On non-preaching approach to philosophy

Why you should never impose your will on anyone

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

Marcus Aurelius was once the most powerful man in the world — he was the Emperor of the Roman Empire. He was also a philosopher and it is beyond reasonable doubt that if he wanted, he could easily attempt to impose his philosophy and interpretation on others. But he didn’t.

As a side node it is worth mentioning that Abbasid Caliph al-Mamum did the opposite. He tried to force a rational interpretation of Islam onto his subjects by establishing inquisition with rather negative consequences after his death — Muslim population became more vehemently opposed to rationality.

Anyway, it is interesting question to ask, why didn’t Marcus impose his philosophy? On one part it may be because tolerance of difference was an integral part of his philosophy. But crucially he probably was an attentive observer of human psychology when it comes to doing what people do — we all are free beings and therefore it is impossible to force anyone to do anything. We can only do what we wholeheartedly are convinced or want to do, whether the thing considered is wise and just or unwise and unjust. The latter case often stems from either un-intended ignorance of truth or weakness on our part through attachment to uncontrollable passions. Both cases require compassion and understanding from a wise person. Moreover humans react negatively to nagging and continuous requests and repetitions of some sort.

So what is the wise response to other people’s misdoings? We should follow the example of Marcus Aurelius — avoid any sort of preaching or attempts to change people behaviours as those are completely inefficient and wasteful with high risk of procuring negative rather than positive results. On contrast we should let people do what they want to do according to their point of view, and without any coercion simply set and be an example of virtuous person. The only situation when we may want to share our philosophy is when we’re directly asked.

If you enjoyed reading and would like to increase the chance of reading more articles like this, follow me on Medium