The way to a happy life was studied by philosophers from ancient times. Alain De Botton’s programs united in the series “Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness” present and discuss the views of different philosophers on various aspects of this subject. Comparing the perspectives of the thinkers, it is possible to state that, despite differences in views, their main goal was to explain people a possible path to happiness. Although the theories by Socrates, Epicurus, and Michel de Montaigne are different in their basic ideas, these philosophers regarded freedom from other people’s views as one of the key components of a happy life.
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The main idea proclaimed by Socrates was that people should think logically in order not to be led by other people’s false views. According to Socrates, it is important “to stop following opinions passively” (“01 – Socrates on Self-Confidence”). In this context, Socrates viewed one of the approaches to achieving happiness in demonstrating self-confidence and courage of opposing other people’s opinions. Therefore, people need to use their minds not to follow the crowd, and courage is in opposing many persons and believing in one’s truth. This idea of freedom from other people’s views was also mentioned by Epicurus, who identified this type of freedom as one of his three elements of a happy life. De Montaigne also accentuated the importance of being independent of other people’s views on appearance, for example.
Epicurus’s key idea was that people should live to achieve happiness, and it meant pursuing pleasures. According to Epicurus, “pleasure is the most important thing in life” (“02 – Epicurus on Happiness”). It is possible to agree with the philosopher that people often try to find pleasure and happiness in the wrong places: stores and markets, where it is possible to spend money. This path does not lead to happiness but frustration, and happiness is in friends, freedom, and analysis or reflection. These views are partially similar to the theory by de Montaigne, who spent much of his time reflecting on his living. Furthermore, he also proposed opposing people’s views on someone’s body or appearance to avoid being ashamed of oneself. Epicurus’s interest in thought, analysis, and reflection is also correlated with Socrates’s focus on the mind and thinking.
In contrast to the other two philosophers, de Montaigne did not view the mind as a source of happiness. On the contrary, the mind is a source of frustration for people because they analyze their body, appearance, thoughts, and become feeling dissatisfied (“04 – Montaigne on Self-Esteem”). The reason is that they want to fit some people’s norms, but they cannot do that. As a result, people need to try to oppose ideas and norms spread by other individuals to feel happy and satisfied. In this context, the views by de Montaigne are correlated with Epicurus’s view of freedom: the importance of gaining “independence from other people’s thought” (“02 – Epicurus on Happiness”). They are also similar to Socrates’s view on the responsibility to follow and protect personal visions and positions.
At first sight, the philosophical views of Socrates, Epicurus, and Michel de Montaigne are rather different despite their focus on happiness. On the other hand, the philosophers proclaimed similar ideas: the importance of focusing on oneself instead of other people’s views and demonstrating freedom and independence in ideas. Thus, these thinkers identified the achieved independence from other individuals’ thoughts as one of the key steps to happiness. It is almost impossible to disagree with them because people’s views can influence one’s image and self-esteem significantly, leading to frustration rather than happiness.
“01 – Socrates on Self-Confidence – Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness.” YouTube, uploaded by Spookybuk, 2012, Web.
“02 – Epicurus on Happiness – Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness.” YouTube, uploaded by Spookybuk, 2012, Web.
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“04 – Montaigne on Self-Esteem – Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness.” YouTube, uploaded by Spookybuk, 2012, Web.