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I'm not sure how to phrase this question. It stems from a complaint that I can't seem to find a truly "practical philosophy" (even "Pragmatism").

I know a lot of philosophy starts with ABSOLUTELY FIRST PRINCIPLES and goes on from there, but is there a branch of philosophy that uses as its starting point typical life goals and then applies the tools of philosophy (e.g. logical analysis) to show what ought to be the case for the most effective course of action?

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    marxism! sorry, joke – user38026 Sep 3 '19 at 21:20
  • 'Effective' needs to be elucidated. 'Effective' in what respect ? It's too vague and general as it stands. I say this only to strenghen & focus your question. Very welcome to PSE - Geoffrey. – Geoffrey Thomas Sep 3 '19 at 22:07
  • Stoicism? "the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint." – user4894 Sep 3 '19 at 22:21
  • Thank you for the feedback. I would attempt to refine effective as "Given a goal, what general framework, when followed, is most likely to lead to its achievement?" This would take into account the real problems of human nature and complexities and ambiguities of real goals. Questions might include: "How can best practices be identified?", "What are the most likely obstacles and how can they be overcome?", "How best can an individual identify whether they are following best practices, given an arbitrary position in the world?" – alwaysLearningABC Sep 4 '19 at 1:21
  • I think the problem with Stoicism in this context is that it assumes a value, and also that the practices it recommends do not (as far as I know) take on the questions I've asked inasmuch as they don't provide a way to evaluate how good those practices are for achieving the goals of Stoicism compared to all other possible practices. – alwaysLearningABC Sep 4 '19 at 1:23
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Outside of specific training in how to perform one's job, ethical concerns that may be relevant can be found under "virtue ethics". Here is Wikipedia's description:

Virtue ethics ... are normative ethical theories which emphasize virtues of mind, character and sense of honesty. Virtue ethicists discuss the nature and definition of virtues and other related problems which focuses on the consequences of action.

Here is a description of "virtue".

A virtue is generally agreed to be a character trait, such as a habitual action or settled sentiment. Specifically, a virtue is a positive trait that makes its possessor a good human being.

And here is a description of the practical advantages of possessing these character traits.

Practical wisdom is an acquired trait that enables its possessor to identify the thing to do in any given situation. Unlike theoretical wisdom, practical reason results in action or decision.

Rosalind Hursthouse and Glen Pettigrove compare virtue ethics with deontology and consequentialism, two other approaches to normative ethics:

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach that emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Suppose it is obvious that someone in need should be helped. A utilitarian will point to the fact that the consequences of doing so will maximize well-being, a deontologist to the fact that, in doing so the agent will be acting in accordance with a moral rule such as “Do unto others as you would be done by” and a virtue ethicist to the fact that helping the person would be charitable or benevolent.

Acquiring suitable character traits associated with virtue ethics should help make one effective both on and off one's day job.


Hursthouse, Rosalind and Pettigrove, Glen, "Virtue Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/ethics-virtue/.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, August 7). Virtue ethics. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:09, September 3, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Virtue_ethics&oldid=909842610

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    Thank you for your response. I think the "practical wisdom"/"theoretical wisdom" part is the closest to what I'm trying to get at. I guess I'm trying to ask something like, "What is the theoretical wisdom as regards practical wisdom?". – alwaysLearningABC Sep 4 '19 at 1:27
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    I strongly agree with this. The real leaders have character and integrity, it may seem to go out of fashion, but it never really does; it may go into hiding but it comes back. – Gordon Sep 4 '19 at 2:28
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    @Gordon That's my experience as well. Besides without character and integrity I don't see the value in success. – Frank Hubeny Sep 4 '19 at 2:40
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    @learnJ12 It is worth giving it a try - at least researching it. I don't know what else is out there that can help as much. The other two normative ethics downplay character, but without it I don't think one can be ethical. Without being ethical I don't think one can be as effective on the job. – Frank Hubeny Sep 4 '19 at 2:46
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    @FrankHubeny yes, and people may not consider the cost of a dishonest society. I believe in keeping promises. There are not enough courts and judges to begin to handle a society that is rotting at the foundation due to general dishonesty, and litigation is unbelievably expensive today. I often hesitate to even enter into a consumer contract with many of the large corporations today because there is a basic, irritating dishonesty in so much dealing today. Everything is a mild or serious rip-off. – Gordon Sep 4 '19 at 2:58

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