What is philosophy? To deliberate well in reference to any question that emerges, never to be carried away by impulses, but to ponder over the injuries that result from the passions, and to act rightly as the circumstances demand, practicing moderation.
Every man ought to be inquisitive through every hour of his great adventure down to the day when he shall no longer cast a shadow in the sun. For if he dies without a question in his heart, what excuse is there for his existence?
What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
Maybe the purpose of life is not as important as the process of growth that’s integral with being alive... In answering the question “What’s the meaning of life?” maybe the people who have taken the challenges of life as meaningful are the best ones to ask... These are the people who have appreciated and taken advantage of the possibilities life has to offer. They find life precious.
It is not a question how much a man knows, but what use he makes of what he knows; not a question of what he has acquired, but how he has been trained, but of what he is, and what he can do.
I began to accept that the meaning of life, even the purpose of the pain that accompanies it, would be found not in the question I asked of life, but in the questions life asked of me.
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?
Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through is history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth. But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ We enter human society, that is, with one or more imputed characters - roles into which we have been drafted - and we have to learn what they are in order to be able to understand how others respond to us and how our responses to them are a part to be construed... Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious strutters in their actions as in their words. Hence there is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resource. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things. Vico was right and so was Joyce. And so too of course is that moral tradition fro heroic society to its medieval heirs according to which the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues.
We are not immortal, but our acts are... The question is not why we exist but whether we deserve to exist as supposedly rational beings if we act like conquerors rather than caring beings willing to share the planet with all those who are less powerful, and to act with restraint in respecting the needs of others and all life to come. As a species, we are on trial to see whether rationality was an advance or a tragic mistake.
The man who strives to educate himself - and no one else can educate him - must win a certain victory over his own nature. He must learn to smile at his dear idols, analyze his every prejudice, scrap if necessary his fondest and most consoling belief, question his presuppositions, and take his chances with the truth.
Some people ask why the righteous suffer in this world. To a great extent the question is based on a misconception. Often, the criteria people use to judge whether another person is living a good life or not is by his financial standard of living... A truly righteous person by definition lives a happy life. Such a person has internalized the awareness that all the occurrences in his life are for the good, and he has satisfaction from his life. His life has meaning and purpose. His whole being is focused on spiritual elevation. He deeply feels that the good life is to fulfill the will of the Almighty and hence he feels great pleasure in the good deeds that he performs.
It is more important to listen to questions than to answer them. To listen with full intent, with full openness, with a genuine desire to understand not the question only, but the question behind the question, and to be at one with the questioner - this is an engagement very difficult.
Yet it may be asked how a man can be at once free and forced to conform to wills which are not his own. How can the opposing minority be both free and subject to laws to which they have not consented? I answer that the question is badly formulated. The citizen consents to all the laws, even to those that are passed against his will, and even to those which punish him when he dares to break any one of them. The constant will of all the members of the state is the general will; it is through it that they are citizens and are free.
Wherever there is lost the consciousness that every man is an object of concern for us just because he is a man, civilization and morals are shaken, and the advance to fully developed inhumanity is only a question of time.