Philosophy is meant to help us live a better life.
We can get lost going down esoteric rabbit holes that weave in and out of different thinkers’ nuanced disagreements about what is right. And that can be fun. But it can also be a self-indulgent waste of time.
A good friend of mine once told me that I was addicted to philosophical bullshit. This was a few years ago, but he’s still probably right on some level. It’s easy to enjoy engaging ideas, regardless of how useful they are.
Part of why stoicism is such a beloved philosophy is because it aims to be the antithesis of philosophical bullshit. It’s about practical action.
Marcus Aurelius berates himself to live his philosophy instead of just thinking pretty ideas.
“Do what nature demands. Get a move on — if you have it in you — and don’t worry whether anyone will give you credit for it. And don’t go expecting Plato’s Republic; be satisfied with even the smallest progress, and treat the outcome of it all as unimportant.”
Trying to do good in the world doesn’t need to be a showy thing.
It also doesn’t have to be complicated. Some situations are genuinely complicated and may require some humming and hawing, but there are also times when we make things seem like they need more rumination than they actually do.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Marcus Aurelius was really trying to drive this point home to himself. It’s a point that’s worth reminding ourselves of, fairly often.
We have to remember why we do all this thinking and experimenting and reading and learning. The point is to do good in the world and to be at peace with ourselves.
“The task of philosophy is modest and straightforward.”