Tag: philosophy (page 1 of 9)

Ancient cynicism

As with stoicism, we’ve lost the ancient meaning of the word ‘cynicism’. I think you can probably tell a lot about how much love I have for Diogenes given that I named my phone after him (I name all my devices so I can easily identify them on wifi networks, etc.)

Image of half-full and half-empty cups

The original cynicism was a philosophical movement likely founded by Antisthenes, a student of Socrates, and popularized by Diogenes of Sinope around the fifth century B.C. It was based on a refusal to accept the assumptions and habits that discourage people from questioning conventional dogmas, and thus hold us back from the search for deep wisdom and happiness. Whereas a modern cynic might say, for instance, that the president is an idiot and thus his policies aren’t worth considering, the ancient cynic would examine each policy impartially.

The modern cynic rejects things out of hand (“This is stupid”), while the ancient cynic simply withholds judgment (“This may be right or wrong”).

[…]

To pivot from the modern to the ancient, I recommend focusing each day on several original cynical concepts, none of which condemns the world but all of which lead us to question, and in many cases reject, worldly conventions and practices.

  1. Eudaimonia (“satisfaction”)
  2. Askesis (“discipline”)
  3. Autarkeia (“self-sufficiency”)
  4. Kosmopolites (“cosmopolitanism”)

Source: We’ve Lost the True Meaning of Cynicism | The Atlantic

How to be useless

I love articles that give us a different lens for looking at the world, and this one certainly does that. It also provides links for further reading, which I very much appreciate.

Zhuangzi argued that we can reclaim our lives, and be happier and more fulfilled, if we become more useless. In this, he went against many influential thinkers of his time, such as the Mohists. These followers of Master Mo (c470-391 BCE) prized efficiency and welfare above all. They insisted on cutting away all ‘useless’ parts of life – art, luxury, ritual, culture, leisure, even the expression of emotions – and instead focused on ensuring that people across the social classes receive essential material resources. The Mohists viewed many practices common at the time as immorally wasteful. Rather than a funeral rich with rituals following tradition, such as burial within three layers of coffins and a years-long mourning period, Mohists recommended simply digging a pit deep enough so the body doesn’t smell. You were permitted to cry on your way to and from the burial site, but then you needed to return to work and life.

Although the Mohists wrote more than 2,000 years ago, their ideas sound familiar to modern ears. We frequently hear how we should avoid supposedly useless things, such as pursuing the arts, or a humanities education (see the all-too-frequent slashing of liberal arts budgets at universities). Or it’s often said that we should allow for these things only insofar as they benefit the economy or human welfare. You might have felt this discomfort in your own life: the pressure from the meritocracy to serve some purpose, have some benefit, maximise some utility – that everything you do should be, in some sense, useful.

However, as we will show here, Zhuangzi offers an essential antidote to this pernicious means-ends way of thinking. He demonstrates that you can improve your life if you let go of the anxiety of wanting to serve a purpose. To be sure, Zhuangzi doesn’t altogether spurn usefulness. Rather, he argues that usefulness itself should not be life’s bottom line.

Source: How to be useless | Psyche Guides

‘Prepper’ philosophy

This morning, I came across a long web page from 2016, presumably created as a reaction to everything that went down that year (little did we know!)

Ostensibly, it’s about preparing for scenarios in life that are relatively likely. It’s pretty epic. While I’ve converted it to PDF and printed all 68 pages out to read in more detail, there were some parts that jumped out at me, which I’ll share here.

[T]he purpose of this guide is to combat the mindset of learned helplessness by promoting simple, level-headed, personal preparedness techniques that are easy to implement, don’t cost much, and will probably help you cope with whatever life throws your way.

lcamtuf, Doomsday Prepping For Less Crazy Folk

Growing up, my mother was the kind of woman who always had extra tins in the cupboards ‘just in case’. Recently, my wife has taken this to the next level, with documents containing details on our stash including best before dates, etc.

Effective preparedness can be simple, but it has to be rooted in an honest and systematic review of the risks you are likely to face. Plenty of excited newcomers begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.

LCAMTUF, DOOMSDAY PREPPING FOR LESS CRAZY FOLK

I see this document, which goes into money, self-defence, hygiene, and even relationships as neighbours as more of a philosophy of life.

Rational prepping is meant to give you confidence to go about your business, knowing that you are well-equipped to weather out adversities. But it should not be about convincing yourself that the collapse is just around the corner, and letting that thought consume and disrupt your life.

Stay positive: the world is probably not ending, and there is a good chance that it will be an even better place for our children than it is for us. But the universe is a harsh mistress, and there is only so much faith we should be putting in good fortune, in benevolent governments, or in the wonders of modern technology. So, always have a backup plan.

LCAMTUF, DOOMSDAY PREPPING FOR LESS CRAZY FOLK

Recommended reading 👍

(also check out the author’s hyperinflation gallery)