The Maxims of Epicurus, Greek Philosopher and the Initiator of Epicureanism

The Maxims of Epicurus, Greek Philosopher and the Initiator of Epicureanism

Diogenes Laertius (third century CE) is the chief source for the writings of Epicurus (341–270 BCE,) the Greek philosopher and the founder of Epicureanism. Diogenes Laertius tells us that Epicurus was the most productive author of his time (having produced approximately 300 papyrus rolls). Unfortunately little survives. Diogenes himself preserves three short letters summarizing Epicurus’s physical theory, ethics, and clarifications of celestial phenomena, though doubts exist that the last is from Epicurus’s script. Kuriai Doxai, a collection of passages quoted by Diogenes, and a parallel collection enduring in another manuscript, Sententiae Vaticanae, were seemingly intended to remind believers of Epicurus’s key teachings.

Diogenes Laertius ends his biography of Epicurus with four authentic documents, three of them letters to disciples in which, among other things, he presents purely mechanistic explanations for various natural occurrences. The last document is a set of Epicurus’s maxims to direct a person seeking a happy life. .

  • Epicurus, Greek Philosopher and the Initiator of Epicureanism What is happy and imperishable suffers no trouble itself, nor does it cause trouble to anything. So it is not subject to feelings either of anger or of partiality, for these feelings exist only in what is weak.
  • Death is nothing to us, for that which is dissolved has no feeling whatsoever, and that which has no feeling means nothing to us.
  • A person cannot have a pleasant life unless he lives prudently, honorably and justly, nor can he live prudently, honorably and justly without a pleasant life. A person cannot possibly have a pleasant life unless he happens to live prudently, honorably and justly.
  • No pleasure is intrinsically bad, but what causes pleasure is accompanied by many things that disturb pleasure.
  • Vast power and great wealth may, up to a certain point, grant us security as far as individual men are concerned, but the security of men as a whole depends on the tranquility of their souls and their freedom from ambition.
  • 'The Art of Happiness' by Epicurus (ISBN 0143107216) Of all the things that wisdom provides for the happiness of a whole life, the most important by far is acquiring friends.
  • Natural justice is an agreement among men about what actions are suitable. Its aim is to prevent men from injuring one another, or to be injured.
  • Justice has no independent existence: it results from mutual contracts, and we find it in force wherever there is a mutual agreement to guard against doing injury or sustaining it.
  • Injustice is not intrinsically bad: people regard it as evil only because it is accompanied by the fear that they will not escape the officials who are appointed to punish evil actions.
  • The happiest men are those who have reached the point where they have nothing to fear from those who surround them.

Reference: Diogenes, “Epicurus,” The Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Book 10, Sec. 31. Trans. C. D. Yonge

9 Everyday Challenges for Making Your Family Stronger

9 Everyday Challenges for Making Your Family Stronger

Today’s challenges concern those who already have someone to try them with. If you have already found a person with whom you have a strong relationship or even family and kids, then you need to learn to look in the same direction. But let’s start with a few questions:

  • Have you thought about how to improve your family life?
  • Have you thought about why spending time together became a responsibility?
  • Have you thought about how to make everyday life happy?

Well, you can search for all kinds of psychological practices yourself but the best way is to try challenges. In other words, try to test yourself and follow these tips for only 30 days. There is nothing complicated in this, however, you need to devote yourself to this, improving relations with your loved ones.

1. Go In For Sports.

Do workout together every day. It can be fitness, cycling, skiing, or swimming, even morning exercises! There are no rules about what type of exercises to choose and where to do it. Don’t worry about how much kilograms you need to get rid of or gain physical strength. Your only task is to make it a habit.

By the way, doing sports is one of the rules of finding love after 60 for single men. Women want their men to have good bodies even in mature age.

2. Don’t Eat Sugar.

We all need to reduce our sugar intake. Over the next 30 days, forget about any refined sugar along with artificial and natural sweeteners. Everything that contains extra sugar in any form is forbidden, so read the labels, study the ingredients and look for everything that can be considered sugar, including agave nectar, barley malt, sugarcane juice, sugar extracted from the coconut palm, fructose, brown cane sugar, and rice syrup.

3. Have An Offline Day.

Social networks and the Internet have entered our lives, and spending a day outside the network will be a real problem for each of us. At the same time, such a day will definitely benefit, and you will pay attention to how much free time remains that can be spent on a more useful thing.

4. Play Together.

Make it a rule to play with children every day or every week at a specific time. The game releases endorphins, which improve well-being and brain function and strengthen social connections.

5. Don’t Complain and Don’t Gossip.

Wear a bracelet on your wrist as a reminder of the challenge. Every time you complain or criticize, put the bracelet on your other wrist. At the end of the day, write down how many times you have done this. The next day, try to reduce this amount.

6. Laugh More Often.

It doesn’t matter if you giggle, scream, or laugh to tears, look for funny and humorous moments throughout the day. Pay attention to how your mood improves in a month and stress levels decrease.

7. Get Rid Of Clothes That You Don’t Wear or Things That You Don’t Like.

Don’t be afraid to throw away unnecessary things. Most of us should learn this skill. Free your closet, bedside table, room, or apartment. Old things will leave old thoughts and maybe memories. This will be a powerful step towards a new family life.

8. Read Books.

Reading with children is not only good for the brain but it also helps unite your family. More than 82% of children name their parents as the people who inspired them to read. Present books, help children choose them, try audio and electronic formats, read at night.

9. Take One Photo Every Day.

Using your smartphone, take one original photo every day, edit, and share it on social networks. You can select a specific topic for this challenge. Sort photos by theme or emotion such as love, dating, kindness, nature, or color. It will leave pleasant memories for life.

Three Expositions on “The Fox and The Lion”

Three Expositions on The Fox and The Lion

The “Fox and the Lion” from Aesop’s Fables:

When first the Fox saw the Lion he was terribly frightened, and ran away and hid himself in the wood. Next time however he came near the King of Beasts he stopped at a safe distance and watched him pass by. The third time they came near one another the Fox went straight up to the Lion and passed the time of day with him, asking him how his family were, and when he should have the pleasure of seeing him again; then turning his tail, he parted from the Lion without much ceremony.

From Chapter XVIII “Concerning The Way In Which Princes Should Keep Faith” in Niccolo Machiavelli‘s The Prince:

A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer. If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them. Nor will there ever be wanting to a prince legitimate reasons to excuse this nonobservance.

From Marcus Tullius Cicero‘s De Officiis (On Duties or On Obligations):

But let us remember that we must have regard for justice even towards the humblest. Now the humblest station and the poorest fortune are those of slaves; and they give us no bad rule who bid us treat our slaves as we should our employees: they must be required to work; they must be given their dues. While wrong may be done, then, in either of two ways, that is, by force or by fraud, both are bestial: fraud seems to belong to the cunning fox, force to the lion; both are wholly unworthy of man, but fraud is the more contemptible. But of all forms of injustice, none is more flagrant than that of the hypocrite who, at the very moment when he is most false, makes it his business to appear virtuous. This must conclude our discussion of justice.

Warren Buffett on Time Management: “All You Need Is … Time”

Warren Buffett on Time Management: Warren Buffett once said on time management, “The rich invest in time; the poor invest in money.”

Buffett is currently the fourth richest men in the world. He can buy practically anything he wants to, and more than nearly everyone else could ever dream of.

Nevertheless there’s one thing that even Warren Buffett cannot buy, and that is time.

Here’s a brief transcript from a Charlie Rose interview:

Warren Buffett: I mean I can buy anything I want basically, but I can’t buy time.

Charlie Rose: And so to have time is the most precious thing you can have?

Warren Buffett: Yes, I better be careful with it. There is no way I will be able to buy more time.

Warren Buffett's Interview with Charlie Rose (Time Management) Charlie Rose: And living in Omaha makes that easy?

Warren Buffett: That makes it a lot easier. I, for 50 whatever, well for 54 years I spent five minutes going each way now. Just imagine that was a half an hour each way. You know. I know the words to a lot more songs and that’s about it.

Charlie Rose: It adds up. Doesn’t it?

Warren Buffett: It really adds up. Now if you’re doing an hour a day difference coming and going that’s two and a half percent of the person’s work week. That means 40 years you’re talking about a year.

An undisciplined mind will find every reason to do what should not be done and every excuse not to do what should be done. Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Ira Glass Time Management Technique

This American Life‘s Ira Glass talks with Lifehacker about how he works. When asked what his best time-saving shortcut or life hack was, he responded:

I’ve got nothing. Reading other people’s answers to this question on your website today made me realize I live my life like an ape. I eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.

Though come to think of it, I guess my biggest life hack—and this is the very first time I’ve attempted to use the phrase “life hack” in a sentence—is that my wife and I decided to live just a few blocks from where I work. We did this because of our dog. Since I spend at least an hour every night walking the dog, I didn’t want to spend another 60 or 90 minutes a day commuting. I don’t have the time. Like lots of people, I work long hours.

The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

Described as a “world poet,” Rabindranath Tagore is considered a mystifying ecumenical figure and an archetype of human creative possibility. Rabindranath Tagore bestowed the title of ‘Mahatma’ (“Great Soul”) on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1915. Mahatma Gandhi called Tagore Gurudev (“Revered Master”) and he attained a certain classicality. Tagore’s literary works have universal appeal and that illuminates his complexity and “myriad-mindedness.”

Nevertheless, experts have said that although Tagore admired Gandhi, he differed with him on specific issues.

The Controversial Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

“Tagore admired Mahatma Gandhi immensely and expressed his admiration for his leadership time and again, but sharply differed with him when Gandhi was departing from adequate reasoning,” Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen once said.

After the Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1934, Gandhi credited the disaster to the custom of untouchability among Biharis. Gandhi had said the earthquake was “a divine chastisement for the great sin we have committed against those whom we describe as Harijans”.

Although Tagore was against untouchability, he found this line of reasoning on Gandhi’s part unfounded and irrational.

Apparantly, Tagore shot off a refutation on rationalist lines, with a appeal for it to be published in Gandhi’s periodical, Harijan. The correspondence expressed “painful surprise” at “this kind of unscientific view of things”. It was plainly erroneous, Gurudev argued, to “associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena”:

In the Harijan issue of 16 February, 1934, Tagore wrote his article The Bihar Earthquake to which Gandhi wrote his rejoinder Superstitions vs. Faith (pp. 115-121). Tagore considered Gandhi’s view that untouchability had brought down God’s vengeance upon certain parts of Bihar in the form of an earthquake as ‘unfortunate’, ‘unscientific’ and “too readily accepted by a large section of countrymen” (pp. 115): “If we associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena, we shall have to admit that human nature is superior to Providence that preaches its lessons in good in orgies of the worst behaviour possible” (p.116). This amounts to “making indiscriminate examples of casual victims…in order to impress other at a safe distance who possibly deserve severer condemnation” (p 116). He felt the kind of argument that Gandhi used by exploiting an event of cosmic disturbance far better suited the psychology of his opponents than his own; and, “We, who are immensely grateful to Mahatmaji for inducing, by his wonderworking inspiration, freedom from fear and feebleness in the minds of his countrymen, feel profoundly hurt when any words from his mouth may emphasize the elements of unreason in those very minds — unreason which is a source of all blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect”. (p117).

Differences of Opinion between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

To this, Gandhi had replied that he felt phenomena like droughts, floods, earthquakes et cetera, though they seem to have only physical origins, are somehow connected with man’s morality.

Gandhi replied by saying that he long believed phenomena produce results both physical and spiritual; and, “The converse I hold to be equally true … We do not know all the laws of God nor their working… I believe literally that not a leaf moves but by His will. Every breath I take depends upon His sufferance …. what appears to us as catastrophes are so only because we do not know the universal laws sufficiently … (catastrophic) visitations… though they seem to have only physical origins are, for me, somehow connected with man’s morals … My belief is a call to repentence and self-purification … even as I cannot help believing in God though I am unable to prove His existence to the sceptics, in like manner, I cannot prove the connection of the sin of untouchability with the Bihar visitation even though the connection is instinctively felt by me” (pp.118-l20). And the utilitarian then spoke and bared himself thus, “If my belief turns out to be ill-founded, it will still have done good to me and those who believe with me. For we shall have been spurred to more vigorous efforts towards self-purification…” (p.120). And answering Tagore’s stinging comment that “our own sins and errors, however enormous, have not got enough force to drag down the structure of creation to ruins” (p. 117), he said, “On the contrary I have the faith that our own sins have more force to ruin that structure than any mere physical phenomenon” (p, 120), And he concluded, ” …the connection between cosmic phenomena and human behaviour is a living faith that draws me nearer to my God, humbles me and makes me readier for facing Him”. Gandhi, in arguing thus, is proved one who must maximise utility and make use of every circumstance to forward ends he considers desirable. And his conviction about his belief obliterates from consciousness any apparent factual inconsistencies that his system of faith has with a physical phenomena as ordinarily understood. Both, in their own way, are relevant and unimpeachable.

John Stuart Mill on Limitations to Individual Freedom

John Stuart Mill, English political philosopher and economist

The English political philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill stated that individual freedoms should only be limited to prevent harm to others. Mill wrote, “Over one’s mind and over one’s body the individual is sovereign.”

Philosopher and statesman John Stuart Mill (1806-73) published On Liberty in 1859 as part of his theory of utilitarianism. While Mill’s later Utilitarianism (1861-63) states that the right thing to do is what promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people, On Liberty delineates the appropriate limitations of a government in enforcing this principle. Mill argues that politics is necessarily a struggle between liberty (maximizing personal freedom) and authority (maximizing safety). Too much emphasis upon the former produces anarchy, while too much of the latter results in tyranny. The balance between these two extremes is struck by following the harm principle: liberty to pursue one’s own happiness is a fundamental good for all human beings and can only be infringed upon if the exercise of one’s liberty harms other persons.

'On Liberty' by John Stuart Mill (ISBN 0486421309) A state is not justified in making paternalistic laws that restrict citizens’ freedoms for their own good. For example, while the state can ban drink driving because it harms others, it should not outlaw alcohol simply because the drug might harm its user. If the state is to err, it should do so on the side of liberty rather than authority. Mill argues that three types of liberty should always be protected by a just state:

  1. freedom of consciousness, including beliefs and speech
  2. freedom of tastes and pursuits
  3. the freedom to unite for any noninjurious purpose.

On Liberty is one of the most important treatises in the history of political philosophy. The harm principle is a cornerstone of liberal democracy and continues to be used by both lawmakers and political theorists.

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari on the Judgement of Angry Men

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari on the Judgement of Angry MenChakravarti Rajagopalachari was the Governor General of India from 1948 to 1950 and one of the principal leaders in India’s fight for independence from the British. Widely known as Rajaji, Rajagopalachari joined Mahatma Gandhi in the anti-British movement in 1919. An enthusiastic supporter of his Satyagraha passive resistance tactic, Rajagopalachari was imprisoned five times in the years leading to India’s freedom. He departed briefly with the pro-independence Congress party of Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1942, saying it took unjust advantage of Britain’s fixation with World War II. In 1959, he left the dominant Congress party for good and coordinated his own Swatantra Party founded on the notions of free enterprise and reduced state control.

Rajagopalachari’s daughter Lakshmi wedded Gandhi’s son, Devadas, in an inter-caste marriage which caused both parents some concern. So close did Rajagopalachari and Gandhi become that, until Gandhi picked the young Jawarharlal Nehru as his successor, Rajagopalachari was regarded broadly as his political heir apparent.

Rajagopalachari had an enormously refined intelligence, astoundingly widely versed in both Indian and Western culture. He was a superb craftsman of English prose. Among his many writings, one might single out his Tamil versions, translated into English, of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Because of the Rajagopalachari’s questioning spirit, Gandhi referred to Rajaji as his “conscience-keeper” on the eve of his 21-day fast in May 1933.

Rajagopalachari as Madras State Chief Minister

As Madras State Chief Minister between 1952 and 1954, Rajagopalachari launched an unusual new educational scheme in 1953. He called it the “Modified System of Elementary Education” and reduced schooling for elementary school students to three hours per day with students expected to learn the family vocation at home during the remainder of the day. The plan came in for sharp criticism and evoked strong protests from the Dravidian parties. Scholar Thanjai Nalankilli writes,

Madras State Chief Minister Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) brought forth a new educational scheme in 1953. According to this scheme, students went to school only for half-a-day and the rest of the day they learned what their parents did. It came as a shock to many non-Brahmin leaders. There were disproportionately far too many Brahmins in white-collar jobs from clerks to chief executive officers to judges to teachers to professors. In contrast there were far more farmers and low-wage blue-collar workers among non-Brahmin castes. According to Rajaji’s scheme, most non-Brahmin students would learn such skills as farming, barbering, laundering, shoemaking and other low-wage skills for half-a-day while most Brahmin students would spend half the day on “white collar skills” leading to higher paying white collar jobs which were already dominated by Brahmins for years. Non-Brahmin leaders feared that this would perpetuate the status qua, thus benefiting the Brahmin caste. (Rajaji was a Brahmin.) Some of the critics called the new education scheme “caste-based education” (in Tamil they called it kula vazhi kalvi thittam orkulaththozhil kalvi thittam or kula kalvi thittam). Many non-Brahmin leaders believed that only a full-day education would bring more non-Brahmins into higher-level jobs and uplift their lives. Opposition to Rajaji’s caste-based education scheme grew. Many non-Brahmin leaders and organizations vocally opposed it. Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) played active roles in the opposition.

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari at All India Radio Madras

Rajagopalachari was not an easy political collaborator, so merciless were the moral demands he made both on himself and others; he was no less commanding of his children. He was a man of slight build, always perfectly garbed. In later years, he softened, and his instinctive, aristocratic charm and straightforwardness of manner shone through. His was a far more Indian-based career than those of Gandhi or Nehru. His education was wholly home-based. His first journey outside India was, remarkably, as late as 1962, to visit President John F. Kennedy.

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari on the Judgement of Angry Men

When one carefully studies the career of Rajagopalachari, one vividly realises that there is a very thin line between success and failure in life. From 1941 to 1946, C. R. was one of the most unpopular figures in the political life of the country. In 1942, many of his colleagues cursed him, because his utterances peered them like arrows. The more he tried to placate the Muslim League and the British, the more he hurt his comrades.

For several years, C.R. ploughed a narrow furrow. During that period he was heckled at meetings, bitterly criticised in the press and once or twice mud and tar were thrown at him. Some angry men even questioned his motives. But undaunted, he faced public wrath with equanimity and patience.

In 1941, he passed through Allahabad and I casually met him in a train. I told him that his speeches and statements were being greatly resented by the public. He replied, “It does not mean that they are right and I am wrong. It only shows, they are angry and I am not. The judgement of angry men is not so sound as those who are not angry.” I could not pursue the argument further. He looked meditative and was lost in thought.

Source: Unknown

Pythagoras’s Philosophy of Vegetarianism

Pythagoras Advocating Vegetarianism (c. 1618-30) by Peter Paul Rubens

Vegetarianism is a conscious decision not to eat meat and other animal products.

Vegetarianism is the principled refusal to eat meat. The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras (c. 570-c. 495 BCE), who required members of his philosophical society to abstain from eating meat, is often viewed as the first important vegetarian. Before the word “vegetarian” was coined in the 1840s, non meat-eaters were often called “Pythagoreans.”

What is wrong with eating meat? Vegetarians have offered various criticisms for the practice, contending that eating meat is cruel (often, from the twentieth century onward, citing the methods of industrial meat production), unethical (often citing recent work in practical ethics, particularly by Peter Singer), unhealthy (often citing the fact that vegetarians tend to be less obese and less likely to die from ischemic heart disease), unnatural (often claiming, wrongly, that prehistoric humans subsisted on a vegetarian diet), environmentally unfriendly (often citing the relative inefficiency of meat production), and in conflict with the tenets of religious faith (sometimes citing reincarnation, as with the ancient Pythagoreans and several modern Hindu sects).

There are also different degrees of vegetarianism: for example, ovo vegetarians will eat eggs, lacto vegetarians will eat milk, and ovolacto vegetarians will eat eggs and milk, whereas vegans forego all products derived from animals and fruitarians furthermore forego all plant foods that involve killing the plant, eating only fruits, nuts, and seeds. Vegetarianism is typically associated with a similar refusal to use products derived from animals, such as leather and wool.

The modern vegetarian movement is dated to 1847, when the Vegetarian Society was founded in Great Britain. In Western countries, vegetarianism has been increasing since the 1960s, and due to continuing and intensifying ethical and environmental concerns, it is likely to flourish in the future.

The Death of Confucius

The Death of Confucius

From age 56 to 68, the Chinese philosopher Confucius wandered from state to state hoping that somewhere he could put his political doctrine into practice. During these years he never lost confidence in his cailling as political mentor of the Empire.

At age 57, when he returned to his native state finally, he lamented in a poem that, “men are without insight, quickly the years pass.” He said, despite all his wanderings through nine provinces there was still no goal in sight for him.

Confucius spent his last years peacefully in Lu. He accepted no government position. He seems to have undergone a profound change. A hermit once said of Confucius: “Is that not the man who knows that striving is without hope and yet goes on?” He studied the I Ching, or Book of Changes, so rich in secrets and completed his systematic groundwork for a new mode of education by committing traditions to writing and by instructing a group of young men.

One morning Confucius felt the approach of death. He walked about the courtyard, humming the words: “The great mountain must collapse, the mighty beam must break, and the wise man wither like a plant.”

When an alarmed pupil spoke to him, he said: “No wise ruler arises, and no one in the Empire wishes to make me his teacher. The hour of my death has come.” He lay down and died eight days later at age 73.

“I Must Be Myself” from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

'Self-Reliance and Other Essays' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0486277909) 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) was an American essayist and poet. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson was the fourth child of a Unitarian minister. Throughout his writings, Emerson is keenly concerned with the growth of the individual—the development of the individual’s powers, potentials, and capacities—an emphasis demonstrating that his thought is thoroughly centered on educational concerns.

Emerson was one of his era’s leading liberals. His prime meaning in any case is self-reliance intellectually and in everyday life. He urges us to trust ourselves, to recognize human divinity and avoid imitation. It is a simple message but all-important – and far easier said than done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance may be a short essay, but it is packed with advice which is probably more relevant today than it has ever been. At only 30 pages, Self-Reliance has the qualities of a concentrate, perhaps the very essence of personal development. Self-Reliance was one of the key pieces of writing which helped carve the ethic of American individualism, and forms part of the intellectual bedrock of today’s self-help writers. Relish what really matters in your life; the simple things like your friends and family, your hobbies and perhaps your work. Enjoy the freedoms you have and recognise the value of living a normal life outside of the public eye.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-reliance is one of the major writing that helped carve the ethnic American individualism and form the intellectual basis of today’s writers. The thought of self-reliance inspires people not to conform to social conventions but to rely on themselves. When you are working on your next task, give it your full concentration and really put the effort in to produce the best possible end result. Even if it doesn’t lead to glittering success, you should be proud of yourself for doing your very best.

Emerson’s essay begins by reconstructing volving theory of recognition and the central role it played for his concept of ‘self-reliance.’ Initially having adopted the theorizations of recognition developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, Emerson came to articulate the idea of self-reliance by way of developing an alternative approach to recognition, in which the source allocating recognition is neither society nor an inborn moral sense, but rather the transcendentally conceptualized self. Emerson’s shift towards self-recognition poses questions seldom asked in the contemporary debate on recognition.

“… Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be chaste husband of one wife,—but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs.

I must be myself.

I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.”

Full essay is here. Emerson wrote Self-Reliance in 1841—well over 160 years ago—and I believe it provides both a delightful antidote for the times in which we live and also holds up an ideal with which to guide us. Self-reliance—the ability to stand on our own two feet and live a life which is our own and not borrowed from someone else, or one which is meaningful and not superficial—is indispensable in instituting our own exclusive identity. So if, like me, you think self-reliance is important, read on.

“A man,” Emerson writes, “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” There is a certain ambiguity in this statement concerning the question of whether social approbation is categorically distinct from the “grace with the loftier deities” or linked to it by inversion. One also notices Emerson’s rhetorically combining Roman polytheism with Protestant grace, the distinction between lesser and loftier deities amounting to a kind of Protestant doctrine of two kingdoms in which two different economies of recognition are at work. Find somewhere you can think and reflect. It might be the public library or the bottom of your garden. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you spend some time thinking and don’t forget to take a notebook to jot down your thoughts. Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first.

The great philosopher of affirmation is concurrently the great teacher of dissatisfaction, even disappointment. In each of us, the energies of hope should make room for the emotion of philosophical acceptance of the world, as it must be. If you want to feel at peace go for a walk in the countryside and learn to appreciate your surroundings. Better still, do some sport as this releases serotonin which is so critical to the feeling of well-being. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a new car to make yourself feel happy; just go for a run.

Having established these fundamental dimensions of Emerson’s theory of inspiration, it is crucial to see that Emerson’s praxis of eloquence was geared at putting inspiration into effect. This he attempted to achieve by activating the reader’s imagination.

Quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.”
  • “It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.”
  • “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions.”
  • “You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers.”
  • “In this pleasing contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt it, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects.”
  • “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.”
  • 'The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0679783229) “We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”
  • “And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
  • “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
  • “Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent.”
  • “Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.”
  • “In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations.”
  • “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”
  • “Life only avails, not the having lived.”
  • “Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.”
  • “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”
  • “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
  • “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
  • “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”
  • “Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it,—else it is none”
  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”
  • “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
  • “There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.”
  • “I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.”
  • “If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.”
  • “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
  • “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
  • “Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places.”
  • “The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”3/29/2016
  • “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
  • “Character teaches above our wills.”