I have spent the better part of the COVID Lockdown studying philosophy, this came about while helping my sister do her assignment on Heraclitus .
Growing up i always heard of very famous philosophers but never really took time to understand who they were. the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Carl Max, Sigmund Freud, Seneca and many others.
One of the things that intrigued me in writing this was how some of the topics these guys spoke about are still relevant to our daily life so am going to highlight a few that stood out for me.
Maybe let me take a start with what philosophy is. I think philosophy is the ability to think logically and rationally. infract you quite a number of times hear people refer to Philosophically speaking meaning speaking with logical thought put in place. this is quite similar to the scientific method of thinking. presented with the right evidence and examined with the right tools we can come to correct conclusions.
“Its not what you say its how you say it”Plato
Socrates 469 – 399 BC
There is not much known about Socrates simply because he rarely wrote anything down. What is known about him was written by his student Plato. He rarely put on shoes or took a bath, was always in dirty clothes and lead a very simple life.
He was quite famous for constantly asking people to explain the meaning of life, he would question why people lived they way they did. He was trying to distinguish the difference between the Truths and opinions.
You probably heard of the Socratic way of thinking, This is Socrates attempt to question common sense or to find exceptions to it e.g. “money will make you happy” his way was to try and disprove this or find exceptions. this has significantly influenced how Law Classes are taught to this day.
He also had a hatred for democracy which ironically was one of Greece`s greatest achievements. He questiond that why is it that democracy sees it fit to allow any random person out there to decide who
He argues that Voting in an election is a skill not a random intuition. Just like the way a driver today has been taught in the art of driving. letting any old person decide the fate of a nation without an education is as irresponsible as letting a non trained child to drive a truck.
He did insist that only those that had thought rationally and logically had thought about it should be let near a vote. It is the fundamental reason why there is an age at which you are allowed to vote. if this was not the case then we would end up in what he termed as a demagoguery. Ancient Greece and many other nations went through this. especially those that gave power to a leader by birthright. he knew how easily people seeking an election could exploit our desire for quick and easy answers. A democracy is as good as the education that surrounds it.
One of the other reasons Socrates never wrote anything down was because he believed that there was no way to guarantee the outcome of what someone got from a book. We could both read the same book and come out with different outcomes or understanding. He often preferred face to face conversations.
Plato 424/423 BC
Plato was one of Socrates’ pupils. His one goal was to get people to a state he called Eudemonia which means fulfillment hence he wrote about 36 books.
He wrote about 4 key topics on fulfillment.
Think More: he asked people to subject their ideas to examination rather than acting on impulse.
Let your Lover change you: the simple idea that that your partner should exhibit qualities that you dont have so you can learn from them. Couples should be educating each other constantly pushing each other to be the best version of themselves.
Beauty; He asked people to find the true meaning of beauty. We find beauty in objects because we sense in them qualities that we lack but we need eg balance, peace, harmony, strength. He saw art as therapeutic.
Reform Society: Plato purports the idea of a Utopia, a world in which people are fulfilled. a world in which Justice is the ultimate goal. He also reasoned that women were equally able to rule, unfortunately he was quite inconsistent about women at times likening them to children.
Check out his theory called the “The Noble Lie”
Epicurus 341–270 BC
He augured that humans are pleasure seeking animals.
As soon as people hear the word “pleasure” the idea of high net worth living and high spending luxury comes to mind, most people got this wrong.
If you study Epicurus and his thoughts around pleasure you will realize it is quite far removed from the modern idea of luxury. It has nothing to do with material goods. He however associated pleasure with a number of things namely friends, freedom, analysis of life and a self sufficient lifestyle.
The most important thing in life is pleasure.Epicurus
He was one of the founders of what we now know as a commune which Carl Max wrote a thesis about.
He also talks about anxiety and how a lot of it comes about due to our analysis of life and the sources of our distress a good example is the fear of death of which he spoke about quite a lot.
Seneca – 4AD -65 AD
Seneca was a Roman Philosopher who was famously known as the Tutor to Nero of Rome. He was also known as a stoic.
He tried to teach people to be prepared for the worst as a way of dealing with difficult situations. This was typically known as stoicism. He asked the question why do people get angry, he says that if you scratch the surface of someone who is angry you will find an optimist. He suggested that we do a form of meditation every morning and psychologically prepare ourselves for the worst that could happen and in that way our reactions to those bad things would be better. In a way disappointing yourself.
For example, you’d never shout just because it started raining – even though rain can be horrible, because you’ve learnt to expect rain. The same should apply to everything. Don’t only expect rain, expect betrayal, infamy, sadism, theft, humiliation, lust, greed, spite.. One will stop being so angry when one learns the true facts of the misery of life
WHAT NEED IS THERE TO WEEP OVER PARTS OF LIFE? THE WHOLE OF IT CALLS FOR TEARS.Seneca
He unfortunately was ordered to commit suicide by Nero in front of his wife which was the subject of a number of paintings.
Ancient Athenians had strange ways of dishing out Justice, people were asked occasionally to commit suicide as a form of punishment.At times you might even be asked to drink hemlock .
But on a more serious note there are quite a number of lessons we can learn from ancient philosophy but we occasionally have to be open minded and take it with a pinch of salt.
If this was interesting for you please let me know in the comments so i can write about other philosophers.