Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today



Can Philosophy Guide Us in Everyday Life?

Like some branches of psychology and many wisdom traditions, key philosophical frameworks attempt to make sense of human existence and experience, and to connect those experiences to the world at large: The formal study of logic helps in decision-making, and in interrogating arguments and (seemingly) rational thought. Epistemology examines belief, opinion and objective knowledge; as such it can help people understand whether their closely-held derive from objective or subjective information. Axiology is a fancy term for the study of ethics and aesthetics.

Psychology and neuroscience show us that many of our belief systems are adaptive; the aesthetics of what we find pleasing and the ethics of societal conduct evolved over time to aid in human survival and reproduction. As such, all philosophy has psychological underpinnings. Key philosophical inquiries including the relationship between mind and body, the meaning of free will and faith, the nature of consciousness, and what constitutes happiness, are simply components of our brains' operating system, and as such can be framed philosophically or scientifically.

How Philosophy Helps Us Understand the Mind and Ourselves

sun ok/Shutterstock

Plato said that thinking is "the mind in conversation with itself," and core modes of self-interrogation in psychotherapy and psychology are indeed built on philosophical precepts. Both Socratic dialogue and stoicism are evident in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). CBT and especially REBT counsel people to examine and dispute their beliefs and to tolerate unpleasant feelings—shades of Epictetus. The connection is bidirectional: There is evidence that people's positions on philosophical questions as central as the existence of free will are influenced by their individual temperament and personality.

article continues after advertisement

Essential Reads

Recent Posts