Guest Column: The Philosophy of Life


Kristin Cowden

Why are we here? Who are we? What is our purpose? These are some commonly asked questioned by philosophers, all the way from 1000 B.C and perhaps even further. A philosophy of life is an overall vision or attitude toward life and the purpose of it. Most philosopher’s goal in life is knowledge, but knowledge is not necessarily power but rather as Socrates put it; “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.

One common theme among philosophers is the ethics of life. For example, according to, “Plato maintains a virtue-based eudemonistic conception of ethics.” Eudaimonia, in Aristotelian ethics, means the condition of human flourishing or living well. Aristotle’s main goal was to live happily and achieve Eudaimonia. To achieve Eudaimonia, you must dedicate your life to being a good human being. For Aristotle, this meant wisdom, courage, good humor, kindness, and more. This also takes us to moral behavior, or Aristotle’s Golden Mean. Moral behavior is the mean between two extremes- at one end is excess and the other is deficiency. If you find a middle ground between the two, you will have achieved moral behavior. Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher in the 4th century, believed that naturalness and freedom from social desires is the way to achieve the ultimate order of things and the ultimate basis of reality. This goes into the 4 beliefs of Taoism; simplicity, patience, compassion, and harmony.

According to Plato, the meaning of life is gained from attaining the highest form of knowledge, and the idea of good is derived from utility and value. However, in Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics” (1.1,) he states that ‘‘Every skill and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice of action, is thought to have some good as its object. This is why the good has rightly been defined as the object of all endeavor […]” Everything is done with a goal, and that goal is “good.” Confucian recognizes human nature as a need for discipline and education. This is because humankind is often driven by positive and negative influences, and Confucian saw a need in achieving virtue through strong relationships. However, the 3 questions why are we here, who are we, and what is our purpose, can be answered through religious views and cultural views, and not just Eastern/Western Philosophical views.

In Phaedo written by Plato, Socrates argued that external senses don’t bring us closer together. This is because humans thrive on the idea of ideas, so the

The question that came from Socrates was: what will be the ideas of humankind? Many things can influence an idea, such as religion, culture, environment, etc. But what is possible, and what is not? Perhaps a better question would be what is real and what is not? Western philosophy addresses reality as two aspects: the nature of reality itself and the relationship between reality and the mind. The view that there is a reality independent of any beliefs is called realism. In eastern philosophy, however, oneself is often treated as an illusion. That means that the idea of people are separate entities and the world is not considered a thought. Although Socrates thought of humankind as limited and not capable of reaching truth, he believed humankind had immense capability of attaining good.

In conclusion, the answers to why we are here, what our purpose is, and who we are is something for you to decide. Perhaps only the inescapable hands of death will tell us on the other side, or perhaps there is no other side, and we will never know. To achieve absolute purity and goodness, as well as the comprehension of reality and the reality of nothing is something we may not ever achieve. So, who are we? What is our purpose? Why are we here? We already have the answers, it is just about perception and knowledge, and that there is the philosophy of life.