Skholiast recently pointed to a sad event that I’d been unaware of until he mentioned it: the death of Pierre Hadot. Skholiast’s involvement with Hadot, from the look of things, is deeper than mine – I’ve read some of his work and referred to him a couple of times on the blog, but I don’t think that he has (yet) had a deep effect on my thinking. Still, I find myself very much in sympathy with Hadot’s approach, and I think his loss is a real one, so I’d like to offer a few musings in memoriam.
The idea that I always associate with Hadot is encapsulated in the translated English title of one of his major works: philosophy as a way of life. Hadot, a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, treats this philosophy as a way of life, a set of “spiritual practices,” and in so doing he helps remind us of the distance between ancient and modern philosophy. And I don’t just mean that he gives us yet another reason to critique contemporary philosophy departments, which (whether analytic or continental) typically seem far from any ancient ideal of the love of wisdom. I mean also that he reminds us why philosophy has so little place in contemporary Western culture. Continue reading
[EDIT: Image of New York City removed at copyright holder’s request.]
This weekend I went to New York City with friends so they could attend a bridal shower. I love New York – but I’m also wary of it. Happiness researcher Christopher Peterson ran an online happiness questionnaire and analyzed the results by zip code – and found that the most miserable zip codes of all were found in midtown Manhattan. Peterson himself cautions that this is not a controlled or rigorous experiment, and even if it were, it would still be measuring happiness by the questionable measure of self-report.
Still, in many respects these results are exactly what I would expect. I found this happiness data from Penelope Trunk, who nails the problem with living in New York exactly. If you are (like me) the kind of person who loves city life, then in New York you really do have the best of everything, at least on this continent and in some cases anywhere: the best food, the best entertainment, the best shopping for almost any goods you could want, the best access to transportation, the best art. But that’s exactly the problem. On one hand, you’re competing with everyone else to have access to the best of everything, so everything is very expensive, so you have to work much harder to make more money. (A little like Dr. Seuss’s Solla Sollew, where they have no troubles except for the fact that you can’t actually live there.) On the other hand, and more insidiously, if you live in New York, it’s probably because you are the kind of person who tries to have access to the best of everything.