This is the first week in our One Year, Six Ways challenge, in which we try to experience six different philosophies of life in our own, everyday lives. And we begin with Aristotle, one of the fathers of Western philosophy.

So how can we utilise Aristotle’s theories about happiness in our own, everyday lives? Read on.

Can I be too honest?

Aristotle’s view of life starts with the concept of virtues. Virtues are good properties of one’s character that are beneficial to oneself and to others. Think, for instance, of courage, honesty, or kindness.

But not any amount of these virtues is good. One can…


Rediscovering ancient skills in everyday life

In the previous post, we talked about the promises of modern technology and how, according to Erich Fromm, these have not paid off.

How can we apply Erich Fromm’s criticism of technology to our everyday lives? Instead of catapulting us into a utopia of eternal youth and affluence, modern technology has condemned us to a life under constant surveillance, is destroying the planet, and, in the form of AI, now threatening to take away human employment on a grand scale. Rediscovering some of the ancient skills that we all once had may provide a way out of the problem.

Technology, capitalism and obsolescence

This…


The false promise of unlimited progress

According to philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, society and technology have a crucial influence on individual happiness. Fromm identifies the “promise of unlimited progress” that drove Western development from the Industrial Revolution up into the 1960s, as one of the fundamental problems of modern capitalist systems. According to Fromm, the dream of endless technological development has led to a depletion of natural resources and the destruction of nature. It has created societies that emphasise material possessions, while, at the same time, making it harder for their citizens to become balanced and happy individuals.

In today’s article, we want to see…


The attractiveness of being unfree

Erich Fromm’s theory of the human condition begins with the insight that freedom itself can sometimes be the cause of fear and anxiety, forcing us to find ways to “escape from freedom”. Authoritarianism, destructiveness and automaton conformity are, according to Fromm, three ways how we try to cope with the freedom we fear.

Welcome back to our year-long challenge of trying out six different, classic philosophies of happiness in our everyday lives! …


The three best books for the beginner

What books should someone read who is interested in getting to know the history of philosophy? The three best introductions are: 1. For a very easy-to-read overview, Philip Stokes (2002): Philosophy — 100 Essential Thinkers. 2. For an in-depth discussion of Western thought, Bertrand Russell (1945): A History of Western Philosophy. 3. For a good collection of introductory sources from all over philosophy’s history, Cooper and Fosl (2009): Philosophy. The Classic Readings.

Links to all books are at the end of this article.

The history of philosophy is, of course, a history in books. No matter how many books one…


The unconscious forces that shape our societies

Erich Fromm: Life and personality

Erich Fromm (1900–1980) was a German social psychologist and philosopher who had enormous popular success from the 1950s all the way to the end of his life in 1980. As I mentioned before, I believe that we can understand a lot about how particular philosophers’ theories came about by studying their lives. Similarly to and Bertrand Russell (of whom we talked before), Erich Fromm’s life also holds important clues to his later philosophy and social theory.

Born into an orthodox Jewish family in Germany right at the beginning of the 20th century, Fromm experienced all the perverse hatred and violence…


Monism, dualism and the philosophy of mind

The Philosophy of Mind is the area of philosophy that asks what human minds are made of and how they work. We all agree that we have a mind. We can think, we can feel, we can take decisions, we can relate to others, we can do physics and play chess. But what, exactly, is that elusive mind?

The philosophy of mind is an area of philosophy that attempts to explain what exactly the mind is. Dualism assumes (like Christianity does) that our material bodies contain some kind of immaterial soul (or mind) that obeys different rules than the physical…


Richard Taylor on what makes us truly happy

Hedonism is the thesis that happiness and pleasure are the same. But is that true? Does the enjoyment of pleasures like good food, chocolate, sex and a myriad other things that we consume everyday — do these things really make us happier?

Confusing pleasure and happiness

The argument comes from Richard Taylor’s book “Virtue Ethics” (2002) which could be directly from Aristotle. Like every Aristotelian, Taylor wants to link happiness with moral goodness, because that’s the whole point of the Aristotelian argument: that there is no happiness in being a bad person, a mean person or a criminal, and that egoism never pays off…


Source: Unsplash

In his book “The Conquest of Happiness”, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) presents a theory of happiness that is broadly Aristotelian. Russell thinks that what makes us happy is an active life, directed by a deep and sustained interest in the world. What makes us unhappy is the undue fixation on our own person and our everyday problems.

In the previous two posts ( one, two), we talked about Bertrand Russell and his theory of what makes us unhappy: competition, anxiety, envy and the fear of the opinion of others are just a few common factors that contribute to an unhappy life.


Bertrand Russell on what makes us unhappy (2)

In the first part of this post, we talked about what are, for Bertrand Russell ( The Conquest of Happiness, 1930) some of the reasons people are unhappy: fashionable pessimism, competition, boredom, and fatigue that comes from anxiety. In this second part, we will examine four more factors that contribute to unhappiness: envy, the sense of sin, persecution mania and the fear of public opinion.

Unhappiness from envy

“Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature,” Russell writes, “envy is the most unfortunate; not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he…

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