Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of existence, knowledge, and reality, by exploring reason and the human mind. Philosophy differs from more modern metaphysical studies of "the meaning of life" by approaching issues from a reasoned and logical perspective instead of a spiritual perspective. Anyone interested in the subject may study philosophy in an academic setting or may choose to study philosophy at his or her own pace outside of an academic setting.
The study of philosophy has been undertaken by academics for thousands of years. Extensive evidence exists that academics from both eastern and western cultures were known to study philosophy as far back as we have written records. Western philosophy is generally broken up into eras, beginning with presocratic prior to the 6th century B.C. and continuing with the Greek, Hellinistic, and then Roman eras. Eastern philosophy dates back even further and includes various philosophers from Asia, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East.
Anyone who wishes to study philosophy on a professional level may choose to pursue a degree in philosophy. Most major universities throughout the world offer a bachelor's degree, or the equivalent, in the study of philosophy. In the United States, a student may decide to continue his or her study of philosophy by completing a master's or doctorate degree. Most students choose to focus on a specific area of philosophy, such as ethics, logic, or aesthetics. Social and political philosophy have also become popular areas within the study of philosophy.
While pursuing a degree is certainly an excellent way this subject, it is not necessary to complete a degree to study philosophy. Anyone with an interest in philosophy may study the subject from home as well. There are numerous books written on the subject, including reproductions of ancient texts by famous philosophers, as well as modern analysis of those texts. In addition, it is not necessary to be a degree-seeking student to enroll in a philosophy class at a local college in most cases.
Whether studying philosophy in the hopes of making it a career or simply out of curiosity, it is best to narrow down the study so as not to get overwhelmed. For example, a student may wish to focus on eastern or western philosophy to begin his or her studies. From that point, the study may further be narrowed down by studying a specific era of philosophy, such as Greek philosophy or a specific topic such as ethics.