It is difficult to imagine that a Royal Institute of Physics would organize an annual lecture series on the theme ‘conceptions of physics’. Similarly, it is quite improbable that a Royal Institute of Astronomy would even contemplate inviting speakers for a lecture series called ‘conceptions of astronomy’. What, then, is so special about philosophy that the theme of this lecture series does not appear to be altogether outlandish? Is it, perhaps, that philosophy is the reflective discipline par excellence, so that the very nature of philosophy is a topic that belongs to its domain of investigations? Or is there something more serious at issue? Let me first tell you how the question concerning the nature of philosophy arose for me as a young student, and how I tried to answer it, quite naively, by endorsing Edmund Husserl's programme of turning philosophy into a rigorous science. In a second section, I shall offer three diagnoses of the fact that all such attempts seem to have failed. Finally, I'd like to say a few words on my own research agenda in philosophy and on a public function of philosophers.