It’s not without some trepidation that I venture to write about living a philosophical life. To live a philosophical life – to take a philosophical approach towards the activity of living – means to live life with a constant eye towards the good, the true, and yes, the beautiful. It means living beautifully, fully, with an artful naturalness and, when needed, a natural artfulness that lends each action and, thereby, one’s general life-course a kind of harmony, each detail of one’s life tuned to the same common, good end.

I can’t lay claim to living this way. But then, who can? Life throws us curveballs that put us off-balance. Things that we’ve always hoped for or things that we’ve dreaded happen and change our circumstances. Sometimes we’re prepared for them and quickly learn new, productive ways of being in the world. But more often we remain stuck in old, obsolete habits in the face of change. Or we come up with a plan of action completely inappropriate to the situation at hand that ends up causing us more problems than it solves.

If you’re like me, you make more wrong moves than right when moments call for action and you find yourself later having to figure out what to do to get your life back on course and regain (or gain for the first time) the kind of smooth equilibrium, the feeling of firing on all cylinders, that we often call “happiness.” If you’re like me, you’re, well, imperfect.

But that’s not a bad thing. To be imperfect is to be, simply and literally put, incomplete. It’s to be in process. On the way, so to speak. To be complete, on the other hand, is to be finished. And I, at least, am (thankfully!) not yet finished.

My experience tells me that we imperfect human beings have one very powerful capacity to help us along life’s way. We have the capacity to live better today than we did yesterday, better tomorrow than today. And that’s the heart of taking a philosophical approach to life – learning from one’s successes and failures to become more reflective and skillful when actions need to be taken, decisions arrived at, and choices made.

So what’s with the blog?

André Comte-Sponville notes that “to venture to write about the virtues is to subject one’s self-esteem to constant bruising, to be made acutely aware, again and again, of one’s own mediocrity.” The same can be said for writing about philosophical approaches to life’s everyday problems. Writing about what it means to live an “examined life,” given how accidental and unexamined most of my life is, will be first and foremost a humbling experience. And a little humbling never hurt anyone.

But why take up pen and publish thoughts that (I guarantee) will be far from original – common thoughts available to anyone with a good local library or an Internet connection and the wherewithal to hunt down readings?

My goals are, I confess, in part selfish. By writing about books, ideas and thinkers from a variety of philosophical traditions, I hope keep myself mindful of the ways people from all walks of life and historical time periods have discovered, thought about and put into practice techniques for living well that can be applied to my own circumstances. I’ll be addressing issues that come up and have come up in my own life. I want to document those things that give me the strength and courage, the hope and motivation to become a better, and thereby happier person. I want to record my thoughts here so that I can go back and reflect on them in the hours of need I will inevitably encounter in the future. For until they become second nature, the wisdom and principles that guide our lives must be deliberated upon when situations that call for them arise.

So that’s the selfish part.

But while I may be selfish, I’m definitely not unique. Far from it.  And that, too, is a good thing. My problems, challenges, struggles, wafflings, failures and, yes, even the occasional right moves are, I would guess, pretty much the same as yours. We wouldn’t be here together right now if they weren’t. Keeping track of these reflections will, I hope, provide you with some useful philosophical approaches to living your own life. I hope it also gives us a chance to think together and share ideas. Finally, I hope it provides you with a place to pose questions or suggest topics that a philosophical approach might be able to help clarify. If there’s an issue you’re grappling with or something that’s troubling you – something that’s making it difficult for you to live as well as you can – let me know and we can look into what’s been said about it. I’m sure you’re just as unique as I am.

In the next several posts, I’ll lay out some of the topics that I’ll consider. I’ll also outline some general thoughts about philosophy, the value of philosophy, what philosophy is, and perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t…or at least what it won’t be on this blog.