How Philosophy Can Be Applied to Everyday Life
Etymologically speaking, the word philosophy means “love of wisdom.” However, many people assume that this knowledge is limited to theoretical and academic study. However, philosophizing goes much further. Believe it or not, we all apply philosophy to our everyday lives.
In this sense, young children are great philosophers, as they maintain a position of curiosity about the world and constantly question the why or how of things. Likewise, adults also philosophize when we have concerns about life, when we rethink everyday situations, or when we assume justified positions based on a framework of beliefs.
How philosophy can be applied to everyday life
According to the German philosopher Wolfram Eilenberger, we all have a philosophy, without which we could not live our lives. After all, this encompasses very general ideas about who we are, who others are, how actions were in the past and how they will be in the future.
Therefore, this thinker states that the idea of applying philosophy in everyday life is not so much so, but that philosophy is already there; it was always with us. We just have to recognize where it is and when it happens.
In agreement with what Eilenberger affirms, it’s a reality of life that we all philosophize. However, most people are simply not aware that they do.
For example, we apply philosophy in everyday life when we ask ourselves how to understand others and society, when we question the meaning of our lives, or when we reflect upon which actions are the most correct in a given situation.
That said, philosophical work begins with doubt. Therefore, every conversation that’s fluid, broad, and enriching on a specific topic can be philosophical. Even individual reflection, the product of restlessness, is also a philosophical act.
However, it’s not enough just to be restless. The crux of the matter, according to Eilenberger, is that we must take our own questions seriously. That’s when philosophy really begins.
Many people have questions, may ask them, but then put them aside. They don’t consider their doubts and questions seriously. Once someone reverses that, then they begin to philosophize.
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7 philosophical activities you can do every day
Recognizing that we can apply philosophy in everyday life can lead us to transit a better life and to be more aware of our thoughts, acts, and emotions. It can also help to make us more serene when facing the realities of existence.
Many people who wish to approach philosophy do so through books and theories, which can be overwhelming and paralyzing. According to Eilenberger, a good start is biographies and letters of philosophers that give some insight into why their thoughts were important to them.
In addition, we recommend placing yourself in your own context. See what the world is like today, question and rethink ideas that will help make it a better place. To do this, here are some concrete activities that can help you with this task.
1. Question your beliefs
According to philosophy professor Eduardo Infante, philosophy has more to do with asking questions than with the answer. In other words, it’s a love more for questioning than for answering.
After all, by questioning, we tear down mental walls, prejudices, and dogmas. In this way, Infante affirms that philosophy can be the best antidote for stupidity and dogmatism.
Since we are children, we’re taught and assimilate a set of beliefs that we do not question and assume as to be truths. When we reach adulthood, we maintain many obsolete, limiting, and harmful thoughts, without giving ourselves the opportunity to assume other points of view.
Infante invites his students to express their concerns about life and offers them the answers that different authors of philosophy have contributed to these issues. Some of these are usually the following:
- The existence of God
- The meaning of life
- Evil in the world
- Our responsibility to nature
Surely you’ve had concerns about one of these topics. Pick one and notice what your beliefs about it are.
Then, ask yourself the question, “What if this isn’t as I believe?” From there, research what other thinkers have said, or ask your friends their positions on the issue.
2. Help others, but know why you’re doing it
Let’s assume you want to donate a certain amount of money to a charity. Which one should you choose? One whose name you are familiar with? Or one that is dealing with a disaster?
There is a stream of philosophy called “charitable giving” whose proponents believe that we should all give whatever extra we have to a charity. This is also known as effective altruism. Its proponents believe that donations, no matter how small, can help much more than we think. Generally speaking, when we want to do an altruistic act, however, it’s important to consider where our help has the greatest reach.
In his book “Doing Good Better,” Oxford University philosopher William MacAskill advises us to ask ourselves whether we’re really helping an area that’s forgotten and needs resources or donating when a catastrophe occurs.
3. Learn to control your emotions
For a long time, it was thought that the key of a wise man or woman was to stay away from emotions and reject them. They were seen as a nuisance that interrupted a happy life or led to a painful existence.
This changed with the advent of romanticism. Emotions were no longer considered bad, but the most important thing in life.
We believe that the key is to adopt neither one position nor the other. Emotions should not be rejected. However, neither is it a good idea to give them free rein without any kind of control. A good management of emotions is a vital aspect for our well-being.
4. Reflect before joining a controversy on social networks
Nowadays, social networks are a double-edged sword. While they are a means to connect with the world and get our ideas across to many people, they have also been used to defame, harm, threaten or hurt other people who think differently.
Is it worth it to earn a few retweets even if it is at the cost of humiliating or insulting someone? Is it not better to invite that person to dialogue? This goes hand-in-hand with controlling emotions. It takes emotional intelligence to accomplish this.
5. Execute a thoughtful vote
A great example of how to apply philosophy in everyday life is elections. After all, these are leaders who will make decisions that can significantly affect our lifestyle. Consequently, the decision must be assumed with responsibility.
A philosophical question that applies to these moments is whether we want to help create a more equitable society or prefer to enhance individual freedom.
Likewise, our duty is to listen to our candidates, question them, and investigate their positions and thoughts. Based on this, we must make educated decisions. Likewise, in case you do not know what a certain political current consists of, the key is to find out about it and reflect if it is the best option for society.
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6. Reflect on death
Most people are anxious about death, because it’s an unavoidable fact and we don’t know what comes after it. Many philosophers have written about it. For example, Epicurus mentions that the fear of death is irrational, since after death, we will not feel anything at all.
Beyond the reflections of each thinker on this subject, knowing the different points of view can help us to deal with the anguish generated by the end of life. For his part, Marcus Aurelius argues that thinking about our own death leads us to make small daily adjustments.
An interesting activity is the one proposed by Professor Eduardo Infante, in which he asks his students to write their own epitaphs. This exercise can make us reflect on how we are leading our life and whether it is in line with what we want to achieve before we die.
Thoughts about death are philosophical. Reflecting on it can help change our lives.
7. Listen, dialogue, and integrate other points of view
Socrates used dialogue to generate knowledge. If we want to apply philosophy in everyday life, what better way than through this tool?
Many people participate in conversations, but don’t actually listen to what another has to contribute or say. Instead, they’re usually just thinking about their next response or only attend to what interests them.
This doesn’t allow them to integrate other perspectives that can enrich their knowledge about lives. In this way, they live in their own world, believing that their ideas are the only way to see things.
There’s nothing more counterproductive than this, as it generates intolerance, hatred, and polarization. Keep in mind that the integration of others’ knowledge makes us freer.
Apply philosophy for a better world
With all that has been said so far we see that none of us are strangers to philosophy. Moreover, if we learn to use it consciously, the changes it brings to our lives can be very beneficial for the world. Remember that it’s not necessary to be an intellectual or to have read all of Aristotle’s works to be able to philosophize.