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Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault

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This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot's book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot's book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is, above all else a way of seeing and of being in the world.


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This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot's book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot's book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is, above all else a way of seeing and of being in the world.

30 review for Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elenabot

    This incomparable work tasks itself with resurrecting a lost tradition of reading, and therefore of understanding and of doing philosophy, in which the use of spiritual exercises is seen as an integral part of the meaning of philosophic texts, theories, and practices. Hadot's is an effort to excavate and make available for contemporary use older, but larger, meanings which would allow us once again to see how philosophy can be more than just an abstract theoretical endeavour: a personally transf This incomparable work tasks itself with resurrecting a lost tradition of reading, and therefore of understanding and of doing philosophy, in which the use of spiritual exercises is seen as an integral part of the meaning of philosophic texts, theories, and practices. Hadot's is an effort to excavate and make available for contemporary use older, but larger, meanings which would allow us once again to see how philosophy can be more than just an abstract theoretical endeavour: a personally transformative life-practice. In the end, Hadot reminds us that philosophy, at its best, is an exercise engaging the totality of one's being, the purpose of which is greater integration of all our capacity for experience. Rightly pursued, philosophic practice deepens our presence to ourselves, to the world, and to one another. Hadot's proposition is deeply intriguing and worth pondering carefully: What if the contemporary nihilism which results form the inability of the best scientific theory to inform life practice is born of an impoverished mode of philosophizing? And what if this impoverishment of philosophizing is due to our thought's operating with impoverished meanings, which express a restriction of the fuller meaning that philosophy once had and that it must always have if it is to inform and heal life? If we're impoverished in available meanings, Hadot shows us the means to re-construct more capacious meanings that can more fully answer to our longing for personally transformative philosophizing. In particular, he excavates the meanings that shaped the more spacious horizons of philosophizing as it was practiced during the Hellenistic period. We wander with him in the freer spaces in which the Pythagoreans, Neo-Platonists, Skeptics, Stoics, Epicureans, and Cynics encountered themselves, one another, and their world. And he shows us that the key to philosophic meaning turns out not to lie in the systematic, theoretic, formal, conceptual content of these philosophies (which, as the critics of these thinkers point out, was rather fragmentary, where present, as well as being fraught with contradictions compared to the more systematically-organized philosophies of the modern age). Rather, what these thinkers teach us is that philosophic meaning is something that can only be fully specified through a personally-transformative engagement with the texts via spiritual exercises. He shows how in the Hellenistic period, as well as in some of the most existentially transformative philosophies beyond (of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Spinoza, Goethe, and Rousseau, among others), spiritual exercises served to supplement philosophical theorizing by grounding it in existential, experientially-transformative insight. A spiritual exercise he defines as a method of focusing, drawing on, and transforming the total structure of the personality in order to reveal deeper resources for engaging with reality than we normally draw on in our blinkered, habitual, culturally pre-programmed perception of the world. Hadot makes a sharp distinction between habitual perception and philosophic perception, the latter being the perception of the fully realized personality, which can only be uncovered on the other side of sustained practice. Spiritual exercises are the means to such perception. Usually, they are exercises of defamiliarization which remove the dead weight of superficial familiarity off of experienced things in order to show us the world as if we were seeing it for the first time: inexhaustibly poignant, and an ever-renewable source of meaning and value. Their aim is the shedding and stripping of all inessentials, in the form of culturally-received opinions, which lays bare for the first time the essential values and meanings by which we can live lives of inner freedom and harmony. Philosophy's ultimate subject matter, according to Hadot, consists of such spiritual exercises as: learning to live, learning to die, learning to dialogue, learning to read, learning to see all things experienced in the light of the idea of the irreducible one, learning to relate concrete experiences to universal principles, learning to master our inner dialogue, learning the distinction between living according to the true nature of man and living according to the deformed image of human nature that we inherit from our societies through our “education”, learning the psychological attitude of ego-transcending objectivity, and learning to live according to our most comprehensive perspective attainable on the world, among other things. I'd add that Christian mysticism added one crucial exercise: learning the deepest meaning of love. Rather than being optional extras to philosophizing, Hadot insists that such exercises supply the core content of philosophies. Most importantly, the depth of the reader's commitment to the search for personal transformation supplies the very lifeblood of philosophic meaning, providing the existential, experiential content without which encountered theoretical concepts remain hollow husks. “The philosophical act is not situated merely on the cognitive level, but on that of the self and of being. It is a progress which causes us to be more fully, and makes us better. It is a conversion which turns our entire life upside down, changing the life of the person who goes through it. It raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he attains self-consciousness, an exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom.” Life rightly conceived is a 24/7 practice aimed at spiritual transformation. The goal of this transformation is to “re-learn to see” the world and to relate to it more fully. Philosophy, rightly conceived, is an ever -renewed act in the service of this transformation, taken up and practiced at each instant. Such practice, over time, takes up the dim, scattered material of our experience and intensifies it, gathering it into a unified pattern. All the philosophic schools he discusses recognized that the end goal, wisdom, is never reached as a stable, persisting state of being. Rather, they each affirm philosophy as the ever-renewed commitment to practice aiming at attaining an ever deepening degree of realization within our lived, day-to-day experience which transforms the inner economy of desires, attitudes and tastes, value-estimates, and conduct in the world. The goal of philosophic exchange thus is not the transference of ready-made, free-standing theoretical constructs that remain inert possessions in my mind. Philosophic exchange at its best seeks to fuel the reader's pursuit of self-realization by pointing to modes of attunement to aspects of reality previously missed. It is my seeing informed and expanded by others'. Hadot shows how philosophic understanding grows through this process of progressive integration of multiple perspective worlds, towards ever-greater approximation of the ideal of a universal perspective, in which the fullest concept of unity can be experientially realized. Our usual academic methods of purely discursive, exegetic and theoretical philosophizing fall short of the philosophic insights we could glean by such personally-transformative methods. Hadot takes seriously the ancient ideal of philosophy as paideia (or education in the service of self-realization), which saw the attainment of philosophic perspective over one's life as the fullest consummation of the developmental trajectory of the human psyche. Unlike other animals, the human animal is a self-birthing animal. Philosophy is the consciously-regulated process of that self-birthing. We begin the life of consciousness in a state of fragmentation and seemingly irresolvable flux. The most powerful (and perennially relevant) spiritual exercises he describes concern this effort to integrate our psyche into a working unity, a perspective capable of unifying the flux, ambiguity, paradox, and fragmentation of our experience. All the philosophic schools he describes urge us that in order to realize the inherent potentialities of our experience, we must place it in a universal perspective by relating it to general principles via sustained meditation. The ultimate goal is the cognition of the unity of things through the fully realized unity of the self. Philosophy can only attain this developmental goal if it is more than an abstract, academic exercise, but is grounded instead in the context of a sustained life-practice via spiritual exercises which teach us how to relate the most universal principles (which differ slightly in emphasis with each school) to the most concrete, intimate details of our lived experience. All the philosophic schools he describes share one this one crucial exercise in common: the effort to take a reflective step back from our usual ego-centred selves in order to place our personal experience in the context of the most universal perspective attainable. For each, “philosophy signified the effort to raise up mankind from individuality and particularity to universality and objectivity.” Our sustained effort to conceive reality as a whole makes a unity out of our scattered experience and reveals our true relationship to being. The self thus becomes a genuine, fully-living unity only when it strives against its limitations to vividly conceive the unity of the whole. Above all, the effort to escape from the confines of ego-centered perspective by vividly imagining and meditating on the expanse of infinities within infinities is liberating. It is empowering, by bringing the self back to a more accurate estimate of the values of things than is given us by our culture. In the end, this exercise leads to the realization that the most essential values cannot be derived from adherence to external conditions, but spring rather from the quality of our presence to ourselves and to the world. Most importantly, this spiritual exercise he describes as the basis for genuine theoretical insight and for truly moral action. Each school he discusses agrees that two key components of this exercise are the confrontation with death and the insistence on the absolute value of the present moment. The meditation on our death throws us back on the present moment, which we recognize as the only absolute in our purview. We do not see the present moment rightly until it becomes for us both the first and the last moment of life – which it invariably is. Only the present is our own. Yet it is an inexhaustible sufficiency, carrying within it the germ of perennially renewable creation. The value of the present moment is given theoretical formulation in philosophies, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, which affirm the mutual implication of all things with all others, and that “the whole universe is present in each part of reality”: “For them, each instant and each present moment imply the entire universe, and the whole history of the world. Just as each instant presupposes the immensity of time, so does our body presuppose the whole universe. It is within ourselves that we can experience the coming-into-being of reality and the presence of being. By becoming conscious of one single instant of our lives, one single beat of our hearts, we can feel ourselves linked to the entire immensity of the cosmos.... ...by concentrating one's attention on one instant, one moment of the world: the world then seems to come into being and be born before our eyes. We then perceive the world as a “nature” in the etymological sense of the world: physis, that movement of growth and birth by which things manifest themselves. We experience ourselves as a moment or instant of this movement; this immense event which reaches beyond us, is always there before us, and is always beyond us. We are born along with the world.” He describes the fundamental philosophic attitude as “prosoche,” or living in sustained attention to the present, which is a living always at the beginnings of life, not at its culturally pre-fabricated ends. Death emerges as the universal solvent which dissolves everything but the value of personally transformative insight the seed of which is in each moment of life. Attention to the moment against the ever-present background of death concentrates the self's powers, such that it can at last leap out of its exclusive identification with itself in order to genuinely engage with reality outside itself. That is, the encounter with death alone can make us true knowers. Philosophy is not just about education and psychological consummation. It is also about therapy. It seeks to heal that part of us that remains unengaged by our culture, and that always nags and torments us by asking for “something more” even in our most glowing moments of immersive experience in the world at hand. In this guise, philosophy seeks to answer to the needs of that part of our being that is scarcely nourished by most of our lives in society. It seeks the mode of its healing, and strives to lift it up from its gutter, dust it off, give it voice, and put its pieces back together in the way they were supposed to fit. Once brought forth, it hobbles awkwardly and we'd wish to be rid of it again for the sake of functionality, but the best of philosophy is the nagging gadfly that will not grant us lasting peace of mind through self-forgetfulness. In contrast to this personally-engaged mode of reading philosophy, which supplies content to the conceptual husk of the text via spiritual exercises, we are rather used by habits derived from our Analytic tradition to expect philosophic texts to dish out for us pre-masticated, aseptic (and therefore anemic) content that we can survey from a remove, without engaging ourselves in any thoroughgoing way in the joint pursuit of insight that was once, in dialectic, the heart of philosophic practice. Logic-chopping and conceptual analysis are the standard of rigour for us, even if our rigour comes at the expense of existential irrelevance. Life in the world goes on untouched by our formal philosophies. This mode of philosophizing purchases formal rigour at the cost of missing the central content of philosophy, which is self-realization. As Hadot notes: “the same thing happens in every spiritual exercise: we must let ourselves be changed, in our point of view, attitudes, and convictions. This means that we must dialogue with ourselves, and hence we must do battle with ourselves.” "We must let ourselves be changed" by a philosophy if we are to understand it. We must enter the perspectival universe which we'd seek to criticize. Moreover, the content of a philosophy is often to be discerned between the lines. It is a dialectic, a dialogue, between us readers and the writer. More specifically, the content of a philosophy is the differential between our mode and level of spiritual development and that of the writer. So, a key spiritual exercise is to learn to dialogue, to snap out of our natural, self-sealed monologues in order to learn to genuinely attend to the presence of others. In doing so, we more fully bring into articulateness the meaning of the presence within us. The ancients can show us that friendship, in its truest meaning, is a joint spiritual practice: “The intimate connection between dialogue with others and dialogue with oneself is profoundly significant. Only he who is capable of a genuine encounter with the other is capable of an authentic encounter within himself, and the converse is equally true. Dialogue can only be genuine within the framework of presence to others and to oneself. From this perspective, every spiritual exercise is a dialogue, insofar as it is an exercise of authentic presence, to oneself and to others.” No personal struggle + no personal engagement in the process of mutual transformation = no philosophic meaning. In the end, what the ancients can teach us is that happiness lies in the return to the essential values of life, in living in accord with our true nature, and in achieving the fullest relation with being-as-it-is that we are capable of. Above all, it lies in transcending the ego-centred orientation to life in favour of a more universal perspective. In this, each philosophy recognizes that self-realization involves self-transcendence. We are the most universal perspective that we are capable of attaining. Hadot urges us not to subjectivize the “care of the self” that the spiritual exercises represent: “Thus, all spiritual exercises are, fundamentally, a return to the self, in which the self is liberated from the state of alienation into which it has been plunged by worries, passions, and desires. The “self” liberated in this way is no longer merely our egoistic, passionate individuality: it is our moral person, open to universality and objectivity, and participating in universal nature and thought.” Such a cosmic perspective radically alters our awareness of ourselves. Hadot insists that while the worldview of modern science, which tends to quantitative, impersonal representations of nature, is nonetheless compatible with the ancient spiritual exercises which reveal the self not merely as isolated individual, but as -part- of a whole. It is this feeling, realized at the end of sustained practice, that is our ultimate response to the fear of death. I could conclude perhaps with Hadot's reminder that, to know ourselves, we must know ourselves as “philo-sophos” - not as knowers (because we never really are), but as lovers of knowledge, at a stage on the journey to realization. Who we are is precisely the degree of our distance from this center of our lives, from our ultimate realization as the unique selves that we are, with their incomparable modes of inhabiting and revealing being that they have. Hadot doesn't have much of a creed, and in this lies his greatest honesty. He cannot be pegged as either a materialist or idealist. His thought grows instead from that experiential source that lies beyond all philosophical creeds, and he asks us to grow ours from the same inexhaustible ground. In the end, he changes the way you read ALL philosophy. Plato, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, he shows, can each be best understood as inheritors of ancient spiritual exercises. Behind their explicit theories lies an implicit existential orientation to a certain model of human perfectibility. Their goal is not theoretical insight for its own sake. Rather, theory is used by each as an instrument that is an integral part of a larger life practice aimed at transforming the reader's entire orientation to life, by offering a vision of what our fuller being might be. They attempt to show ways of relating to ourselves and to the world that draw on more of our capacity for knowing and for experiencing meaning than we usually do. “Old truths... there are some truths whose meaning will never be exhausted by the generations of man. It is not that they are difficult; on the contrary, they are often extremely simple. Often they even appear to be banal. Yet for these truths to be understood, these truths must be lived, and constantly re-experienced. Each generation must take up, from scratch, the task of learning to read and to re-read these 'old truths.'” And now we need a comparative study of the "old truths" and spiritual exercises of the West to those of other cultures, especially those of Indian and Chinese philosophy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown

    An exceptional book. Highly recommended. I Blocked. Not only have I struggled with writing this review, but I have let it get in the way of others reviews. Time to get over it so here goes. Point 1. If you want to read an overarching review of this excellent book, read Elena’s review below. She serves the author, Pierre Hadot, well. Point 2. In my view, ‘Philosophy as a Way of Life’ is really about attaining the “good life”. This is not to be confused with “living the good life” as defined as ha An exceptional book. Highly recommended. I Blocked. Not only have I struggled with writing this review, but I have let it get in the way of others reviews. Time to get over it so here goes. Point 1. If you want to read an overarching review of this excellent book, read Elena’s review below. She serves the author, Pierre Hadot, well. Point 2. In my view, ‘Philosophy as a Way of Life’ is really about attaining the “good life”. This is not to be confused with “living the good life” as defined as having everything you need in life and not having to struggle for it. (I’ve got that but it’s really not anything like the “good life”.) Nor is it about joining a gym and promising yourself that you’re going to go. It’s also not about the life some of you are seeking by buying books on how to get rich, starting your own business on the internet or, making friends and influencing people. That last one could maybe be part of it though, depending on how you approach it. The “good life” was a concept held by most Ancient Greek philosophers. They were seeking a way to live their lives that would make it fulfilling or ‘right’ in the sense that they were living in tune with the cosmos (so to speak). The “good life” was really what Socrates was after. 3. Hadot wants his readers to take a new look at ancient Greek philosophers beyond the teachings of modern day academics, beyond the view of the ancients as a bunch of dry pedagogues and scriveners. This book is a call for “Philosophy as a Way of Life”. A call for his readers to approach the Greeks from their standpoint, the standpoint that says that philosophy is about living. The goal is to discover road to the”good life” and to walk that road, not just read about it. The goal lies in practice as it was described in Ancient Greek philosophies. To this end, Hadot discusses the main schools of thought coming out of that time and place: Platonism, Aristotelianism , Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism and Pyrrhonism. 4. Although Hadot presents us with this list in his earlier essay, he, in fact, focuses on Stoicism and Epicureanism with some discussion of Socrates/Plato and Aristotle, barely doing more than mentioning Cynicism and Pyrrhonism. From my perspective, this last is something of a disappointment for I most closely identify with Pyrrhonism. It would have seen more on the sceptical schools but there are other sources. Sextus Impiricus provides the closest thing there is to a guide to Pyrrhonic ‘practice’ to be found in Ancient philosophy. (Although Hadot dismisses Buddhism as a source of such practice, I find there to be a great deal of parallel thought between Mahayana Buddhist philosophy and Pyrrhonism.) Point 5. I would suggest that Hadot would agree that just as one cannot become a Buddhist without practicing a path to Buddhism; and one cannot become a Christian without practicing one of the forms of Christianity; or, indeed, become an auto mechanic without practicing the craft of auto mechanics, it is also not possible to become a philosopher without practicing philosophy. This is more than simply reading a bunch of books, or teaching some courses on the topic. It is necessary to practice the vocation, to learn what is involved and to take it into one’s daily life. Not an easy thing to do - but quite rewarding. Take it up as a full time vocation. It’s fun and rewarding - even more so than ‘making friends and influencing people”. Thanks Elena.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary-Jean Harris

    This was a great book, though not at all like I expected. It was a series of lectures about practices in ancient philosophy (primarily Stoicism, Epicurianism, and Platonism) and how they are focused on living a good life. I expected a practical guide, but this was more of a historical overview of the philosophies that talk about living a philosophical life. If you want to know how philosophy can be applied to your life (the spiritual exercises spoken of in this book), you have to read the books This was a great book, though not at all like I expected. It was a series of lectures about practices in ancient philosophy (primarily Stoicism, Epicurianism, and Platonism) and how they are focused on living a good life. I expected a practical guide, but this was more of a historical overview of the philosophies that talk about living a philosophical life. If you want to know how philosophy can be applied to your life (the spiritual exercises spoken of in this book), you have to read the books the author is talking about rather than this book. But saying that, it was an amazing guidebook and having read some of the works he talks about (e.g., Marcus Aurelius' Meditations) I have a new understanding of them and am better able to apply the wisdom within them in my life. So this definitely gets 5/5 stars!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Yashvir Dalaya

    Hadot's clear-cut understanding of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, particularly Stoicism and Epicureanism, is manifestly presented, albeit in thesis form, in this book. He points out how philosophy, in its current practice, has become more about abstract theorizing on the manner of the universe and our own lives, from its purpose in antiquity of serving as a practical guide to a "way of life". This book will serve more as an exposition of the several schools of philosophical thought that p Hadot's clear-cut understanding of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, particularly Stoicism and Epicureanism, is manifestly presented, albeit in thesis form, in this book. He points out how philosophy, in its current practice, has become more about abstract theorizing on the manner of the universe and our own lives, from its purpose in antiquity of serving as a practical guide to a "way of life". This book will serve more as an exposition of the several schools of philosophical thought that propound their atomistically different, but holistically similar ideologies, rather than as a thorough guide to learning those spiritual exercises of which the title, somewhat disingenuously, alludes to. Summing up, this is a great book for those who wish greater lucidity on the ofttimes mystical and hard-to-grasp nature of antiquated philosophy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Goetgeluck

    "People are not troubled by things, but by their judgments about things." - Epictetus Epictetus' three acts or functions of the soul: - judgment - desire - inclination or impulsion Since each of these activities of the soul depend on us, we can discipline them, we can choose to judge or not to judge in a particular way, we can choose to desire or not to desire, to will or not to will. The goal of spiritual exercises is to influence yourself, to produce an effect in yourself. In every spiritual exercise "People are not troubled by things, but by their judgments about things." - Epictetus Epictetus' three acts or functions of the soul: - judgment - desire - inclination or impulsion Since each of these activities of the soul depend on us, we can discipline them, we can choose to judge or not to judge in a particular way, we can choose to desire or not to desire, to will or not to will. The goal of spiritual exercises is to influence yourself, to produce an effect in yourself. In every spiritual exercise it is necessary to make oneself change one's point of view, attitude, set of convictions, therefore to dialogue with oneself, therefore to struggle with oneself. "A carpenter does not come to you and say 'Listen to me discourse about the art of carpentry,' but he makes a contract for a house and builds it ... Do the same thing yourself. Eat like a man, drink like a man ... get married, have children, take part in civic life, learn how to put up with insults, and tolerate other people ..." - Epictetus We should not be surprised to find that there are certain people who are half Stoic and half Epicurean, who accept and combine "Epicurean sensualism" and Stoic communion with nature," who practice both Stoic spiritual exercises of vigilance and Epicurean spiritual exercises aimed at the true pleasure of existing. F.e. Goethe, Rousseau, Thoreau Stoicism and Epicureanism seem to correspond to "two opposite but inseperable poles of our inner life: tension and relaxation, duty and serenity, moral consciousness and the joy of existing. The normal, natural state of men should be wisdom, for wisdom is nothing more than the vision of things as they are, the vision of the cosmos as it is in the light of reason, and wisdom is also nothing more than the mode of being and living that should correspond to this vision. Every school practices exercises designed to ensure spiritual progress toward the ideal state of wisdom, exercises of reason that will be, for the soul, analogous to the athlete's training or to the application of a medical cure. Self-control is fundamentally being attentive to oneself. Plutarch on self-control: "Controlling one's anger, curiosity, speech, or love of riches, beginning by working one what is easiest in order gradually to acquire a firm and stable character." It is necessary to try to have these dogmas and rules for living "ready to hand" if one is to be able to conduct oneself like a philosopher under all of life's circumstances. "Take flight each day! At least for a moment, however brief, as long as it is intense. Every day a "spiritual exercise," alone or in the company of a man who also wishes to better himself ... Leave ordinary time behind. Make an effort to rid yourself of your own passions ... Become eternal by surpassing yourself. This inner effort is necessary, this ambition, just." The fundamental rule of life: the distinction between what depends on us and what does not. We must confront life's difficulties face to face, remembering that they are not evils, since they do not depend on us. The exercise of meditation and memorization requires nourishment. This is where the more specifically intellectual exercises, as enumerated by Philo come in: reading, listening, research, and investigation. Healing consists in bringing one's soul back from the worries of life to the simple joy of existing. People's unhappiness, for the Epicureans, comes from the fact that they are afraid of things which are not to be feared, and desire things which it is not necessary to desire, and which are beyond their control. On worry, which tears us in the direction of the future, hides from us the incomparable value of the simple fact of existing: "We are born once, and cannot be born twice, but for all time must be no more. But you, who are not master of tomorrow, postpone your happiness: life is wasted in procrastination and each one of us dies overwhelmed with cares." "Keep death before your eyes every day ... and then you will never have any abject thought nor any excessive desire." "If one wants to know the nature of a thing, one must examine it in its pure state, since every addition to a thing is an obstacle to the knowledge of that thing. When you examine it, then, remove from it everything that is not itself; better still remove all your stains from yourself and examine yourself, and you will have faith in your immortality." - Plotinus All schools agree that man, before his philosophical conversion, is in a state of unhappy disquiet. Consumed by worries, torn by passions, he does not live a genuine life, nor is he truly himself. All schools also agree that man can be delivered from this state, transform himself, and attain a state of perfection. It is precisely for this that spiritual exercises are intended. Their goal is a ind of self-formation, which is to teach us how to live, not in conformity with human prejudices and social conventions - for social life itself is a product of the passions - but in conformity with the nature of man, which is none other than reason. Why people are unhappy: People are unhappy because they are the slave of their passions. They are unhappy because they desire things they may not be able to obtain, since they are exterior, alien, and superfluous to them. It follows that happiness consists in indepence, freedom, and autonomy. In other words, happiness is the return to the essential: that which is truly "ourselves," and which depends on us. Goethe on learning how to read: "Ordinary people don't know how much time and effort it takes to learn how to read. I've spent eighty years at it, and still can't say that I've reached my goal." "Everything highly prized in life is empty, petty, and putrid: a pack of little digs biting each other, little children who fight, then laugh, then burst our crying." - Marcus Aurelius "Think about what they are like when they're eating, sleeping, copulating, defecating. Then think of what they're like when they're acting proud and important, when they get angry and upbraid their inferiors." - Marcus Aurelius Marcus on refusing to add subjective value-judgments: "Always make a definition or description of the object that occurs in your representation, so as to be able to see it as it is in its essence, both as a whle and as a dividend into its constituent parts, and say to yourself its proper name and the names of those things out of which it is composed, and into which it will be dissolved." Epictetus: "We shall never give our assent to anything but that of which we have an objective representation. So-and-so's son is dead. What happened? His son is dead? Nothing else? Not a thing. So-and-so's ship sank. What happened? His ship sank." The Epicureans on senseless people (Ibid): "Senseless people live in hope for the future, and since this cannot be certain, they are consumed by fear and anxiety. Their torment is the most intense when they realize too late that they have striven in vain after money or power or glory, for they do not derive any pleasure from the things which, inflamed with hope, they had undertaken such great labors to procure." Nature made necessary things easy to obtain, things which are hard to obtain, unnecessary. The fundamental Stoic attitude: Attention, vigilance, and continuous tension, concentrated upon each and every moment, in order not to miss anything which is contrary to reason. "Here is what is enough for you: 1. the judgment you are bringing to bear at this moment upon reality, as long as it is objective; 2. the action you are carrying out at this moment, as long as it is accomplished in the service of human community; and 3. the inner disposition in which you find yourself at this moment, as long as it is a disposition of joy in the face of the conjunction of events caused by extraneous causality" - Marcus Aurelius Seneca on focusing on the present moment: "Two things must be cut short: the fear of the future and the memory of past discomfort; the one does not concern me any more, and the other does not concern me yet." "Rich people are proud of completely unimportant things." - Menippus In order to live, mandkind must "humanize" the world; in other words transform it, by action as well as by his perception, into an ensemble of "things" useful for life. Thus, we fabricate the objects of our worry, quarrels, social rituals, and conventional values. That is what our world is like; we no longer see the world qua world. In the words of Rilke, we no longer see "the Open"; we see only the "future."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    A must read for anyone interested in ancient philosophy and seekers of wisdom. This book has a great way of explaining how it was when philosophy was a way of life and will give you suggestions on how to think for yourself and for the present moment.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ira

    This is a good read and it cheers me up. The chapter on Socrates is particularly interesting: insights into approaches to teaching and dialogue, as well as the role of Eros as demon. And about incommunicability, language and death. Finally some ancient wisdom. I will re-read Euripides tragedies. The form of dialogue is first a form of friendship. It is a journey in which the interlocutors do not know the destination. They do not respectively defend a ‘truth’ or conclusion yet it is a kind of bat This is a good read and it cheers me up. The chapter on Socrates is particularly interesting: insights into approaches to teaching and dialogue, as well as the role of Eros as demon. And about incommunicability, language and death. Finally some ancient wisdom. I will re-read Euripides tragedies. The form of dialogue is first a form of friendship. It is a journey in which the interlocutors do not know the destination. They do not respectively defend a ‘truth’ or conclusion yet it is a kind of battle with oneself and the other, because it requires a constant shifting of the goal post. Socrates was known for saying ‘All I know is that I do not know anything’. Yet the imparting of an attitude of questioning and an openness to unpredicted detours of reflection was the character of his style. So the dialogue is friendship for knowledge, an attitude of love towards it that demands an engagement that is dialectical. The nature of dialogical dialectic of the Platonic form is this battle and constant questioning, where the interlocutor brings a random element to the engagement that makes it capable of transforming oneself and the other. This random element is freedom. The dialogue is a spiritual exercise, to an extent it entails a conversion- but it is not a manipulation in so far as both interlocutors are open to the process of transformation. What is the basic difference then between sophism as the art of persuasion and the platonic dialogue? The latter is the exercise of method, a participation to the logos that knows no pre-established conclusions. Yet the theme of conversion and persuasion are already present in Plato. This is important for politics, for the sophists will be accused of not being in the service of truth but in the service of power. It is the first attack on discourse, the critique of sophism. An attack on the tools of philosophical discourse as ends in themselves. The Epicureans were the first to introduce the idea that the value of presence, of being present was the cancellation of worries and anxieties towards the future.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kang

    Hadot strikes me as a cross between Foucault and Leo Strauss: he shares with the Strauss the view that, as the book title suggests, philosophy is not primarily and perhaps not even ultimately concerned with assigning truth values to assertoric propositions. He shares with Foucault a certain historicism; the way he talks about the doctrines and methods of so-called "schools of thought" is somewhat symptomatic of this fact. The editing in this volume is lazy, and Hadot is repetitious and his style Hadot strikes me as a cross between Foucault and Leo Strauss: he shares with the Strauss the view that, as the book title suggests, philosophy is not primarily and perhaps not even ultimately concerned with assigning truth values to assertoric propositions. He shares with Foucault a certain historicism; the way he talks about the doctrines and methods of so-called "schools of thought" is somewhat symptomatic of this fact. The editing in this volume is lazy, and Hadot is repetitious and his style is sometimes, shall we say, less than riveting. Those complaints, however, are mainly stylistic and matters of taste, and do not touch upon substance (but on Goodreads I rate based on what I like rather than what I esteem). Certainly his chapter 3, "Spiritual Exercises," is an important chapter and deserves the reader's attention and respect, for it makes plain why the philosophy of antiquity is a "possession for all time."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tasshin Fogleman

    Read much of this book on a one-to-one study group with Dresden; we both enjoyed what we read, although she said that John said that he had heard Hadot was "Foucault light." Hadot is certainly simple, and one can tire of his seemingly endless search for sources and authors that match his thesis—and yet that thesis opens up a new realm for philosophy past and future, but most especially in the present. Now. Yes. Now. (Did you get that?) Hadot made me want to re-read Plato properly, and I thank him Read much of this book on a one-to-one study group with Dresden; we both enjoyed what we read, although she said that John said that he had heard Hadot was "Foucault light." Hadot is certainly simple, and one can tire of his seemingly endless search for sources and authors that match his thesis—and yet that thesis opens up a new realm for philosophy past and future, but most especially in the present. Now. Yes. Now. (Did you get that?) Hadot made me want to re-read Plato properly, and I thank him for that. More generally, he nicely delineated a path of reading that could be continued, whether I want to delve into ancient or modern philosophy. I especially want to revisit Epictetus, Lucretius, Plotinus, and read Marcus Aurelius for the first time; in the "future" aka recent past, I want to read Hegel (coming soon to a library near you!), Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Camus... And most importantly I am trying to continue the Quixotic Quest.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    Hadot presents philosophy as "spiritual exercises" through essays on Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and others. In addition to the exercises the book includes essays on the methods of philosophy, discussions of Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. The essay on Marcus Aurelius was enhanced by my concurrent reading of his Meditations which can be seen as an example of the way of practicing philosophy described in Hadot's book. The book concludes with a section on "Themes" where the nature of happiness and un Hadot presents philosophy as "spiritual exercises" through essays on Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and others. In addition to the exercises the book includes essays on the methods of philosophy, discussions of Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. The essay on Marcus Aurelius was enhanced by my concurrent reading of his Meditations which can be seen as an example of the way of practicing philosophy described in Hadot's book. The book concludes with a section on "Themes" where the nature of happiness and understanding the world through philosophizing are considered. He concludes with the title essay that recommends practicing philosophy as 'a way of life'. This was an intriguing and invigorating read that, as with all good books, left this reader with as many questions as it did answers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Kestrel

    What if I was to say that, in the end, your life was nothing but a stain on the pavement? Quite likely you would be offended and retort how I dare to utter such repulsive remark. However, in my defence I would say that is exactly the point for I am a philosopher. I am not here to please anyone. Philosophy as a way of life does not involve being rude, but it does mean to express ideas that may seem odd and/or offensive to some. I would also maintain that instead of being offended, you should answ What if I was to say that, in the end, your life was nothing but a stain on the pavement? Quite likely you would be offended and retort how I dare to utter such repulsive remark. However, in my defence I would say that is exactly the point for I am a philosopher. I am not here to please anyone. Philosophy as a way of life does not involve being rude, but it does mean to express ideas that may seem odd and/or offensive to some. I would also maintain that instead of being offended, you should answer like, “Pavement, eh? That implies a road. Then someone built it. Who was it? Where does it lead to?” A Stoic philosopher would be asking that kind of questions. That is the point, I believe, among others that Pierre Hadot makes in his book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Özgürel

    Despite his own thesis that ancient philosophy "was a mode of existing-in-the-world, which had to be practiced at each instant and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual's life", Hadot's book does not provide much information on the ancient philosophers' mode of existing in-the-world and the relationship between their philosophy and their way of life. There is not much historical evidence on the lives of ancient philosophers that their philosophy determined their way of l Despite his own thesis that ancient philosophy "was a mode of existing-in-the-world, which had to be practiced at each instant and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual's life", Hadot's book does not provide much information on the ancient philosophers' mode of existing in-the-world and the relationship between their philosophy and their way of life. There is not much historical evidence on the lives of ancient philosophers that their philosophy determined their way of living. In some cases, there seems to be contradictions between their philosophy and lifestyle. Seneca's life is such an example which contradicts his Stoic philosophy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This is an excellent book. Unfortunately I only understood every third paragraph. Much of the book went over my head, but the third that I did understand made it one of the best books I've read. If you are interested in Stoicism then I would recommend giving this book a read. I would love to have someone to discuss it with and perhaps help me gain some insights on the bits I couldn't fully appreciate. This is an excellent book. Unfortunately I only understood every third paragraph. Much of the book went over my head, but the third that I did understand made it one of the best books I've read. If you are interested in Stoicism then I would recommend giving this book a read. I would love to have someone to discuss it with and perhaps help me gain some insights on the bits I couldn't fully appreciate.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gary Brooks

    Superlative examination of philosophy's evolution through practical guide to the good life, scholastic theological foil, to it's present academic, abstract form. Hadot details the spiritual exercises of Stoicism, Epicureanism, Pythagors and Plotinus; concentrating also on themes in common such as devotion to the present moment, virtue as a lived exercise and philosophy as a means of living well. Recommended. Superlative examination of philosophy's evolution through practical guide to the good life, scholastic theological foil, to it's present academic, abstract form. Hadot details the spiritual exercises of Stoicism, Epicureanism, Pythagors and Plotinus; concentrating also on themes in common such as devotion to the present moment, virtue as a lived exercise and philosophy as a means of living well. Recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Henry Manampiring

    Finally finished this book. It's not very easy to read, especially since it was written originally in French, but it is not impossible to comprehend and enjoy. It has changed my view on ancient philosophy in a fundamental way. I used to think that philosophy is just intellectual discourse for the privileged, wholesale. Hadot showed us that this is so contrary to the original intent of the philosophy schools. In Hadot's words: "It is an invitation to each human being to transform himself. Philosop Finally finished this book. It's not very easy to read, especially since it was written originally in French, but it is not impossible to comprehend and enjoy. It has changed my view on ancient philosophy in a fundamental way. I used to think that philosophy is just intellectual discourse for the privileged, wholesale. Hadot showed us that this is so contrary to the original intent of the philosophy schools. In Hadot's words: "It is an invitation to each human being to transform himself. Philosophy is a conversion, a transformation of one's way of being and living." Philosophy is not to be just read, reviewed, debated. In the end, it is to be practiced continuously. In modern term, I'd call it "Operating System" of our daily lives.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Iain

    A truly excellent book - gives a wonderful, historical sweep on the evolution of spiritual exercises from the time of antiquity to the present day. I would recommend it to the religious and non-religious alike, anyone who is interested in the big questions in life and how we might examine them, and live our responses to them, on a moment-by-moment basis. Hadot was an innovative genius.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Self-help for would-be philosophers. De Botton avant-la-lettre. Rather boring and clichéd. Fails to move or provoke. Reads like the philosophical equivalent of a satisfied Socrates cultivating his garden...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julian Munds

    Taking a work as it was written and in and of itself. Nothing else. This is the central thesis of the series of the essays and lectures that are collected in this book. At times the reading becomes esoteric and at times winded in close readings. It helps if you have the other texts close at hand.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Giovanni Generoso

    This book changed my life.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex Winikoff

    BEAUTIFUL book on philosophy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tiago Faleiro

    It's impossible to understate the importance of this book, and I'm somewhat embarrassed that I have no read it before. And I'm baffled at the lack of its popularity. What the book argues is that philosophy as we currently conceptualize it is in some ways deeply misguided. Far from being an abstract and purely intellectual enterprise, philosophy as its core was a way of life, as the title implies. Hadot was a historian of philosophy specializing in ancient philosophy, and he brings a new light to It's impossible to understate the importance of this book, and I'm somewhat embarrassed that I have no read it before. And I'm baffled at the lack of its popularity. What the book argues is that philosophy as we currently conceptualize it is in some ways deeply misguided. Far from being an abstract and purely intellectual enterprise, philosophy as its core was a way of life, as the title implies. Hadot was a historian of philosophy specializing in ancient philosophy, and he brings a new light to how we view philosophy in the past. One of the large problems of studying philosophy is that we are inherently divorced from it, culturally and linguistically, in which many of its core ideas get lost. One of the first things he draws attention to is how we think of ancient philosophical books is wrong before we even read them. The books follow a literary and conceptual structure which is a byproduct of their time, but we inherently frame old books in how we currently think of books. For example, we think of Augustine's Confessions as the first autobiography in the West, but Hadot argues that many details of the books indicate that it's much less an autobiography than commonly thought. Some of the events and histories are allegories for mankind, and the way he tells is part of how the work is constructed. Another instance of ancient Greek philosophy. The texts that survive we now consider them manuals of the philosophy of their authors, but they are not written that way, since philosophical teaching was for the most part in oral form, and philosophy wasn't thought of being possible from writing and reading alone. The texts were only supplements for classes, sometimes little more than scribbled notes. This is likely what creates many of the incoherences and contradictions of ancient texts. To read an ancient author is nothing like reading a contemporary author and requires extensive knowledge of the culture to which he belonged. Problems such as these prevented the West in modernity to realize the true nature of philosophy: personal transformation into a wiser human being. One way of achieving that was what he calls "spiritual exercises", which are philosophical practices that make that transformation happen. Perhaps the best illustration of which being Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, which is deeply misunderstood. Aurelius wasn't writing knowledge propositions, but rather practising ways of conceptualizing the world to better be able to grasp reality and act virtuously. Philosophy was the process in which one became wiser. It was far from simply a profession of creating or discussing abstract ideas. In fact, individuals were philosophers in so far as they acted philosophically, which could include people who weren't scholars or professors. Hence Christianity at the beginning being called "Christian philosophy". The main goal wasn't specific beliefs, but living a Christian way of life. It was a way of being. The latter was also partially responsible for the decay of the connection between philosophy and wisdom. In the Middle ages, spiritual exercises were increasingly associated with the spiritual life and practice of Christian monks, and philosophy became nothing but a "servant of theology" with logical argumentation. The value of the book is immense, and in addition to the broad points I've made, the details Hadot goes into are incredibly insightful. He spends a large amount of time discussing two figures in particular: Socrates and Marcus Aurelius, and seeing his arguments "embodied" in these authors was fantastic. The book does have its flaws. Sometimes the historical analysis or criticisms of specific arguments for a given interpretation get a bit tedious. It also tends to repeat the same ideas throughout the book. This likely accounts for the book not being more popular. I wish someone wrote a book that discusses these ideas but in a shorter, more concise format. The ideas could easily be transmitted in half the length. This would make it much more friendly to those outside of the field of philosophy and history. But despite this, the book is still very enjoyable to read. This one is one of the few books that I would say that if you're interested in philosophy, it is a must-read. You may study philosophy for decades and easily miss the core argument that Hadot offers. Doing so would be shamefully beyond comprehension and an offence towards the wisdom accumulated throughout millennia by the smartest people who ever lived. It

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ci

    There are at least several levels of reading suitable for this book: one, as an exhortation of a way of life – life living in pursuing wisdom and cosmic reason (exemplified most readily in Stoic figures such as Marcus Aurelius, and a few Epicureans) in order to reconcile the alienation of human consciousness and its existential finitude; two, as an discursive exegetical narrative of a way of life out of the ordinary mode of being through a disciplined exercise of perception, reasoning and conduc There are at least several levels of reading suitable for this book: one, as an exhortation of a way of life – life living in pursuing wisdom and cosmic reason (exemplified most readily in Stoic figures such as Marcus Aurelius, and a few Epicureans) in order to reconcile the alienation of human consciousness and its existential finitude; two, as an discursive exegetical narrative of a way of life out of the ordinary mode of being through a disciplined exercise of perception, reasoning and conducts; three, as an academic supplement to the readers of ancient philosophies who ponder on their relevance to our contemporary life; and lastly, as a kind of philosophic “confession” of a renowned historian of philosophy. At each level, the reader is benefited by the author’s immense eloquence and erudite (and not the least, the translator being a philosopher who has a masterful command of rendering Hadot). Each chapter is relatively brief so easy to occupy less an hour of close reading. The benefit of that hour should be evident to anyone who find the world anew, through the filtered lens of Hadot which illuminates the possibility of living in full consciousness in order to rise above the mundanity, a possibility practiced in the ancient art of philosophy (not as academic discourse, but as ways of life). What is the aim of that way of life – the life lived by Marcus Aurelius or Lucretius as they lifted up their eyes from the mundane strife to the cosmic vision? Not as an egoic project to master the world of ordinary affairs, but to merge with something sublime. But this merging is not through the effort of living a philosophic life; as Hadot reminded us, in his postscript interview, by way of Wittgenstein, that the mystery of life “shows itself; it is mystical.” Philosophy, as a way of life, prepares us for the hopeful possibility when life mysteriously shows its fullness.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tomas Vik

    Pierre Hadot was a French philosopher who spent his whole life studying ancient philosophy. He was a key proponent of thought that ancient philosophy was not the theoretical discipline studied at universities as we see it now but a way of life. Everyday practical exercises were an inseparable part of philosophy. Through the highly practical point of view, Hadot explains the work of Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. Modern scholars often misinterpreted Marcus Aurelius as a pessimist. In his Meditation Pierre Hadot was a French philosopher who spent his whole life studying ancient philosophy. He was a key proponent of thought that ancient philosophy was not the theoretical discipline studied at universities as we see it now but a way of life. Everyday practical exercises were an inseparable part of philosophy. Through the highly practical point of view, Hadot explains the work of Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. Modern scholars often misinterpreted Marcus Aurelius as a pessimist. In his Meditations, Marcus talks very dispassionately about sex, food, and power. And in sexual intercourse that it is no more than the friction of a membrane and a spurt of mucus ejected. But instead of being a pessimist, he just tried to objectively describe things that people assign large value to and in doing so crave those things less. This book made it clear that philosophy was a great discipline of spirituality and only with the rise of Christianity, the philosophy became the study of logic and morality, disconnected from everyday life. Religion replaced the parts of philosophy that used to govern people’s lives in ancient Greece and Rome. And Hadot puts forward good arguments for Christianity copying and extending the good parts of ancient philosophy. Even though this book is a heavy textbook, it gave me an insight into the philosophy I’d love. The philosophy that’s all about bettering yourself and about living a full life instead of having arguments about fictional scenarios. Also, ancient philosophy seems to be close to Buddhism in all key aspects: - Desire and aversion are causing all suffering. The moment you want something you don’t have, or you don’t want something you’ve got, you are suffering. - There is no self. The feeling of being separate from the world is an illusion. - There is only the present moment, the past doesn’t exist anymore, and the future doesn’t exist yet.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Hinkle

    This book has been sitting on my shelf for decades, since I read a chapter or two for a class in Divinity School. The title and concept has always caught me. Finally during a Covid vacation i started it and am grateful. The central idea, that philosophy is not a set of true propositions but rather a process of self-creation through meditation and reflection and ethical behavior, seems inherently right. It also seems important. If philosophy its spiritual exercises to the growth of theology as a This book has been sitting on my shelf for decades, since I read a chapter or two for a class in Divinity School. The title and concept has always caught me. Finally during a Covid vacation i started it and am grateful. The central idea, that philosophy is not a set of true propositions but rather a process of self-creation through meditation and reflection and ethical behavior, seems inherently right. It also seems important. If philosophy its spiritual exercises to the growth of theology as a discipline, then perhaps the modern world, in abandoning theology, is ready to rediscover these exercises in a more formal, structured fashion. Maybe we can actually talk about how to live. The book is a collection of essays - not really structured as a book. So some chapters were much less engaging for me and there was a fair bit of repetition.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barry Andrews

    Pierre Hadot is a historian of philosophy, specializing in the philosophies of Ancient Greece and Rome. In this book he describes the spiritual exercises prescribed by the various philosophical schools—Stoicism, Epicureanism, etc. These exercises were eventually taken up by the Catholic Church, but they are typical of self-cultivation philosophies generally, including Confucianism, Taoism, Vedanta, and Transcendentalism. I find this book to be an excellent resource in my on-going study of self-c Pierre Hadot is a historian of philosophy, specializing in the philosophies of Ancient Greece and Rome. In this book he describes the spiritual exercises prescribed by the various philosophical schools—Stoicism, Epicureanism, etc. These exercises were eventually taken up by the Catholic Church, but they are typical of self-cultivation philosophies generally, including Confucianism, Taoism, Vedanta, and Transcendentalism. I find this book to be an excellent resource in my on-going study of self-culture in 19th century American literature, especially that of the Transcendentalists. I recommend this book highly.

  26. 5 out of 5

    ვახო ჰიბრის სვანიძე

    What is Ancient Philosophy and how it differs from one, which we call modern and contemporary philosophies. An answer, which Hadot sets, is that in modern times there is immense gap between Philosophical discourse and Philosophical life itself, whereas in Ancient way of perceiving philosophy, those two parts were coherent, in hierarchy that Discourse was perceived as a server of experienced philosophy, basis for exercises of soul. Later, he shows an importance of present instant and how it was p What is Ancient Philosophy and how it differs from one, which we call modern and contemporary philosophies. An answer, which Hadot sets, is that in modern times there is immense gap between Philosophical discourse and Philosophical life itself, whereas in Ancient way of perceiving philosophy, those two parts were coherent, in hierarchy that Discourse was perceived as a server of experienced philosophy, basis for exercises of soul. Later, he shows an importance of present instant and how it was perceived and exercised in ancient times. This book have changed my conception of Philosophy and how I perceive Philosophical texts. Totally brilliant work from French Philosopher.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Johnson

    Hadot persuasively shows that philosophy originated not primarily as abstract thinking or systematic discourse but as a way of living truly and wisely in the world. Though thinking and discourse are necessary for the philosophical life, the main goal of philosophy is to transform one's life within a community of other human beings. This is also why early Christianity claimed to be the true "philosophy". After all, philosophy is the love (i.e. pursuit) of wisdom, and in Hadot's words, "real wisdo Hadot persuasively shows that philosophy originated not primarily as abstract thinking or systematic discourse but as a way of living truly and wisely in the world. Though thinking and discourse are necessary for the philosophical life, the main goal of philosophy is to transform one's life within a community of other human beings. This is also why early Christianity claimed to be the true "philosophy". After all, philosophy is the love (i.e. pursuit) of wisdom, and in Hadot's words, "real wisdom does not merely cause us to know: it makes us 'be' in a different way.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Logan Mitchell

    This was a book I first heard about from reading Ryan Holiday’s “Ego is the Enemy,” which also led me to read Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations,” both of which I recommend. This book, however, was remarkably astute and engaging. While it can be repetitive, I think the lessons and ideas being discussed are important enough to make the repetition feel less redundant and more like a spiritual exercise in itself, bringing us closer to a new understanding of philosophy and its place in our lives.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shane Orr

    Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy writing. Here he takes a look at philosophy's evolution. Today, philosophy is viewed as a mostly theoretical topic, while for the ancients it was a true way of life. He also considers Christianity and its ties to philosophy. Overall, I found it to be a little too heavy for my liking. Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy writing. Here he takes a look at philosophy's evolution. Today, philosophy is viewed as a mostly theoretical topic, while for the ancients it was a true way of life. He also considers Christianity and its ties to philosophy. Overall, I found it to be a little too heavy for my liking.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sheehan

    This is the best book on Hellenistic and Roman philosophy that I have read. It reads more as a collection of essays than a systematic treatment of its subject, but that makes it on the whole a stronger work. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in philosophy and the art of living.

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