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 advetures 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...)
August 21, 2021
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...)
August 13, 2021
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...)
August 6, 2021
Fire in a Bottle
Terrariums, wisdom and the ecological catastrophe
The world is heating up. Philosophy must have a role to play in doing something about it. (more...)
July 31, 2021
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...)
July 23, 2021
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...)
July 5, 2021
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...)
July 2, 2021
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...)
June 30, 2021
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...)
June 11, 2021
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...)
May 27, 2021
Are You A Nihilist?
A Defence of Nihilism
The terminology of ‘nihilism’ and ‘the meaning of life’ emerged among a small group of German philosophers at the end of the 18th century who were worried about the French Enlightenment. (more...)
May 5, 2021
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...)
April 19, 2021
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...)
April 12, 2021
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...)
March 27, 2021
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...)
March 23, 2021
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...)
March 15, 2021
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...)
March 13, 2021
Erich Fromm on Our Relation to Technology
Rediscovering ancient skills in everyday life
According to Erich Fromm, instead of catapulting us into a utopia of eternal youth and affluence, modern technology has condemned us to a life under constant surveillance, is destroying the planet, and, in the form of AI, now threatening to take away human employment on a grand scale. Rediscovering some of the ancient skills that we all once had may provide a way out of the problem. (more...)
February 20, 2021
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...)
February 15, 2021
Erich Fromm on the Psychology of Capitalism
Our world is turning us into mass products. We should resist
Erich Fromm, philosopher and social psychologist, points out that capitalism, in order to work, requires a large population of identical consumers with identical taste. This is opposed to the vision of a human life as individual, unique, and valuable in its uniqueness. (more...)
December 29, 2020
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...)
December 27, 2020
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...)
Novalis and the Romantic View of the World
From the Romantics to modern science
German Romantics, much like their English counterparts, valued spontaneity and naturalness, in part as a reaction to the beginning loss of the natural world due to industrialisation and urbanisation. (more...)
Human Dignity and Freedom
Why restaurant menus may be destroying humanity
Erich Fromm and Richard Taylor on the perils of capitalism. (more...)
Hannah Arendt on work and being human
Labour, work and action
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) distinguishes three types of work; Labor, which is work for survival. Work, which creates a product, a “work of art.” And, finally, action, which is creative activity, the making of something new out of the freedom to create for creation’s sake. Action is, therefore, the highest kind of human activity, an expression of fundamental freedom of human beings. (more...)
Peter Singer's Drowning Child
Are we required to save lives if we can?
Peter Singer’s Drowning Child thought experiment: If, on the way to the office, we saw a child drowning in a pond, would we think that we have to save it? Would it change anything if we were wearing a new suit and if we came late to our business conference because of saving the child? (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...)
St Augustine on the Function and Pleasure of Sex
The real cost of pure pleasure
For St Augustine, the pleasure inherent in any activity is good as long as the activity is performed because of its intended function. When we try to get the pleasure without the function of the activity, we are violating the order of nature and committing a sin. (more...)
Confucius on Loyalty and Betrayal
Would you send your father to prison?
For Confucius, one’s personal loyalties to family, friends, co-workers and superiors are more important than the rules of some abstract ethical theory. This has been called the “particularism” of Confucian ethics. (more...)
Aristotle and the Roots of Deep Ecology
Modern ecological ethics, for example Deep Ecology, often reaches back to Aristotle (385-322 BC) and his idea that the flourishing of any one thing is dependent on the flourishing of everything else. Aristotle did not think that one can selfishly have a good life. Instead, a virtuous person would naturally benefit both themselves and others at the same time. This idea also applies to our relations with the environment. (more...)
Life Is a Skill
Aristotle on living a life well through exercising one’s virtues. (more...)
Aristotle on moral development
The three types of human beings
For Aristotle, the moral development of a person progresses in three stages. From the child, which cannot resist temptation, through the intermediate stage of the grown up, who is tempted but resists temptation, to the final stage of the wise person, who is never even tempted and always, spontaneously, does the morally right thing. (more...)
October 2: Happy Birthday, Mahatma Gandhi!
Last Friday was the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whom they called the Mahatma, the Great Soul. (more...)
Love is All Around
Eryximachos’ views in Plato’s Symposion
In Plato’s Symposion, the doctor Eryximachos says that love is the harmony of opposites. This resonates with beliefs in the traditional medicine of many cultures, as well as with our concept of a “balanced” person. (more...)
Can love be forever?
In Plato’s Symposium, Plato defines love as the desire for the eternal possession of the good. (more...)
August 22: Happy Birthday, Geneva Conventions and Ray Bradbury!
If the Geneva Conventions didn’t exist, Ray Bradbury might have invented them.
August 22 marks the birthday of both the first Geneva Convention (1864) and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) (more...)
Kant’s praiseworthy motivation
Ethical behaviour can be demanding
A core feature of Kant’s ethics is his insistence on the value of one’s motivation for the morality of an action. As opposed to utilitarianism, Kant does not look at the consequences when judging actions, but only at what he calls the “good will.” (more...)