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Why We All Need Philosophy | Mark Manson

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.

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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.

Marcus Aurelius

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."

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.

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.

one more idea

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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Philosophy is Back In Fashion

Recent books in non-fiction points to a growing trend: 19th-century philosophy, once a specialized and highly challenging field, is now the inspiration and guiding torch behind many recent publicat...

Planet in Flux

The main reason for the rising interest in philosophical concepts of the 19th Century could be today's crisis-ridden world. People see that the world is in flux. There are financial, geopolitical, and climate issues throughout the planet.

Up till the year 2000, there was a sense of optimism and progress, but it vanished at the turn of the millennium.

Stoicism

The thought system that is thriving currently is Stoicism.

Stoicism puts forth acceptance and acknowledgment that one cannot control much of what is going on in life. It states that we are part of nature, and in order to lead a good life, we have to make internal changes, like developing the right character and the right state of mind. The stuff you own and what happens to you in the external world doesn't matter.

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Productivity has always been important

Although productivity might seem something that became important only recently, after the industrial revolution, it has been a topic of discussion ever since ancient eastern and western phi...

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, focus your time and energy on a few important things.

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.

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Travelling And Philosophy

Recreational and exploratory travel has two main motivations; travel for 'change' for new experiences, leading to inner transformation, and travel to 'show', which revolves aroun...

The Same Journey

Travelers and philosophers are pushing the limits of their knowledge, seeing how the world works. There is an undeniable link in exploring the oceans and even other planets, and in crafting radically new questions delving into the mind's uncharted territory.

The tools may be different, but the essential journey is the same, with travelers affecting philosophy and philosophers affecting travel.

David Hume: Both Sides of the Coin

The philosophy of the Scottish philosopher David Hume wasn't just about being disagreeable. He was skeptical and doubtful on authority, and on himself too.

He could highlight flaws on both si...

The Limits of Reason and Logic

David Hume understood that the various beliefs and ideologies that sound reasonable and logical on the surface, are in fact irrational and emotionally driven deep down. 

This way he could argue about or doubt practically any belief or thought process.

At Ease with Contradictions

David Hume was completely at ease with contradictions. This way he could avoid getting into extremities. 

He used to contradict himself by providing a counter-argument against his own statements. This way, no matter how contradictory it sounded, it provided an insight into life, which itself does not follow a linear, logical path.

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Valuing life
Valuing life

Death and disease are unavoidable aspects of life. However, in the West, we've developed a delusional denial of this. We pour billions into prolonging life, most employed in our final years, bu...

A reminder to live

German philosopher Martin Heidegger concerned himself with the relationship between death-awareness and leading a fulfilling life. He argued that being aware of our own passing makes us desire to make our life worthwhile and give it meaning and value.

This awareness that we are going to die is important because it reminds us to live our life to the full every day and avoid experiencing unnecessary regret.

Seeking meaning

Most Eastern philosophical traditions appreciate the importance of death-awareness for a well-lived life. The Buddha saw desire as the cause of all suffering and counseled not to get too attached to worldly pleasures but to focus on loving others, developing a calm mind, and staying in the present.

An awareness of our mortality can move us to seek and create the meaning we crave.

Stoicism

It was founded in the early 3rd century BC and revolves around 3 basic ideas: 

  • How life is brief and the world is unpredictable
  • How to be steadfast, strong,...
Never let wealth distort your values

There is nothing wrong with achieving monetary success; however, you should never compromise your principles in its pursuit. 

Build a village

You are only as strong as the people around you.

You can control whom you interact with, so build a strong personal and professional coalition: hire people with positive energy and create a circle of friends from different backgrounds for engaging conversations.

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Hedonism: The Reality
Hedonism: The Reality
  • Long being associated with frivolity, mindless pleasure-seeking, gluttony and danger, hedonism was initially a fairly simple concept in ancient greek philosophy.
  • Hedonism ...
The Good Life

Philosophy Professor Catherine Wilson talks about pleasure being fundamental in our ability to live a good life, and how a fine balance has to be maintained between current pleasure(indulgence) and future pleasure, which is life planning.

If we work ourselves endlessly, trying to hoard wealth, life will be over in a blink of an eye.

Hedonism Reloaded

Apart from a more justified and gender-neutral definition of hedonism, the definition of luxury and pleasure itself is changing. What was once enjoyable seems like a waste of time now, while economic instability and low wages do not allow for a hedonistic lifestyle to be a reality for many of us.

Pleasure seeking needs to be viewed as a positive, life-giving pursuit in these times where everyone is striving hard to make ends meet.

We cannot understand ourselves if we do not understand others. Getting to know others requires avoiding the twin dangers of overestimating either how much we have in common or how much divides ...

To travel around the world’s philosophies is an opportunity to challenge beliefs we take for granted. By gaining greater knowledge of how others think, we can become less certain of the...

To travel around the world’s philosophies is an opportunity to challenge beliefs we take for granted. By gaining greater knowledge of how others think, we can become less certain of the knowledge we think we have, which is always the first step to greater understanding.

We should not be afraid to ground ourselves in our own traditions, but we should not be bound by them.

We should not be afraid to ground ourselves in our own traditions, but we should not be bound by them.