Can Philosophy Save Your Life? (Part 1)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Can Philosophy Save Your Life Part 1I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school and college (a long time ago) I saw no value whatsoever in learning about philosophy

After all, what could I gain from finding out what a bunch of esoteric, convoluted-thinking, overly-intellectual dead people once believed?

Besides, philosophers almost never came to any definitive conclusions, and those who did usually conflicted with others of their same ilk.

No Offense Intended

Please forgive me if you’re one of those rare individuals who really was into philosophy at a young age.  I do not mean to disparage you.  I’m just saying I had a very negative view of the whole field of study, and I later found out this had more to do with my own shortcomings, not yours.

You see, I never appreciated the value of philosophy until I became a physician.

Once I started taking care of people (i.e. real living human beings) I started to see the footprints of philosophy everywhere. 

I discovered that many of my patients had differing philosophies about:

  • What physicians can and cannot do
  • The value of regular physical exercise
  • What they should or shouldn’t eat
  • Whether it’s worth taking medication for a particular health condition
  • Whether the benefits outweigh the risks of a particular test or treatment
  • Whether alternative or holistic therapies are useful
  • Whether they should even consult a doctor at all

And you know what, some of those philosophies really did make a difference in who turned out to live and who turned out to die.  So in one sense, the philosophies you have about your health and about health care really can save your life…or cause you to prematurely lose it.

What About Stress?

While I still have an interest in health-related philosophies, these days I am much more focused on philosophies that either increase or decrease people’s stress.

Do you have any personal philosophies that might be causing you stress?

Here’s a clue:  if you’re human, and if you have any type of stress in your life, then YES it is very likely you have philosophies that are contributing to this. You may not notice when you have philosophies about various things, and you may not be aware of the specific ones you have, but they are there nonetheless, shaping, influencing, and ultimately determining your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

You see, I am now very interested in philosophy because becoming a doctor made me realize that we are all philosophical beings…including me.  And once I became aware that philosophy was at my core as a human being, how could I not be eager to learn as much as I could about it?

So in this week’s series of three blog posts, I want to explore the question “can philosophy save your life?” in a little more depth…you know, like a philosopher would.  I’m not going to explore this topic in the healthcare context I mentioned above.  Rather, I want to explore it with you from the standpoint of human stress.

And since stress can eventually damage your health and cause you to lose your life, it’s really all the same thing.  Can philosophy—good philosophy I mean—actually save your life?  I think it can.  Check back in two days and I’ll explain more about why I believe this. (Hey, was that just my philosophy speaking?)

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