The contemporary discourse around philosophy as a way of life has been inspired by the works of many ancient philosophers who actively promoted this idea.
The problem with this contemporary debate is that answers to questions about how to live are often drawn directly from these ancient sources. Aristotle, the Stoics, or Epicurus are treated as sages bestowing wisdom on us blinkered moderns. While there is no doubt great wisdom in the ancient literature, one might question the relevance of their commentary. We live in vastly different circumstances confronting problems of which they never dreamed. Furthermore, there has been a flood of philosophical water flowing under the bridge during the past 2000 years. Is that just so much effluent to be drawn off while we contemplate the Stoic logos or Plato’s forms?
What this debate needs are contemporary philosophers who can apply their considerable analytic skills to problems in living as they emerge in modern society and offer illumination if not solutions. This debate needs to be less wedded to ancient sources if it is to thrive as anything more that a niche topic. Hence the import of Kieran Setiya’s new book, Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way.
Setiya is an MIT professor, co-editor of the online journal Philosophers’ Imprint and well known for his work in ethics and practical reason. His discussion is exactly what the debate around philosophy as a way of life needs.
I’m working on a longer review of the book, but this interview with him is worth checking out.