Let's face it - while we might have lofty goals for ourselves, life presents us with a million ways to get sidetracked from personal development. We are busy. There are pressures, responsibilities, distractions, entertainment, inertia. To meet the demands of life, we often adopt a default way of operating in the world that is based more on habit, or on our upbringing, than on our best intentions.
The word hexis in ancient Greek means an active condition of moral virtue. Hexis is a kind of striving or working to overcome our passive habituation by strength of character or condition of the soul.
We need hexis if we are ever to become better people than we are today, if we don't want to be overcome by the inertia of habit and inaction in our lives. Here are 20 hexis inspiring quotes by some of the world's greatest minds on becoming good:
Are our opinions really our own? How would we really know if they weren't? Consider this quote by Edward Bernays from his 1928 book Propaganda. Bernays, who is considered the father of public relations, combined social science and psychological manipulation techniques to create a sophisticated framework for influencing public communication:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society…We are governed, our minds moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is the logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised.”
If you have read the first and second posts in this series, you'll know that I am skeptical about news media, partly because I believe that there are two giant, glaring problems with the quality of media in the West.
News is increasingly taking the form of yellow journalism, that is, it is being presented in a way that is dumbing us down. Even more troubling, news is often thinly veiled propaganda masquerading as news - intended to mold public opinion or manufacture consent.
Mark Twain said it best when he spoke to the conundrum of news consumption. He suggested that avoiding the news altogether leaves us uninformed, but that consuming news inevitably misinforms us at least some of the time. What can we do about this massive problem, short of avoiding news altogether? Here are 5 remedies to avoid being dumbed down and manipulated by the mainstream media:
Do we have an obligation to be good, community minded citizens and to act accordingly? The simple answer is yes, but the full answer is more complicated, so please bear with me for a second.
I received some mildly critical feedback on my most recent post: 4 Pieces of Stoic Wisdom For Dealing With Negative News Media. (Nothing too harsh of course - this blog has polite readers!) The objections are with my suggestion that we should tune out news media entirely or almost entirely if we want equanimity. Those who commented, argued that Stoics (and presumably non-Stoics) have a duty to act socially and politically, and that ignoring the news smacks of self-interested isolation in the Epicurean Garden.
So, what is the problem with staying informed via news media, you ask? Isn't that what we are supposed to do in a democracy? There are two parts to this question which warrant a response. First, there is the problem of social and political action, ostensibly based on the information we get via media. In other words, what should we "do about," current issues? Second, there is the problem of the information itself - with the quality and manipulation of news and mass media - which I will go on to address in another post.
Do social and political actions really have any effect? Can taking such actions be harmful? Do we have a duty to stay informed? Well yes...and no. It all boils down to the question of what do you plan on doing with the information you get from the news. There are certainly more and less ethical and effective ways to create a better community and a better world, so I have also included some helpful suggestions at the end of the post:
News headlines, predominantly negative and sensational, dominate our lives. We are barraged with news information 24/7 through our smart phones, social media, TV, websites, papers, and magazines. What is the consumption of news media doing to our brain and our outlook on life? Should we choose to avoid the news altogether?
It’s is not a new question to be asking. 2000 years ago, the Roman Stoic philosopher Musonius Rufus questioned the effects that negative forms of socialization have in our lives. We, as philosophers, should not worry about the things that most people do as a result of their constant consumption of news media.
“How could we acquire courage if we had merely learned that the things which seem dreadful to the average person are not to be feared, but had no experience in showing courage in the face of such things?” he asks.
You too can exercise the Stoics' ancient brand of philosophical wisdom and not get upset about events in the news. Terrorism? A shooting? Crisis? Corrupt Politicians? Freedom from these concerns can be yours via these 4 important realizations:
It's election season, so you may need these polite catch phrases to use if a political debate turns sour:
“I think you have a made a good point, but I feel… “
“I agree that x is y, but please consider my point that…”
“I respect what you are saying.”
“I have heard you out. Would you kindly allow me to speak without interruption?”
“I think we are getting off topic here. You have made a good point but x is a separate issue from what I am saying.”
...from my most recent post on Brainfodder.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, and constitutionalist.
Cicero lead by the example of his life, and by all accounts he was ethical, moderate, and constantly strove to better himself and gain knowledge. Like other Romans, he believed that we all have a duty to society, and he took his personal and civic responsibilities seriously.
Consequently he set a great example of maturity and personal growth, and his advice is worth taking seriously today. I have gathered some of his best quotes into the post below. You can be sure that regardless of your age, you lack maturity if you do these 5 things:
A guest post by Winton Bates of Freedom and Flourishing:
It seems to me that the view that a happy life is just about pleasant experiences is a fantasy. I’m not saying that it is not desirable to have a life full of pleasant experiences, just that a happy life involves more than that.
In his famous thought experiment, Robert Nozick asked readers to imagine an experience machine that would give them any experience they desired. They would be able to select experiences from a large library and the machine would be pre-programmed to give them those experiences while they spent the rest of their lives floating in a tank (‘Anarchy, State and Utopia’, 1971, pp 42-44).
Would you choose to spend the rest of your life hooked up to such a machine?
We all want to be happy. But could it be that we have our understanding of happiness all wrong? The general definition of happiness is philosophically unsophisticated. It pretty much boils down to the ongoing experience of positive emotions and a lack of negative ones. Life is about more than just moving yourself around, spending money and enjoying your next fix. Is our unphilosophical (and perhaps incomplete) understanding of happiness why so many of us are miserable according to mental health statistics?
Is there a missing moral component at the root of happiness? The ancient Greeks definitely thought so, and it turns out that genomic research conducted by Barbara Frederickson, which Winton Bates writes about at his excellent blog Freedom and Flourishing, indicates that we may be biologically wired for what they called eudaimonia (from daimon, or true nature). Differing from hedonism (pleasure or self gratification), eudaimonia is often translated as flourishing or living well, with a sense of noble purpose, virtue, and connection to others.
In other words, real happiness is impossible without virtue - or arete in ancient Greek. Arete means excellent character, or reaching your highest human potential. Eudaimonia not only protects our physical and mental health at the cellular level, it may lead to a long term, more profound sense of well being.
So what do we do if we want to experience eudaimonia? How do we reach our highest potential?
There are 3 concrete steps that you can take to be happy in the ancient Greek sense. First, you must acknowledge that virtue is necessary for happiness. Eudaimonia is about more than just feeling good, it is about becoming the best person that you can be. Second, you must do the inner work that is necessary to truly "know yourself," as Socrates said when he quoted the Delphic Oracle. And finally, you must take action and apply your unique talents and gifts in life for the good of yourself and others.
STOICON is an annual meeting of people interested in exploring Stoicism as a philosophy of life. It is part of a series of public activities related to Stoicism, centered around the Stoicism Today and Stoic Week initiatives.
This is the first time the event has been held in the US. The conference will take place in New York City on October 15, 2016. The 2016 edition of STOICON is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy of the City University of New York and the K.D. Irani Fund for philosophy.
For more information about STOICON 2016, click here.
Registration and tickets, click here.
Growing in Goodness
Welcome! If you are new here you may want to subscribe by RSS or email:
Most Popular Blog Posts:
4 Pieces of Stoic Wisdom for Dealing With Negative News Media
Personal Growth Resources:
Use this in-depth questionnaire to learn more about your faults and subconscious motivations.
Common Sense Ethics At A Glance: