The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson

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Stanford University Press, 2009 - Philosophy - 191 pages
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In this book of brilliantly erudite and precise discussions, Pierre Hadot explains that for the Ancients philosophy was not reducible to the building of a theoretical system: it was above all a choice about how to live one's life.

One of the most influential historians of ancient philosophy in the world today, Hadot is adept at using ancient philosophers to illuminate the relevance of their ideas to contemporary life. In this book, which is an ideal introduction to Hadot's more scholarly What is Ancient Philosophy?, we learn that to be an Epicurean is not merely to think like one; it is to adopt a way of living where limiting desires is the condition for happiness. Being an Aristotelian, similarly, is to choose a life that involves contemplation, and being a Cynic is to follow Diogenes in his refusal of quotidian convention and the mentality of ordinary people. If so many Ancient philosophers founded schools, Hadot explains, it was precisely because they were proposing how to live life on a daily basis. We learn here that the history of philosophy has been something more than just that of a discourse. The founding texts of Greek philosophy, after all, were notes taken from oral exercises undertaken in concrete circumstances and contexts, most often a dialogue between students and specific interlocutors who meant to shed light on their students' real existence. The immense contribution of this book, which also traces Hadot's own personal itinerary in a touching manner, is to remind us, through direct language and numerous examples, what the theoretical aspect of philosophy often masks: its vital and existential dimensions.

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User Review  - agl1 - LibraryThing

This is a great little book of interviews, mixing the biographical with the philosophical. One can get a good overview of Hadot's approach in a very accessible way. The concept of spiritual/ philosophical exercises is extremely powerful and a great way into Ancient Philosophy. Read full review

The present alone is our happiness: conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson

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Hadot's (The Veil of Isis) early education for and experience in the Roman Catholic priesthood provided him with considerable exposure to philosophical traditions from ancient Greece through Thomas's ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Pierre Hadot is Professor Emeritus at the Coll ge de France, where he held the Chair of the History of Hellenistic and Roman Thought. Most of his major works have been translated into English, including Philosophy as a Way of Life, What is Ancient Philosophy? (1995), and The Veil of Isis (2006). His most recent book is N'oublie pas de vivre. Goethe et la tradition des exercices spirituels (2008).
Arnold I. Davidson is Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and Professor of the History of Political Philosophy at the University of Pisa. He has written widely on contemporary French philosophy, is the English language series editor of Michel Foucault's courses at the Coll ge de France, and is the author of The Emergence of Sexuality (2001).
Jeannie Carlier is Professor at the cole des Hautes tudes en Sciences Sociales. She has published essays on philosophy and religious practices in late antiquity and is a specialist in Neoplatonism.

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