In order to help us understand the meaning of Philosophy we must first understand the long debates regarding what it means to be human, and how "being" differs from "to be". Does an individual become human or is "that" individual only "that" individual? How does being differ from to be? The fundamental capacity to understand the world outside the world of the individual and his or her internal world includes the ability to interpret, characterize, and associate what things seem to be singular, or at least, singular groups of things. Understanding the process of being as compared to the process of becoming and distinctly separate concepts for Plato, Pieper, and Thoreau are directly related to that capacity of understanding. .
For Plato, the physical things of the world must have bodily form. They must be both visible and tangible, yet their state of being is not the same thing as their essence. Plato, through his stories of Socrates and Socrates views, began the debate that has served both as an intellectual argument and an effort to understand human existence for millennia. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote about his account of an extended stay in the woods. Thoreau wrote that he wanted to follow nature's example, to "see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived" (Walden 172). And, for Pieper, God's role in the life of every individual and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, courage, temperance, and love are the ways by which human beings understood truth. He believed the natural world would reveal its truth if and when one had the proper attitude toward the divine. Clearly, from the most ancient of times to only a century ago, humanity has sought to understand its place in the order of the cosmos and has predicated deal of its philosophical wonderings on that search. .
It is important to understand that Socrates" primary goal was to require people to think.