The Value of Philosophy in the Digital Age

Like many, I used to think that the subject of philosophy was dull and filled with abstract intellectual concepts that had little relevance or significance in my life. Staring aimlessly out the window in a high school philosophy seminar, I thought to myself, what can I possibly learn from these books that were written thousands of years ago?

The world surely has drastically changed. Are their insights at all useful to me?

More importantly, will studying philosophy get me a good paying stable job?

Looking back at my former self, I cringe at my naiveté and ignorance. I was enamored with the anxiety and pressure of a student focusing solely on outward success and external validation. In doing so however, I ignored the world within – my inner self.

It was not until I got introduced to the ideas of Stoicism that I began to see things differently. Its growing popularity from commentators such as Ryan Holiday and the Daily Stoic, made Stoicism digestible and relatable. Further, the original Stoic texts, ranging from the writings of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to the Letters of Seneca, focused on practical issues of everyday life.

What does it mean to live a good life?

How can I deal with an overcome life’s many challenges and difficulties?

For the Stoics at least, the answer boils down to following a simple maxim- focus on what is under your control, and forget about the rest. It does one no good to worry about the outcomes of events that are outside your direct influence.

According to the scholar and philosopher Pierre Hadot, ancient philosophy was about mastering the art of living. It focused on engaging in spiritual exercises to cultivate wisdom, gain a greater perspective on life and train oneself to refrain from distractions and focus on the present moment.

Of course, there are still philosophers who remain in the proverbial ‘ivory tower’, and they have their place too for those who are interested in formal logic and reasoning.

However, the one’s who interest me are those who live by and embody their ideals. The Stoics, existentialists (Camus and Sartre), Nietzsche, Montaigne, Socrates and many others all sought different ways of living, different ways of being.

They offer us a ‘toolbox’ of ideas and ways to deal with the complexities of living.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all hold philosophical positions and beliefs. Thus, why not try to actively work on the philosophies and maxims we live by rather than just adopting the default view of the masses.

Actively participating in this world and being an authentic human being is hard work. It requires critical thought and reflection, as well as dialogue with others who have conflicting and opposing world views.  Only through constantly challenging our assumptions and stepping out of our comfort zones can we grow and realize our full potential.

So, let me learn to not only hold my philosophical convictions, but also have the courage to live by them.

My fellow readers, I invite you to do the same.


This is my first post on Pointless Overthinking. I am delighted to join an inspiring and amazing group of writers. 

For more of my work you can check out my personal blog at A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life – Pondering Life’s Big Questions

Best Regards,

Andrew

26 thoughts on “The Value of Philosophy in the Digital Age

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  1. Congrats on your very first Pointless Overthinking post, and an excellent one at that! What a wonderful world it would be if we all took your sage advice and turned within to find and live our own Truth. For me, it’s a full time job, and I love to write about it. I look forward to seeing more of you here!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew, I totally agree! Our philosophies shape everything in our lives! Many people are led by fear driven philosophies and seek out opinions which support their need to live in fear! We see extremes of this with the “Karens” but politicians are making huge $$$ by fostering and spreading these fears by posing as the person who will take care of it… please just send money to help the cause!!

    On the other hand are people like myself who have changed their inner dialogue to focus on the positive and empowering things, and who are actively sharing these thoughts with others!

    No matter what is going on in our lives, we each have the power to change our inner dialogue and how we speak to ourselves!

    When we come from backgrounds where abuse and criticism was the norm, those negative thoughts get internalized and then get echoed back to ourselves.

    By changing how we speak to ourselves we start to drastically change every aspect of our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great thought provoking first post Andrew! Adopting/practising the ideas of stoicism certainly changes how you react to the outside world. Working from within, positively changing behaviours is a constant daily process and as you stated “actively participating in this world and being an authentic human being is hard work”. Awareness is a huge step. Thank you for sharing, and best of luck going forward with your pointless overthinking journey! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, I am not too well versed in the original texts of Buddhism. But what I know anecdotally, is that they both sort of stress looking inwards, and being able to have control over attachments and desires

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey Andy, Congratulations on your first post. I had a question about these two statements: “Only through constantly challenging our assumptions and stepping out of our comfort zones can we grow and realize our full potential” and “living by and sticking to your philosophy”. It doesn’t seem to indicate that you are flexible to change after your assumptions are challenged assuming the challenge offered a better philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, thank you for your read through and comments.

      What I wanted to emphasize is that one should aim not just to hold ideals/values intellectually but put them into practice (live/embody them).

      One shouldn’t abandon their philosophy because of peer pressure /conformity with the crowd however.

      I think one must have flexibility in their beliefs etc. if offered a better philosophy to live by. But, this must be done through looking inward and through careful analysis by oneself.

      Does that make sense?

      Like

  5. I cringe looking back at my high school self writing poetry and thinking it was useless. I hated that we had to try to write it. LOL now I write poetry every day and working towards publishing my own poetry book. Thankful I kept an open mind and found the enlightenment. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have heard that the scientific approach has influenced philosophical thinking. But philosophy will achieve its maturity when it is recognised that it is totally different from science, arts and mathematics. Also remember it is only a conceptual elaboration of a fundamental metaphysical view. In such situation, theology offers the scope to starting a place, which already exists and is developed in due course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Alain De Botton writes about this if I am not mistaken. I think being in academia, perhaps the subject feels like it needs to compete with the more technical scientific subjects. However, for me, I personally think philosophy is most valuable to us when we see it as a way of life, a way of being, a means to contemplate the deep questions of our existence (questions that are beyond the realm of science and cannot be quantified)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for writing such a rewarding-to-read article. As Sartre said, “Everything’s been figured out except how to live.”
    Have you ever looked into Colin Wilson’s writings? He is an existentialist but with a very compelling optimistic viewpoint (as opposed to the pretty pessimistic ones of the others, Sartre, Camus..)
    I look forward to checking out Pierre Hadot, I haven’t heard of him yet.
    Again, thanks for these thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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