How to Journal (Like a Philosopher)

How to Journal (Like a Philosopher)

When done with a philosophical lens, journaling serves as a tool for mindful introspection. It empowers us to dissect our feelings, beliefs, and assumptions, encouraging us to question the narratives we’ve constructed about ourselves and the world. It becomes a mirror that reflects our inner selves, allowing us to observe our mental patterns, evaluate our actions, and assess our decision-making processes.

This article is dedicated to exploring the art of philosophical journaling in detail. We will delve into its historical roots, tracing back to ancient philosophers who used writing as a tool for self-reflection and philosophical exploration. We’ll unpack the transformative power of journaling and highlight how it can serve as a tool for self-understanding and self-improvement. Furthermore, we will provide practical advice and steps to incorporate philosophical journaling into your daily routine.

Understanding Journaling and Its Benefits

At its core, journaling refers to regularly writing down your thoughts, ideas, feelings, or experiences. Many notable figures throughout history, from Queen Victoria to Ernest Hemingway, kept detailed journals that now offer us invaluable insights into their times.

However, the benefits of journaling extend far beyond historical documentation. Modern science backs up journaling as a catalyst for personal growth. It has shown positive effects on mental health, helping to reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing creativity, problem-solving skills, and understanding of oneself.

Journaling Like a Philosopher: The Concept and Its History

Philosophical journaling, though, pushes the boundaries of traditional journaling. It incorporates critical thinking, introspection, and exploration of philosophical ideas, creating a space for profound self-reflection.

Ancient and modern philosophers alike engaged in this practice. Marcus Aurelius, known for his stoic meditations, and existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, who used his journals for exploring complex philosophical ideas, both journaled in this way. Philosophical journaling, thus, serves as a mirror of our inner universe, prompting us to examine our values, beliefs, and the essence of our being.

Different Philosophical Schools and Their Journaling Styles

Various philosophical schools have unique approaches to journaling:

  • Stoicism emphasizes accepting life as it is, focusing on what we can control, and letting go of what we can’t. Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” provides an excellent example of Stoic journaling.
  • Existentialism, often linked with Søren Kierkegaard, encourages the exploration of personal freedom, responsibility, and the meaning of life. Kierkegaard’s journals abound with such existentialist musings.
  • Confucianism, embodied in the analects of Confucius, centers on personal and governmental morality, justice, and sincerity. A journal following this philosophy might focus on these principles in daily life.
  • Enlightenment philosophers like René Descartes, known for his meditations, employed logic and reason to explore the nature of knowledge, existence, and the mind. A journal in this style would prioritize rational thought and analysis.

How to Start Journaling Like a Philosopher

Beginning your journey of philosophical journaling requires preparation. The choice of journaling tool—a physical notebook or a digital platform—relies on personal preference. Then, it would be best if you allocated a specific time for journaling, creating a peaceful space that encourages introspection.

Deciding on the philosophical school that aligns with your worldview will guide your entries. Remember, philosophical journaling aims not to pen an academic paper but to engage with your thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. Be ready to question your beliefs and assumptions, employing critical thinking skills to explore your inner self.

Consider, for instance, writing a journal entry from a Stoic perspective. Reflect on a recent event that caused distress, analyzing what parts were within your control and what weren’t. From there, meditate on accepting things as they are instead of how you wish them to be.

Techniques for Philosophical Journaling

Several techniques can enhance your philosophical journaling practice:

  • Guided Reflection allows you to question your beliefs and assumptions, inviting new perspectives.
  • Dialoguing involves writing a conversation with a future or past version of yourself, fostering self-awareness and growth.
  • Contemplative Review provides a platform to reflect on life events through a philosophical lens, uncovering hidden insights.
  • Meditative Writing uses journaling as a meditation tool, focusing on the process of writing to attain mental clarity.
  • Thematic Journaling explores a philosophical concept over an extended period, deepening your understanding.

Overcoming Common Challenges in Philosophical Journaling

Every writer faces hurdles. Writer’s block, self-doubt, inconsistency, or running out of topics to explore often hinder the journaling journey. Remember that the goal lies in personal growth, not perfection. Write freely, maintaining consistency even when it feels challenging. With time, topics for exploration will naturally emerge from your subconscious mind.

The Impact of Philosophical Journaling

Philosophical journaling impacts not only personal transformation but also broader societal philosophies. By reflecting on our individual and collective values, we contribute to the evolving philosophical landscape. Moreover, it aids in decision-making and emotional well-being, fostering a greater understanding of oneself and the world.


Philosophical journaling exists at the fascinating crossroads of introspective self-analysis and intellectual examination of concepts and ideas. It isn’t confined to the passive absorption of established philosophical theories. Instead, it includes integrating those theories better to comprehend oneself and one’s position within the world.

Philosophical journaling can be considered a form of meditation, a method to search deeper into our minds and experiences. It invites us to engage in thought experiments, to question our beliefs, and to analyze our perspectives. This reflective practice can result in better self-understanding and, eventually, self-growth.

In your voyage of philosophical journaling, remember the profound wisdom from eminent philosopher William James: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” This quote reminds us of our power in shaping our mental landscapes. It underscores the agency we have over our thoughts and the narratives we form in our minds. By engaging with our thoughts consciously, we can influence our emotional responses and, ultimately, our life experiences.

As you embark on this fulfilling path of philosophical journaling, let these words inspire you to remain curious, reflective, and empowered in your choices. In the power of our thoughts, we find our freedom and potential to understand ourselves better and, consequently, lead more fulfilling lives.

References and Additional Resources

“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

“Journals” by Søren Kierkegaard

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a wealth of information