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Philosophy as an Art of Living


Philosophy as an Art of Living

Group explores philosophy as a way of being in the world.

Members: 26
Latest Activity: Aug 26, 2014

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Comment by William Leslie on August 26, 2011 at 11:35pm

I was amazed to see how many months had passed since I made my last comment.  Been away, mostly trying to apply philosophy to my life.  I'm impressed and pleased by the thoughtfulness of everyone's contributions.


"Philosophy" like "art" probably has many definitions, none of which can capture all of what those complex disciplines evoke.  But it seems that a set of skills and attitudes would, or should, apply to anyone attempting to live a life informed or guided by the study of philosophy.


Among these I would recommend; valuing reasonableness, insatiable curiosity about almost everything, open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, civil discourse, healthy skepticism, respect for alternative perspectives, fallibilism, self-reflection, and self-correction.


I know my list is not exhaustive.  Would anyone like to add to it, or criticize any?

Comment by Christopher Miles on August 11, 2011 at 4:53pm

Thank you for your comment George.


I will elaborate a little if I may. The philosophy I was referring to should be specified as more of a utopian philosophy than a practical one. In a perfect world, everybody would act morally for virtue's sake. Practically, most people act morally because of our practical ethical code (law). It is necessary, however, to develop a utopian philosophy first. Then, from the utopian philosophy we should begin to erect a practical philosophy by taking into account human nature and justice.


I disagree with you in that I expect too much from philosophy. It is the groundwork of every nation and culture in the world. The world could be a prosperous and peaceful planet through sound logic and pure Socratic reasoning among all of its inhabitants. The fact that nobody can completely rid themselves of perception is why you think I expect too much from it. I believe that by branding philosophy as "a personal work, done in conversation with others, but ultimately tied to the particular genius of the individual." cripples philosophy as a whole. It is that kind of thinking that makes philosophy an afterthought in the minds of most. A stupid man with an open mind will become much wiser than a genius closed to the world. Genius is not a prerequisite of being a good philosopher; It helps. The intelligent people are often most drawn to philosophy because of the wonder and curiosity that genius brings. It is false to assume that the smartest of all men will have the tightest and most thorough philosophy because every man or woman is susceptible to the coercion of perception.


If philosophy was made more public, more perceptions would be present in debates and allow a streamlined and accurate conclusion to be made. By only discussing philosophy with philosophers, we may lose the outside perspective of those that do not think like us. Words spoken by an unwise man does not make their statement any more or less true. Thus, without all available perceptions being taken in to account in a conclusion, we lose our grip on philosophy in the real world.

Comment by George Healy on July 28, 2011 at 6:25pm

My leaning is to consider philosophy to be something similar to but radically different from other modes of enquiry.  Philosophy questions reality at the most fundamental level and in so doing addresses the most basic assumptions and frameworks we have through which  we experience reality.  Such a question might be "what is reality?" itself.


The sciences have a more delineated - though not fixed - sphere of enquiry and tend to preserve rather than change their basic paradigms unless data and theory force the change (this may not be so steadfast since science research has come to be self-aware of its dependence on paradigms).


Any individual perspective is always rooted in a social world which can "converse" with others.  For this reason, I would say that we fall somewhere between being individual islands which can never communicate and ultimately sharing in a one objective reality that is uniform for all. 


Religions engage certain fundamental realities questioned by philosophy, but as ways of life with particular traditions and histories.  Religion and philosophy are different but at times overlap in concerns.  However, I would not claim that we could do without either; I reject the rejection of philosophy by religion or religion by philosophy.  Paul Ricoeur managed to engage both while maintaining their distinction.  So it is better, in my opinion, to not disparage religion in the name of philosophy.


I am not convinced that an unbiased and completely objective standpoint is possible other than as a regulative idea in the manner of Kant's thought.  I do not believe that philosophy is a path to common agreement or that there is a general "reason" that all human beings could follow and, from that, reach concord. 


I fear that you expect too much from philosophy Christopher.  Just looking at the history of philosophy tends to reinforce the notion that something very different is going on from scientific research which has led more often to common agreement.  I suppose that is why I feel a stronger kinship with continental philosophy and the idea that philosophy is a personal work, done in conversation with others, but ultimately tied to the particular genius of the individual.

Comment by Christopher Miles on July 27, 2011 at 10:10pm

Philosophy is often thought of as useless because it attempts to answer questions that, often times, can not be answered. This is the reason why many disregard philosophical conversations because many believe that everybody will naturally have a different answer and a completely logical and balanced answer will never exist due to the uniqueness of each perception.


This is a huge problem. That is why many people cling to religions to define who they are, what purpose their life serves, or how they should live. The purpose of philosophy is to shed all bias in any circumstance as to develop a completely objective and well pondered conclusion. Thus, I believe that if each and every person could remove any weighted perspective of any philosophical question, the same conclusion can be derived. Such is my approach to epistemology.

Imagine that we examined Bertrand's table. A philosopher would look at it from every angle, feel with every part of the body, saw it into pieces, and etc before making a conclusion as to how he or she perceived it.

I believe a group of 5 of us perceived this table in such a way, our dialectic would begin to devise an absolute truth about the table.


It is true also with ethics. I believe we could narrow down quite finely an ethical code or structure for everybody to live by to create a better world in which to live.


Not one of us chooses to be born. We are all brothers in suffering. A man may go his whole life without being truly happy, but I guarantee each of mankind has lived their life and suffered in many similar fashions. We have all felt sorrow whether it be from death of a family member or friend, heartbreak, financial troubles, physical pain, etc. We can then build a world that is nearly free from sorrow should each and every person decide to act in every way to the categorical imperative-- To act in a manner in which all would benefit if made a universal law for all to follow.


Philosophy is not love of knowledge, it is love of wisdom. To know is intellectual, but to be wise is an entire body experience. You must act in the way which is concluded to be the logically sound way. Otherwise, why would you even dare ask the question "what is morality?" if you never wanted the answer?


I guess most people don't explore philosophy because it is quite a commitment.

Comment by George Healy on June 26, 2011 at 7:09pm
I asked b/c I felt it needed clarification but wasn't ready to do the work myself.  Now, purely intellectual could mean a priori as in mathematics or logic - just an exploration of reason without regard for anything empirical.  I think what you are looking for is a type of thinking that has as a result, not an intellectual conclusion - be it about thought or the world - but rather an act of the will.  Philosophy which engenders real action, individual or communal.  The sort of philosophy you wish to move beyond remains in the realm of idea.  Are we on the same page?
Comment by Nate Klemp on June 25, 2011 at 1:04pm

Yeah, that's probably overstating it.  I suppose what I mean is that most contemporary philosophy tends to appeal primarily to the intellect.  The goal is to create rigorous theories that sharpen the way we think about free will, mind/body, justice, and so on.  

But philosophy can, and often has, extended beyond the intellect and into the actual practice of everyday life.   Thoreau is a great example.  As he says in Walden, " To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically."    

Comment by George Healy on June 25, 2011 at 10:23am
Quick question:  what is meant by "a purely intellectual discipline"?
Comment by Nate Klemp on April 15, 2011 at 2:28pm

This idea definitely resonates with me. What I find somewhat ironic is that within the field of philosophy itself, a new status quo has been established. We have come to accept certain norms about what it means to be a philosopher or about who ought to be included in the philosophical canon.


So I think your point is well taken. In all areas of life, the job of the philosopher is to push against the status quo and question the conventional wisdom. 

Comment by William Leslie on April 14, 2011 at 2:15pm

Thomas Merton said "When the world is in trouble and you're not making trouble then you're in trouble."  Three of my favorite philosophers, Socrates, Spinoza, and Bertrand Russell made some trouble and got in trouble for it.


My thinking is that philosophy usually puts a person at odds with the status quo and to live with integrity means challenging unjust social/political/economic structures even when doing so may come at some cost to one's comfort or well being.

Does this idea resonate with anyone else?

Comment by Nate Klemp on March 29, 2011 at 3:15pm

I explore this idea each week on my blog  But I would love to discuss the more general idea of philosophy as an art of living.  Here are a few questions that I find interesting: 

-Should philosophy be something more than a purely intellectual discipline? 

-Should it also have implications for the way we live in each moment?

-Who are your favorite art of living philosophers and which of their ideas do you find most inspiring?


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