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The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson (Cultural Memory in the Present) [Paperback]

Pierre Hadot , Marc Djaballah , Michael Chase

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Book Description

15 Mar 2011 Cultural Memory in the Present
One of the most influential historians of ancient philosophy of the past half-century, Pierre Hadot was adept at using ancient philosophers to illuminate the relevance of their ideas to contemporary life. This new edition of The Present Alone is Our Happiness, which has been significantly revised and expanded to include two previously untranslated essays, is an ideal introduction to some of Hadot's more scholarly work. In it, we discover 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (15 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804775435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804775434
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.7 x 1.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,140,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Hadot's refreshing efforts to free philosophy and its history from the sterile constraints of abstract theorizing and academic specialization find a lively and productive outlet in the interviews collected here. Introduced by Jeannie Carlier, a French scholar of Neo-platonic religious thought and friend of Hadot, and conducted in turns by Carlier and Arnold Davidson, the American philosopher and intellectual historian most responsible for the introduction and dissemination of Hadot's work in English-speaking contexts, these conversations explore in depth and varied detail both the personal and the intellectual development of a scholar whose own work insists above all that the personal or existential cannot rightly or fruitfully be separated from the intellectual or philosophical. Enacting the kind of dialogue that Hadot believes essential to any philosophy that would constitute a living relation between persons rather than an abstract relation to ideas, these interviews could not find a more suitable subject." - Thomas A. Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara

About the Author

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010) was Professor Emeritus at the College 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" (1995), "What is Ancient Philosophy?" (2004), and "The Veil of Isis" (2004). 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 College de France, and is the author of "The Emergence of Sexuality" (2001). Jeannie Carlier is Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes 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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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Effort 23 Mar 2012
By Ryan C. Holiday - Published on Amazon.com
Pierre Hadot is maybe one of the smartest people I've ever read. This is my third book of his. I wouldn't start with it though. So if you haven't read Philosophy as a Way of Life or The Inner Citadel, read those first. Hadot's point has been this: the concept of philosophy as an overarching system that explains our words is a fundamental misinterpretation of what ancient philosophers did and set out to do. Yet it's through this lens that we attempt to decipher Aristotle or Plato and the like. It's how we can say foolish things like, "Epicureanism is full of contradictions." The reality is that almost all of philosophy was articulated through dialog or correspondence, through human beings interacting with each other to address the basic problems of everyday life. Instead of trying to explain and systemize the world, philosophy has been about the practical pursuit of the good life (being free from fear, anxiety, unnecessary pain, being happy, excelling). Philosophy as a Way of Life is essentially a book about the wisdom these men cumulatively acquired and how we can use the same exercises in our struggles. The Inner Citadel is mostly about Marcus Aurelius and the stoic concept of the self as a fortress. This book is a series of interviews with Hadot. A better way to describe it would be watching a master at work. See if you can't sprint to keep up with him by reading it-doing it for just a few pages is worth the whole thing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agreed 26 Mar 2013
By toronto - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with Ryan -- not the book to start Hadot with, but a delightful book none the less. Of particular interest is the saturation in French collegial/cultural religion/politics in an era gone by -- Gabriel Marcel, Merleau-Ponty, and others make their appearance. The one special virtue of this book is that one does come away from it with a better sense of how spiritually rich and wise Hadot was than elsewhere. He just comes across as a special, decent human being.
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