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[23] Lecture I. Socrates To anyone familiar with current philosophy, it must sound quite strange that philosophy itself, as a whole, or any philosophy—a set of philosophical views, however comprehensive—could all by itself constitute, for its adherents, a total, all-consuming way of life. By “philosophy” here I mean rigorous academic philosophy, as opposed to works of advice and uplift, including ones that are often popularly spoken of as works of philosophy , or ones that are said to contain and advocate a “philosophy of life.” By contrast with such more popular conceptions of philosophy, philosophy in the strict and narrow usage that I intend, both nowadays and all the way back in a continuous history to the earliest philosophers of Greek antiquity, is an enterprise of rigorously disciplined, reasoned analysis and argumentation. Moreover, in most of this history philosophers have professed, as something essential to what philosophy is, to be aiming in their work always at discovering, through disciplined philosophical reasoning , the real truth about the topics that philosophers investigate. But how could philosophy, understood that way, constitute for its adherents a whole, all-inclusive way of life? Even if knowing important philosophical truths, or thinking you do, may alter, even radically, your orientation to life, how could that knowledge, all by itself, produce and constitute for you your total way of life? How could knowing all that philosophy might teach put you in the position that, simply in and by knowing it (while, of course, bearing it constantly in mind), you would or even could, then, make your philosophical understanding and your philosophical views somehow become your total way of life? Apart from the fact that philosophy as we know it today doesn’t seem even to say anything about some of the questions that arise in pretty much anyone’s life, isn’t there an inevitable gap between knowing, or thinking you know, how you ought to live your life, in all its aspects, or how it is best to live, and actually living your life? Yet in a thousand-year-long tradition of philosophy in antiquity, beginning with Socrates and continuing without break through Plotinus and his successor Platonists of the third to sixth centuries of the Common Era, philosophy was indeed so conceived and so studied. For these philosophers, philosophy and their varied individual philosophies were ways of life, in this very strong sense. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 24 In this first lecture I will explain how ancient philosophies were ways of life for their adherents.1 As we will see, they made philosophy, psychologically and morally, something much deeper than anything we might meet with in contemporary philosophy. In the second part of this lecture I will illustrate this concretely by discussing Socrates’ philosophy and the Socratic way of life. In the second lecture, turning from this origin of philosophy as a way of life to its final stage, I will discuss the very different way of life provided in the revived Platonism of late antiquity. First, then, I want to explain what, as I have come to understand it, ancient Greek philosophy, conceived as a way of life, and not just an intellectual discipline, actually amounted to, when viewed from within the ancientphilosophical traditionitself.I’ll be talkingaboutthevery ideathat philosophy is, or can and even ought to be, a total way of life. In this I am following in the footsteps of the eminent French scholar of Plotinus and Platonism, the late Pierre Hadot, whose work along these lines burst on the English-speaking intellectual scene in the mid-1990s.2 However, as you will see as I proceed, my understanding of ancient philosophy conceived as a way of life differs greatly, and in fact in fundamental ways, from Hadot’s. I will remark briefly at the end of this first lecture on those differences. But for most of the lecture I will simply proceed to explain in my own way, and to discuss, how those ancient philosophers who presented their philosophies as ways of life understood what they were doing, and what, within their views about human nature and the psychological bases of human life, made it possible, and brought them, to conceive philosophy in that way. 1. These Tanner Lectures draw upon my book Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012). Earlier versions were given as Seybert Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania (October 2011...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781607812616
Related ISBN
9781607812487
MARC Record
OCLC
933516605
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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