What's the best philosophy?


If you're looking for a path to wisdom, the options are plentiful. Should you take a leaf out of Plato or Aristotle, tune into your feelings or just put your faith in doubt? For our latest Big Question, we ask "what's the best philosophy?"  Over the next two weeks we will be publishing the opinions of six thinkers who make the case for six different philosophies. But in this poll, we are also keen to hear your thoughts too.

The MP Jesse Norman, an author and former philosophy tutor at University College London, picks Aristotle, "the philosopher-scientist who first drags man away from Platonic abstraction and back into the world, as a social animal". For Professor Angie Hobbs, the central question is "what is the best life and what sort of person does one have to be to live it?" Professor Hobbs argues that Plato's dialogues show us how through reason "we can escape the confinement of nature and nurture, and see further than our own postcode".

Anthony Gottlieb, an author and former executive editor on The Economist, picks the scepticism of the 18th century philosopher David Hume. "If there is a best philosophy," Gottleib writes, "it is surely the one which maintains that every philosophy is doubtful."

Simon Willis, the apps editor of Intelligent Life, chooses particularism, which favours real people in real situations to abstract rules—"a philosophy which brings us back to earth".

The professor of neuroscience at Oxford, Colin Blakemore, also praises doubt as the engine of intelligence. He cites the first serious piece of philosophy he ever read, Descartes’ “Discourse on Method”, and its opening line “Good sense is the most evenly shared thing in the world, for each of us thinks he is so well endowed with if that even those who are the hardest to please in all other respects are not in the habit of wanting more than they have.”

And finally, psychotherapist Susie Orbach writes about the importance of self-knowledge. If we know what we feel it means that "we can connect with others from a basis of respect rather than fear, and link with those who feel differently."

Which of these six philosophies gets your vote? Have your say in our poll, below, and please let us know why you chose the philosophy that you did. Or, if you feel that stoicism, Taoism, deep ecology or any others, gets your vote, do let us know why.

Hume's scepticism
26% (381 votes)
Aristotle, mashed up
21% (310 votes)
Self-knowledge
19% (274 votes)
Doubt
12% (179 votes)
Plato's idea of flourishing
12% (178 votes)
Particularism
6% (93 votes)
Total votes: 1413