Minerval Arts

by Peter Saint-Andre


More and more I am struck by an essential similarity in the aims of various philosophies and religions: through reason and reflection to place some distance between impulse and action. These schools have different techniques, but there is a family resemblance among them; they are like an intellectual analogue of the martial arts (the arts of Mars, the Roman god of war - we could say that philosophies are the arts of Minerva, goddess of wisdom). Just as someone who has earned a black belt in, say, aikido starts over as a white belt in jiu-jitsu, so a master of, say, Taoism would start over as a beginner in Stoicism. My lifelong philosophy project is in large measure an exploration of the methods that six secular thinkers (Rand, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Thoreau, Epicurus, and Lao Tzu) have devised to help individuals achieve the goals of self-discipline and self-mastery. Unfortunately, we have lost the ancient conception of philosophy as the love and practice of wisdom. Thus (with the possible exception of Taoism) we don't have schools, communities, and traditions of the minerval arts, in which their lessons are passed down, shared, and applied among friends and associates who share a common outlook on life. This lack of historical continuity with the original meaning of philosophy makes it even harder than it already is to live a life of continual self-examination and self-improvement. Hopefully I'm doing my share to make that great task a bit easier...

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