If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a midnight contemplation, pondering over the meaning of life or the purpose of existence, then you’re already a budding philosopher. Philosophy, with its literal translation as the ‘love of wisdom,’ permeates our everyday life in ways more than one. And yes, it doesn’t just surface during those 3 AM existential crises or when you suddenly go down a rabbit hole of abstract contemplation – it’s much more than that.
Imagine you’re sitting with a group of friends at a coffee shop. One of them starts discussing the current political climate. Suddenly, the conversation shifts from trivial chats to deep debates about right and wrong, and before you know it, someone exclaims, “Ah, now she’s getting into philosophy!” You see, philosophy isn’t just a fancy term thrown around in intellectual circles. It’s a powerful lens through which we understand and interpret life itself.
Before we delve into the intricacies of philosophy, let’s pause for a moment to define it. Think of Philosophy as an eternal quest for wisdom, one that raises fundamental questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is our purpose in the world?” Throughout history, our ancestors, scholars, and philosophers have sought answers to these questions, resulting in various schools of thought that offer a myriad of interpretations about life and existence. It’s an endless buffet of ideas, where you can pick, choose, and adopt the philosophies that resonate with your worldview.
As your friendly philosophical guide, we’ll walk you through some of these schools of thought, saving you from the hassle of endless Google searches and dense academic papers. Interestingly, most philosophies encourage you to explore further. So, buckle up for a fascinating journey!
Schools of Philosophy
Imagine standing at the edge of a vast, endless desert. The vast expanse of nothingness stretching in all directions, that’s Nihilism for you. The word ‘Nihilism’ comes from the Latin word ‘nihil’, which means ‘nothing’. It suggests life is devoid of objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.
Picture this: A pessimist might see a glass of water as half empty, focusing on the lack of something. But a nihilist? They wouldn’t really care about the glass or the water in it. After all, what difference does it make in the grand scheme of things?
Think of the character Rust Cohle from the TV series “True Detective.” He embodies nihilistic beliefs with his dark, pessimistic worldview and frequent monologues on the futility of existence.
Imagine being stuck in a traffic jam. You can either honk incessantly, stew in anger, and stress about the delay, or you could put on some good music, enjoy your solitude, and patiently wait for the traffic to clear. The latter is what Stoicism preaches. Developed in ancient Greece and Rome, Stoicism teaches us to maintain equanimity in the face of adversity.
As Ryan Holiday, a modern advocate for stoicism puts it, “The obstacle is the way.” This mindset emphasizes accepting the inevitable struggles in life and finding ways to work through them.
Ever used a scientific calculator? Notice how it gives precise answers based on the inputs you provide. Empiricism, in a way, is like that calculator. It’s a school of philosophy that believes knowledge is derived from experience, especially sensory perception. In other words, if you can’t observe it, it doesn’t exist.
Thomas Hobbes, a proponent of empiricism, famously said, “Knowledge is power.”
Have you ever felt like a tiny speck in the vast universe, contemplating your purpose in life, or whether life has any meaning at all? If so, you’ve touched the tip of existentialism. Existentialism focuses on the individual, the subjective experience, and the meaning of life. The existentialists believe that life has no inherent meaning, and it’s up to each individual to create their own purpose.
Famous existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” This encapsulates the idea that a purpose-driven life can endure any hardship.
Suppose you have an apple and ten friends who all want a piece. Would you give it to your best friend because they are closest to you, or would you divide it into ten pieces so everyone gets a small bite? If you chose the latter, congrats! You’ve just applied the basic principle of Utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that promotes actions that maximize happiness and minimize suffering for the greatest number of people. In other words, the right action is the one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number.
While Buddhism is commonly known as a religion, its teachings encompass a broad spectrum of philosophical concepts. The central tenet of Buddhism is to alleviate suffering and attain enlightenment. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path form the backbone of Buddhist philosophy, leading the way towards a life of peace, wisdom, and true happiness.
Now that we’ve scratched the surface of the vast landscape of philosophy, remember that this journey of exploring different philosophies is akin to navigating a vast, deep ocean. There’s so much to explore, learn, and ponder. And while the thought of this might seem overwhelming at first, the beauty of philosophy is that it allows for a deeper understanding of life and our place in it.
Whether you resonate with the calm acceptance of Stoicism, the hard empirical truth of Empiricism, or the mindful ways of Buddhism, remember that philosophy isn’t about finding definitive answers. It’s about asking the right questions. So, delve in, explore, and let the love for wisdom guide your journey. Happy philosophizing!