Not sure anyone actually carries business cards any longer. I haven’t used one for 20 years, but if I did, pretty sure it would list my occupation as Scientist Philosopher. That label might rankle highly educated readers, since I’ve earned the same number of college degrees as your cousins Pookie, Scooter, and Ray-Ray. But kidding aside, the synergy of science and philosophy in the process of manifesting prosperity is an intriguing proposition to explore. Let’s continue the discussion we began with this post about self-examination and continued with this post on how philosophy helps us do that. In those two essays I make the case that we study philosophy to know how to best study ourselves. And more importantly, that a life without self-examination is a life never fully developed.
Some people wanted to argue with me about some of the points shared in those posts. But the purpose of those essays wasn’t to generate agreement but provoke thought and debate – as both philosophy and self-examination are designed to do. You shouldn’t study philosophy for the sake of discovering conclusive answers, because the great philosophical questions don’t have conclusive answers. Instead of seeking answers, seek better questions. Questions which nurture your curiosity, enlarge the window through which you see the world, and expand the possibilities you envision through that window.
Think about the great books that shock society and created controversy at their birth and remain influential today. For me, Atlas Shrugged was the single most impactful book I’ve ever read. The reason it impacted me so strongly was it opened my mind to the possibility of living by a congruent personal philosophy.
I believe people who argue about the validity of the philosophy of Objectivism, or the human failings of Ayn Rand are completely missing the point. (These are the same people who get an invitation to an orgy and complain about the guacamole dip.) You don’t have to agree with Rand’s philosophy or live your life the way she chose to live hers. But if you read the book and do any critical thinking about what your own philosophy is, and how you live your life – Rand has achieved a noble goal, and you have benefited greatly because she did.
The intriguing element in all this is that “Atlas” is a fictional novel...
Imagine my delight when I was listening to this conversation between Yuval Harari and Tim Ferriss and they suggest that 1984, Brave New World and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – all works of fiction – are essentially textbooks of philosophy. Their assessment is true because the greatest works of philosophy are not asking the central question of the meaning of life, but instead, are probing the daily dilemmas of how we find our way in life.
The most impactful book I’ve read recently was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, another fictional novel, the first by poet Ocean Vuong. It took me weeks to finish it because the emotional overloads I was experiencing would frequently force me to set it aside and process my thoughts for a while. (Full disclosure: This book is a love letter from a gay son to the single mother who raised him, with an undercurrent of addiction, one of my personal demons. That likely made the book more emotional for me; your mileage may vary.) By the time I reached the last 30 pages, I had to tease them out, the way you save that last spoonful of crème brûlée, stretching out the taste sensation as long as it can possibly linger. In the end, the book did what any great philosophy textbook should: caused me to contemplate on how I live my life.
He’ll probably spit out his coffee when he reads this, but I view author Steven Pressfield as one of the great philosophers of our time. His epic sagas on the brutality of war, soul of combat, and journey of the artist, are indeed MRIs and CT scans: revealing the thought processes of some fascinating humans – real and imagined – as they try to find their way in the world. (Order his upcoming book now or you’re going to want to stick your head in the oven later.) And what is Coelho’s mystical story of Santiago the Andalusian shepherd boy, if not a philosophical exploration?
With their mad genius, these great storytellers do the same work as the academic philosophers, albeit using different methods. Instead of leading us through thought experiments, they write books which are thought experiments in and of themselves. And like all great philosophers, they don’t seek to teach us the answers, but hypnotize us into asking better questions.
How do we live and grow, love and learn, suffer and prevail? Why does it matter? How can we rescue each other without losing sight of who we are individually?
I believe philosophy is sometimes called the "science of sciences" because essentially, it’s the self-examination of all sciences. Think of philosophy as the mother source or First Principle, the foundation from which all other sciences draw their methodological principles. This is demonstrated by the amalgamation of philosophy and physics in the classic works of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. You’ll discover the same dynamic in the deep thinkers of today. According to Wikipedia, Nassim Taleb is a scholar, essayist, and mathematical statistician. But for my money, he’s a sage (if a little ornery), philosopher-scientist. Two of today’s most successful and intriguing entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Naval Ravikant, at their very essence, are philosopher-scientists. (As are a great deal of the other tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.) Who but a philosopher-scientist would have the cerebral wherewithal to theorize we must become a multi-planetary species? And if there’s ever a monastery built for tech billionaires – bet the rent that Prema Baba Naval will be leading the satsang.
Here’s why I believe it is the pairing of science with philosophy that creates such magnificent results in producing prosperity…
The basis of science is experimenting and questioning premises. In fact, the whole point of science is to question science. What is the point of philosophy if not to question ourselves? The path to enlightenment is traveled by implementing both science and philosophy into the way we live. Science can teach us that eating chips and drinking diet soda makes us feel lazy and lethargic, while fruits and vegetables help manufacture energy. Just as philosophy can teach us that a life dedicated to receiving more hearts on Instagram is not probable to result in a meaningful existence.
Much as scientists question every hypothesis, humans must question our foundational core beliefs about the areas in our lives that most impact our health and happiness. I divide them in the following six categories.
How much self-examination have you really done on your beliefs in these six areas? (Read how bad beliefs in these areas sabotage your prosperity here.) This is the work that matters. The work that comes while gazing in the mirror, in the process of mindfulness, or the contemplation of meditation. We live in the greatest time in human history. In this exact instant, we are on the precipice of explorations to Mars, genetic engineering, vacations on the moon, ocean-floor real estate development, cloning, asteroid mining, virtual reality, machine learning, and the blockchain.
Imagine turning off all your devices and mindfully pondering how all those things impact you and how you can impact them. Now don’t just imagine it, do it.
This much is certain. If you’re living a small, unexamined life, it’s not the life you were destined to live. True prosperity is attained only by the examination and eventual mastery of self.
The things you get from introspection and evolution are great. But the best reward is who you become.
P.S. Speaking of philosophy, watch for Monday’s episode of the Power Prosperity Podcast. The topic is The 7 Big Prosperity Decisions. Then I will probably do a deeper dive on the subject here in some future posts.