Philosophy and Personal Development

temple of delphiThose 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.

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 urpose, 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 archives

Philosopher's Corner

Each month this section will feature a philosopher from a different period in history and his contributions to Western thought.

Enjoy the information and allow it to expand your thinking and viewpoint.

This Month's Philosopher

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

montaigne philosophy Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, widely considered one of the most important philosophers of the French Renaissance, was born February 28, 1533, to a wealthy bourgeois family near Bordeaux in France.

While growing up, in accordance with his father's wishes, Montaigne spoke only Latin at home. He was privately instructed by a German tutor (who spoke no French) until the age of six whereupon he was sent to a boarding school in Bordeaux. There he studied liberal arts and the humanities and subsequently attended the University of Toulouse where he studied law.

Although Montaigne never developed a philosophical system or moral theory, he was a profound thinker who originated a revolutionary way of writing - the essay. In his essays, which he humbly referred to as 'attempts' he wrote about anything and everything he observed to be interesting and significant, particularly in his inner life.

Montaigne's essays are rich with philosophical thought and moral insights. Certainly, his background in Classics, which included his study of Ovid, Vergil and Horace, contributed to his humanistic values and moral philosophy.

As a humanist, Montaigne veered from the concept of philosophy as theoretical or speculative. Instead, he favored an approach where one practices free judgment in dealing with life's various and complex situations by applying both a cultivated moral sense and reason-based knowledge. He wrote; "according to the opinion of Plato, who says that steadfastness, faith, and sincerity are real philosophy, and the other sciences which aim at other things are only powder and rouge."

Montaigne also advocated for a balance between formal education and learning from personal experience. As was the practice in his day, education consisted mostly of memorizing facts and learning by rote. Such a method, declared Montaigne, thwarted the ability to cultivate practical judgment and acquire social skills - all of which also deprived one of developing moral understanding.

According to Montaigne, we should also learn as much as possible about our fellow man and the world around us. Formal education should be supplemented with life experience, common sense, and an understanding of the larger perspective of life. In Montaigne's view, those with minimal or no education often displayed more wisdom than renowned scholars. Indeed, we could learn from people from all walks of life, those from different cultures, and anyone who could expand our viewpoint. By putting forth these notions; expanding one's sphere of experience and being open to learning from anyone, Montaigne was ahead of his time.

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