Philosophy, which is often thought of as an academic discipline, has been said to be a way of life by many philosophers throughout history. But who said philosophy is a way of life? And what does it mean?
The Origins of the Idea
The idea that philosophy is a way of life dates back to ancient Greece. The philosopher Socrates famously claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This statement suggests that the pursuit of self-knowledge and wisdom should be the ultimate goal of human existence. For Socrates, philosophy was not just an intellectual exercise but a way of living that involved questioning everything and constantly seeking the truth.
The Stoics, a philosophical school that emerged in ancient Greece and flourished in Rome, also believed that philosophy was a way of life. According to the Stoics, the purpose of philosophy was not just to understand abstract concepts but to live according to certain principles. These principles included living in harmony with nature, practicing self-control and mindfulness, and accepting whatever happens in life with equanimity.
In more recent times, philosophers like Michel Foucault and Pierre Hadot have revived the idea that philosophy is a way of life. Foucault argued that philosophy should be understood as a kind of practice or activity rather than just an academic discipline or body of knowledge. He suggested that we should think about how we can use philosophical ideas to transform ourselves and our society.
Hadot took this idea further by proposing that ancient philosophers like Socrates and the Stoics saw themselves as spiritual guides or therapists who helped people live better lives. According to Hadot, these philosophers were not just interested in abstract ideas but in helping people cultivate certain virtues like courage, wisdom, and compassion.
So who said philosophy is a way of life? The answer is that many philosophers throughout history have embraced this idea in different ways.
From Socrates to the Stoics to modern thinkers like Foucault and Hadot, philosophy has been seen as a way of living that involves questioning everything, seeking wisdom, and cultivating virtues. Whether we agree with this idea or not, it’s clear that philosophy has the potential to transform our lives in profound ways.