My guess is this post will get very few readers – fewer readers than normal that is – simply because philosophy is a term which invokes such strong associations of people who are too similar to the grad student with the pony tail in Good Will Hunting.
In a word?
Philosophy in its original form has nothing to do with how we’ve come to think of it today – philosophy in its original form has everything to do with the art of living well, the art of living your best life.
Now, there are as many ways to go about living as there are people on this planet – which was about 7.6 billion at the time of this writing – but very few of us give any thought to how we want to live and what constitutes an optimal life.
From an evolutionary standpoint this makes complete and utter sense. Who gives a fuck about how to live? What makes sense to care about is amassing as many resources as possible, so that we can pass our genes on to the next generation as successfully as possible. And this is exactly how most people live.
I do think however, that in order to live our best life, we must consider which principles we want to live according to – and in order to determine which principles are worth adhering to, philosophy comes in handy.
One of the principles I live according to, is that we’re all continually evolving, and I don’t want to set who I am too much in stone, because I believe our minds are too dynamic for that. I believe that in order to be the best we can be, we must be open to new ideas, continually learn and evolve.
Another principle which is important to me, is the idea that time is valuable – not in the sense that time is money – but in the sense that time is the only non-renewable resource in the world, and therefore it makes sense to be careful how we spend it, and with whom.
The final principle I want to mention is that it makes sense for each one of us to think for ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to hold a contrarian opinion, just for the sake of it, but I do want to think independently about the things I choose to think about.
This means that if I either don’t have an opinion on a subject, or I have a strong opinion on a subject, because I’ve considered all the available facts and thought about it deeply. Now there is a natural limit to how much deep thinking any one person can do, so my strong opinions are naturally fairly limited.
This also means however, that my opinions are subject to change, when the facts change, because I don’t want to be married to my opinion. I want to be able to change my opinion, when I see evidence that is contrary to that opinion.
On this topic I agree wholeheartedly with Emerson, when he says that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.
There are countless other principles to think about and philosophical alleyways to go down, and my aim is to explore a few of them through my writing – and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.