Ancient and Modern Philosophers

by Ron Potter

I’m a big fan of Biblical teachings, ancient philosophers and adages.  All for the same general reason, they each speak of truth and frameworks.  Most of my ancient philosopher exposure is through Aristotle.  To me, he provides frameworks that help me view the world from a certain perspective.

Frameworks are important to our brain because it is either lazy or doesn’t have enough capacity to process all the information it’s receiving every day—probably some of both.

By using frameworks, we can help ourselves and others gain a perspective on the world around us that helps us cope and move forward.

Aristotle was a student of Plato and Socrates.  But these guys lived around 2,500 years ago.  I began to wonder, where have all the philosophers gone or why have we not had one in 2,500 years?

But then I was listening to a Billy Joel song and realized that I had not been looking in the right places for philosophers.

Now with the wisdom of years, I try to reason things out
and the only people I fear are those who never have doubts.
Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they’re for.
I won’t be righteous again.
I’m not that sure anymore.

“Shades of Gray”


And take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s all right; you can afford to lose a day or two
And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You’re gonna kick off before you even get half through


Let’s take a line from each of these songs and think about what Billy is saying:

“The only people I fear are those who never have doubts.”
“You can get what you want, or you can just get old.”

Why would a person never have doubts?  They must be so sure of they’re view of the world (or situation) that doubt never creeps into their thinking, evaluation or decision making.  As Billy says, that’s someone to fear!  They just can’t accept that someone would have a different perspective that might be valid.  Jordan Peterson’s Rule No. 9 from his book, “12 Rules of Life” says “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”  Someone who has no doubts is not likely to assume someone else knows what they’re talking about unless that someone else agrees with them.  That’s scary!

In the second song, Billy is not talking about being selfish.  In fact quite the opposite.  He was writing words about being useful, doing meaningful work, maintaining dignity instead of just growing old and doing nothing.  What state is your life today?  Are you just growing old or are you doing meaningful things?  This is not about being old, it’s about growing old.  Everyone one of us is growing old from the start.  Do something meaningful.  It’s a lot more fun.

And then there is my favorite modern day philosopher, George Carlin.  During one of his comedy routines, he said,

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

If people are not going at the same speed as you, they’re either an idiot or a maniac.  If you think about that a minute you realize two things:

  1. You’re either an idiot or a maniac to everyone else around you.
  2. You’ll only be exposed to idiots and maniac because you never see the person going at the same pace as you.  You’ll never pass them, and they’ll never pass you.  You’ll never be exposed to “normal.”

Pay attention to philosophers, both ancient and modern.  They have a wonderful way of observing the world.

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