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Why We All Need Philosophy | Mark Manson

Marcus Aurelius

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."

Marcus Aurelius

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Why We All Need Philosophy | Mark Manson

Why We All Need Philosophy | Mark Manson

https://markmanson.net/why-we-all-need-philosophy

markmanson.net

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Key Ideas

How we perceive philosophy

When most people think of philosophy, they believe philosophers simply argue about arguing. Philosophy is viewed as impractical and irrelevant to current issues.

In reality, philosophy is likely more useful and important to the average person today than any other time in history.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

"Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don’t know."

Defining philosophy

Philosophy is examining our understanding of reality and knowledge. Philosophy consists of three major branches:

  1. Metaphysics - What is true about existence.
  2. Epistemology - How we can know that it is true. Epistemology has given us science, logic/reason, economics, psychology, and other theories of knowledge.
  3. Ethics - What actions we should take as a result of this knowledge. Ethics contains concepts such as democracy, human rights, the treatment of animals, and the environment.

When you order your thoughts into a coherent belief system, you are engaging in philosophy. To criticize philosophy, you must rely on philosophy.

Why philosophy matters

Philosophy then teaches us the fundamental techniques to find meaning and purpose. At some point in our lives, we have to ask and answer the following questions for ourselves.

  • What is true?
  • Why do I believe it to be true?
  • How should I live based on what I believe?

Not answering these questions will result in a mental or emotional crisis, such as depression, anxiety, and an inability to find a sense of purpose.

Philosophy in the 21st-century

The 21st-century life interfered with our ability to answer these questions:

  • What I know to be true?. The flood of information (fake news, bad science, social media rumors, manipulative marketing, propaganda) is harder to understand if you can't trust information.
  • How I know what is true?. Scandals of corruption are unveiled in every major institution. We are also more aware of irrational biases, prejudices, and wrong assumptions.
  • How I should live based on what I believe?. Without knowing what is true or how to find truth, it is less clear how we should live. It creates a sense of existential anxiety and insecurity.

Questioning what we know

  • René Descartes wrote in 1641, "I think; therefore I am." Descartes realized that we could never be sure that our perceptions are true - Your memories could be invented. Your room could be a hallucination. - But he knew with certainty that he existed. The fact that he could ask questions meant that he existed.
  • About a hundred years later, David Hume showed that we could never be sure that our understanding of cause and effect is true. No matter how often something occured in the past, it is impossible to prove that it will happen in the future.
  • Immanuel Kant built on Descartes' and Hume's ideas and said there is a difference between our perception of something and the thing in itself. I can see a tree, I can touch it and experience it, but I can never know the tree or experience life as the tree experiences life. I can only interpret the tree through my own senses.

All this is a way to show that whatever you believe you know to be true - you don't. Human understanding is too limited. We should then be careful what we choose to accept as true.

Questioning our values

Once you begin to question the significance of everything that happens in your life, you may realize that much of what you believe and value was not determined by you but by the people and culture around you.

In many cases, we grew up with good values, but everyone has its dysfunctions and obsessions. As adults, we need to reevaluate our values and beliefs and define what matters among a flood of useless information. Doing so will carry consequences for our own mental and emotional well-being. It will also determine the kind of footprint we leave in the world.

Philosophy: abstract and universal concepts

Philosophy deals with concepts that are abstract and universal. Much effort goes into redefining definitions of ideas such as justice, equality, and freedom. These abstract ideas spread to ground-level activists and politicians who, over the years, materialize these ideas that reshape our lives.

Unless you are aware of them and notice the intellectual forces shaping and dictating how you view the world, you are helpless and will be influenced by them.

EXPLORE MORE AROUND THESE TOPICS:

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Nihilism

Nihilism is a thought process that argues that all aspects of life lack a specific meaningful essence.

Apart from life, Nihilism rejects meaning in beliefs, value structures, state power, or...

The Origins of Nihilism
  • Nihilism originated during 300 B.C.E. where certain discussions by the Buddha related to our actions having no meaning or consequences in this world.
  • The Greek statesman Demosthenes also contributed to its origins.
  • The modern understanding of nihilism is associated with Friedrich Nietzsche, who said all aspects of life are subjective, not objective, also adding that this belief will lead to the destruction of all value structures.
Types of Nihilism

  1. Moral Nihilism says true morality does not exist, and that good or bad actions are not different by the law of nature, but only by our understanding.
  2. Existential Nihilism says all goals, aspirations, influences and actions ultimately become meaningless.
  3. Metaphysical Nihilism tells us that the physical world is an illusion, and our senses just manipulated sensations and signals going into our brain.
  4. Political Nihilism goes against all kinds of political establishments and government laws.

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Nihilism

Nihilism means "nothing." It is the lack of belief in meaning or substance in an area of philosophy.

  • Moral nihilism argues that moral facts cannot exist.
  • Metaphysical nihilism ar...
Existentialism

Existentialism originates from Soren Kierkegaard and Nietzche. It focuses on the problems produced by existential nihilism. For instance:

  • What is the point of living if life has no inherent purpose? 
  • How do we face the knowledge of our inevitable demise?

Existentialism emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice.

Stoicism

Stoicism was popular in ancient Greece and Rome and is practiced by many in high-stress environments.

Stoicism focuses on how to live in a world where things don't go as planned. The idea is to accept all the things beyond your control and to focus on what you can control.

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Busyness leads to unproductiveness

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Don’t take on more tasks and responsibilities. You end up doing many things in a mediocre way. Instead, ...

Make small progress every day

Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.” – Plato

Set 3-4 important tasks that will directly contribute to what you want to achieve in life.

Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius

“If you seek tranquility, do less. Or do what’s essential. Do less, better. Because most of what we do or say is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more tranquility..."

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