Philosophy as Lifestyle

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Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 10:00 pm
Diogenes and other philosophers viewed philosophy as a way of life, and not just a body if ideas. Personally, I love ideas, but I always loved Diogenes, Antisthenes, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Epicurus, etc.

This is from the chapter on Antisthenes who Diogenes became the pupil of.
Quote:

On one occasion one of his friends was lamenting to him that he had lost his memoranda, and he said to him, "You ought to have written them on your mind, and not on paper." A favourite saying of his was, "That envious people were devoured by their own disposition, just as iron is by rust." Another was, "That those who wish to be immortal ought to live piously and justly." He used to say too, "That cities were ruined when they were unable to distinguish worthless citizens from virtuous ones."
On one occasion he was being praised by some wicked men and said, "I am sadly afraid that I must have done some wicked thing." One of his favourite sayings was, "That the fellowship of brothers of one mind was stronger than any fortified city." He used to say, "That those things were the best for a man to take on a journey, which would float with him if he were shipwrecked." He was once reproached for being intimate with wicked men, and said, "Physicians also live with those who are sick; and yet they do not catch fevers." He used to say, "that it was an absurd thing to clean a cornfield of tares, and in war to get rid of bad soldiers, and yet not to rid one's self in a city of the wicked citizens." When he was asked what advantage he had ever derived from philosophy, he replied, "The advantage of being able to converse with myself." At a drinking party, a man once said to him, "Give us a song," and he replied, "Do you play us a tune on the flute." When Diogenes asked him for a tunic, he bade him fold his cloak. He was asked on one occasion what learning was the most necessary, and he replied, "To unlearn one's bad habits." And he used to exhort those who found themselves ill spoken of, to endure it more than they would any one's throwing stones at them. He used to laugh at Plato as conceited; accordingly, once when there was a fine procession, seeing a horse neighing he said to Plato, "I think you too would be a very frisky horse:" and he said this all the more, because Plato kept continually praising the horse. At another time, he had gone to see him when he was ill, and when he saw there a dish in which Plato had been sick, he said, "I see your bile there but I do not see your conceit." He used to advise the Athenians to pass a vote that asses were horses; and, as they thought that irrational, he said," Why, those whom you make generals have never learnt to be really generals, they have only been voted such."
A man said to him one day, "Many people praise you." "Why, what evil," said he, "have I done?" When he turned the rent in his cloak outside, Socrates seeing it, said to him, "I see your vanity through the hole in your cloak." On another occasion, the question was put to him by some one, as Phanias relates, in his treatise on the Philosophers of the Socratic school, what a man could do to show himself an honourable and a virtuous man; and he replied, "If you atttend to those who understand the subject, and learn from them that you ought to shun the bad habits which you have." Some one was praising luxury in his hearing, and he said, "May the children of my enemies be luxurious." Seeing a young man place himself in a carefully studied attitude before a modeller, he said, "Tell me, if the brass could speak, on what would it pride itself?" And when the young man replied, "On its beauty." "Are you not then," said he, "ashamed to rejoice in the same thing as an inanimate piece of brass?" A young man from Pontus once promised to recollect him, if a vessel of salt fish arrived; and so he took him with him and also an empty bag, and went to a woman who sold meal, and filled his sack and went away; and when the woman asked him to pay for it, he said, "The young man will pay you, when the vessel of salt fish comes home."
These men (and some women too) wanted to live well, and ideas were only a part of this, a sort of rudder or arrow. One of my favorite books is here:
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, translated by C.D. Yonge
and here
The lives and opinions of eminent ... - Google Books

It's full of jokes and anecdotes. It really brings philosophy alive. It sets thoughts in the context of lifestyle.

A personal note: I have always lived quite simply. Throughout my entire adult life I have chosen time over money, even to an extreme.

I just want to talk about philosophy-as-lifestyle. Please jump in. Smile
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 10:08 pm
@Reconstructo,
Philosophy as a lifestyle...does that mean taking the pursuit of philosophy as the main feature and goal of ones life? I don't think I would go for that. It is enjoyable and worthwhile, but one of the things that makes it worthwhile is that it has something to say about what makes a good life--and it involves more than the pursuit of philosophy.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 10:22 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;174086 wrote:
Philosophy as a lifestyle...does that mean taking the pursuit of philosophy as the main feature and goal of ones life? I don't think I would go for that. It is enjoyable and worthwhile, but one of the things that makes it worthwhile is that it has something to say about what makes a good life--and it involves more than the pursuit of philosophy.


No, I think you are misunderstanding me. There were certain philosophers who thought that philosophy-as-words was bunk. They conceived the philosopher as someone who knew how to live well. They thought philosophy was bigger than just a pile of words.

Do you know about Antisthenes, Diogenes? Epicurus? They lived differently than others. It wasn't just a matter of talk for them. It was about behavior and not just dialectic. It was about habits and not just theory. Smile
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2010 10:27 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;174094 wrote:
No, I think you are misunderstanding me. There were certain philosophers who thought that philosophy-as-words was bunk. They conceived the philosopher as someone who knew how to live well. They thought philosophy was bigger than just a pile of words.

Do you know about Antisthenes, Diogenes? Epicurus? They lived differently than others. It wasn't just a matter of talk for them. It was about behavior and not just dialectic. It was about habits and not just theory. Smile


Oh yes. I think the branch of philosophy that is about the question "How should one live?" is very much about the actual living and experiencing and not just theory.

Finding a idea from an ancient philosophy book and trying it out in your own life can be quite a trip.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2010 01:26 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;174096 wrote:
Oh yes. I think the branch of philosophy that is about the question "How should one live?" is very much about the actual living and experiencing and not just theory.

Finding a idea from an ancient philosophy book and trying it out in your own life can be quite a trip.


I really felt the notions of cynicism and stoicism especially. One could even argue the priority of this type of philosophy. But the poet in me loves the abstruse stuff. Well, I suppose we can have both.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2010 06:27 am
@Reconstructo,
One should take anecdotes about early philosophers with a grain of salt; many of these stories probably did not happen, but were invented at a later date to illustrate their philosophy or gather converts.
One can read in the great Greek and Roman histories speeches of generals before battles, but these were not what anyone actually said, but what they should have said or what seemed likely to be their motives.
This doesn't mean that in the case of philosophers, they did not attempt to practice what they preached or that they understood philosophy to be an academic exercise only, or that it was a pleasant way to spend a weekend.
 
TuringEquivalent
 
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2010 06:35 am
@jgweed,
Philosophy is no different from any other academic discipline. You still need to study.
 
Huxley
 
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2010 07:57 am
@TuringEquivalent,
"What is Ancient Philosophy?" by Pierre Hadot talks about this very thing, and it influenced me to a great degree.

I certainly enjoy reading and discussing the texts, participating in debates on abstract things, and writing essays in my free time. But I think it's also had an effect on the way that I live.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 9 Jun, 2010 12:06 am
@jgweed,
jgweed;174173 wrote:
One should take anecdotes about early philosophers with a grain of salt; many of these stories probably did not happen, but were invented at a later date to illustrate their philosophy or gather converts.
One can read in the great Greek and Roman histories speeches of generals before battles, but these were not what anyone actually said, but what they should have said or what seemed likely to be their motives.
This doesn't mean that in the case of philosophers, they did not attempt to practice what they preached or that they understood philosophy to be an academic exercise only, or that it was a pleasant way to spend a weekend.


Oh yes, I'm sure many of the anecdotes are invented. But even so, they still function as art, as myth. I feel the same way about the Jesus character. Diogenes and Alexander is hard to believe, but what a pithy story.

---------- Post added 06-09-2010 at 01:12 AM ----------

TuringEquivalent;174176 wrote:
Philosophy is no different from any other academic discipline. You still need to study.


I personally agree with you, as far as studying goes. But I would not deny to the title of philosopher to someone who merely lived and thought about their life. Philosophy is great, but ideas alone do not a life make. And ideas don't exist in isolation. Some thoughts are not accessible in the absence of certain experiences. Words don't have a precise meaning like integers. What is the word "sex" to a virgin? What is the word "financially independence" to someone who has never paid a bill? Words get their significance from emotion, sensation. I know fascinating people who don't like the word philosophy because they have met too many asinine college boys. Dead men's ideas have their attractions. I have buried my face in many a book. But I hate to forget the role of experience in molding one's mind. We are alive today, in today's world. And if philosophy is only babble to impress the Jones' we can live without it.
 
 

 
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