Philosophy as a Way of Life

Philosophy today has a bad reputation.

It's dry, academic, pure theory.

Philosophy wasn't like that in the ancient world. Philosophy was a way of life.

In fact to be a philosopher meant to live a certain way, not to believe certain things or develop abstract theories.

There were many famous philosophers who never developed any theories at all or left any writings. They simply lived a certain way, in accordance with the teachings of the philosophical school to which they subscribed.

Death is nothing to us

Ancient philosophers did of course develop detailed theories on the physical world, logic and ethics. But the point is that these theories were not the ends, but rather the means. 

Their goal was eudaimonia (happiness).

For example, the Epicureans developed a complex physical theory of atoms. They taught that everything was made of atoms (an idea which when rediscovered in the Renaissance led to amazing scientific discoveries). 

They taught this theory however not because it was interesting, but because they wanted people to realize what they themselves actually were. They taught that you are made of atoms, even your soul. Therefore, when you die, the atoms of your body and soul are dispersed back into the cosmos and your personal sensory experiences will cease.

So as Epicurus said: "When we are here, death is not. When death is here, we are not. Therefore, death is nothing to us".

Epicurus taught this because he wanted people to stop fearing death and the afterlife. He thought that was a major impediment to enjoying life.

There will be no punishment in the afterlife, don't worry about it! You should instead, focus on the present moment! That is all you have.

The Four-part Cure

Everything the Epicureans did was in service of what they called the four-part cure:

  • Don't fear god

  • Don't worry about death

  • What is good is easy to get

  • What is terrible is easy to endure

(Philodemus, Herculaneum Papyrus)

Their physical, logical and ethical theories were all in the service of helping people lead happy, worry-free lives.

Philosophy in daily life

When I discovered the way that ancients taught and practiced philosophy, it changed me. 

I was immediately drawn to it because it was logical and emotional at the same time. The beautiful logical constructions of the ancients appealed to the mathematical side of me, while the practical emotional advice helped me to change the way I conducted myself in daily life.

That's when I started obsessively studying the ancient philosophers...an obsession that eventually led me to nature photography

Rodrigo Etcheto