My method for fusing different philosophical teachings to live more contently.
Where do philosophical ideas come from?
It’s a good question. There are many different philosophies nowadays, some originating from thousands of years ago, like Taoism, and other popular ones emerging as late as the 20th century, such as existentialism.
However, these unique and seemingly original philosophies don't come from out of the blue. The truth about philosophy is that each philosopher is inspired by one before him, using the basis of another person's teachings to create their own.
For example, Nietzsche, a famous existentialist philosopher, was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer was inspired by Kant and Plato, and Kant was inspired by Christian Wolff and Leibniz. So there we have it, the greatest and most famous thinkers all forged their own path to life by taking inspiration from the works of other famous thinkers.
We ought to do the same.
Immersing myself in philosophy has quite literally revolutionized who I am and how I approach my daily life. Like many others before me, I have picked and chosen certain nuggets of wisdom from different philosophies and created my own unique approach to life.
Philosophy is subjective — it’s a purely personal pursuit of how to find fulfillment in life. It enables you to live a life that renders you capable to have a fortified mindset. Here’s how you can create your own philosophy.
The Most Crucial Step: Consume
This may seem like a no-brainer and you were probably expecting something more philosophical in nature, but no. As simple as it is, you need to consume as much philosophical content as you can. I’ll break it down into sections and give you some recommendations now. Let’s start simple.
Every time I come across an interesting philosophy, the first thing I do is head to youtube and watch some of my favorite channels summarising the key ideas in a 10-minute video.
Youtube has been so incremental in my journey to becoming well versed in philosophy and even more important to help me understand complex ideas that otherwise would have flown right over my head. Here are my favorites.
- Pursuit of Wonder: Probably my favorite channel. They make amazing animated videos on everything from philosophical ideas to the lives of philosophers and thinkers themselves, to strange paradoxes, and theories for life.
- The School of Life: Another favorite, The School of Life is not just a Youtube channel but an organization started by modern-day philosopher Alain de Botton. Again, they summarise ideas from key philosophers, thinkers, writers, artists, and more. Their channel is centered around making ideas of different influential thinkers easy to understand, these can range from simple to quite complex.
- Awakening With Russel: This is Russel Brand’s second channel where he dissects key ideas and philosophers that have personally influenced him greatly. He gravitates towards more eastern philosophy and takes a more spiritual approach. I do have a soft spot for Eastern spirituality so this is why I’ve included this.
- Sisyphus 55: This channel covers more edgy, interesting, and thought-provoking philosophies and ideas and tends to focus on aspects that people often forget about, it dives into some really interesting and entertaining shit. This is probably the most entertaining on the list
Consuming podcasts is my favorite way of learning about philosophy, more so in a modern context.
- Under The Skin with Russel Brand: If you like Russel Brand, you’ll love this. He is incredibly articulate and has had an amazing life that is full of valuable lessons. He takes a spiritual approach to philosophy.
- The Knowledge Project: They interview people and talk about things from a philosophical perspective. I recommend episode #18 with Naval Ravikant.
- Naval: Short bite-sized episodes of Naval philosophizing about life. Naval Ravikant is probably the most famous current living philosopher, he's worth looking into.
- The Daily Stoic: If you love Stoicism like me, Ryan Holiday’s podcast is perfect for you. He posts short stoic meditations, and once a week he interviews all sorts of amazing people and incorporates stoicism in their interviews.
- Philosophize This!: This is more from an educational perspective. The host dives into all the proper and core philosophy that has ever existed and goes through their ideas, it is still very accessible though.
The holy grail, the best way possible to learn about philosophy. Here are some of my favorites. But remember, there is a whole world of books out there and I haven't even scratched the surface.
- Any and every Ryan Holiday book: These are about stoicism, all of his books from Obstacle Is The Way to The Daily Stoic have all been so important in my philosophical life journey.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: This is the most accessible, applicable, and inspirational work of ancient philosophy. Written two thousand years ago you are getting original wisdom from the Stoic emperor.
- Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu: The original Taoist text. Taoism is very important to me so this sums it up in a way that is timeless. Aphorisms to nature and beautiful poetry.
- Great Thinkers by The School of Life: This is the bible for influential thinkers. It includes short biographies of 50 different thinkers from throughout history. It’s amazing to get a surface-level introduction to so many ideas.
- Self Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson: My favorite philosopher, Emerson. Emerson’s philosophy is very unique, it combines the natural world whilst highlighting the importance of independence from society.
That’s all of my recommendations. This will help you to consume as much philosophical content as possible. Once you become knowledgeable about different philosophies, teachings, and thinkers, you can learn to apply them, which is the next step.
Attack The Problem Areas
With philosophy, we are learning about it so we can better our lives and give ourselves a better grasp of our existence, which can be hard to comprehend and deal with for most.
So it’s only natural that after consuming all this content, you’d want to apply it. But you cant just apply everything. You need to be selective with this otherwise it won't be sustainable and you will quit after a week.
It will help you to identify your biggest problem areas in life. This will cause you to gain an understanding of which parts of yourself you need to work on to better improve your life.
Make a list, it will be beneficial. For me, the problems areas are procrastination, anger, being guided by emotions too much, chasing lustful desires, and loneliness.
Once I identified my problem areas, I could now apply the parts of philosophies that specifically spoke to me. Having a basis to work from (identifying problem areas) will make it very easy to apply effective philosophical teachings to better your life.
I’ll give you an example. I am an extremely sensitive and emotional person, my emotions wreck my relationships and leave me heartbroken, attached, and angry. All the time. For this reason, Stoicism directly spoke to me.
Stoicism is built around the premise of controlling your emotions and using reason to guide your decisions and outlook on the world, not emotions. They believe emotions to be the downfall of all men, leading us to destroy ourselves and the ones around us, particularly anger. So quotes like the one below spoke to my problem areas, and I applied them far easier.
“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.” — Seneca
My Unique Philosophy For Life
Now, as I mentioned before, philosophy is a very subjective topic. Some people may be heavily influenced by philosophies that I didn't even bother giving a second look to. Also, I have by no means come across many philosophies in my life, because I am still young and still exploring.
Within each of these philosophies, there are certain central ideas that speak to me and also certain individuals that I particularly like to learn about. If I could describe the intersection to merge of these philosophies in my life, I’d do it as so: A sense of freedom that renders me capable to explore the meaninglessness of the world by forging my own path and holding individualism and independence as an utmost important value. A philosophy that allows me to connect with nature and flow with the fate of the universe. It gives me the chance to stay grounded and not distracted by low-life states that drag me down pits of useless overthinking.
Transcendentalism, the philosophy coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau has instilled into me a belief to value the spiritual and natural world over the material. Furthermore Emerson’s concept of ‘Self Reliance’ has probably been one of the most important things I’ve come across. It’s taught me about the importance of individualism.
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Existentialism, particularly the beliefs of Jean-Paul Sartre has taught me the value of freedom we have in our lives. Existentialism says that life has no meaning, but our freedom to do whatever we want is enough for us to choose the meaning we want to give to our lives. We are free, nothing can ever restrict us.
“Man is condemned to be free.” — Jean-Paul Sartre
Taoism has connected me to the natural world and made me realize that life necessitates no rush or force, life happens as effortlessly as the processes of nature do, all we have to do is flow with it.
“Do not struggle. Go with the flow of things, and you will find yourself at one with the mysterious unity of the universe.” — Chuang Tse
Stoicism, last but not least. I cannot say enough about what Stoicism has done for me. It’s quite literally my rock in times of emotional turmoil. A rock that teaches me the wisdom to have control over my emotions.
Everyone should have key philosophical teachings that guide their lives in such a way that it pushes them to be better. I am a firm believer in the fact that having an underlying philosophy will help you in most areas of life.
Of course, the philosophies and resources I’ve included above are simply a result of what I’ve come across so far and what has impacted me the most. There are many different schools of thought out there that I haven't come across, but personally and subjectively, these were my favorites. I hope it helped you see how you can create your own philosophy for life and how it may look like once applied.
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