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By the time the message got to Aristotle, Plato's student, the idea of happiness had solidified into something we nurture on our own. It's not a gift other people or things give to us, in other words. It's something we create from within and have a responsibility to protect. John Stuart Mill was a titan of liberalism, perhaps its most important figure in history.

He spread the gospel of liberty wherever he could.

12 of history's greatest philosophers reveal the secret to happiness

When it came to happiness, he adopted the wisdom of the ancient Greeks. Instead of inundating his life with goods, Mill believed in utilitarianism. He believed in using things for a purpose , and if they served no purpose, he banished them from his life. Confucius' sentiment about happiness has echoed through history in books such as "The Power of Positive Thinking" and recent research in cognitive behavioral therapy, which seeks to help people see the connections between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

According to a Confucian mindset, happiness is a self-fulfilling prophecy that replicates itself the more we find reasons for its existence. Beloved by contemporary philosophy nerds like the investor Nassim Taleb and marketing whiz Ryan Holiday , the Stoic philosopher firmly believed in what psychologists would now call the "locus of control.

Modern Philosophy of History by M. Murray (ebook)

For some people, the locus lives externally. They feel like outside forces guide their actions. For others in Seneca's mind, the happy ones , the locus lives within. Translated simply as "Old Man," nobody is quite sure who Lao Tzu really was. But the figure's wisdom on living in the moment has transcended millennia. And psychologists uphold its benefits. Some research suggests people report the greatest happiness when they are engaged in things that require their full and present attention: good conversation, creative tasks, or sex. Before there was the stellar mash-up Twitter account Kim Kierkegaardashian , there was the Danish philosopher who inspired it.

Kierkegaard was of the mind that happiness comes from being present in the moment and enjoying the ride. Once we stop turning our circumstances into problems and start thinking of them as experiences, we can derive satisfaction from them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the transcendentalist author and advocate for civil disobedience took a passive approach to happiness. As he detailed in "Walden," Thoreau preferred to break convention. He avoided habit.


Perhaps through the commitment to randomness, he thought, he could find some larger, more cosmic sense of happiness. Follow Tech Insider on Facebook and Twitter. World globe An icon of the world globe, indicating different international options. Search icon A magnifying glass.

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It is rare to find a philosopher, particularly in the Western philosophical tradition, who lacks many arguments. Philosophers are, or at least are expected to be, very good at giving arguments. They constantly demand and offer arguments for different claims they make. This therefore indicates that philosophy is a quest for arguments. A good argument — a clear, organized, and sound statement of reasons — may ultimately cure the original doubts that motivated us to take up philosophy.

If one is willing to be satisfied without any good supporting reasons, then a Western philosophical approach may not be what one actually requires. In philosophy concerning the most fundamental aspects of the universe, the experts all disagree. It is this that makes much philosophizing a social endeavor.

Philosophers offer definitions and explanations in solution to problems; they argue for those solutions; and then other philosophers provide counter arguments, expecting to eventually come up with better solutions. This exchange and resulting revision of views is called dialectic. Dialectic in one sense of this history-laden word is simply philosophical conversation amongst people who do not always agree with each other about everything. One can do this sort of harsh criticism on one's own, but others can help greatly, if important assumptions are shared with the person offering the criticisms.

Others are able to think of criticisms from another perspective. Some philosophers and ordinary people dive right in and start trying to solve the problem. They immediately start giving arguments, pro and con, on different sides of the issue.

Political Philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre

Doing philosophy is different from this. It is about questioning assumptions, digging for deeper understanding. Doing philosophy is about the journey, the process, as much as it is about the destination, the conclusion. Its method differs from other disciplines, in which the experts can agree about most of the fundamentals.

Method in philosophy is in some sense rooted in motivation , only by understanding why people take up philosophy can one properly understand what philosophy is.

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People often find themselves believing things that they do not understand. For example, about God , themselves, the natural world, human society , morality and human productions.

The Story of Western Philosophy

Often, people fail to understand what it is they believe, and fail to understand the reasons they believe in what they do. Some people have questions about the meaning of their beliefs and questions about the justification or rationality of their beliefs. A lack of these things shows a lack of understanding, and some dislike not having this understanding.

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These questions are only the tip of the philosophical iceberg. There are many other things about this universe about which people are also fundamentally ignorant. Philosophers are in the business of investigating all sorts of those areas of ignorance. A bewilderingly huge number of basic concepts are poorly understood. For example:.

One might also consider some of the many questions about justification. Human lives are deeply informed with many basic assumptions. Different assumptions would lead to different ways of living.

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