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The Best Insights from the Most Intellectual Greek Philosophers

By: Eszter C.
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The most famous predictors in life are the ancient Greeks. Even though most of them are now in the forms of statues with blank stares mounted on podiums in museums, their thoughts and ideas carry into our present lives.

What is Philosophy

The current pixelated world thinks of philosophers as bald men with bushy beards who sit in the middle of messy scrolls pondering the big questions of life. However, we are all philosophers in our own way. Philosophy is the study of fundamental problems that we all deal with. The discipline questions societal truths and principles in matters such as existence, reason, logic, language, knowledge, and values. Some people dedicate their lives to the love of wisdom. They love questioning, finding new solutions, and aiming to understand this thing we call life. Topics in everyday conversations like religion, science, politics, and beliefs exist because of our quest to make sense of the world.

What You Can Learn from the Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks loved doing this. They studied life's challenges and aimed to come up with general solutions that everyone could apply (even thousands of years later). Some strived to make sense of life through detailed experimentation and scientific methods. Socrates was famous for his mission to find the wisest man in Athens by probing the average city-dweller with philosophical questions. Others used imaginative and mysterious ways to get answers. The unifying force between all their findings is that they are all simple. The Greeks did not want to complicate living even more. Instead, they boiled down the complexity of life into essential truths and golden nuggets. To build an extraordinary life, you have to develop it from the ground-up. This involves understanding the primary motivations, opinions, beliefs and wants that fuel us from the core. From these simple parts, you can design and create something entirely different. If you try to change the superficial layers, like property, reputation, and status, because you believe all these things will bring you joy, you will never be satisfied. Aristotle studied human behavior and happiness. He concluded that pleasure is an activity we can all cultivate. The level of our satisfaction depends on ourselves, and we should only aim to change the things that are within our control because our response is our most prominent power. So, what are these simple truths? What elements does life condense into? The ancient Greeks were well-rounded men who debated and discussed ethics, politics, science, music, art, philosophy, happiness, and much more. Their quotes capture valuable ideas and thoughts in simple words. Here are my favorite ones:

  • “Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.” Pythagoras
  • “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.” Democritus
  • “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Epictetus
  • “Everywhere man blames nature and fate yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passion, his mistakes and his weaknesses.” Democritus
  • "Know how to listen and you will profit even from those who talk badly." Plutarch
  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."- Aristotle
  • "There is nothing permanent except change." - Heraclitus

In general, the ancient Greek Stoics believed that slow, steady, and intentional actions evolve into magnificent realities. Life has many ups and downs, slow turns, and sharp edges. It is up to us if we take responsibility for our path and shape it as we see fit. The average person lets life happen to them. The ancient Greeks understood that it is up to the individual to write their own story and make it something worth reading. You can make the story long or short because life is not measured in years. It is measured by the time you spent living.

References:

  • Rodriguez, A. (2020, March 22). How Adapting These 6 Lessons By Aristotle Can Lead You To A Happier Life. Retrieved from culturacolectiva.com/lifestyle/life-lessons-from-aristotle
  • Krstevska, A. (2020, August 24). Precious Life Lessons By 9 Ancient Greek Philosophers. Project Yourself. Retrieved from projectyourself.com/blogs/news/precious-life-lessons-by-9-ancient-greek-philosophers
  • Violatti, C. (2013, June 11). Greek Philosophy. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Philosophy/

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