By October 26, 2013 Read More →

The Real Purpose of Philosophy

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“Knowledge is knowing what to do.  Wisdom is doing what you know.” – Proverb

How can we use philosophy and wisdom to “live better”?

How can we practice the art of living a good life?

Is there an approach to life that can help us to “flourish”?

Philosophy just might be the tool to help us find a path of sustainable happiness and to flourish with skill.

In the book, The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness, by Epictetus, with a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell, we learn the real purpose of philosophy and how we can apply it t our lives so we can find a more sustainable path of happiness and flourish with skill.

The Art of Living a Good Life

The real purpose of philosophy, beyond the love of wisdom, is the art of living a good life.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“True philosophy doesn’t involve exotic rituals, mysterious liturgy, or quaint beliefs.  Nor is it just abstract theorizing and analysis.  It is of course, the love of wisdom.  It is the art of living a good life.  As such, it must be rescued from religious gurus and from professional philosophers lest it be exploited as an esoteric cult or as a set of detached intellectual techniques or brain teasers to show how clever you are.  Philosophy is intended for everyone, and it is authentically practiced only by those who wed it with action in the world toward a better life for all.”

Self-Scrutiny Applied with Kindness

The life of wisdom is meant to stir us in an energetic and cheerful way.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“Philosophy’s purpose is to illuminate the ways our soul has been infected by unsound beliefs, untrained tumultuous desires, and dubious life choices and preferences that are unworthy of us.  Self-scrutiny applied with kindness is the main antidote.  Besides rooting out the soul’s corruptions, the life of wisdom is also meant to stir us from our lassitude and move us in the direction of an energetic, cheerful life.”

A Flourishing Life

The object of our efforts is a flourishing life.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“Skilled use of logic, disputation, and the developed ability to name things correctly are some of the instruments philosophy gives us to achieve abiding clear-sightedness.  Happiness is commonly mistaken for passively experienced pleasure or leisure.  The conception of happiness is good only as far as it goes.  The only worthy object of all our efforts is a flourishing life.”

The Ongoing Dynamic Performance of Worthy Deeds

Life’s not static.  Neither is our happiness.  Happiness is a verb and we create it through our actions, grounded in our intentions.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“True happiness is a verb.  It’s the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds.  The flourishing life, whose foundation is virtuous intention, is something we continually improvise, and in doing so our souls mature.  Our life has usefulness to ourselves and to the people we touch.”

To Discover What is Really True

Philosophers are truth seekers.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“We become philosophers to discover what is really true and what is merely the accidental results of flawed reasoning, recklessly acquired erroneous judgments, well-intentioned but misguided teachings of parents and teachers, and unexamined acculturation.”

Disciplined Introspection and Thought Experiments

We learn how to build better habits and think better thoughts through introspection and reflection.

Sharon Lebell writes:

“To ease our soul’s suffering, we engage in disciplined introspection in which we conduct thought-experiments to strengthen our ability to distinguish between wholesome and lazy, hurtful beliefs and habits.”

If life is a game, then change your game with skill through the power of philosophy.  Stand on the shoulders of giants and put the wisdom of the ages and modern sages on your side.

In the words of Epictetus:

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

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Posted in: Book Nuggets, Happiness, Life

2 Comments on "The Real Purpose of Philosophy"

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  1. Evan says:

    Well, I agree whole-heartedly with these assertions. I guess I need to see how she backs them to know if there is any worthwhile philosophy in it.

    One of the big issues I think is dualism – detaching ‘our mind’ from ‘our body’; our ‘philosophy’ from our doing. In this sense Kolb’s experiential learning cycle is better philosophy than many a Uni philosophy lecture.