We hear a lot about philosophy lately. But what is philosophy really about?
Most people, when they hear the term “philosophy” they think of questioning and studying about theoretical problems such as existence, values, ethics, politics etc.
Well, philosophy is not something you hear about or learn from some book. Philosophy is something you do, something you live by.
I’m not saying that reading or gathering knowledge is wrong. I’m saying it’s not enough. It’s the combination of knowing and doing that is going to make you a better person and that is exactly the essence of philosophy.
Doing without knowing is stupid, but then again knowing without doing is stupid plus lazy.
And that’s why I’m always telling that philosophy needs to be “practical”. Practical philosophy is the one that combines knowledge with action and possesses the following characteristics.
Philosophy gets practical when…
#1: It really changes you as a person.
When you compare yourself with a previous version of you, let’s say 1 year before, you should be able to see an improvement.
Not an abstract, “I feel better, I guess…” kind of improvement but an obvious and measurable one. Yes, measurable. You should be able to define what aspects of your life have improved (or not) and measure how much.
Pick a specific aspect and question yourself. What my goal was? What did I do to accomplish it? Did my actions have the expected results? Why not? What went wrong? What can I do in the future to improve myself or alter the current bad situation I’m in?
Practical philosophy is about answering such questions. Define the problem, find smart solutions, apply them.
#2: It provides answers to everyday life problems.
It’s ok to think about abstract philosophical problems such as existence, morality etc but it won’t make you happier or more fulfilled if you are not capable of finding solutions to your everyday problems.
Solutions for fixing bad habits, setting your priorities straight, solving financial problems, maintaining both body and mind in shape, having healthy relationships and social life, being confident about yourself, overcoming the hardships of life without losing your smile.
What’s the point of questioning about the root of evil when you can’t get out of bed in the morning? Exactly.
#3: It provides you with a fundamental set of values and ideas that all your decisions and actions are based upon.
It’s like an immovable axis that all your life revolves around. This is the most difficult part because it requires a lot of thinking and introspection. Every person should have a crystal-clear and well-thought stance about the following topics that are affecting his decisions and thus, his life.
Family (the desired relation with parents, children, [ex-] wife etc), sexual identity (define it, be super ok with it and express it in a natural and decent way), religion (Religion or not? Faith? Will you make life decisions and choices based on religion/faith?), death (what will happen to you when you die) and happiness (what makes you happy and fulfilled as a human being).
Of course, a view on a topic can change -and should change- through gaining experience and maturing. But, even so, one should have his “axis of decision” clear in his mind and use it as a compass during the decision process.
Otherwise, every single decision in his life would be random, not aligned with his values and goals and unable to provide him happiness.
Join the Battle
Practical philosophy is the way to improve your life and the chances are that you are already doing it, whether you have realized it or not.
We are all fighting the same battle, the battle against our bad selves. But it’s not a lost battle. Quite the opposite, actually. But first, you’ve got to do one thing and it is 100% within your power to do it.
You’ve got to take control of your life.
Stop blaming other people -or bad luck- for your own problems and stop hoping for messiahs to solve them for you. Start solving your problems yourself, start making your own decisions and being responsible for the risk involved.
Sculpt a new version of yourself, form strong relationships with the people you choose, overcome the hardships of life without losing your courage, find what makes YOU happy and chase it unconditionally.
This is what being a philosopher means, that’s what practical philosophy means.
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