- Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, and: Qu'est-ce que la philosophie antique? (review)
- Journal of the History of Philosophy
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 35, Number 4, October 1997
- pp. 637-640
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 637 released. It provides the reader with a better feeling for what Nietzsche was doing and of how he was trying to do it." In an era when new books on Nietzsche erupt at an alarming rate, The Nietzsche Canon is something special: a truly useful volume which is likely still to be in print when the vast bulk of our contemporary "Nietzsche literature" will have long since fallen from fashion and been forgotten. DANIEL BREAZEALE University of Kentucky Pierre Hadot. Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Translated by Michael Chase. Edited by Arnold I. Davidson. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995. Pp. x + 3o9. Cloth, $84.95. Paper, $24.95. Pierre Hadot. Qu'est-ce que la philosophie antique? Paris: Gallimard, 1995. Pp. 461. Paper, FF 66. Pierre Hadot, well known in Europe for his distinguished work on the thought of late antiquity, especially on Plotinus and Marcus Aurelius, begins to be better known in North America.' His studies rest upon both meticulous exegeses and philosophical vision. The two books under review articulate this vision and can therefore be regarded as a natural whole. Qu'est-ce que la philosophie antique? (henceforth QPA) is designed as a detailed but accessible introduction to ancient philosophy. Philosophy as a Way of Life (henceforth PWL) is a translation of Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique (Paris, 3rd edition, 1993), consisting of articles previously published in specialized journals. The English edition has, however, been enriched by substantial revisions and a long and helpful introduction by Arnold Davidson. While PWL is mostly synchronic and QPA mostly diachronic, both attempt a reconstruction of what Hadot calls "the very essence of the phenomenon of philosophia" (PWL, 56, 269; QPA, x6ff.). His wager is considerable: to give a definition of philosophy which would be valid for all ancient philosophical schools (Platonism, Aristotelianism , Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism and Pyrrhonism). Although controversial, his thesis, based upon substantial textual exegeses, is largely convincing. It can be summarized as follows. Ancient philosophy is not primarily a theory but a therapy, not primarily a system of thought but a preparatory exercise to wisdom: it is a way of life (bios). Philosophy does not only engage cognitive faculties but the whole of existence: it is first of all a conversion, the choice of a new life (PWL, 82; QPA, 21-23). Hadot deliberately challenges a modern preconception, namely, the equation of Hadot's Plotin ou la simplicit(du regard (Paris, 1963, 3rd ed., 1989) has recently been translated as Plotinus or The Simplicity of Vision by Michael Chase, with an introduction by Arnold I. Davidson (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 1993). Among his other works: Plotin, ~crits. Trait~ 38 [VI, 7] (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1988), Plotin, I~crits.Trait~5o [III, 5] (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 199o), La citadelleint'erieure.Introduction aux pens~esde Marc Aurkle (Paris: Editions Fayard, x992), Plotin, l~crits.Trait~9 [VI, 9] (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1994). 638 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 35:4 OCTOBER a99 7 philosophy with conceptual and logical analysis. As a result of this view, Hadot points out, "historians of philosophy pay little attention to the fact that ancient philosophy was, first and foremost, a way of life" (PWL, 269, 76; QPA, 17). Hadot also seeks to explain the presence of logical or doctrinal inconsistencies in ancient philosophical writings (PWL, 61, lo6). He endeavors to recover the original meaning ofphilosophm and to explain these inconsistencies. In this far-ranging enterprise, Hadot acknowledges his special debt to two previous publications: Paul Rabbow, Seelenfi~hrung. Methodik der Exercitien in der Antike (Munich, 1954) and Ilsetraut Hadot, Seneca und die griechisch-rOmische Tradition der Seelenleitung (Berlin, 1969) (QPA, 23). P. Hadot intends to enlarge Rabbow's concept of "exercise" by showing, first, that it applies not only to Stoicism and Epicureanism, but to the whole of ancient philosophy and, second, that philosophical practices are not limited to a code of conduct but, more fundamentally, involve a way of being (PWL, a26). In comparison to these two historians, Hadot's ultimate intention is not historical: he seeks "the understanding not only of ancient thought, but of philosophy itself" (PWL, 82, 2o8). The...