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Philosophy and Personal Development

Those who have not taken the time to explore the wonderful world of philosophy may consider it as having very little practical value or benefit in the real world. delphigreece

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The word philosophy is derived from the Greek words "philo" meaning love and "sophia" meaning wisdom. Therefore, it is the love of wisdom and the seeking of knowledge. It is also the desire to examine the nature of the universe, man, and the human condition. What could be more relevant?

How does philosophy contribute to personal development?

Studying philosophy and the works of some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world is invaluable in helping us determine who we are and what we are doing here. Contemplating what the great philosophers have found to be meaningful and worthy assists us in establishing our own views on life, our purpose, and our values.

William Ralph Inge said: "The object of studying philosophy is to know one's own mind, not other people's".

More than just a pursuit of knowledge, philosophy is also an activity; one that teaches us to analyze, assess and reason. It is an instrument for acquiring and honing critical thinking and problem solving skills. Anyone pursuing a career in law is required to take courses in philosophy for the purposes of cultivating logical and methodical thinking.

If it were not for philosophy and logic, knowledge about ourselves and the world we live in would be very limited.

Philosopher's Corner

Up to this point, I have featured some of the most important and infulential philosophers from different periods of Western history and their contributions to Western thought. During the next few sessions, I will feature the philosophy of some of the great Eastern thinkers. Please continue to enjoy the various viewpoints and allow them to expand your thinking.

Philosopher's Corner

Up to this point, I have featured some of the most important and infulential philosophers from different periods of Western history and their contributions to Western thought. During the next few sessions, I will feature the philosophy of some of the great Eastern thinkers. Please continue to enjoy the various viewpoints and allow them to expand your thinking.

This Month's Philosopher


Sun Tzu (544 - 496 BC)

Sun Tzu PhilosophySun Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher, military general and strategist and although the exact date of his birth is unknown, it is said to have taken place during the Spring and Autumn Period of China (the first half of the Eastern Zhou dynasty).

He purportedly wrote the renowned Art of War so needless to say; he had considerable impact on Chinese and Asian history and culture.

Unlike the thinking of other major Eastern philosophers, Sun Tzu philosophy did not focus on spiritual matters, but dealt more with practical and immediate issues.

Warfare in ancient China was considered by the nobility to be a chivalrous sport, thus the rules were to be adhered to and not broken. Sun Tzu, however, changed this prevailing practice by applying Taoist principles to warfare and by refusing to view it as sport.

In the precepts of Taoism, one finds the way for living well in doing what is natural rather than following the conventional wisdoms of society. It emphasizes the spontaneous ease of living by acting in accordance with the natural way of things. This spontaneous ease of living was emphasized in Sun Tzu’s writing as the natural path to victory rather than the standard one employed in the military engagements of the time.

The great Taoist work, the Tao-Te Ching, delineates the horror of war and outlines aspiration for peace which is similarly reflected in Sun Tzu's writing. Sun Tzu advocates that the best way to achieve peace is by a swift victory or, even better, by defeating the enemy before war is even begun. He writes: 

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting".

Sun Tzu’s strategy (from the Tao-Te-Ching) is to "Yield and overcome, empty and become full, bend and become straight." In other words, by adapting oneself to a situation, rather than rigidly holding to one’s preconceived ideas, one can recognize the variability of conditions and thus act accordingly and therefore more expediently.

In addition to many practical military principles, Sun Tzu’s philosophy, as depicted in the Art of War, contains other important philosophical ideas. These ideas have been relevant and useful in social, political and commercial fields, with the most prevalent being the concept of winning without actually going to battle or engaging in confrontation. Who wouldn't want to avoid a difficult, costly battle if it could be avoided?

Here are some key points in Sun Tzu's philosophy in the Art of War:art of war

  • Know your enemy as yourself
  • Know your enemies’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities
  • Know the difference between strategy and tactics
  • Analyze and make good use of intelligence when planning
  • Employ diplomacy in order to garner allies
  • Engage in building morale
  • Develop your character as a leader to maximize the potential of your men
  • Be organized and capable

Today the Art of War is as important and relevant today as when it was written - important for military personnel and CEOs alike because it contains within psychological strategies that are applicable far beyond the battlefield.

Sun Tzu Quotes
Lao Tzu Philosophy
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