A Self-Sufficient Philosophy

Philosophical tools

Philosophy is like a tool-box. The right tool makes life happy and efficient. The wrong tool can lead to tedium and injury. Photo by M J M

Everyone has had the experience of not having the right tools for the job. Imagine trying to hammer a nail with a crescent wrench. It can be done, but it takes much more effort and the frustration level is much higher. Plus, the potential for physical injury is higher. Switching to a hammer is an instant ten-fold increase in pleasure and productivity.

Even if the study of philosophy has never interested you, I have news for you: you have a philosophy. Everyone does. The simple act of living and making decisions in life reflect a philosophy. That’s all a philosophy is – the mental rules used to make decisions in life.

Philosophy is like a tool-box, and the study of philosophy is like studying which tools are the best ones for working on your life. This can be done consciously, but like an immediate need to pound a nail, many people will unconsciously grab whatever tool is handy to get the job done. Applying the wrong tool can lead to tedium and injury to ones life, but the right philosophy makes life seem easy and pleasant. The right set of tools can even lead you to happiness and contentment, a state of existence all too fleeting in the modern world.

In my studies, I’ve discovered ideas that connect the philosophies of Aristotle, Existentialism, positive psychology, true wealth economics, and emerging technologies and modern cultural movements (such as tiny houses, the Maker movement, and voluntary simplicity – also called ‘living deliberately’). At some point in the future, I would like to compile a book on these ideas. For the moment, I will try to blog regularly and share them here. A sort of rough-draft if you will. I will tag these entries in the philosophy category of the site.

Self-Sufficiency vs Society

Plato and Aristotle

Plato and Aristotle debating one another. Photo by Photo Editor.

Like existentialism in general, the articles I plan to present will focus on the philosophy of individuals. I don’t plan to spend much time exploring philosophy around groups and society, such as Marxism. I take Ayn Rand’s approach that any group… is only a number of individuals. As I plan to show, it is proper that a person should have their own needs (including their philosophy) understood and met before considering the needs of others. (If you read my article on Self-Sufficiency and Spirituality you will see in the comments that this was a point of contention that was not adequately explained to a lot of people reading it.)

That being said, as an individual living in a society, it is impossible to ignore society. However, Aristotle and Existential philosophy has a lot to say about the proper role of an individual in a society.

Self-sufficiency does not mean being a hermit. As we shall see, Aristotle’s view of self-sufficiency is very inclusive of the individual’s society. He calls the ideal life politically self-sufficient which is the concept of being a self-sufficient person, but still actively engaged in your community.

What Is Philosophy Good For?


Photo by Dakine Kane.

  • What does it mean, as an individual, to be happy and live a good life?
  • How do I, as an individual, live a life in harmony with my society and environment?

These are the questions that philosophy answers. And the different ways these questions can be answered create different philosophies.

Self-sufficiency is a purely human concept. Like philosophy, a mentality of self-sufficiency is a tool for living a good life. Its foundation is based on the concepts of freedom and responsibility. As I’ll show, self-sufficiency is at the heart of Aristotle’s philosophy as well as Existential philosophy.

A mentality of self-sufficiency, as I plan to present it, allows you to achieve maximum happiness in life with a minimum of suffering. Time is a key factor. A common proverb that captures this concept is, “With time you can make money, but with money you can not make time.” The same is true for happiness in life.

A mentality of self-sufficiency allows you to maximize time spent pursuing happiness and minimize time spent in anything that could be called non-happiness. A self-sufficient attitude helps one avoid pitfalls in life like debt, unpleasant careers, and unpleasant relationships.

In the ensuing months, I plan to write about my philosophy and view of the world, but it’s important that everyone reach their own conclusions. Don’t listen to others (like parents or friends) on this. Don’t listen to me: Use what you can, throw away what you can’t, but consider all with an open mind. Make up your own mind. Go out and find your own answers. That is the sense-of-spirit embodied in self-sufficiency and existentialism – the freedom (and responsibility) to make your own mistakes and find your own answers.

That being said, there have been many great thinkers whose advice is worth heading. I hope to explore some of these thinkers and their writing in future posts.

Above all, I encourage discussion. Please leave a comment and share your viewpoint.

Discussion is gold.

Related posts:

The Road Less Traveled
Debt Freedom (original post)
Sailing Hibernation
4 Responses to “A Self-Sufficient Philosophy”
  1. Chris –
    Great thoughts. I especially love this proverb you quote, “With time you can make money, but with money you can not make time”. Oh, so true. I look forward to upcoming posts as you explore this topic. You are indeed living a life that we can all learn from. Cheers!
    – Katie and Mark

  2. Chris,
    I’m all ears (in this case, eyes).
    Back in my Canadian life, I somehow managed to get a degree in philosophy at York University. My original plan had been to chase girls, drink beer and study as little as possible.
    I enrolled in one philosophy class for the hell of it, my head flew to the moon and back, and here I am about to the sail to the Algarve again feeling like a kid who’s going to discover something exciting.
    I disagree about one point: money is time; if I had more money I’d stop working and be totally free with more time. Otherwise your post is rated A+.

    • Chris says:

      That’s an interesting point you raise, Horatio. That quote is meant in the literal sense that laborers exchange their time for money, but when they turn old, can not then exchange money for more time on earth.

      However, you are correct that a windfall of money would allow me to quit my job, and therefore save me the time that I would otherwise spend working for money. That is where the proverb breaks down, because complexity arises. If I simply lived a debt-free, minimalist lifestyle so that I did not have to work as much, then I am saving both time and money, and the relationship is no longer linear.

      A commonly known factoid is that happiness and income correlate to a certain point (what I would call lower-middle-class), at which point they diverge. An increase in income no longer creates an increase in happiness.

      I think this gets right to the heart of an important concept: In so far that money *can* buy you time, the two are equal. At some point, additional money has a diminishing return in terms of happiness. That point where it changes is a person’s cost-of-living. By controlling (and lowering) your cost of living, you can therefore move yourself into a state where money and time are no longer equal.

      It’s not practical to move that point to zero (no money needed), unfortunately. But if more people identified their cost of living (and then worked on lowering it), then they could literally have more time and happiness for a minimum of cost (money). This is one of the major concepts I hope to explore in my future posts.

      • I totally agree with your point of view and your chosen path.
        After all, I’m living proof that money can be sweet or sour. For over ten years I was a sort of minimalist – before I’d even heard of such a thing – just winging it between short-lived jobs. Those were fun days. When I became a successful translator (aka a slave living in a pressure cooker) and stuck to it, I pretty much kissed “real life” goodbye, and it’s not that easy getting it back when you don’t live alone.
        Although I hate to preach on somebody else’s blog, don’t ever kiss real life goodbye; adapt a bit, make a few tradeoffs, go at it from a slightly different angle…but never, never kiss it goodbye.
        PS You’re the most authentic “self-sufficiency/minimalist/real life” (whatever you want to call it) bloggers I’ve read compared to the many pulp fiction acts out there.

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