6 Great Sayings From Western Philosophy

Philosophy is a discipline committed to helping
us to live wiser and less sorrowful lives. Here are six ideas from its Western branch
that can inspire and console: ONE: ‘What need is there to weep over parts of life?
The whole of it calls for tears.’ The Roman philosopher Seneca used to comfort his friends
– and himself – with this darkly humourous remark which gets to the heart of Stoicism,
the school of philosophy which Seneca helped to found and which dominated the West for
two hundred years. We get weepy and furious, says Stoicism, not simply because our plans
have failed, but because they have failed and we strongly expected them not to. Therefore,
thought Seneca, the task of philosophy is to disappoint us gently before life has a
chance to do so violently. The less we expect, the less we will suffer. Through the help
of a consoling pessimism, we should strive to turn our rage and our tears into that far
less volatile compound: sadness. Seneca was not trying to depress us, just to spare us
the kind of hope that, when it fails, inspires bitterness and intemperate shouting. TWO:
Peccatum Originale In the late 4th century, as the immense Roman Empire was collapsing,
the leading philosopher of the age, St Augustine, became deeply interested in possible explanations
for the evident tragic disorder of the human world. One central idea he developed was what
he legendarily termed Peccatum Originale: original sin. Augustine proposed that human
nature is inherently damaged and tainted because – in the Garden of Eden – the mother of
all people, Eve, sinned against God by eating an apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Her guilt
was then passed down to her descendants and now all earthly human endeavours are bound
to fail because they are the work of a corrupt and faulty human spirit. This odd idea might
not be literally true, of course. However, as a metaphor for why the world is in a mess,
it has a beguiling poetic truth, as relevant to atheists as believers. We should not – perhaps
– expect too much from the human race, Augustine implies. We’ve been somewhat doomed from
the outset. And that can, in certain moods, be a highly redemptive thought to keep in
mind. THREE: ‘Kings and Philosophers shit, and so do ladies’ The blunt phrase appears
in an essay by the 16th century French philosopher, Michel de Montaigne. Montaigne wasn’t being
mean. His point was kindly: he wanted us to feel closer to (and less intimidated) by people
whose overt mode of life might seem painfully impressive and very far from our own. And
he could have added: in secret these people also feel inadequate, fear rejection and mess
up their sex-lives. We could also update his examples to speak of CEOs, entrepreneurs,
and the over-achieving person we went to college with. Montaigne was attempting to free us
from underconfidence and shyness, born out of an exaggerated sense of the differences
between ourselves and mighty others. At moments of panic, before an important speech or a
much-anticipated date, we should run Montaigne’s phrase through our febrile, underconfident
minds and remind ourselves that no one, however outwardly poised, is more than a few hours
away from a poignantly modest and vulnerable moment. FOUR: ‘All our unhappiness comes
from our inability to sit alone in our room’ This assertion, by the 17th century French
philosopher Pascal, is obviously not literally true. But like all good philosophical aphorisms,
it pointedly exaggerates an important idea in order to bring home a general insight.
We are tempted to leave ‘our room’ and crave excitements that too often turn out
badly; we meddle in the lives of others but fail to help them; we seek fame and end up
being misunderstood by large numbers of people we don’t know. ‘Sitting alone’ doesn’t
mean literally being on the bed but rather, staying undistracted with ourselves: appreciating
small pleasures; examining the contents of our own minds, allowing the quieter (but important)
parts of our psyche to emerge; thinking before we act. It’s a poignant phrase because the
louder voices in our culture are constantly speaking in the opposite direction; are always
goading us to get out more, to grow more agitated, to seek more drama and to spend less time
in thoughtful reveries, gazing out of the window at the clouds passing high above. We
should, with Pascal’s encouragement, learn to become better friends to ourselves. FIVE:
Sub specie aeternitatis It means, translated from the Latin, ‘under the aspect of eternity’
– a memorable phrase from the Ethics, published in 1677 by the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
For Spinoza, the task of philosophy is to teach us to look at things, especially our
own suffering and disappointment, ‘under the aspect of eternity,’ that is, as though
we were gazing down at the earth from very far away or from a different star (Spinoza’s
outlook was much indebted to Galileo). From this lofty perspective, the incidents that
trouble us no longer have to seem so shocking or so large. What is a divorce or a sacking
when contemplated from the lunar surface? What is a rejection in love judged against
the earth’s 4.5 billion year history? Our nature means that we’ll always be pulled
to exaggerate the here and now, but our reasoned intelligence gives us access to a unique alternative
perspective, in which we participate in what Spinoza called ‘eternal totality’, and
can cease railing against the status quo, submitting to the flow of events with clear-eyed
serenity instead. SIX: Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts
ganz Gerades gezimmert werden. It’s a slightly daunting and long German phrase but a hugely
arresting and redemptive one, central to the spirit of Western philosophy: ‘Out of the
crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.’ So wrote the German eighteenth
century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who urged us to recognise that nothing that human beings
do can ever be less than slightly wonky, because we are creatures as much of passion and erroneous
instinct as of reason and noble intelligence. The wise accept this dark reality head on
and so do not expect perfection. When designing governments, they do not presume that rationality
will triumph; they do everything to assume that error and folly will try to have their
way – and create structures to contain them. When they marry, with comparable realism,
they never expect that one person can be everything to them and then harangue a partner when they
turn out not to be. An acceptance of our crooked nature isn’t dispiriting, it’s the birth
of generosity and dark good humour. Not least, added Kant, crooked beams can make for beautiful
floors, in the hands of a talented carpenter. If you want to learn more about the thinkers from our videos, check out our Great Thinkers Book. Available world wide and now as an e-book.

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100 Responses

  1. The School of Life says:

    What is your favourite saying? Are there any we should have included? Join our app community to discuss this and much more from your phone: https://bit.ly/2Jn5MYf

  2. New Moose says:

    Seneca did NOT help found Stoicism! The school was started by Zeno in the 3rd century BC while Seneca wasn't born until 4 BC!

  3. Fernando Avila says:

    Make a vídeo about Noam Chomsky

  4. MV Salvatori says:


  5. EYE 4 EYE says:

    Kings and philosopher shit and so do ladies

  6. Bad Boy says:

    Saint augustin is not a western philosopher, he is from north africa

  7. Vargass55 says:

    The concept of "original sin" is idiotic and of no real value.

  8. # Milton says:

    Again The School of life, Augustine did not develop the idea of original sin… He learnt it from the Bible

  9. Augur Cybernaut says:

    Uuuuh wasn't any Apple and it wasn't eve but it was Adam that sin passed down to us.

  10. aichjya888 says:

    I think number 7 should be Gibran's quote: Rest in passion. Move in reason.

  11. Wade Payne says:

    You should do one on slavoj zizek.

  12. Xelief says:

    So you're showing Obama when saying that we were doomed in the long run. WTF.

  13. Charles Hères says:

    Great video. BTW who's the guy @ 4:00 ? Seems so familiar. Ok probably it's super obvious but I can't grasp where I've seen him early! Is he from some Nouvelle Vague flick? An actor relevant but in a certain, narrow time-frame? (like for example George Lazenby to the Bond franchise) Help, please! D:

  14. Robert says:

    In my opinion the original sin idee can be both helpful and harmful. I tent to believe people are born good and sometimes as a result of tragic events they can get corrupted and do bad things. But knowing that they are just like me a product of their experiences and how they were raised. Where they have no control over. Thinking like that gives me a more positive outlook on life.

  15. Hush little baby drink your spoiled milk James says:

    the ice cream and forgot everything

  16. Pancakes says:

    very nice ??

  17. tom4ivo says:

    In "City of God", Augustine wrote that all the human race was cursed with the original sin because all the human race was in Adam, not Eve. Until the invention of the microscope and the discovery of egg and sperm, it was believed that a man contained all of his descendents in his testicles, and a new human was produced when a man planted his seed (semen) in a woman's womb, and male babies contained all of their descendents. It was a patriarchal culture, so of course that was the way things had to work. Some have argued that Augustine's reason for this claim, that all humans were cursed because they were in Adam, was to make himself feel less guilty about his sinful nature by making everyone equally sinful.

  18. WeTube says:

    One Love

  19. Zinh0 says:

    For me:
    1- Know Thyself
    2- Ubi dubium Ibi libertas
    3- Dura Lex Sed Lex
    4- Cogito Ergo Sum
    5- Sapere Aude
    6- Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent

  20. Mathias Laurence says:

    Although Kant was a racist Bastard(as were many white men of his time), I'll still separate him from his work(s).

  21. John Dorsch says:

    You got that Kant quote wrong:
    Aus so krummem Holze, als WORAUS der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden.

  22. Case Vanderburg says:

    C'mon School of Life, Eve never ate an apple. It was simply know in the book of Genesis as the forbidden fruit

  23. Brandon Bowers says:

    I could sum up this video with one word, "Buddhism." Every single the said is a reflection of it.

  24. kangjoeroo says:

    where is the jayz part

  25. Jeffrey Strain says:

    "If you want to be happy, eat more Cheetos."

  26. stewart Thomas says:

    In this world people love the sound of their own thoughts, their own voice more than they love truth. Try conscious astral travel, experience the truth personally. All else is vanity.

  27. gabe baldwin says:

    everybody poops.

  28. lucrative lyrics says:

    the first & last sayings (of this 'western philosophy' list) are essentially the same things as the first saying in the 'eastern philosophy' video (-buddha, paraphrased: "life is suffering, so don't expect anything & appreciate every little thing"..)

  29. soslothful says:

    The shaker rattling between each idea is inane and very annoying.

  30. M K says:

    3:33 black lodge?

  31. lippaus88 says:

    Wow.. thank you!

  32. Berlianna Haz says:

    Why is the title of this vid "6 GREAT saying from Western philosophy"? These saying explain many things in Western history of civilization, BUT it doesn't explain the ACHIEVEMENT of Western Civilization. You can use other words than GREAT.

  33. TAD Lord says:

    Western philosophy is really complex emo culture

  34. 'Eternal Optimism... says:

    (Causality Laws) Every effect has a cause. Therefore all lies are the effect of its cause known as selfish greed, which are for the pursuit of its ultimate desire in control.
    Ps. What form of negativity does not grow from the seed of selfishness as Greed? If the absolute truth causes Happiness to always exist; can we know/choose to continually live for peace at any level (micro to macro) without a valid understanding of the Causality Laws within Love?
    (Human Nature Love Pattern) https://facebook.com/HumaNaturePattern/photos/10156455420421350

  35. Gajanan Phadte says:

    There are no better quotes than these from Bhagavat Gita

  36. Mario a-b says:

    Alain de Botton's delivery is calm, succinct and in my view clear enough to appeal to a wide audience. He might well be remembered as a man who reminded our neurotic n technocratic society of the importance of good questions, wisdom through the ages and the use of philosophy.

  37. Rebekah Paul says:

    Original sin is NOT Eve eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil! Boy did you get that wrong! It's PRIDE…the first recorded sin of LUCIFER sinning against God!

  38. Chris1al555 says:

    the shaking sound means i gotta buy more farms

  39. Vi Tran Thi Thao says:

    Anyone helps me to recap ? I only remember one thing in this video . 1 " The less expected you do the more happy you are " , right?

  40. Francisco Martinez says:

    Could you do a video on Alan Watts?

  41. Marilia Tatone says:

    Important mention in bible don’t mention type of fruit .. Eve eat .. just saying she eat the fruit!!! So could be any kind of fruit

  42. Trong Huynh says:


  43. Ailer Aguilar says:

    0:26 that's ?COMMUNISM ?. dropping BOMBS ✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅✅

  44. Tigris Euphrates says:

    4:25 Haile Selassie 1st Hand Mudra.

  45. crimon says:

    I would trade modern day to be in a time were there are more phelosephers…..i realy would

  46. Pajge 900 says:

    I always used to say it's all about feelings when I was younger.

  47. Mahesh K says:

    Western philosophy is about misery which in turn is derived from derived from Christianity. Thankfully Science came to the rescue

  48. Andrew Ryan says:

    why arent there philosophy videos anymore? was there a reason you stopped diving into writers, sociologists or philosophers?

  49. jayspray99 says:

    Cookie Monster doesn’t shit

  50. FX RED RIDER says:

    This channel has good work mixed with bad research and overly simplified answers.

  51. Bruno van Simon says:

    1:30 who else actually DID get the idea of that equation? ?

  52. irelia 577ksj says:

    oh my god listening to this is like listening to my boyfriend xDD (he's got a master in philosophy). "the less we expect the less we will suffer". im wheezing

  53. Caiphus Man says:

    You should know by now that the Apple story is a bullshit story – I enjoy this channel don't spoil it

  54. swo togo says:

    Is German your mother tongue?

  55. Leon Blythe says:

    you do understand the talented carpenter? wasn't particularly talented at carpentry… which I would assume is only a skill for catching tasteless fish?

  56. UberJadibs says:

    "Step into my zone, mad rhymez will stifle ya!"- GURU

  57. Matthew Bateman says:

    As a theist, I am appreciative – time, and again – that your videos are not squeamish about theological ideas; and even though you make it pretty clear that this is not a theological channel (not a 'believing' channel, you could say), you are not 'anti-theist', so to speak, but show a positive point of view, even when you may not personally espouse the belief. Even if the Garden of Eden is a myth or metaphor, it does relay a truth: We are flawed, down to our soul and bones. Very nice to be thinking together in this sleepy and distracted age! Thanks!

  58. DSAK55 says:


  59. Robert Galletta says:


  60. Robert Galletta says:


  61. Stunami says:

    Christians. Live your life from the point of view that you are a treacherous worm in need of redemption and blame this condition on women. The antidote is repressing your pursuit of happiness in exchange for piety and obedience to an institution and authorities who live richly. The pope is surrounded by riches and the evangelicals fly private jets all the while molesting your children. The 'lord" works in mysterious ways indeed.

  62. Pablo Dejuan says:

    Mantén la mente sana y ocupada en lo que llena

  63. Ian T says:

    Anyone else notice: 2 and 6 are the same idea?

  64. Sneasel says:


    It is time — craft the Red Chain, and bring forth Palkia and Dialga. They shall be the vessel through which my new world will be born! ?

  65. Ares says:

    all of these are very stoic, I believe the author agrees heavily with stoicism. I personally do not but you can still learn a lot from these. Well done!

  66. SuperEekie64 says:

    Such a wonderful saying, insightful and compassionate as always. Thank you so much.

  67. Defeshh says:

    Seneca didn't found Stoicism you melon, it was Xenon

  68. AngelOne11 says:

    This is similar to Buddhism except in Buddhism they teach the final result of no expectation is freedom and happiness. It's very true. As a Zen practitioner for many years. It works and I am happy with no expectations from life or others.
    May all humanity be free from expectations and live a happy healthy balanced life!

  69. Angad Singh Phagura says:

    Interestingly made, perfect pronunciation and great presentation. This is brilliant.

  70. Maai de Vries says:

    It's all somehow focused on dissapointment if you summarize the thing. That's pretty sad, actually, but I find this true. Nothing is ever as good as you expect it to be. And it all comes down to our own human behaviour somehow. Now my adjustment: It lightens A bit up if you can laugh about most off it.

  71. Baruch Ben-David says:

    I had a boss who often told me, "kings, generals, and cardinals all have to shit."

  72. Patrick S says:

    We're all guilty, life is just totally [email protected]#ked up. To anyone with an ounce of empathy you're just gonna self-disintegrate. We live on a placid island of ignorance amidst vast seas of black infinity and it was not meant we should venture far.Cthulu fhtagn

  73. Chrstphre Campbell says:

    It's so wondrous to watch a video that is not filled with images that don't have anything to do with the topic of the video ! i am so frustrated with 99.99999% of the videos on YouTube, yet i've watched 3 of The School of L– videos and they've all been very satisfying.

  74. Back Country Pastimes says:

    Are you sure you guys didn’t do the animations for monty python?

  75. Tadela Tarun says:

    Why the couple of sayings are not really true/relevant yet yet they are "great"

  76. John Justice says:

    The best belong to me and mine and, if we are not given it, we take it; thest food, the purest sky, the most robust thoughts, the fairest women. Fred Nietzsche

  77. Alief Rafael says:

    translate to Indonesian please:(

  78. George Evangel says:

    No Aristotle? No Plato?,No Socrates?

  79. David G says:

    Spinoza was wise. He said nature, not the Torah, was God's will.
    He got there before I did. I hope there's an afterlife so I can high five him.

  80. Riya Varma says:

    The narrator is awesome ??

  81. Argentum 9 says:

    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies
    Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies

  82. ex621 says:

    Nowhere in Genesis is it said that Eve ate an “apple,” only a fruit from the forbidden tree…

  83. uttaradit2 says:

    'suit yourself or suit someone else' – chiangmaichris

  84. uttaradit2 says:

    'what dosent kill thee makes one stronger' said Nietzsche.- Really? Try asking a stroke victim says I.

  85. uttaradit2 says:

    'your freedom is my oppression'. Uttaradit2

  86. amin rahman_upsi says:

    What the fuck are u talking

  87. hector roche says:

    What about Goethe?
    "None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."
    "Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words."
    "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."

  88. San Francisco says:

    "Being lost is the inability to draw a point of reference from where you are to where you should be." Acid trip in Quetico Provincial Park during a 2 week canoe trip in 1975.

  89. Bearded Jagger says:

    4 billion years from now the earth will be a hurtling snowball through space, and no one will give a damn that Tom Brady won six Super Bowls. —Bearded Jagger

  90. jack sully says:

    Please use a more simple language as i was unable to get you all

  91. JimmieOakland says:

    "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way you bet." Anon

  92. Chris says:

    only the religious failed phillosopher could come up with something so ingeniously stupid and wrong that it suited the arrogance of religious to a T

  93. Chris says:

    Montaine was saying that the pretentious born with a silver spoon arent any more special humans than others. The French were true revolutionaries, not some comfort thought writers.

  94. ashramify says:

    It would be a pity for Western philosophy if these are the loftiest observations into the human condition

  95. Janice Murphy says:

    The Beatles John Lennon did have a song about what if you didn't have to be sized up identified with and also have to live up to the expectations of others let alone the world. Aw

  96. chris Lambert says:

    Ive always liked the saying "not all grow together, not all fall together"

  97. shawn curtis says:

    Perfection is boring.

  98. Sun Wukong says:

    My mum used to say number 3 I had no idea where it came from or what it meant

  99. Harsh Bhandari says:


  100. Brian Pearson says:

    Kant be perfect ?

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