How did philosophy become the annoying one? Of the seven liberal arts that make up the three-year-long job application to Starbucks, five are tedious schlock. Music is respite and logic is philosophy’s scaffolding.
At a time when beliefs were adulterating lives, philosophy put thought through a purification process. It was a cataract for a fading brain.
But philosophy has fallen into self-help putrefaction. The more masochistic the philosophy, the more authentic it is supposed. It’s why reading philosophy feels like going in for a haircut and getting out with a lobotomy. See marriage.
Philosophy is the individualization of thought. Etymologically, it’s the love of wisdom, and as y’all know, philosophers attained wisdom by growing a beard. QED.
Philosophy is not an undertaking in suffering to arrive at something profound. It’s realizing your suffering lies in finding out that what you’ve arrived at, is something you knew all along.
It’s why the pithy conclusions feel both mind-bending, and familiar. Somewhere along the way, we figured spending a whole lifetime to arrive at something obvious is not a viable business model. Spouting deep bullshit with no realization to back it, is. It’s how I have been able to write over 300 essays on this blog. MA-MA phlosophy-phlosophy (inside joke just for me).
The gateway drug for me was stoicism. This was just before stoicism became the balls-first commercial ring-ding it is now. The pithy truth about stoicism isn’t exactly a great business model: You have control over very few things and the process of becoming a stoic is in knowing what you have control over, and what you do not. What can you do with that?
Instead, how about this:
“THE 11-DAY STOIC GUIDE TO CONTROLLING ANGER”
$49! And that pisses me off so much, I may actually sign up.
Stoicism got its name because Zeno, who first started talking about some of his ideas, taught on a porch, and since the Greeks have a fancy-ass word for everything, the porch’s being stoa—and so, Stoicism. Kinda straight-forward. Well, not quite. Philosophers are anything but.
Beyond being logistically easy, the stoa had a metaphorical implication. It was the periphery. The external. The thing you had little control over. What you learned on the porch was just that—your helplessness over what’s outside your control. The point being, what was inside, the thing in your control—could not be taught. That was a journey you took alone.
The stoa is how far philosophy can take you. And if anyone could in fact teach you how to control anger, lust et al., they are promising to take you inside. Which is kinda creepy. We’ll get to religion in a bit.
Philosophers had a dedicated time and place to teach because once that was done, they went about living their lives like normal people. If they were philosophers all the time—as Socrates’s wife Xanthippe will tell you—that would just be annoying as fuck.
Philosophy should be used sparingly. Most philosophy isn’t deep in the epiphanic sense. It’s deep because it is timeless. Like, literallyyy.
Tangent on philosophy’s lack of gender diversity.
“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates’s way of saying, “I forgot to take out the trash.”
Women have given me more perspective than any philosopher has. My mum routinely, very politely proves my dad and I are full of shit. My girlfriends have planned entire evenings to quash my delusions—kicking off with the seemingly most lovely, surely most rhetorical, and ultimately the most piss-pant-question in every relationship: “Can I tell you something?”
Women don’t have the need to turn to philosophy because that’s a kind of need that comes with having a small dick and a fragile ego and emotional Bell’s palsy. To men, philosophy is a business book. To women, it is poetry.
End of emasculation.
Philosophy won’t change your life by a long shot. For that, you need to be willing to go crazy. But we all like to take in philosophy as knowledge. As something we can consume and shit out on a blog. That’s the exact opposite of what philosophy is meant to do. It’s a private affair. If you go around screaming it, you are turning it into a religion. Which brings us.
The goal of philosophy was not to change people. It was about showing people there are several means to reach the same end. Religion was to be that end, the place—where the people whom religions are named after—all reached. And we looked at that end and went: sex is bad!
Philosophy has sat on the porch that is the world, open for everyone. And through that, it has told brought us closer to the inside. It’s what Marcus Aurelius, a gangsta stoic, was trying to rationalize in his journals. Writing about his externalities to make space for his internalities. Reminding himself over and over, all of this, is the stoa.
I wish I could tell you what the inside is like. I haven’t the slightest clue. But if you pay enough attention (to life), you can hear the music.