May 19, 2022
Epicurus: A Guide to the Principal Doctrines
Text, commentary and study guide
The Principal Doctrines is the main work of Epicurus on happiness. This article presents the original text with explanations and discussion questions. It also includes tips for organising an Epicurus reading group or book club. (more...)
April 17, 2022
The Ultimate Guide to Epicurus
Biography, ideas, books
A comprehensive overview of Epicurus’ philosophy of happiness. Epicurus is one of the few ancient philosophers who are more relevant today than they were in their own times. Learn all about him right here. (more...)
April 17, 2022
The Ultimate Guide to the Philosophy of Erich Fromm
Biography, ideas, books
A comprehensive overview of Erich Fromm’s philosophy of happiness. We discuss his life, his ideas and his main works, both in their historical context and how they are still relevant for us today. (more...)
February 21, 2022
I’m depressed and it’s all your fault!
Separating depression from sadness
Are we driving ourselves insane? And have we been doing so for over a hundred years? To understand this, we need to understand how we came to think of ourselves as depressed. (more...)
February 5, 2022
Marcus Aurelius on Opinions
Philosophy in Quotes
Explore philosophy through its most famous quotes. Today: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations: “It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be disturbed in our soul…” (more...)
January 24, 2022
The Dialectic of Enlightenment
Horkheimer, Adorno and the Frankfurt School
The Frankfurt School is generally taken to mean a lose collection of thinkers who first congregated around the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (more...)
January 17, 2022
Taking the Crowded Bus of Life
Epictetus on the Stoic attitude
The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus (50-135 AD), one of the most important Stoic philosophers in history, recommends seeing obstacles in our lives as opportunities to improve. (more...)
December 13, 2021
The Stoic View of the Self
Being in someone else’s shoes
For the Stoics, everything that happens to us seems to have a special significance that the same event wouldn’t have if it happened to someone else. (more...)
December 6, 2021
The Hermit of Bundala
What is especially intriguing for students of eremitism is the intimate interplay of personal motives and philosophical commitments behind Nanavira’s decision to live alone. (more...)
December 4, 2021
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The two lives of a Stoic sage
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC-65 AD) was a celebrated Roman writer, public speaker and philosopher and is today seen (alongside Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius) as one of the three greatest ancient Stoics. (more...)
November 12, 2021
How to stay calm in everyday life
At the core of the Stoic theory of happiness is our ability to control our thoughts. The wise man should try to exercise control over what they can control and not try to control what they cannot. (more...)
November 11, 2021
What Does ‘Stoic’ Mean?
A short history of Stoicism
A ‘Stoic’ attitude to life aims to achieve lasting happiness by staying calm, rational and emotionally detached, while cultivating one’s virtues. (more...)
October 30, 2021
Solitude and Contentment
Lessons from hermit lives
Hermits have always lived apart from the societies of their times. But do they have the secret key to happiness? What can hermits teach us for achieving happiness in our own lives? (more...)
October 27, 2021
Three Modern Hermits
Following one’s own way
We visit three very different hermits: Agafia Lykova in remote Siberia, Mauro Morandi on a Mediterranean island paradise, and Lincolnshire nun Rachel Denton. What unites them and gives their lives meaning? (more...)
October 9, 2021
The Wisdom of the Dao
Main themes in the Dao De Jing
The Dao De Jing is often not so different from other philosophies of its time. Acting according to nature, virtue as a skill, and the Daoist praise of humility are reminiscent of similar passages in the works of Stoics, Epicureans and Aristotle. (more...)
October 4, 2021
Gardens of Refuge
From the Garden of Eden to urban allotments, gardens have accompanied and enriched human history and culture from ancient times to now. In this article, Ian James Kidd traces the spiritual history of gardens as places of refuge from the world. (more...)
September 25, 2021
Dao De Jing: A Hermit’s Manual
Daoism and the hermit life
The Dao De Jing, one of the main books of Daoism, has always appealed to hermits. In this article, we look at it through a hermit’s eyes. (more...)
September 17, 2021
Dao De Jing
The Taoist book of the Way
The Dao De Jing, literally “The Classic of the Way and the Virtue,” is traditionally attributed to an author known only as Lao Zi, which means “Old Master.” (more...)
September 11, 2021
A rhetoric of slowness and speed has been used by philosophers since the ancient periods to characterise and assess different ways of life. Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist discourses exploit associations, literal and figurative, between slower styles of life and virtue, on the one hand, and hastier styles of life and vice, on the other. (more...)
September 4, 2021
Huts, Homelessness and Heimat
Chōmei and Heidegger
We saw how, for Heidegger, we let things be what they are through experiencing them in the full compass of their relations to nature, human life, and the ‘holy’ and mysterious. Chōmei, steeped in the Buddhist conception of the interdependence of everything, would concur. (more...)
August 28, 2021
The Hermit of Suwarrow
The adventures of Tom Neale (1902-1977)
Tom Neale spent a total of fourteen years alone on a little island in the Suwarrow Atoll in the South Pacific, where he found peace and happiness in solitude. We have a look at this extraordinary life. (more...)
One Hundred Days in a Hermit’s Hut
Jane Dobisz on living alone in the woods
In her honest and entertaining book “One Hundred Days of Solitude: Losing Myself and Finding Grace on a Zen Retreat,” Zen teacher Jane Dobisz recalls the three months she spent as a young person alone in a hut in the woods, bowing, chanting and meditating. (more...)
Hermits and Happiness
The long tradition of leaving it all behind
Hermits, from the Greek “eremites,” (=men of the desert), are found in all cultures and at all times. In this article, we look at the phenomenon of hermit life as a whole, before we go into more detail in future posts in this series. (more...)
Does Gratefulness Work?
The science behind gratitude diaries
Gratefulness has been proposed as a way to increase one’s happiness in life. But does it work? We look at the science of gratitude diaries to find out whether gratefulness has a positive effect on happiness. (more...)
Does Gratefulness Make Happy?
Brother David-Steindl-Rast on gratefulness
Brother David-Steindl-Rast is one of the most prominent advocates of gratefulness as a way of life. In his famous TED talk, he explains how gratefulness and attention lead to a happier life. (more...)
Grateful to No One
How does gratefulness work?
It seems that we should only be grateful for something good done to us, a “benefit” received. But already the Stoics had seen that sometimes, benefits come disguised as burdens. On the other hand, Greeks bearing gifts are not always to be trusted, even if one would like to get one’s hands on the gift. (more...)
What is Gratefulness?
Gratitude, gratefulness and our view of ourselves
One could also say that gratitude is always gratitude to someone, while gratefulness emphasises what we are grateful for, even if there is nobody to be grateful to for that thing. (more...)
The Rhetoric of Refuge
On the wish to retreat from the world
The rhetoric or metaphor of refuge from the world has largely disappeared from religious, social and ethical debate. The contrast with the past is striking. (more...)
Living Epicurus Today
What is a 21st century Epicurean?
So has Epicurean living become so expensive today as to exclude most of us from practising it? Does one need to be rich in order to be able to afford the simple life? (more...)
Happy in a Concentration Camp?
It's possible, says Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who, because of his Jewish descent, spent the last six months of World War II in a German concentration camp, which he barely survived. (more...)
What Are Friends For?
Epicurus on Friendship
Epicurus’ view on the value of friends has often been romanticised and equally often misunderstood. Epicurus himself seems to present contradictory views regarding the value of friendships. So does Epicurus want us to exploit our friends for our own good or not? (more...)
What is Luddism?
The challenges of modern technology
Luddism as a social and political movement begins with the introduction of mechanised looms and other machinery during the British industrial revolution. Luddism, at its core, is the thesis that technology must serve human life, rather than the other way round, and that often the use of technologies does not make for better or happier societies. (more...)
Stephanie Mills: Epicurean Simplicity
Is a simple life the key to happiness?
In her book “Epicurean Simplicity,” author and activist Stephanie Mills analyses what is wrong with our modern way of life – and she goes back to the philosophy of Epicurus to find a cure. Mills’ book is as beautiful and relaxing as it is inspiring – a passionate plea for a life well-lived, a life that is less wasteful and more meaningful. (more...)
Epicurus: The Wise Man and the Fool
What’s wrong about being a happy fool?
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus once wrote that “the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool.” But why would that be so? It becomes clearer when we look at Epicurus’ theory of desires. (more...)
It’s A New Sun Every Day
Heraclitus and Epicurus on accepting change
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said that one cannot step into the same river twice. But what does this really mean? And what can we learn from this for our own lives? (more...)
Old Age and Death
Epicurus on trouble in the soul
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus emphasises that, in a world that works according to physical laws, nobody ought to be afraid of either the gods or one’s own death. (more...)
Reading Epicurus: Pleasure and pain
Is happiness only the absence of pain?
For Epicurus, pleasure is nothing but the absence of pain. Pain can further be subdivided into pain of the body and trouble in the soul. This negative description of happiness is surprising at first sight, but is a necessary component of the Epicurean philosophy of happiness. (more...)
Are some desires better than others?
Epicurus on what is natural and what is vain
Epicurus believed that the most reliable way to be happy is to reduce one’s desires until it’s easy to satisfy them. He distinguishes three types of desires: natural and necessary, natural and unnecessary and vain. (more...)
Epicureanism: The Basic Idea
Is it so hard to satisfy our senses?
Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) believes that the way to ensure happiness throughout life is to reduce one’s desires so that they can be easily fulfilled. (more...)
The Real Happiness Machine
Ray Bradbury on living and dying well
In many of Bradbury’s stories we can find an entire philosophy of life that is well worth discovering and adopting. (more...)
Epicurus (341-270 BC)
The misunderstood ascetic
Epicurus (341-270 BC) is often seen as an advocate of a luxurious life, rich in good food and other pleasures. This is incorrect. Epicurus was, if anything, an ascetic: someone who thought that pleasures and good food have a negative effect on our happiness and that we should train ourselves to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. (more...)
Aldous Huxley’s “Island”
An even braver new world?
The last book of visionary writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Island, is a bold attempt to envision a utopian society that provides its members with everything they need to achieve happiness in life. (more...)
Erich Fromm’s New Society
Can we build a better world?
Philosopher and social psychologist Erich Fromm (1900-1980) wrote many popular books throughout the second half of the 20th century analysing the problems of Western, capitalist societies. In this post, we look at his own utopian vision of what a perfect society could look like. (more...)
What is Alienation?
Karl Marx on how society fails us
The philosophy of Karl Marx (1818-1883) has been hugely influential throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. One of his best known concepts is the idea of “alienation” that describes how, in capitalist societies, human beings get estranged from their work and from themselves because of the way the production of goods is organised. (more...)
Erich Fromm: How to Become a Loving Person
What keeps us from finding happiness in love?
The philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm believes that the main source of pain and anxiety for human beings comes from the feeling of separateness from others. To overcome this loneliness, men have tried many different rituals and relationship forms, but the only true way out is love. For Fromm, real love is based on care, responsibility for the other person, respect and knowledge of the other. (more...)
Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving
Do we need to learn how to love?
In his book “The Art of Loving” (1956) the psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm (1900-1980) discusses how love is often wrongly perceived as the passive “falling in love.” For Fromm, love is mainly a decision to love, to become a loving person. (more...)
What is “Eastern” Happiness?
Erich Fromm and Lin Yutang on cultural differences
Is there a difference between the way we perceive happiness and life in the West in comparison with “Eastern” cultures? Erich Fromm argues that the capitalist West is stuck in a “mode of having,” while the “Eastern” view or life is more oriented towards “being.” Chinese-American writer Lin Yutang (1895-1976) also thinks that there is a specifically “Chinese” way of being happy – but do they both mean the same? (more...)
The Happiest Kingdom?
Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index: Does it work?
The Gross National Happiness Index of the Kingdom of Bhutan was the first large-scale attempt to measure the level of happiness of a whole country’s population. But does it work? (more...)
How Much Money Do We Need?
The long tradition of finding joy outside of consumerism
From Diogenes and Epicurus to Erich Fromm and modern minimalism activists, from ancient times to the present, there is a long tradition of philosophers suggesting that long-lasting happiness might be easier to achieve if we don’t primarily focus on material gains. (more...)
Decluttering the Mind
Erich Fromm on material possessions
If we want to declutter, we must, according to Erich Fromm, first change our relationship to the world. We must change who we are and how we relate to our families, to our friends, to our possessions – and even to the language we use. We will have to leave the mode of having and switch our whole existence to the mode of being. (more...)
To Have Or to Be
Erich Fromm on two different ways of living one’s life
Erich Fromm distinguishes between two modes of existence. One can live one’s life in the “mode of having” or in the “mode of being”. The mode of having sees everything as a possession, while in the mode of being we perceive ourselves as the carriers of properties and abilities, rather than the consumers of things. (more...)
Religion and Happiness
Are religious people happier?
Religion has a profound effect on happiness. Multiple studies have shown that religious believers are generally happier people, an effect that is more pronounced in poorer countries. (more...)
Erich Fromm: Society, Technology and Progress
The false promise of unlimited progress
According to philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, society and technology have a crucial influence on individual happiness. According to Fromm, the dream of endless technological development has led to a depletion of natural resources and the destruction of nature. (more...)
Erich Fromm: Escaping from Freedom
The attractiveness of being unfree
Erich Fromm claims that freedom itself can sometimes be the cause of fear and anxiety, forcing us to find ways to “escape from freedom.” Authoritarianism, destructiveness and automaton conformity are three ways how we try to cope with the freedom we fear. (more...)
Hedonism, Pleasure and Happiness
Richard Taylor on what makes us truly happy
Hedonism is the thesis that happiness and pleasure are the same. But is that true? Does the enjoyment of pleasures like good food, chocolate, sex and a myriad other things that we consume everyday — do these things really make us happier? (more...)
Richard Taylor on the Creative Life
Real creativity is not only in art
Richard Taylor (1919–2003) thought that it’s creativity that makes us feel happy and fulfilled. According to Taylor, a life lived without exercising one’s creativity is a wasted life. (more...)
Bertrand Russell on How to Find Happiness
The Conquest of Happiness
In his book “The Conquest of Happiness”, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) presents a theory of happiness that is broadly Aristotelian. Russell thinks that what makes us happy is an active life, directed by a deep and sustained interest in the world. (more...)
The Conquest of Unhappiness
Bertrand Russell proposes happiness as an antidote to envy. Someone who is happy will be content with what they have and will not be looking to compare themselves with others. (more...)
The Conquest of Happiness and Why It Matters Today
Bertrand Russell on how to be happy
Bertrand Russell’s book ‘The Conquest of Happiness’ (1930) attempts to analyse the conditions for happiness in our modern world, focusing on the mindsets of the unhappy and the happy person and how they differ. For Russell, happy people engage with life and with intellectual pursuits that are not related directly to themselves, displaying a quality of character he calls “zest” for life. (more...)
Bertrand Russell (1892-1970)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher and writer, one of the most important analytic philosophers of the 20th century. He is primarily known for his exploration of the logical foundation of mathematics, his theory of meaning and his pacifism and social engagement. We will focus on his book “The Conquest of Happiness,” in which he discusses how to find happiness in life. (more...)
Is laziness a human right?
Being lazy, far from being something good, would be, for Aristotle, a total failure of a human being and the best way for someone to make sure that they will never reach true happiness. (more...)
Martha Nussbaum and the Capabilities Approach
What makes a human life worth living?
In the capabilities approach, philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that a human life, in order to reach its highest potential, must include a number of “capabilities” – that is, of actual possibilities that one can realise in one’s life. (more...)
One Year, Six Ways: A Philosophical Experiment
Daily Philosophy has the idea for this year’s resolution: live your life like a philosopher. Six classic philosophies of life, each lived for two months, with multiple weekly emails to keep you informed, entertained and engaged on your journey. Come along to the One Year, Six Ways project! (more...)
Aristotle on being human
What is the function of human beings?
For Aristotle, happiness is connected to function. Everything in the universe has a function, and a happy human life is one in which we fulfil that function. (more...)
Epicurus and Luddism
Would we be happier without technology?
Technology, at least in the way that it is deployed in capitalism (based on planned obsolescence) contradicts the essential simplicity of the ideal Epicurean life. Epicurus would likely have sympathised with Luddism. (more...)
Aristotle's Highest Good
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that we can recognise the highest good because we do everything else for its sake, while we never say that we pursue the highest good for any other thing’s sake. For Aristotle, the highest good is the happy life. (more...)
What Is a Stoic Person?
Learning to control one’s mind
A Stoic is an adherent of Stoicism, an ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of life. Stoics thought that, in order to be happy, we must learn to distinguish between what we can control and what we cannot. (more...)
The Memories of Our Experiences
Daniel Kahneman on the Happiness of Memories
Daniel Kahneman, economist, has studied the effects of memory on our perception of past suffering and happiness. He distinguishes experienced and remembered happiness, and emphasises that the two may be perceived very differently, even for the same individual and the same event. This is a crucial insight for the design of better subjective happiness surveys and, more generally, for our understanding of how we evaluate our own happiness. (more...)
Erich Fromm on Being Productive
Are we active, or just busy?
For Erich Fromm, true activity means to fully use one’s talents and abilities in order to grow as a person. The mere display of being busy is, in Fromm’s opinion, not a sign of productive work. Modern society, which relies on hierarchy and alienated work, tends to favour busy-ness over productive activity. (more...)
Is happiness all that counts?
Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states that the morally right action maximizes happiness or benefit and minimizes pain or harm for all stakeholders. Proponents of classic utilitarianism are Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). (more...)
Life Is a Skill
Aristotle on living a life well through exercising one’s virtues. (more...)
The Four Qualities of Life
Veenhoven on the different meanings of happiness
Ruut Veenhoven, Dutch sociologist and happiness researcher, distinguishes four different types of happiness along two dimensions: 1. objective vs subjective quality of life and 2. chances vs outcomes. This four-quadrant model of happiness avoids comparing incompatible types of happiness to each other. (more...)
How Happy Does This Make You?
Daniel Kahneman on how to measure happiness
Happiness researchers are faced with the question how to reliably measure happiness in surveys. A paper by Kahneman discusses Direct Utility Measurements, the Experience Sampling Method and the Day Reconstruction Method as three approaches that allow us to measure how particular activities contribute to changes of happiness throughout a person’s day. (more...)
Can we measure happiness in a survey?
The difficulties of measuring self-reported happiness
Happiness researchers are often required to determine the level of happiness of a population in order to evaluate policies that might affect it. One way to determine population happiness is through surveys. In this post, we discuss some points that one must keep in mind when designing a happiness survey. (more...)
Can We Be Wrong About Being Happy?
Kahneman’s objective happiness
Can we be mistaken about our own happiness? Proponents of subjective happiness measures would say no: one is as happy as one feels. Proponents of objective happiness would try to measure happiness “objectively” and could thus show that one is mistaken about one’s own happiness. (more...)