Why do Philosophy/Ethics? Three millenia-old reasons.
It really is amazing how much these things are timeless. The three philosophers I will quote in the following have lived more than 2000 years ago. In completely different world. Yet their minds were just as sharp as ours are today (or maybe sharper). And what they have to say applies every bit to our as it did to their world. I came across them this week while reviewing early works on ethics.
The first one is quite simple and is also the name-giver for the blog I maintain with a former professor of mine.
“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”
– Socrates (Apology, 38a)
The second one:
“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.”
— Epicurus, (Letter to Menoeceus)
And the third one:
“How long will you still wait to think yourself worthy of the best things, and in nothing to transgress against the distinctions set up by the reason? You have received the philosophical principles which you ought to accept, and you have accepted them. What sort of a teacher, then, do you still wait for, that you should put off reforming yourself until he arrives? You are no longer a lad, but already a full-grown man. If you are now neglectful and easy-going, and always making one delay after another, and fixing first one day and then another, after which you will pay attention to yourself, then without realizing it you will make no progress, but, living and dying, will continue to be a layman throughout. Make up your mind, therefore, before it is too late, that the fitting thing for you to do is to live as a mature man who is making progress, and let everything which seems to you to be best be for you a law that must not be transgressed. And if you meet anything that is laborious, or sweet, or held in high repute, or in no repute, remember that now is the contest, and here before you are the Olympic games, and that it is impossible to delay any longer, and that it depends on a single day and a single action, whether progress is lost or saved. This is the way Socrates became what he was, by paying attention to nothing but his reason in everything that he encountered. And even if you are not yet a Socrates, still you ought to live as one who wishes to be a Socrates.”
— Epictetus (The Discourses)
I hope whoever reads this feels the same surge of power I felt when I read this line: “What sort of a teacher, then, do you still wait for, that you should put off reforming yourself until he arrives”.