If you told someone you had discovered an operating system for being a good human being — how to solve the problems of life, how to manage our tempers, where to find meaning, and how to think about death — most people would perk up and lean in. Of course they would. Who isn’t interested in being a better person and living a better life? That’s what we’re all struggling to do, day in and day out, with this random quirk of existence we’ve been given.
If you told that same person that what you’d discovered had a name, and it was “philosophy,” all the excitement and possibility that perked them up initially would leave their body like air out of a balloon. They’d almost certainly turn back to whatever they were doing before you interrupted them. And who would blame them for this aversion? Almost anything is better than talking about philosophy.
I mean, look at the lead paragraph on the Wikipedia page for philosophy:
Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally “love of wisdom”) is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570–495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?
I’ve written multiple bestselling books about philosophy and even I’m like “WTF?” The crowd of editors and PhDs who took ownership of this important description had thousands of years of wisdom to draw upon to help us understand what philosophy is… and that’s the definition they came up with?
The good news is that real philosophy is the opposite of that nonsense. The truly wise philosophers didn’t waste time with…