Philosophy and Happiness

What is Philosophy?  The Ancient Greeks defined it as the love of wisdom.  Ok, so what is wisdom? Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia:

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions“) so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight.

You can read more at:

Wisdom can be sought and applied in any situation, no matter how ugly.  Wisdom can be sought in even dull situations, by studying ourselves.  Since life is a bunch of situations, all life is one big opportunity for wisdom.

The more we love wisdom, the happier we’ll be.  Compare this to the things we normally seek like love and money. We may not get those, and if we do, we can lose them.  Not wisdom; we are in full control of it. This can make philosophy tempting – but we first have to love wisdom.  Can we choose to love wisdom?  Can we choose to love anything?  If so, how?

This isn’t an argument, but here’s some reason for hope:

  1. We love what we think is good.
  2. What we love has changed.

An objection to #1 would be self-destructive people.  Can ignore them as boundary cases?  Can we ignore the times we were a little self-destructive as anomalies?

Assuming we haven’t been derailed by self-destruction, we can conclude that malleable beliefs affect what we love. If we can find examples where we chose what to love, the case is stronger.

Since our beliefs in what is good control what we love, can we change our beliefs?  Do we have to?  If we assume the below is true:

  1. Pursuing inner things will rarely disappoint.
  2. Pursuing outer things will often disappoint.
  3. We control what we want to pursue.

Then shouldn’t we automatically want to pursue inner things and lose interest in outer things?  If not, why?  Do we need this to sink in so it’s more of a gut reaction than an intellectual understanding?  If so, how do we do this?  Should we seek to see this in our daily experience, until it gets driven home?

Also, could we just skip philosophy and will ourselves happy?  If not, why?

Since this post paints philosophy as an activity, a good book to read if you are interested is Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot.  Here is a synopsis and preview:

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