The art of living

Philosophy does not promise to secure anything external for man, otherwise it would be admitting something that lies beyond its proper subject-matter. For as the material of the carpenter is wood, and that of statuary bronze, so the subject-matter of the art of living is each person’s own life.

~ Epictetus

slip:4a524.

Philosophy

Philosophers became insignificant when philosophy became a separate academic discipline, distinct from science and history and literature and religion.

~ From https://fs.blog/2012/10/freeman-dyson-on-philosophy-what-can-you-really-know/

Which is worth sharing just because it’s Freeman Dyson—I’m quoting a quote—in all his zany glory.

…but also, yeah. Why isn’t STEM today thought of as a branch of philosophy, (“love of truth” after all)? STEM degrees remain Ph.D.s, but beyond that vestigially appendix . . .

ɕ

Why We All Need Philosophy

Philosophy is, therefore, undismissable for the simple reason that it encompasses all of conscious experience. To criticize philosophy, you must rely on some degree of philosophy. To shit on systematic frameworks of understanding, you must generate a systematic framework of understanding.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/why-we-all-need-philosophy

Irreverant as usual, but—as is also often the case with Manson—an insightful look at why you are already doing philosophy.

Years ago, when I said, “screw this I’m starting,” and tried to get Philosophy wrapped around my brain… Years ago, one of the most profitable things I ever did was subscribe to a little podcast called Philosophy Bites. And then listen to all of them. I’m still not an ivory-tower armchair philosopher, but there’s a crap-ton fewer unknown-unknowns.

ɕ

The dedications of philosophy

[T]he dedications of philosophy are impregnable; age cannot erase their memory or diminish their force. Each succeeding generation will hold them in even higher reverence; what is close at hand is subject to envy, whereas the distant we can admire without prejudice. The philosopher’s life is therefore spacious; he is not hemmed in and constricted like others. He alone is exempt from the limitations of humanity; all ages are at his service as at a god’s. Has time gone by? He holds it fast in recollection. Is time now present? He utilizes it. Is it still to come? He anticipates it. The amalgamation of all time into one makes his life long.

~ Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

slip:4a394.

Context matters

Not only are others blind to the larger context but we are often blind to their context. Only by zooming out and looking at the situations through the eyes of multiple people, can you begin to acquire perspective. And perspective is the key to removing blind-spots.

From https://fs.blog/2011/12/situations-matter/

For example: Knowing who wrote something provides useful context. In this case, the piece has no attribution—which is silly since it’s a useful, concise summary.

One way in which everyone—I can think of exactly one person, whom I’ve personally spoken with, who is the exception to that “everyone”—leaves out important context is by not being clear where ideas have come from. Everyone speaks as if each idea is patently obvious; “the sky is blue,” doesn’t need context when humans on Earth are speaking. But when you start to pay attention, almost everything else does need context. Where in fact did I hear this idea? Why am I repeating it here, in this conversation? Does my personal experience and opinion, agree or disagree with this idea?

A few years ago, I started demarcating ideas with, “I think…,” when it’s an original composition of thought, and “it seems obvious that…,” when that is the case. (And I only spout the third sort of idea—the ones I got from others—when I can recall or track down where I got it.) This forces me to sort my ideas by their contexts. Certain, uncertain, likely, unlikely, etc.. The first thing that happened was I started spouting off random crap far less often. The second thing that happened was that I found, (and have subsequently made a habit of looking into,) a lot of ideas in my head that were of dubious veracity.

ɕ

40 knots in the freezing Atlantic

The point is, you’re basically this walking, lumbering habit machine. And these habits — a.k.a. your identity — have been built up over the course of decades of living and breathing, laughing and loving, succeeding and failing, and through the years, they have built up a cruising speed of 40 knots or so in the freezing Atlantic. And if you want to change them — that is, change your identity, how you perceive yourself or how you adapt to the world — well you better slam that steering wheel to the side and be ready to hit a couple icebergs, because ships this big don’t turn so well.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/be-patient

I’ve been saying, “big ship, little rudder,” for a long time about my own attempts to change course. I’m certain I’m right about myself, but it’s reassuring to hear other people say they see this about themselves too. Wether or not Manson is your cup ‘o tea, it’s nice to hear things that confirm your assessment. “That looks like a shark, right? That’s a shark; we should get out of the water, right?”

The reason—not “one of the reasons”, but the actual, single, I’m-not-kidding, this is really why, reason—I tell the truth is that it helps other people form a good model of their world. Sound bonkers? …try this:

You know what it looks like, and/or sounds like, when a car is approaching along a roadway. You have a model of your world that, I hope, predicts that being struck by said car would be Very Bad. So you instinctively adjust your actions—get out of the way that is—when you see or hear a car approaching. That’s you using a model of reality; in this case a really good model that almost always works. Your model isn’t perfect: The driver could swerve to avoid you, and end up hitting you. In which case your model of the world has failed; you should have stood stationary, in the street to avoid being hit.

Where did you get that model?

What if I had arranged it so that every car you encountered as a child was driven by a confidant of mine. I had them all swerve to avoid you, and I taught you that cars will avoid you. You’d have a very different model! …and you’d agree I had done some SERIOUS lying to you!

Does my definition of True make sense now? I’ll say something if it will help you build a better model of the world. One can try this test on everything; it always works perfectly to tell you what is morally correct [in the context of speaking]. Anyway, I digress.

So I’ve been saying to myself, “big ship, small rudder,” and here I have an external bit of evidence from Manson that my model is correct. *shrugs* Sorry, this is what happens when you peek into my head.

ɕ

All excesses are injurious

All excesses are injurious, but immoderate prosperity is the most dangerous of all. It affects the brain, it conjures empty fantasies up in the mind, and it befogs the distinction between true and false with a confusing cloud. Is it not better to endure everlasting misfortune, with virtue’s help, than to burst with endless and immoderate prosperity? Death by starvation comes gently, gluttony makes men explode.

~ Seneca

slip:4a431.