Number 2 - How Philosophy Can Save Your Life. Jules Evans

This week's resource is the above Video (15minutes). Jules Evans talks about how having knowledge of Ancient Philosophy can help you to cope in today's modern society. To aid you with your written reflection I have included a link to one of the best websites I can find which breaks down Philosophy by its authors, topics and time periods. Please ensure you have a look around the website and you could possibly research some of the people Jules talks about and what they are known for:


Benjamin Broadbent said...

BT2015 Apr 26, 2015
So I emailed Jules Evans (The guy in the video!!) and I invited him to read your responses... He actually read them. He is a famous Author in the UK and he took time to read our Newlands College Philosophy Club comments. What a legend. Here is his response

Thanks so much for your email, it made my day. I'm really glad if your students enjoyed the talk, and was very impressed with Lilly and Emily's essays - they have wisdom beyond their years! I wish all the best to you and the Philosophy Club and look forward to reading their books in the future :)


Benjamin Broadbent said...

harveymolloy Apr 27, 2015
Jules reminds us that philosophy can involve mindfulness and reflection: why do we react the way that we do? Who or what is reacting? In a calm state there is a clear space for reflection--you can sense your own consciousness of how you react. But I know that I'm not always like this and at times "I" respond with strong emotions which collapse the space of reflection. So philosophy can be concerned--like psychology--with how we experience our own lives and how we judge and reflect upon our actions. I know that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be very helpful for people including people on the autism spectrum.

Benjamin Broadbent said...

I'm fab
EmilyHollis Apr 23, 2015
When the brain make assumptions, we can prove the lethargy of the human mind generated over thousands of years of striving for a better world, a better life, an easier life. Perhaps the ideology behind success (whatever that may be) or simply contentedness with oneself is loosening that hard-wired bond from our habitual minds and going beyond the short-curcuiting which becomes assumptions of negativity which becomes depression or other mental illnesses. As Jules mentioned, us humans are formed on the basis of habits, and seeing the negativity directed to us (whether that be accurate or not) is ingrained into our minds, and simply stopping to ponder the resultant effect another can have on us is intriguing and what philosophy in this sense is aimed towards.

If only we paused to wonder about our day, and exactly why we feel horrible, fantastic, incomplete, accomplished, whatever; everything has its reason, and connecting with that subconscious 'voice' may well be the answer to at least some of our pessimism in terms of others and their influences. Perhaps the example involving frowning may seem too blatant to be true, but each of us has our triggers and something as petty as someone not looking positive in our vicinity could ruin an euphoria not matter how happy we are. Society is not pleasant to those who struggle, and having a weak mind is likely to cost a chunk of happiness, and later sanity. Removing the lies we place on ourselves about others is essential to live happily; it is cliche, but not caring about how others perceive you is the first step to reducing unfair assumptions we think of ourselves. We are our own worst enemy, even if someone else has sparked that fury inside ourselves. Our beliefs are what create us, not our achievements, mistakes, and certainly not our appearance to others. It is what we choose to believe that solely remakes us, for we are always able to be mended. The mind is very much the most potent tool we possess; using it is what can create wonders.

Honestly, it takes the same amount of effort to make ourselves miserable as it is to make ourselves content. Even thinking of how the other person would feel in their shoes with you shouting insults at them, or being kind to them, can dramatically alter your actions because nobody enjoys put downs. We have enough insulting remarks being commentated in our own minds from ourselves, thanks very much. We hardly need more flooding in from unnecessary external sources and preventing this is what can lead to happiness in the long run. Also, if we choose not to change, guess what happens? You don't change; but everything around you transforms and evolves and keeping up is that pursuit of happiness. In the end, we'll come to realise every time we did something slightly good, or majorly generous, or whatever, we add another piece of courageous karma to our list and ultimately, lead a vivacious and lively life.

'Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die' ~ Buddha

Benjamin Broadbent said...

Kaydens comment.
KaydenBorchowsky Apr 22, 2015
This video shows us just how powerful our brain is and how, sometimes, it can be wrong.
Take the example of walking down the street and seeing someone frowning. We, because of this, then feel sad or mad even though we should not. Our brain jumps to the conclusion that the person was frowning at us and that, for some reason this should make us feel bad. That person might not have been frowning at us, but because its easier to assume that they are, our brain does just that.
This makes me think "How many assumptions do we make everyday?" The answer must be a lot. Just because someone is frowning it doesn't mean they are frowning at me. Sitting here, writing I know this. But in the hustle and bustle of my daily life I don't how I would react. I really do think that I would be mad. "How dare they frown at me" that little voice would say. If I make this assumption, which I believe I have before, how many other do I make?
This reminds me of an episode of "Brain Games" I once watched. I can't remember what the episode was about, but what I do remember was this. They had two cards on a table with faces on them. They then told a volunteer to pick which face on the card they thought was more attractive. After the choice was made the cards were flipped face down and, unbeknown to the volunteer, they were then switched around. They then flipped the cards back up again and asked the same question. The volunteer picked the card on the same side as they did before, even though the face was different to the one they originally picked.
This just goes to show how lazy our brain is, and rather than taking the time to work things out, it just makes assumptions. How many do we make a day? How can this be taken advantage of? How has it already been taken advantage of? All of these are valid questions that I bet your brain, because my brain certainly is, will be too lazy to solve.
Right now I'm happy with all the assumptions I make. Its just so much easier to assume that no one is controlling me right now, making me write this. I'm happy to assume that I have the same face I did yesterday or even five minutes ago. There are so many things that could've changed in the time it took you to read this, how many have you noticed?

Benjamin Broadbent said...

Insert Amazing Title Here.
lilly_zhang Apr 19, 2015
The idea that our mental issues are capable of being solved through philosophy, being a self-reliant method, is one point Jules Evans raises. I believe it’s a valid point that works well in today’s society. It’s our thoughts and feelings that make us feel depressed or self-conscious, is it not? We assume people see the worst in us, and it puts us down. I believe Jules Evans is correct when he quotes we can only control our beliefs. We can choose to believe when people insult us with their worst. We can choose whether to believe the compliments we receive.

Anxiety and depression are common today, are they not? They're all mental issues that affect us physically, just like physical issues can affect us mentally. We treat physical issues with physical aids, why not treat mental issues with mental aids?

It takes events to cause a mental illness. "Men are disturbed not by events, but by their opinion about events." Jules quotes this from Epictetus, and it shows that humanity isn’t jolted by what’s happened, only jolted about what they think about the event. We have opinions drilled into us from childhood, whether it be that we have to care about our appearance, or ideas such as murder is wrong. With these, the majority of us come together and have the same thought, which can bounce all around the world, which is that something is wrong or right. Except for the times we don’t. The times when we feel alone and in despair, that the world is against us and that there’s no way out. That'd be one of the times where we have to rely on ourselves, to save ourselves, because no one else will.

Let's go back to society. We have things we accept, and things we don’t accept. We go as far as death as a punishment, from things as big as murder, to the unchangeable things like our race. The officer in America BELIEVED the teenager was a danger due to his skin colour, so he shot him dead. He believed it was acceptable that he died just because he was different. As a collective group though, we said it was unacceptable. We’re still split between the idea of gay marriage being acceptable due to our beliefs. Some people deny mental illness exists, even after the suicides that have led from it, insist it is a cry for attention, or just a sham, but now, even the British government has recognised it and has put money towards helping it.

The belief thing really stuck with me. What we think can become a powerful thing as a group, where it can change lives for the better or worse. What we believe sets the rules society follows. It’s a game of ‘Follow The Leader’, whether it be for ourselves or many, and it starts in our minds.

Benjamin Broadbent said...

BT2015 Apr 23, 2015
Hey guys, time for another comment from me. I choose this Video as a resource for one particular reason; Jules Evans took inspiration from a comment made 2000 years ago that helped him turn his life around for the better. Let’s just pause and think about that for a moment. 2000 years ago there was no modern comforts, no electricity, no poor grades recieved, no NCEA, no bad drivers, no lack of wifi, no cold coffees and most certainly no students forgetting calculators to maths class. What could possibly have been so upsetting for Epictetus that he had to pose an entirely new life philosophy in order to cope with the hard times. Okay, arguably there may have been famine, wars, no sanitation, and many people struggling to survive, but how remarkable is it that the same idea, invented so long ago, can still allow us to cope with the world we now live in. The key idea is that: You can’t change what happens around you, only how you perceive and react to those events. We thank ancient Philosophy for this and many other pieces of inspiration. This is one of the reasons it is such an important and interesting subject to explore.

Kayden made me think of a really interesting side topic that I think fits in well with this concept. How do we make snap decisions or assumptions? Well, often it is an automatic response; people say it is a natural response, often we react the way other people in the environment think we should. We like conformity and we have constructed sometimes incorrect social norms. Take the following teaching-related example to illustrate the point I’ll make later on. Say for instance you’re teaching and something happens in front of you that you’re not too pleased with; perhaps a student named Zilly tells you she isn’t going to do any work today. Before I reflected on what it takes to be a good teacher (let’s say 4 years ago) I would have possibly got angry, disciplined the student, embarrassed them in front of the class and made the situation even worse. It’s fairly easy to see that this is a lose/lose situation for both teacher and student. However reflecting on Epictetus’s philosophy and how it can be used in practice (something Jules Evans stressed) the following solution comes to mind for this situation.

1) Slow down your thought process, refrain from reacting instantly
2) Think about possible causes for the current situation (remember we can’t change what has happened) Zilly is not working, my only real decision is how I react to this, I have control
3) Think if there is a logical reason for why Zilly may be in this mood? Lack of sleep etc.
4) Run through a list of possible decisions in your head for how you will react and quickly decide on what one fits best.
5) Produce a well thought out, logical and well-reasoned solution to the student.

The trick to coping with any situation, not just teaching, is to slow down your thought process and make decisions with a clear head. Employers look for this asset in a person. It is the ability to not react thoughtlessly based on assumptions but to determine a concise, measured response when required. As Epictetus said the only thing you can control is how you react to things that have happened. You can’t go through life pretending you can control everything. As Lilly said (*no relation to Zilly) it is the worrying constantly about things you can’t control that puts you in a bad space mentally. How fantastic that a 2000 year old idea can still help us live amazingly and with purpose in this the modern world.

So the next time I get given a cold coffee I’m not going to whinge and moan. I’m not going to let things get me down mentally. However, I am going to do all I can to ensure it doesn’t keep happening in the future. I’m going to make a plan, think logically, set realistic goals, aim for improvement, remind myself that it’s only me who can ensure I don’t make the same mistake twice, give my best, and strive toward perfection. Wait, am I still talking about coffee? For a minute there it sounded like NCEA ;)

Yours remarkably