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I'm a 32-year-old web developer and amateur philosophy student who believes that philosophy has practical applications in life and in business. I live in Berlin, Germany.
In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. You will behave like children who sometimes play like wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy when they have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all.

Aesop's Fable - The Wind and the Sun, and the Conversation Within Us

The north wind and the sun milo winter

Who can forget the question raised by those two forces of nature, The Wind and The Sun, in Aesop's Fable of the same name, as to who is more powerful?

Here is the fable, as translated from Aesop's Greek in 1906 in the Harvard Classics.

THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.

KINDNESS EFFECTS MORE THAN SEVERITY.

I will return to Aesop's fable in a moment, after a word from Plato. (I will explain why he connects). Plato writes his philosophy as dialogues because he was inspired by the Greek theater. Theater is a great multitude of conversations. Plato wants to show that philosophy is not laws and fixed answers delivered from an authority like God handing tablets to Moses. He wants us to see that philosophy is good-natured argument, a posing of questions, and a conversation.

The brilliant thing about Stoic philosophy* is that it recognizes that a theater plays inside us, too. The script is a series of dialogues. "Should I go shopping? Why am I eating candy? When will I do homework? Do I treat my sister fairly?" In the words of Augie March, "Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.” Philosophy, then, is not only a dialogue between and among a community of curious men and women, it is an elevation of the conversation happening inside the soul of every man and woman.

Now let us return to Aesop's story. Most people would say that Aesop's fable is about how we treat the community of people around us. We all know Wind-types who use forceful and harsh words to get their way with their colleagues, their fellow students, their families and even their lovers. The Stoic philosophers certainly do recommend the Sun's warm conduct toward our fellow men. The Stoics believed in a universal brotherhood of man, and recognized all reasoning men and women as citizens in an invisible city planted all over the world: the Cosmos in which Socrates called himself a Cosmo-politan.

Yet, on a deeper level — and now at last I arrive at my main point — Stoic philosophy asks us to consider Aesop's question in the The Wind and The Sun when we participate in, everday, our own heart's inner dialogue and theatre. We can imitate the tactics and conduct of either The Wind or The Sun upon and within our own soul.

The Germans have a phrase, der innere Schweinehund, which means our inner "pig-dog." If I want to move a part of myself to undertake a difficult task, in the language of Aesop's metaphor, to "take off his coat," I can lash my innerer Schweinehund with the cold, howling fury of my strongest words. "You are lazy! You are stupid!" I can also, though, choose the strategy of the Sun. I can shine the light of my own sunny temperament on this part of myself. (I can choose a sunnier picture and imagine this part of myself as a child instead of, say, a pig-dog). I can show kindness as I ask him questions. I can listen with an open mind to his answers. Which strategy is more likely to move him to take off his coat? Are you more like the Wind or the Sun in your conversation with yourself?

 

*Yes, Plato had the same idea.

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Plato, Aesop, Dialogue

We need a 'Stoic Yoga' for the Intellect

Stoic med 02

IMAGE CREDIT: Alessio Bona 2015

We need to create a drop-dead simple, 3-step 30 minute weekly community Stoic philosophy practice pattern. What yoga is to the modern body this practice would be to the modern intellect and ‘psyche’, to use the Greek word.

The pattern might go something like this. First, a short reading from an ethical text - a text relating to questions of how we live. Then a short speech relating the text to the daily life of a community. Then an equivalent to Christian Church’s ‘peace be with you’ where you briefly meet everyone sitting around you. Optional: music at end.

This is what people lack and vaguely ache for in their lives today - a regular pattern structure of questioning and reflecting on their lived behaviour from an ethical lense - note not a ‘shaming lense.’ This is the hole left in Western souls since the death of religion. Yoga tries and fails to fill it, and you can see the demand for this ethical practice echoed and shadowed in the demand for yoga. But yoga doesn’t fill it because yoga’s philosophy is ultimately vague and a sham, and the practice is actually weirdly lonely: You often don’t talk or engage with the strangers around you during a yoga session. Each person mostly does the exercise on his/her own in silence.

We need to create a ‘yoga’ for the psyche and intellect. A ‘yoga’ for reflecting on ethical practice in daily living.  

And for it to be a ‘hit’ with people it needs to be simple. Like yoga:hinduism::our new ethical practice:stoic philosophy. i.e., 30 minutes and simple :: difficult lifetime of study.

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Yoga, Lived Practice, Ethics, Discipline of Action

Elon Musk is a Throwback to the Victorian Era

I think there is a lot of evidence that people lack meaning in their life, in a way that they never did before. Anecdotally all one needs to do is to look around any European village: what do you see? Church spires! Enormous decorated church spires! It's like the people who lived there poured their labor, creativity, time and wealth into creating beautiful structures, music, art in celebration of something that they found meaningful. There's the old story of the man who spots three masons at work. He asks the first mason: what are you doing? The first mason replies, placing stones. He asks the second mason, and the second mason replies, practicing the craft of masonry. Finally, he asks the third mason, who replies, "I am building a cathedral."
 
The question I would ask is, where are our "cathedrals" today? It seems to me like a lot of people lack the "cathedral" of the past - i.e. something outside of themselves to which they dedicate themselves that is beautiful. And partly the field of Economics is to blame, because it has attained remarkable influence on people and society's lives and self-conceptions, and it has used that influence to teach Utilitarianism, to narrow man's conception, and to replace Stoic joy with utilitarian satisfaction - http://www.stoichacks.com/posts/20. And in a sense this is exactly what millions of other young people perceive. And this is why there is an attraction to men like Elon Musk. Elon Musk is a South African. South Africa was a nation that during apartheid prized tradition, looked backward, and lived in a kind of bubble of tradition, and it raised children on the old British Victorian model - a model long dead in the rest of the world. Elon Musk is a man from the Victorian Age who has stepped into the 21st century.
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Utilitarianism, Elon Musk, Victorians, Economics

Iraqi War Veterans Post Traumatic Stress

Has it occurred to anyone that the American soliders returning home from foreign fields suffer a trauma not because of their experiences abroad, but because of the nature of the society that they return to?

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America, War

Poverty, Wealth and Honor

Philosophy and religion have long honored poverty. The bourgeoisie have long honored wealth. 

About industries like Wall Street, or in industries tied to K Street in DC, there is an increasing perception of corruption.

In today's America both poverty and wealth are becoming dishonorable. 

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Poverty, Wealth, America






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