Big Idea People

When we think of philosophy, we tend to think of theoretical philosophy: cloistered academics, armchair thinkers, and dreamy contemplatives arguing over the fine points of abstruse topics that have little if any practical import. This reputation is, unfortunately, well-deserved, especially in recent times. Yet if we accept the validity of philosophy as a way ofContinue reading “Big Idea People”

Philosophical Forms and Functions

Following up on my post a few months ago about philosophical professionalism, I’ve been thinking about the many forms of philosophical writing and their functions in our intellectual and practical life. Throughout history, philosophical questions and answers have been presented in so many written forms: aphorisms, dialogues, essays, letters, allegories, parables, stories, novels, plays, poems,Continue reading “Philosophical Forms and Functions”

The Meanings of Meaning

If you tell people that you’re interested in philosophy, inevitably someone will ask you about the meaning of life. Although the question might predate The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ancient philosophers in the Greek, Indian, and Chinese traditions didn’t raise it. Personally I adhere to the aphorism that it’s best not to puzzle over theContinue reading “The Meanings of Meaning”

Philosophical Professionalism

Robin Hanson recently suggested that we need more generalist thinkers, and that they can be found among the ranks of polymaths, public intellectuals, and professional philosophers. Although I might post again on the topic of generalists vs. specialists, today I’d like to focus instead on the concept of philosophical professionalism. In most fields, a professionalContinue reading “Philosophical Professionalism”

Philosophies and Ways of Life

In his book What Is Ancient Philosophy?, Pierre Hadot almost singlehandedly resurrected the ancient conception of philosophy as a way of life. Consider this observation about the philosophical schools of Greece and Rome: “For us moderns, the notion of a philosophical school evokes only the idea of a doctrinal tendency or theoretical position. Things were veryContinue reading “Philosophies and Ways of Life”

Philosophy vs. Ideology

Today I’d like to explore some implications of my recent series of posts about the nature of opinion; specifically, the dangers of ideology. (As a reminder, so far I’ve discussed holding fewer opinions, opinions about opinions, holding multiple opinions, opinions vs. truths, and opinions weak and strong.) Ideology is insidious. When I value strict adherenceContinue reading “Philosophy vs. Ideology”

What I’ve Learned from Aristotle

My friend Adrian Lory asked me recently to describe the essence of what I’ve learned from all of my Aristotle readings over the last few years as I prepare to write a book about his views on human flourishing. Here’s a brief summary. Happiness or eudaimonia is a matter of living and doing well, ofContinue reading “What I’ve Learned from Aristotle”

Beyond Binary

As political polarization proliferates, it’s beneficial to explore realms of thought that are not limited to left vs. right and us vs. them. Personally, I’m partial to philosophy: it’s impossible to reduce all of philosophical thinking to, say, Epicureans vs. Stoics without ignoring the deep and unique contributions of Platonists, Aristotelians, Taoists, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus,Continue reading “Beyond Binary”