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Why Philosophy is Necessary In Our Lives: Part I - Virtues

Why do we decide to be good people? Is it out of fear for some kind of reproach, a need to be liked, or a genuine desire to be kind to others? Why do we demonstrate empathy? Is it to get something in return or to sincerely employ compassion? Why do we do things we don’t want to do only to prove a point to ourselves or to others? There are reasons behind this.

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There’s a distinction to be made between self-serving behaviour and a genuine desire to do something for a deeper reason, just as there’s a distinction to be made between succumbing to fear versus overcoming it, being honest to yourself rather than living in illusion, being respectful or patience rather than not, etc.

Virtue is a philosophical concept that many philosophers have furiously wrestled with and it’s something that trickles into our every day thought as well, albeit on a less-existential level. It has an inherent sense of morality entwined into its definition. There’s an importance that lies behind understanding and developing our sense of virtue, as well as our set of virtues, an importance that may only reveal itself when we have a life-changing experience or are looking back on how we chose to live our lives.

Humility, self-discipline, respect, compassion, empathy, courage, kindness, patience, temperance, pride, wit, generosity, justice, loyalty, forgiveness, authenticity, commitment, integrity — the list can and does go on. But why are these important qualities to own or practice?

It may go against our financial well being if we’re too generous or empathetic with our money; it may be more satisfying in the moment to not forgive, to not practice temperance, to avoid measures of self-discipline. Outside of that immediate moment, however, a different set of characteristics may be desired, once we begin to truly comprehend our self-image and the legacy we’re going to leave behind or the way in which we’ve impacted the lives of others.

Ultimately, there may be no answer gleamed — at least on the surface anyway. Practicing philosophy demands only that we contemplate these matters, not arrive at a particular destination. That we even ask these questions, and make these distinctions on an individual level is the important part. With enough thought, an answer will inevitably be attained; the trick is only to get a spark of contemplation going in the first place.