Saturday, December 08, 2012

Are great philosophies in danger of being made into pop psychologies?

Like friend Leo Lincourt, when he alerted me to this Julian Baggini column on that subject, I didn't even know there was (even if "only" in the UK) a "Live Like a Stoic" week.

Right there, I'd say, yes, that's in danger of making a philosophy of life into pop psychology.

His nut graf, like a good sermonizing-type column, is at the end:
Stoic week has a valuable part to play in getting people to think more about how the deepest issues in their lives might not be just local psychological difficulties but concern more profound questions about how to live. But please, let’s not reduce all that’s true, good and beautiful to techniques and interventions to cure the blues and put smiles on our faces. Seek first what is true and of value, and then whatever happiness follows will be of the appropriate quantity and, more importantly, quality. 
He's right, and in more ways than that.

Philosophies of life have never been about "achieving of happiness." In fact, many of them, certainly including but not limited to Platonism, have sharply questioned what happiness is, whether it is achievable, and how central it and its pursuit should, or should not, be to human life.

Psychology does none of those things.

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