Life Philosophy: Step 2 | How to Build a Sturdy Philosophy of Life

This is the Second Step in the series, "How to Rethink Your Entire Life: Foundations of a Life Philosophy"

2. Now, add a dash of traditional philosophy

Step 1 raised a few Big Questions of life.

Now we can look at an area a lot of smart folks have been working on for thousands of years.

That’s the work of traditional philosophy.

A popular definition of philosophy is “love of wisdom.” This has often looked like an open-ended process of essentially asking questions and looking for answers. When it works well, it can lead to some pretty mind-blowing insights. (When it doesn’t, it can lead to a lot of confusion, dead-ends, and worse. That’s why it’s pretty important to get it in shape.)

Philosophy is often organized into a few basic categories.

There are plenty of different ways to slice a pie, and there are plenty of different ways to categorize the work of traditional philosophy. But for our purposes here, we’ll slice the pie like this.

The main categories of traditional philosophy:

Metaphysics
Epistemology
Ethics
Psychology
Teleology

Those five words can be boiled down to efforts to answer five questions:

What exists? (Metaphysics)
How do I know? (Epistemology)
How should I live? (Ethics)
What’s our nature? (Psychology)
What’s the point? Why? (Teleology)

To be clear, the above is a simplified sketch. All of this could be made more complicated or described differently, and it often is. For example, some prefer the word “ontology” to metaphysics for “the study of being.” “Psychology” is rarely described as a branch of philosophy, but “the study of human nature” often is, and is sometimes described as “philosophical anthropology.” And so on. Philosophy gets a bad rap as being unnecessarily complex. Sometimes, that criticism seems pretty on the mark.

That said, our purpose here isn’t to become philosophy professors, but to live better. At this point, these simple versions work just fine.

That’s Step 2.

So far, this has been pretty straightforward. But in Step 3, things will get interesting. It will involve mixing the ingredients of the first two steps together.

> Next: Step 3: Connect the Two

< Previous: Step 1: The Big Questions

< Main Index: How to Rethink Your Entire Life

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