Live by your philosophy

If you act, think, feel in a way that is incongruent with your deepest convictions, then something is wrong. Your philosophy is the result of your reflections on what your life should be about and what sort of a person you ought to be — it's your considered opinion on these questions, and if you find yourself acting contrary to that, this means you're doing things against your own best interest; if you observe you're holding opinions that are in contradiction to it, this manifests an inconsistency in your views; and if your feelings take you on a ride far away from what they should be if your affections and attitudes were sound, this shows a rift between what you were aiming for and what you've achieved so far in educating them.

To live by your philosophy means a lot of things: for one, you have to really
follow through on what you think is best for you. It's not enough to have the right insights — they're worthless if they are not manifest in what you do. And likewise, if you stop doing all those things you know you should do, just because you realize that you can get away with not doing them, that should give you pause. It's not just the visible actions, but also your inner stance that counts. If those thoughts and feelings that no-one can see are not in tune with what you do, then you are giving merely a show, a surface performance that may fool some others, but in the end you'll only deceive yourself (and how foolish it is to even invest effort into that!). Contradictions of that sort are the very thing that philosophy wants to correct.

Another thing that is meant is that you live by your philosophy, not
by somebody else's. They may coincide, but then it's still your philosophy that you live by; not that other one — or put differently, what makes a philosophy the one you should live by is that it is your philosophy, nothing else. This is not a call for a high-flying, speculative mindset that results in 'your philosophy', as if you'd have to write a book with ideas in it that were never heard of before: but when you think about it, what can count as a philosophy that guides your life, all your actions, thoughts and feelings, must be something that has its roots in your own reflections; it must be arrived at by your own reasoning; and no engagement in changing your life will be sound if it is not founded on attitudes which aren't in a deep sense your own. Needless to say, your reflections will be informed by a long tradition in ethical philosophy, your reasoning will have to seek its touchstone in the arguments of others who also reflect and take a stance on those important questions, and your attitudes must be formed in an active engagement with the world around you. There is no such thing as cooking up 'your philosophy' just by stewing in your own intellectual juice. But unless you have reflected, thought through, and accepted something yourself, it won't do as a basis for living your life according to it.

Once you have started investing thought and effort into this, you will notice
that the consistency of your actions with your views improves, that your judgments become more sound and you feel in an appropriate way more often than not. Constancy and personal integrity are a mark of a developed philosophy by which you can live. So is a continuously taken reflective stance of self-examination. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.