Could somebody who has lived over two millennia ago, really help transform our 2020? Why are the long-dead thinkers only now rising to the top, when it comes to self-help books? Are they really as helpful as gurus, or is this just another misconception?
Whether the study of Jean-Paul Sartre could be the key to new you, or the controversial 19-century German scholar could make for a good life coach, all depends on your outlook on life. Publishers believe that all the answers to these questions are a definite “yes”, but is that something you think as well?
The Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars was published last autumn, and it was aimed to present the benefit by thinking like the ancient Stoics, as well as a genuine book by Gary Cox that could help by offering clear advice as how we could live according to Satre, Camus, Nietzsche, and other great philosopher’s principles of existentialism, titled How To Be An Existentialist.
Let’s also not forget the book titled How To Teach Philosophy To Your Dog. Do not take its title quite literally, as this is an interesting introduction to Anthony McGowan’s book titled Big Questions in Philosophy, where we could see the connection between studying philosophy and becoming a better person while ending on the meaning of life.
Philosophy is back in fashion
Considering the fact that in the 20th century, philosophy was seen as a discipline for specialists, and otherwise highly challenging field for those out of the study. So, why, of all times, has philosophy started to surface now? A professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy, Angie Hobbs, believes that this is because we are currently at a very global crisis point. She stated that the philosophy started to bloom for the same reasons that ethical philosophy, therapeutic philosophy have taken off in the Hellenistic times.
Let’s not forget that that was also a huge period for change. Currently, we have started seeing the world in extreme geo-politically, flux-financially, with regard to the change of climate. Will liberal democracy survive, is the planet going to survive? There are many worrying questions that come to mind, and people are just looking for something to guide them through uncertain times.
But, how could philosophy books be better for our being? Well, with so many books written by celebrities, athletes, management consultants, mystics, and psychologists, designed for self-help, why couldn’t there be books of the same purpose, written by philosophers?
In the 20th century, right up to the millennium, everyone had an optimistic look on life. Everyone was getting wealthier; we did not really have to think twice when buying items. After the church came, all that optimism was sucked out, and the idea of everything just going as it is supposed to go simply went. Everyone stopped to think “What are we doing? Why are we doing it?:. This is when the real appetite for guidance first developed.
We should be stoic
One thought system that started to flourish was Stoicism; a way to endure hardship or pain without the need to complain or display feelings. Taking its roots back to Socrates, and later considering Stoicism to largely be based on the work of 3 thinkers; Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome, Epictetus, a former slave, and Seneca, the tutor of Nero.
The key to understanding stoic principles is to simply acknowledge that we cannot control what happens and goes on in our life. We just need to accept it as something whole, because it’s natural. The Stoic Week is a global online experiment, that has been running yearly from 2012, in hopes to discover whether people are measurably benefiting from psychosocially following these philosophy rules. The results were positive.
In simple terms, The Stoics are suggesting that the most important thing for you and everyone to lead a great life is very much internal, rather than external. You do not only need to learn how to develop the right character, but you also need to have the right state of mind. Don’t think about what you own, consider what happens to you in the external world. Make sure you get your head out of the gutter; as the core Stoic advice would suggest, get your head straight.
Life lessons with Existentialism
Another area of philosophy that is seen as a series of life lessons is Existentialism. However, while anyone could easily read and understand many works from the Stoics, or Aristotle, or Plato, the texts written by existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger are incredibly challenging to those outside its field, even for professionals. One could say that concision is not the strong side of existentialism.
Existentialism is a philosophical approach that starts with an individual human’s lived experiences, such as feelings, actions, and thoughts. “Existence precedes essence” instead, it values authenticity and freedom. In the face of the world without a note-worthy meaning other than what the individuals give to it, and which often feels rather absurd, the challenge is to live life dilled with sincerity, courage, and passion.
Books that are summarizing the views of other famous philosophers, such as Nietzsche, Plato, and others, need to be honest when it comes to the fact that they are taking something incredibly complex and challenging thought systems and simplifying it. We need to understand that everyone’s perception of these summarizations could change and that it could be a step further from the original because it is not the original.
These kinds of books do sell, and they are sold to all kinds of people, of all ages. It just proves that the longevity of philosophy is a real thing, as these questions can speak to anyone, at any time, and anywhere. While, not everyone will understand these books, and some might understand them differently than us, as long as we are able to genuinely benefit from these books on a personal level, helping our everyday life, that is all that matters.Last modified: March 18, 2020