Saturday, August 07, 2021

Philosophers who inspire the FIRE movement

Something short for this weekend, with the Lying Flat movement gaining traction and possibly fuelling the FIRE movement, it is time to review three philosophers that can be said to be basis of both movements.

a) Diogenes

Diogenes was part of the Cynic movement and can be said to be somewhat like an Ancient Troll. He was banished for the debasement of the currency and exiled from his city. 

Reviewing his life, it is no wonder that he animates the Lying flat movement. He lived in a clay wine jar that belonged to the temple and was said to throw his only clay bowl away when he saw a peasant drink by cupping his own hands. What is not mentioned by proponents of the Lying Flat movement was that Diogenes also masturbated in public and defecated in the public theatre. 

His philosophy is quite regressive if viewed from a modern lens, the central tenet that artificial societal growth is antithetical to personal happiness. 

I can imagine the Chinese Communist Party is very defensive if modern-day Diogenes arose in Chinese society. 

b) Heraclitus

It is not clear how Heraclitus the “Obscure” can inspire the Lying Flat movement. He is a metaphysician who proposes the idea of the unity of opposites. The opposite of justice is strife, and consequently, we can only know justice from understanding what strife is. His other idea is that we’re constantly changing. 

I suspect the movement just wanted to say that Lying Flat allows people to think about life the same way Heraclitus does. Still, I can imagine this might take some effort in ancient times as empiricism is not even invented yet. 

Heraclitus may be more beneficial for the FIRE movement as he was a precursor to the Stoics. 

c) Thales

Thales of Miletus is not part of the Lying Flat movement but, combined with Diogenes and Heraclitus, and they form an exciting triad for further research. 

Thales is more of a mathematician who pioneered the idea that everything was water. His contribution to geometry was quite extensive, but it is what he did with this life that makes him an icon of the FIRE movement. 

Thales was the first person who understood how to setup a monopoly. He was able to predict that olives would have a good harvest at a particular year and cornered the supply of olive presses. The resulting boost in demand for the presses made him a rich man. 

Hopefully I’ll have something better on National Day.

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