6 Great Sayings From Western Philosophy


Philosophy is a discipline committed to helping
us to live wiser and less sorrowful lives. Here are six ideas from its Western branch
that can inspire and console: ONE: ‘What need is there to weep over parts of life?
The whole of it calls for tears.’ The Roman philosopher Seneca used to comfort his friends
– and himself – with this darkly humourous remark which gets to the heart of Stoicism,
the school of philosophy which Seneca helped to found and which dominated the West for
two hundred years. We get weepy and furious, says Stoicism, not simply because our plans
have failed, but because they have failed and we strongly expected them not to. Therefore,
thought Seneca, the task of philosophy is to disappoint us gently before life has a
chance to do so violently. The less we expect, the less we will suffer. Through the help
of a consoling pessimism, we should strive to turn our rage and our tears into that far
less volatile compound: sadness. Seneca was not trying to depress us, just to spare us
the kind of hope that, when it fails, inspires bitterness and intemperate shouting. TWO:
Peccatum Originale In the late 4th century, as the immense Roman Empire was collapsing,
the leading philosopher of the age, St Augustine, became deeply interested in possible explanations
for the evident tragic disorder of the human world. One central idea he developed was what
he legendarily termed Peccatum Originale: original sin. Augustine proposed that human
nature is inherently damaged and tainted because – in the Garden of Eden – the mother of
all people, Eve, sinned against God by eating an apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Her guilt
was then passed down to her descendants and now all earthly human endeavours are bound
to fail because they are the work of a corrupt and faulty human spirit. This odd idea might
not be literally true, of course. However, as a metaphor for why the world is in a mess,
it has a beguiling poetic truth, as relevant to atheists as believers. We should not – perhaps
– expect too much from the human race, Augustine implies. We’ve been somewhat doomed from
the outset. And that can, in certain moods, be a highly redemptive thought to keep in
mind. THREE: ‘Kings and Philosophers shit, and so do ladies’ The blunt phrase appears
in an essay by the 16th century French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne. Montaigne wasn’t being
mean. His point was kindly: he wanted us to feel closer to (and less intimidated) by people
whose overt mode of life might seem painfully impressive and very far from our own. And
he could have added: in secret these people also feel inadequate, fear rejection and mess
up their sex-lives. We could also update his examples to speak of CEOs, entrepreneurs,
and the over-achieving person we went to college with. Montaigne was attempting to free us
from underconfidence and shyness, born out of an exaggerated sense of the differences
between ourselves and mighty others. At moments of panic, before an important speech or a
much-anticipated date, we should run Montaigne’s phrase through our febrile, underconfident
minds and remind ourselves that no one, however outwardly poised, is more than a few hours
away from a poignantly modest and vulnerable moment. FOUR: ‘All our unhappiness comes
from our inability to sit alone in our room’ This assertion, by the 17th century French
philosopher Pascal, is obviously not literally true. But like all good philosophical aphorisms,
it pointedly exaggerates an important idea in order to bring home a general insight.
We are tempted to leave ‘our room’ and crave excitements that too often turn out
badly; we meddle in the lives of others but fail to help them; we seek fame and end up
being misunderstood by large numbers of people we don’t know. ‘Sitting alone’ doesn’t
mean literally being on the bed but rather, staying undistracted with ourselves: appreciating
small pleasures; examining the contents of our own minds, allowing the quieter (but important)
parts of our psyche to emerge; thinking before we act. It’s a poignant phrase because the
louder voices in our culture are constantly speaking in the opposite direction; are always
goading us to get out more, to grow more agitated, to seek more drama and to spend less time
in thoughtful reveries, gazing out of the window at the clouds passing high above. We
should, with Pascal’s encouragement, learn to become better friends to ourselves. FIVE:
Sub specie aeternitatis It means, translated from the Latin, ‘under the aspect of eternity’
– a memorable phrase from the Ethics, published in 1677 by the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
For Spinoza, the task of philosophy is to teach us to look at things, especially our
own suffering and disappointment, ‘under the aspect of eternity,’ that is, as though
we were gazing down at the earth from very far away or from a different star (Spinoza’s
outlook was much indebted to Galileo). From this lofty perspective, the incidents that
trouble us no longer have to seem so shocking or so large. What is a divorce or a sacking
when contemplated from the lunar surface? What is a rejection in love judged against
the earth’s 4.5 billion year history? Our nature means that we’ll always be pulled
to exaggerate the here and now, but our reasoned intelligence gives us access to a unique alternative
perspective, in which we participate in what Spinoza called ‘eternal totality’, and
can cease railing against the status quo, submitting to the flow of events with clear-eyed
serenity instead. SIX: Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts
ganz Gerades gezimmert werden. It’s a slightly daunting and long German phrase but a hugely
arresting and redemptive one, central to the spirit of Western philosophy: ‘Out of the
crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.’ So wrote the German eighteenth
century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who urged us to recognise that nothing that human beings
do can ever be less than slightly wonky, because we are creatures as much of passion and erroneous
instinct as of reason and noble intelligence. The wise accept this dark reality head on
and so do not expect perfection. When designing governments, they do not presume that rationality
will triumph; they do everything to assume that error and folly will try to have their
way – and create structures to contain them. When they marry, with comparable realism,
they never expect that one person can be everything to them and then harangue a partner when they
turn out not to be. An acceptance of our crooked nature isn’t dispiriting, it’s the birth
of generosity and dark good humour. Not least, added Kant, crooked beams can make for beautiful
floors, in the hands of a talented carpenter. If you want to learn more about the thinkers from our videos, check out our Great Thinkers Book. Available world wide and now as an e-book.

100 thoughts on “6 Great Sayings From Western Philosophy”

  1. What is your favourite saying? Are there any we should have included? Join our app community to discuss this and much more from your phone: https://bit.ly/2Jn5MYf

  2. OMG I swear I know these tips before watching the video and I do not know the philosophers. I should Think Of Being Write
    السَلاّمْ

  3. Seneca did NOT help found Stoicism! The school was started by Zeno in the 3rd century BC while Seneca wasn't born until 4 BC!

  4. Great video. BTW who's the guy @ 4:00 ? Seems so familiar. Ok probably it's super obvious but I can't grasp where I've seen him early! Is he from some Nouvelle Vague flick? An actor relevant but in a certain, narrow time-frame? (like for example George Lazenby to the Bond franchise) Help, please! D:

  5. In my opinion the original sin idee can be both helpful and harmful. I tent to believe people are born good and sometimes as a result of tragic events they can get corrupted and do bad things. But knowing that they are just like me a product of their experiences and how they were raised. Where they have no control over. Thinking like that gives me a more positive outlook on life.

  6. In "City of God", Augustine wrote that all the human race was cursed with the original sin because all the human race was in Adam, not Eve. Until the invention of the microscope and the discovery of egg and sperm, it was believed that a man contained all of his descendents in his testicles, and a new human was produced when a man planted his seed (semen) in a woman's womb, and male babies contained all of their descendents. It was a patriarchal culture, so of course that was the way things had to work. Some have argued that Augustine's reason for this claim, that all humans were cursed because they were in Adam, was to make himself feel less guilty about his sinful nature by making everyone equally sinful.

  7. For me:
    1- Know Thyself
    2- Ubi dubium Ibi libertas
    3- Dura Lex Sed Lex
    4- Cogito Ergo Sum
    5- Sapere Aude
    6- Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent

  8. Although Kant was a racist Bastard(as were many white men of his time), I'll still separate him from his work(s).

  9. You got that Kant quote wrong:
    Aus so krummem Holze, als WORAUS der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden.

  10. C'mon School of Life, Eve never ate an apple. It was simply know in the book of Genesis as the forbidden fruit

  11. I could sum up this video with one word, "Buddhism." Every single the said is a reflection of it.

  12. In this world people love the sound of their own thoughts, their own voice more than they love truth. Try conscious astral travel, experience the truth personally. All else is vanity.

  13. the first & last sayings (of this 'western philosophy' list) are essentially the same things as the first saying in the 'eastern philosophy' video (-buddha, paraphrased: "life is suffering, so don't expect anything & appreciate every little thing"..)

  14. Why is the title of this vid "6 GREAT saying from Western philosophy"? These saying explain many things in Western history of civilization, BUT it doesn't explain the ACHIEVEMENT of Western Civilization. You can use other words than GREAT.

  15. (Causality Laws) Every effect has a cause. Therefore all lies are the effect of its cause known as selfish greed, which are for the pursuit of its ultimate desire in control.
    Selflesy,
    Ps. What form of negativity does not grow from the seed of selfishness as Greed? If the absolute truth causes Happiness to always exist; can we know/choose to continually live for peace at any level (micro to macro) without a valid understanding of the Causality Laws within Love?
    (Human Nature Love Pattern) https://facebook.com/HumaNaturePattern/photos/10156455420421350

  16. Alain de Botton's delivery is calm, succinct and in my view clear enough to appeal to a wide audience. He might well be remembered as a man who reminded our neurotic n technocratic society of the importance of good questions, wisdom through the ages and the use of philosophy.

  17. Original sin is NOT Eve eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil! Boy did you get that wrong! It's PRIDE…the first recorded sin of LUCIFER sinning against God!

  18. Anyone helps me to recap ? I only remember one thing in this video . 1 " The less expected you do the more happy you are " , right?

  19. Important mention in bible don’t mention type of fruit .. Eve eat .. just saying she eat the fruit!!! So could be any kind of fruit

  20. Western philosophy is about misery which in turn is derived from derived from Christianity. Thankfully Science came to the rescue

  21. why arent there philosophy videos anymore? was there a reason you stopped diving into writers, sociologists or philosophers?

  22. oh my god listening to this is like listening to my boyfriend xDD (he's got a master in philosophy). "the less we expect the less we will suffer". im wheezing

  23. you do understand the talented carpenter? wasn't particularly talented at carpentry… which I would assume is only a skill for catching tasteless fish?

  24. As a theist, I am appreciative – time, and again – that your videos are not squeamish about theological ideas; and even though you make it pretty clear that this is not a theological channel (not a 'believing' channel, you could say), you are not 'anti-theist', so to speak, but show a positive point of view, even when you may not personally espouse the belief. Even if the Garden of Eden is a myth or metaphor, it does relay a truth: We are flawed, down to our soul and bones. Very nice to be thinking together in this sleepy and distracted age! Thanks!

  25. Christians. Live your life from the point of view that you are a treacherous worm in need of redemption and blame this condition on women. The antidote is repressing your pursuit of happiness in exchange for piety and obedience to an institution and authorities who live richly. The pope is surrounded by riches and the evangelicals fly private jets all the while molesting your children. The 'lord" works in mysterious ways indeed.

  26. A FAULTY AND INCOMPLETE SPIRIT.

    It is time — craft the Red Chain, and bring forth Palkia and Dialga. They shall be the vessel through which my new world will be born! 😂

  27. all of these are very stoic, I believe the author agrees heavily with stoicism. I personally do not but you can still learn a lot from these. Well done!

  28. This is similar to Buddhism except in Buddhism they teach the final result of no expectation is freedom and happiness. It's very true. As a Zen practitioner for many years. It works and I am happy with no expectations from life or others.
    May all humanity be free from expectations and live a happy healthy balanced life!

  29. It's all somehow focused on dissapointment if you summarize the thing. That's pretty sad, actually, but I find this true. Nothing is ever as good as you expect it to be. And it all comes down to our own human behaviour somehow. Now my adjustment: It lightens A bit up if you can laugh about most off it.

  30. We're all guilty, life is just totally [email protected]#ked up. To anyone with an ounce of empathy you're just gonna self-disintegrate. We live on a placid island of ignorance amidst vast seas of black infinity and it was not meant we should venture far.Cthulu fhtagn

  31. It's so wondrous to watch a video that is not filled with images that don't have anything to do with the topic of the video ! i am so frustrated with 99.99999% of the videos on YouTube, yet i've watched 3 of The School of L– videos and they've all been very satisfying.

  32. The best belong to me and mine and, if we are not given it, we take it; thest food, the purest sky, the most robust thoughts, the fairest women. Fred Nietzsche

  33. Spinoza was wise. He said nature, not the Torah, was God's will.
    He got there before I did. I hope there's an afterlife so I can high five him.

  34. Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies

  35. What about Goethe?
    "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."
    "Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words."
    "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."

  36. "Being lost is the inability to draw a point of reference from where you are to where you should be." Acid trip in Quetico Provincial Park during a 2 week canoe trip in 1975.

  37. 4 billion years from now the earth will be a hurtling snowball through space, and no one will give a damn that Tom Brady won six Super Bowls. —Bearded Jagger

  38. only the religious failed phillosopher could come up with something so ingeniously stupid and wrong that it suited the arrogance of religious to a T

  39. Montaine was saying that the pretentious born with a silver spoon arent any more special humans than others. The French were true revolutionaries, not some comfort thought writers.

  40. The Beatles John Lennon did have a song about what if you didn't have to be sized up identified with and also have to live up to the expectations of others let alone the world. Aw

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *