Saturday, October 03, 2009

Who is your ancient guru?

The prolific writer Mark Vernon has produced a short on-line quiz to help you discover your ancient philosophy guru.

You will be asked questions like
Do you think it's more useful to think about how to be happy or how to cope with suffering?
Do you prefer pondering big issues or practical matters?
I wasn't sure  how to answer the question about the relative importance happiness or suffering, but when I plumped for happiness my ancient guru turned out to be Epicurus, which was uncannily accurate. I do have a lot of sympathy for Epicurus's values of friendship, philosophising, reason and happiness.

When I took the test again and answered "suffering" to the first question my guru turned out to be the Stoic Zeno, which again was pretty much on the money.

Just for fun, I also tried answering  the exact opposite of my real views, and my anti-guru turned out to be the sceptic Pyrrho. So I know not to read more about him ....

Vernon's quiz isn't meant to be taken too seriously.  I'd  be uncomfortable thinking of Epicurus or Zeno as my guru, and would  turn just as happily to  Aristotle, Plato or Socrates if looking for  wisdom. But the quiz is good fun and could well generate ideas about new philosophers to look at.

To read about a variety of ancient gurus, you can also buy  Vernon's new book, Plato's Podcasts.

To take the quiz, go to



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