The Daily Stoic for December 3rd, “The Philosopher Is An Artisan Of Life And Death”.
“Philosophy does not claim to get a person any external possession. To do so would be beyond its field. As wood is to the carpenter, bronze to the sculptor, so our own lives are the proper material in the art of living.”—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.15.2
By now, you may already know my opinion on philosophy and philosophers. I won’t insist on that here. What I do like is today’s stoic meditation metaphor. Is philosophy or, said otherwise, thinking, reading and wondering about the “big questions” a way of modeling our lives just as the sculptor models bronze or the carpenter models wood?
The Philosopher Is An Artisan Of Life And Death
In ancient Greece, the vast majority of people were slaves. Around 90% of the population. The majority of free Athenians owned at least one slave, and not owning one was a sign of poverty. Even Aristotle, one of the most well-known and reverenced philosophers of all times, defined a house as containing “freemen and slaves”. Marcus Aurelius and other stoics had slaves too.
These slaves could, obviously, not spend a lot of time thinking and philosophizing. It was the small percentage of free citizens who could spend their time devoted to the arts, sciences and philosophy.
Does that mean that these free citizens, connoisseurs of Plato or Aristotle, and the Stoics, knew how to live better than the slaves that just lived and died? Were they more miserable? I can’t help but think about the cynicism of all of that, given that the philosophers were able to philosophize precisely because they had all these servants taking care of the “dirty stuff”.
Fast forward thousands of years in the future. Does the person who spends his or her life in front of the television -watching the latest reality show and eating Doritos day after day- lead a more “unpolished” life? Is this other person who reads regularly, cultivate his or her mind a more perfected human being?
Well, I won’t definitely say that in a judgmental way. But I can’t help but thinking that I would not like to be in the first group. Not that they are better, worse or anything. But, in my opinion, life it’s just too short for wasting it in front of the TV.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The Philosopher Is An Artisan Of Life And Death”, discusses how philosophy can help us “model” our lives just as the carpenter models wood.