Life Lessons from History’s Greatest Philosophers on Self-Knowledge, Happiness, and Living Well

Philosophy faces the world and life as a whole. We usually live in a local area, living a specific life, doing specific things, having our own family and daily life, our own career and interpersonal relationships, and our own small environment. Philosophy requires you to jump out of this local area and look at the overall situation of the world and life.

I have realized that the biggest benefit of studying philosophy is that it seems to have given me a kind of doppelgänger, and I can divide myself into two me. One is the physical self, struggling and striving in the world, crying and laughing, experiencing joy and pain; there is also a higher self, looking down on the physical self from above, often having heart-to-heart conversations with it, and giving it guidance. This higher self is the rational self that thinks about fundamental issues based on the overall situation. In fact, everyone has such a higher self, but it is often asleep. The role of philosophy is to help it awaken. Whether the higher self is awakened or not makes a big difference. As long as the physical self is active, people will be trapped in specific encounters, and they will be blind, passive, entangled, and painful.

Excerpted from “Lecture Notes on the History of Western Philosophy”


Someone asked Thales: “What is the most difficult thing?” He replied: ” Knowing yourself.” Ask him again: “What is the easiest thing?” He replied: “Giving advice to others.” We still read today It will be easier for people to take refuge in the world, so the world is full of people who like to teach others, but it is difficult to meet people who are self-aware.
Thales said: ” A happy person is a person who has a healthy body, a wise mind , and a gentle nature.” What a simple understanding of happiness. In fact, physical illness, mental ignorance, and temperament are the main causes of suffering.


The most important thing in life is to take care of your soul

The most important thing in life is to take good care of your soul so that it has a good quality and a good state. People must not only live, but also live well, and the key to living well is to have a good soul. Only if you have a good soul can you have a good life.

virtue is happiness

Virtue itself is happiness and requires no other reward. Doing evil itself is already unhappy, because the evildoer makes himself have a bad soul and destroys all the glory of being a human being and the value of life.


Only those who love themselves can love others

What a person loves most is himself, and a person is his own best friend. Love for friends is to extend love from oneself to others. How a person treats himself will determine how he treats his friends. The way of self-love determines the way of friendship.

When it comes to physical pleasure, the fault lies in excessive enjoyment rather than in the pursuit of happiness.

He said that everyone should enjoy good food, good wine and sex, as long as it is in a moderate way, why not enjoy it! He even believed that physical pleasure has medical properties and is beneficial to health. Abstinence and asceticism not only make life uninteresting, but also destroy physical and mental health.


Control your desires and live a simple life

He said a very wise saying: “Only those who least need luxury life can enjoy life most luxuriously.” The advantage of simple life is that it brings you freedom and tranquility. You don’t have to be busy and you don’t need to be busy. There is no need to do things you don’t like or things you are unable to do against your will. Self-sufficiency is the greatest good, and the greatest value of self-sufficiency is freedom.


Next to wisdom, friendship is the best thing God has given to mankind.

A true friend is another self. People who love material interests more than anything else actually have no real experience of the emotion of self-love, and therefore cannot understand the essence of friendship.


The quality of human life depends entirely on the quality of the soul

The possession of a free, noble, fearless, and consistent mind is the only guarantee of lasting happiness. A person with such a mind has the richest treasures and the most abundant source of happiness, so he can be unmoved by all external things and encounters. You have the best thing in your heart. This thing is incomparable to any good thing in the world and cannot be taken away by any external force, so you feel at ease.

Why cry over part of your life? Don’t you see, the whole life is a tearjerker

Make peace with fate. In the turbulent sea of ​​life, the only safe harbor is to be calm with whatever fate brings. The only path to freedom is to be indifferent to fate.

How can a person who doesn’t want to pay attention to himself have the nerve to complain about others being dismissive of him?

People who are busy with nothing are actually running away from themselves. Another way to escape yourself is to constantly change the environment and travel endlessly.
Seneca said: “It doesn’t matter where you arrive, what matters is what kind of person you are when you arrive. If you are your own burden, your own troubles, the source of your own anxiety, then sailing across the ocean is Crossing the sea and traveling around the world, what use is that to you? What is needed is not a change in the environment, but a change in you.

A great man takes time very seriously, because nothing is worth his precious time in exchange for.

An even more tragic way to waste your life is to live it . People are busy all their lives, doing nothing that they really want to do. Even when they sleep, they have to cater to the way others sleep, when they walk, they have to follow the pace of others, and when it comes to the two most personal emotions of love and hate, they have to obey the orders of others. other people. If such a person wants to know how short his life is, just think about how pitifully little the part of his life that truly belongs to him is.


Anyone who values ​​what he cannot control will lose his freedom

Within the scope at your disposal, make good use of your free will, read, write , study, improve yourself, and make yourself a person with rich soul and noble moral character. For things outside this scope, you regard them as having nothing to do with you and do not care about or pursue them. If this is the case, how come your mind is not at peace? Focusing on things that are within the realm of free will is the only way to achieve tranquility.

Be free from interference from other people’s character and behavior

There are all kinds of people in this world. You cannot . In this case, you should not let your mood be disturbed by them.
As for those who are powerful and arrogant, you must despise them, stay away from them, and regard them as a type of people who have nothing to do with you. The things they have the power to control are things you don’t care about, and the things you care about are the things they have no power to control. If you maintain this mentality, who can still rule you?


Everything depends on our perspective. The reason why the mind is disturbed is not the matter itself, but our judgment of the matter.

If you accept what has happened as a fact and consider what to do next under this premise, it will not disturb your mind too much. The reason why those things you pursue or avoid always bother you is not actually that they come to you, but that you provoke them yourself. Only when you become calm in your judgment of them will they calm down.
Regarding the behavior of others, what disturbs our minds is not the behavior itself, but our opinions. It is true that bad behavior causes us pain, but the anger and annoyance caused by our behavior are far more painful than that. This does not mean that you should not make judgments about whether your behavior is good or bad, but that you should not make judgments such as “I have been hurt.”


The most beautiful life is one that takes ordinary human nature as a model, is well-organized, does not seek miracles, and does not want to get into trouble.

Montaigne tells us that living an ordinary life well is greatness. He said: “A rich and colorful life contains philosophical ethics, and an ordinary life also contains philosophical ethics; everyone is a complete form of the human condition.” “The greatness of the soul is not realized in greatness, but in the ordinary. .” Being able to find the essence from the most common and familiar things is a miracle in the world. Knowing how to enjoy one’s existence openly is perfection.

The most beautiful thing is to live an upright life, the most profound knowledge is to know how to live this life naturally, and the most dangerous disease is to ignore one’s own existence.

What you should care about is not what society says about you, but what you say about yourself. If you know how to think and control your own life, you have accomplished the greatest thing of all. As long as your true self remains intact, you have nothing to lose. The true self is the bearer of all values ​​in life. Without this bearer, all values ​​cease to exist.
We owe some parts of ourselves to society, and the best parts of us to ourselves.
So being good at being alone is a great ability. True retreat is to draw the mind back to oneself. This can also be done in cities and palaces, but it is easier to do in solitude. He said he would rather be alone forever than never be alone.

My main task in life is to live a lazy life without working too hard

Montaigne: “Freedom and leisure , these are my main qualities. “Busy people are the most pitiful. They always have a lot of things to deal with. When you have leisure, you also need to know how to enjoy it. “It is useless for people who cannot enjoy peace to avoid war. He who cannot enjoy leisure avoids labor in vain. ”

It is a great pleasure to me not to be involved in other people’s affairs and to be free from their constraints

Mind your own business. The first is not to get involved in other people’s affairs. He said that if he wanted to be freed from the bondage, once someone to whom he seemed to be responsible in terms of favor or obligation did something unkind or unjust to him, he would quickly take the opportunity to end the debt.
Secondly, try to know as little as possible about other people’s secrets. Montaigne said that he kept all the things he was told to keep secret, but he hoped to have as little involvement as possible. Finally, when it comes to relationships with others, you only need to take into account what is relevant to you and not the rest.

Being angry at other people’s absurdities is an even greater absurdity

His view is similar to that of Seneca: First, it is necessary to stop the start , “If you can’t stop running, you can’t stop running. If you can’t shut out the door, it will be difficult to drive him out. If you can’t control the shaking, it will be difficult to stop the fall.” “. The second is to delay the reaction. When you are angry, put the matter aside before talking about it. When you are calm, things will look different.

What I am looking for in books is also the joy of traveling through time.

Montaigne said that he read for pleasure every day, regardless of subject, and was well-read. When it comes to food, sometimes we focus on nutrition, and sometimes we just want it to be delicious. The same is true for spiritual food. Sometimes it may not necessarily be nutritious, but just fun.


The most pleasant pastime was actually his greatest disaster, for it more than anything else drew him away from the search for salvation.

Boredom makes people uncomfortable precisely because it gives people a glimpse of the sadness of life. If we persist in it for a while, we will
Become aware and seek the fundamental solution. On the contrary, recreation is used to escape the sorrow of life, and recreation is the greatest sorrow among the sorrows, which makes people always in a state of not thinking and walking towards death in a confused way.

We have formed our spirits and emotions through interaction, but we have also corrupted our spirits and emotions through interaction.

People cannot live without society, but they should not be so closely connected with society that they are completely dominated by society and trapped in complex interpersonal relationships and battles. Pascal said that he observed the various impulses of human beings and the many disputes, disputes, sufferings, adventures, etc. that resulted from them, and discovered a truth: “All human misfortunes come from only one thing, that I just don’t know how to stay quietly in the house.”


Know who you are and be yourself

People can’t change, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. Everyone should gradually understand who they are, understand their own personality as completely as possible, and make it a conscious behavior.
One cannot go against one’s own nature. Doing things that go against one’s own nature, even if the result is not too much of a failure, and you have finally achieved something through all the hardships, cannot be enjoyed, because “other than using and feeling your own power, there is no real enjoyment at all.”


Man is a living plant

Modern people are always in a hurry , afraid of delaying something, and always regret that there are many things that are too late to do. In fact, if you think about it carefully, is there anything that must be done, especially something that must be done immediately? People are dominated by desires beyond nature, which is the root of all anxiety, restlessness, and trouble. Imagine yourself as a plant and experience the rhythm that is most suitable for life. In this way, you will enter a state similar to meditation, meditation, and Vipassana. In this way, you will not have to rely on meditation, meditation, or Vipassana to force yourself to be peaceful.


Criticize “selflessness” and promote healthy selfishness

Healthy selfishness is opposed to so-called “selfless” preaching. Historically, “selfless” preaching has often used fraternity to deny self-love, altruism to deny self-interest, and publicity to obliterate individuality. Nietzsche emphasized that people must love themselves, self-respect and self-improvement. He said: “People must learn to love themselves with an intact and healthy love, so that they can be patient and self-sufficient, and will not become distracted.” The sign of nobility is that a person is not afraid Face yourself, don’t expect anything to be ashamed of, and fly carefree like a bird. Healthy selfishness is especially reflected in the pursuit of personal uniqueness and excellence.

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