Wisdom is not a mind-hack or life-hack or any kind of hack. It’s not a way of cutting through life’s difficulties with tips or tricks. It’s not a set strategies or operations that can be adopted in piecemeal or applied in pertinent situations. It’s more of a path than a hack. It’s a way of life. As a practice, wisdom demands a total change of lifestyle, or it is nothing at all. What is that lifestyle? With characteristic Judeo-Platonic-Stoic syncretism, Philo of Alexandria gives an exemplary description of the practice of wisdom in this passage from On the Special Laws [trans. F. H. Colson. (Loeb Classical Library), 2.44-49].
All who practice wisdom, either in Grecian or barbarian lands, and live a blameless and irreproachable life, choosing neither to inflict nor retaliate injustice, avoid the gathering of busybodies and abjure the scenes which they haunt, such as law-courts, council-chambers, markets, congregations and in general any gathering or assemblage of careless men. Their own aspirations are for a life of peace, free from warring. They are the closest observers of nature and all that it contains; earth, sea, air and heaven and the various forms of being which inhabit them are food for their research, as in mind and thought they share the ranging of the moon and sun and the ordered march of the other stars fixed and planetary. While their bodies are firmly planted on the land they provide their souls with wings, so that they may traverse the upper air and gain full contemplation of the powers which dwell there, as behoves true “cosmopolitans” who have recognized the world to be a city having for its citizens the associates of wisdom, registered as such by virtue to whom is entrusted the headship of the universal commonwealth. Such men filled with high worthiness, inured to disregard ills of the body or of external things, schooled to hold things indifferent as indeed indifferent, armed against the pleasures and lusts, ever eager to take their stand superior to the passions in general, trained to use every effort to overthrow the formidable menace which those passions have built up against them, never swerving under the blows of fortune because they have calculated beforehand the force of its assaults, since the heaviest adversities are lightened by anticipation, when the mind ceases to find anything strange in the event and apprehends it but dully as it might some stale and familiar story—such men, we say, in the delight of their virtues, naturally make their whole life a feast. These are indeed but a small number left in their cities like an ember of wisdom to smoulder, that virtue may not be altogether extinguished and lost to our race. But if only everywhere men had thought and felt as these few, and become what nature intended them to be, all of them blameless and guiltless and lovers of sound sense, rejoicing in moral excellence just because it is what it is and counting it the only true good and all the other goods but slaves and vassals, subject to their authority, the cities would have been brimful of happiness, utterly free from all that causes grief and fears, and packed with what produces joys and states of well-being, so that each season as it comes would give full opportunity for cheerful living and the whole cycle of the year would be a feast.
Philosophical practice involves a lifestyle of self-control or self-mastery (enkrateia), including a mastery of attention (prosoche) to all aspects of life. Peter Sloterdijk describes the subject of philosophical practice in terms of a sovereignty that requires a profound interruption of one’s integration into conventional lifestyles.
We live constantly in collective fields of excitation; this cannot be changed so long as we are social beings. The input of stress inevitably enters me; thoughts are not free […]. They come from the newspaper and wind up returning to the newspaper. My sovereignty, if it exists, can only appear by my letting the integrated impulsion die in me or, should this fail, by my retransmitting it in a totally metamorphosed, verified, filtered, or recoded form. It serves nothing to contest it: I am free only to the extent that I interrupt escalations and that I am able to immunize myself against infections of opinion. Precisely this continues to be the philosopher’s mission in society.
[Neither Sun nor Death, trans. S. Corcoran (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011), 84]