Earning the Title of Philosopher

It was Epicurus who said “vain is the word of the philosopher that doesn’t heal the suffering of man.” The Stoics would agree, but took it further: Believing that philosophy was in the works not the words. It’s why they held up Cato as the ultimate example of Stoic philosophy, because of how he lived, not how he spoke or wrote.

In France last week, the philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle died while rushing into the water to save two young children who were in danger. In her writing, Anne spoke often of risk—saying that it was impossible to live life without risk and that in fact, life was risk. It is in the presence of danger, she once said in an interview, that we are gifted with the “strong incentive for action, dedication, and surpassing oneself.”

What Dufourmantelle thought of Stoicism is not well-known, but it is undeniable that she was the kind of philosopher they would have admired. She earned the honor for eternity on that beach in Saint-Tropez. Her words had long been provocative and interesting and rightfully earned her admission to the finest schools and to the Académie française, but it was her works—what she did in a moment of danger and risk—that made her a true philosopher.

And so we ought to follow her lead, all of us who study any school of philosophy and life.

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