“Let not the youngest shun philosophy or the oldest grow weary of it,” said Epicurus to Meniceus in a letter. “To do so is the equivalent to saying either that the time for a happy life has not yet come or that it is already past.”
And yet, it’s not a default choice to turn to philosophy as a guide to learning to live well. Depending on your experience in traditional education, philosophy may have been one of those subjects that was pushed to the side like vegetables, either because it was too abstract or because the kind of critical thinking that’s necessary to delve into the subject is seemingly too tiring (this also applies, sadly, to science, art, and math).
The Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Philosophy’s main task is to respond to the soul’s cry; to make sense of and thereby free ourselves from the hold of our griefs and fears.”
Like religion or sports, there isn’t one right school of philosophy to follow, the same way there isn’t one way to exercise or practice faith. How we “respond to the soul’s cry” is idiosyncratic, and finding a practice that suits us is a worthy endeavor to help us live better. So much of what we call wisdom—knowledge guided by a moral compass that helps us live well—has been talked about for centuries but is often buried, misconstrued, or taken out of context.
I was sent this beautiful infographic on the long history of philosophy—a necessary reminder that humans have been working hard to not just figure out why we’re here but more importantly how we should live. Studying this infographic made me appreciate the different schools of thought throughout human history—some forgotten and some making its return.
(Thanks to Roslyn from SuperScholar.org for sending me this)