Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Real Purpose of Philosophy

     "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.
     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 antitdote.  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.
     Skilled in the 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 and inner tranquility, which is true happiness.
     This happiness, which is our aim, must be correctly understood.  Happiness is commonly mistaken for passively experienced pleasure of leisure.  This conception of happiness is good only as far as it goes.  The only worthy object of all our efforts is a flourishing life.
     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 the people we touch.
     We become philosophers to discover what is really true and what is merely the accidental result of flawed reasoning, recklessly acquired erroneous judgments, well-intentioned but misguided teachings of parents and teachers, and unexamined acculturation.
     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 laxy, hurtful beliefs and habits."
-  Sharon Lebell, The Art of Living, 1997, p 84

Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness  By Epictetus.  An new interpretation, rephrasing, reorganization, and interpolation by Sharon Lebell.  Harper One, 1997.  126 pages.  ISBN: 978-0061286056.  This interesting and valuable text is unconventionally arranged.  There are no references to the standard numbered sections in the classic texts attributed by Arrian to Epictetus: Enchiridion or Discourses.  It is a useful popular handbook that captures the spirit of Epictetus and Stoic principles.  $8.44 paperback.  VSCL. 

Stoicism: A Hypertext Notebook by Mike Garofalo

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life  By A. A. Long.  Clarendon Press, 2004.  328 pages.  ISBN: 978-0199268856.   

The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius  By Pierre Hadot.  Translated by Michael Chase.  Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1998.  Index, notes, 351 pages.  Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Series.  ISBN:  978-0674007077.  VSCL.  

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