Today, I discuss the importance of personal philosophy.
Table of Contents
- What Is Philosophy?
- Philosophy As A Rationalizing Tool
- Good Philosophy Combats Vice
- Choose Your Philosophy Wisely
What Is Philosophy?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Philosophy is “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” There are many layers and areas of philosophy about different industries, behaviors, and specializations. Today, I want to focus on personal philosophies.
A personal philosophy or ideology defines how you should live your life, what value you have to yourself and others, and the ultimate purpose of your actions. Ideally, your philosophy should encompass personal responsibility, virtue, and rational pride, i.e., individualism. Such tenants or standards make life more difficult but more meaningful.
For example, personal responsibility means you control your emotions and actions while owning the consequences of everything you do. Such a life is difficult because you can’t scapegoat your poor decisions. However, you have complete control over who you will be, the behaviors you will adopt, and the habits that will form your character. Although such responsibility is challenging, you can create the idealized, most virtuous version of yourself.
Philosophy As A Rationalizing Tool
Ultimately, our ideology defines how we should live by giving us logical and moral arguments for our behaviors and ideals. Therefore, philosophy is a rationalizing tool. It gives your actions meaning beyond what is immediate or ostensible.
For example, without a well-defined philosophy, your actions become aimless and limited to meeting your basic animalistic needs. However, if good health is part of your philosophy, eating is about more than mere survival or fleeting pleasure. Eating is about giving yourself the best food to help you think, perform better in the gym, extend your life, and increase your happiness.
Thus, your philosophy defines what you do, who you are, and the rationale behind your life. The best philosophies rationalize why you should pursue long-term benefits, such as good health, instead of short-term pleasures, such as junk food.
Good Philosophy Combats Vice
Most people are addicted to a variety of vices that create immense feelings of guilt and shame. For example, a man addicted to overeating will feel bad because he cannot control his desire for empty calories. Even though such an addiction negatively affects him and his community.
Philosophy defines our actions, what is ideal and why, and the best conduct in various situations. Thus, a good philosophy would do a few things. Firstly, define overeating as a vice, i.e., an action that has negative short-term and long-term. Therefore, the vice should be stopped or curtailed. Secondly, the man should know that the ideal is better health. Why? So he can live longer, be more active, and remain a positive figure in the lives of others. Lastly, good philosophy should help him understand the subsequent best actions: remove the junk food, hit the gym, and seek help from others in as a sustainable way as possible.
If this man lived without a philosophy, he would do what comes naturally, easily, and immediately. He wouldn’t think about the weight he is gaining, the effect on his community, or the money he is wasting. A positive idealogy forces the man to think about the consequences of his actions. Ultimately, he will find that his actions are not good. He only discovers this by having a philosophy that challenges him and gives him the logical and moral tools needed to justify his best behavior.
Weak Individuals, Philosophy, and Justification
“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, ‘Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?’ …Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, ‘We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay’.” – Charles M. Schulz
Unfortunately, we can also adopt personal philosophies that do not serve the best within us. A perspective can help vice and weakness just as much as it can serve good and meaning.
Therefore, this same man can adopt a personal philosophy that rationalizes his overeating. Remember, philosophy defines our actions, what is ideal and why, and the best conduct in various situations. Thus, a bad philosophy would define overeating as acceptable even though overeating is expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy. Secondly, a bad philosophy would describe the ideal as whatever the overeating man wants it to be. His ideal does not push him towards what is difficult, i.e., overcoming his overeating. His plan is simply accepting himself as he is and tolerating his mediocrity. Why? To ensure he can enjoy his comforts despite the apparent dangers they possess.
Lastly, bad philosophy would give him the tools he needs to enjoy and defend his mediocrity: abusing others who may show concern for him, eating more food without feeling shame, and so on.
A poor philosophy serves to justify our vices, especially after engaging in them for a long time. This is the opposite of an ethical philosophy that helps our virtues and pushes us toward good.
Choose Your Philosophy Wisely
Next week, we will cover how to chose a philosophy that helps you be your best self. By having a powerful personal ideology, you can rationalize the difficulty of life as you pursue what is meaningful and sustainable.
Without a deeply held belief system, it is challenging to achieve a meaningful life. Why? Because you have no rationale for suffering. Why suffer when you can pursue an easier path with far less pain? Without a virtuous personal philosophy, you cannot answer this question.
If you can define what you should be and understand what you want, you can weather the many storms of life with ease and gratitude. Thus, we will cover how to define, create, and live a personal philosophy that serves your virtuous ends while ensuring others can do the same.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Socrates
- What beliefs do you hold? What truths do you accept about your life? Do these truths push you toward your best self or your weakest self?
- What are you addicted to? What do you invest time, energy, and money into that you know you shouldn’t? Why? How does engaging in these activities make you feel?
- What’s one virtue you wish you could improve?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.