We are, first and foremost, emotional creatures. Emotions motivate and guide us both consciously and unconsciously. As Blaise Pascal so succinctly put it:
"...the heart has reasons that the mind knows not of."
Greek rhetoricians recognized that people may sometimes be influenced by the force of feeling alone, rather than argument or debate. "When all the numbers fail, all the arguments fall short, and all the words ring hollow, the writer/orator must make the reader feel". This method is what they call pathos.
In the previous part of this series of articles, we have seen a way to solve logical/mechanical problems, but those are not the only types of problems we would face in reality. The major chunk of the problems we face in life do not just revolve around managing people, understanding them and coexisting with them but also understanding ourselves and being able to spend time by ourselves. Besides, following the most logical option would not necessarily help us succeed in solving them. It is in this context that the examination of various ideas and the stories/teachings of philosophers from the past and today comes into play.
Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom. - Will Durant
Every difficulty we come across in life does not always seem to have a rational solution. For example, assume you need to spend time with a friend who is alone for his/her birthday, but you only have enough time to spend at an orphanage with whom you have a close relationship. How would you choose, ethically or emotionally? This is a metaphorical remix of the popular ethics problem called the trolley problem. While we can take the utilitarian approach to solve this, which is statistically better, and help at the orphanage letting down only one person. If you take the other choice, those poor children will be let down and maybe not trust anyone's word for a while.
For me, philosophy is the formation and examination of many concepts, situations, and scenarios expressed via the medium of fictional and non-fictional storytelling. We try to use a variety of philosophical concepts to tackle issues not just in a rational but also heartfelt manner.
We can get insights not just from the preacher of said philosophy, but also from the life of the philosophers and what prompted them to come up with and express these ideas. Everything in life and everyone has a philosophy behind them; taking steps to understand it will lead to a more empathetic and compassionate society.
Philosophy not only teaches us new concepts and ideas but also criticizes our own beliefs. It exposes our biases, unmasks our prejudices and reveals our unjustified assumptions. It teaches us that we’re often wrong, which humbles us.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life. - Albert Camus
Albert Camus, a French-Algerian philosopher and writer acknowledges that all of our lives are absurd in the larger scheme of things and yet, unlike some thinkers, he resists absolute hopelessness or nihilism. He contends that we must live with the awareness that our efforts will be mostly fruitless, our lives will be forgotten, and our species will be irredeemably corrupt and violent — and yet we must persevere. In one of his works, The Plague, he narrates the story of a large city named Oran that becomes afflicted by a plague and how its residents react to this circumstance, which is quite akin to our current situation with COVID and our way of handling this chaotic and new experience.
Whenever you suffer pain, keep in mind that it's nothing to be ashamed of and that it can't degrade your guiding intelligence, nor keep it from acting rationally and for the common good. And in most cases you should be helped by the saying of Epicurus, that pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination. Remember too that many common annoyances are pain in disguise, such as sleepiness, fever and loss of appetite. When they start to get you down, tell yourself you are giving in to pain. - Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Roman emperor, in his book Meditations, which served as a form of journal for him to practice stoicism and function as a self-help guide for himself, provides us with insight into how one may live a stoic life and confront life's issues head-on. It's full of mental exercises and concepts to help us react to situations that involve strong emotions, waste less of our remaining time, and center ourselves in the middle of this chaotic but beautiful universe.
There are countless more philosophies one can study and connect with, each unique in its approach to resolving the problems that life may throw at us. Debating and talking with people who have different philosophies helps us understand their worldview and vice-versa and our understanding of the world in general.
By following one specific philosophy, we box ourselves in the way we think and solve problems and reduce the different kinds of solutions we can come up with. That's why we have to take ideas from different schools of thought and take what works with ourselves and leave the rest.
Stories from philosophy with their actual historical context help us understand how our ancestors went about solving the problems of their time, from which we can find patterns, what was right and wrong (which might not always work), which we can use not only in our decision-making processes but also as stories that we can entertain ourselves with and learn from.
Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. - Winston Churchill
While this may have been a bit esoteric and not particularly interesting to everyone, it may have been useful to some; nonetheless, the next and final part of the article would be of interest and use to everyone, hopefully.
All views/opinions expressed are the author's musings and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which he has been, is now, or will be affiliated.
The links in the article/s are the author's recommendations to the readers to motivate them to explore more on the written subject matter and tangents from that.