to execute an activity oriented toward the truth by means of disciplined rationality: the aim is truth and not consensus of the majority and the access to the truth is given by rationality and not faith
8. To have truth + rationality the philosophers demanded rules for the definitions (the definitions were used to define the domains and objects of our thoughts, that is the basic concepts) and reasoning (that is how we deduce the truth of thoughts considered as consequences from other thouths considered as premises). The primary outputs of this activity were called ontology (a hierarchically structeured taxonomy of all the basic objects of knowledge) and logic (a list of technical terms and principles for correct reasoning: syllogisms, principle of non-contradiction, principle of identity, fallacies material/verbal/deductive, modal/aletic/temporal/deontical/quantified concepts, etc.). The secondary output was the foundation of a rational state.
9. To summarize with an analogy: as in the ancient greek democracy we have to choose what laws and then evaluate the consequences of someone's acts accordingly, in philosophy we have to define rules to evaluate concepts and then evaluate the concepts themselves. That's why the philosophical kick start is always "what is X?" where X can stay for whatever basic concept you like (time, space, perception, cause, number, logic, justification, truth, believe, faith, right, virtu, love, man, women, animal, instinct, emotion, rationality, truth, meaning, state, right, dignity, tolerance, life, concept, mental, society, happiness etc...).
10. What is the utility of philosophy? According to what I said philosophy can be seen as useful for 2 reasons:
- as a pleasure in itself like playing a game with its rules
- as a tool to deploy in a disciplined (no faith and no rhetoric) way the basic concepts necessary for a given community in order to cooperate on collective tasks (e.g. the community of scientists studying neurophysiology or the community of citizens of a democracy while discussing about abortion, euthanasia, rights, human dignity, sovereignty, civic virtus, capitalism, communism, etc.)