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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Philosophy As A Guide To Living

Which philosopher has given you useful guidance about living a meaningful life?

Of the legendary thinkers I've been exposed to over my ten years listening to the "Great Courses", the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche seem to be the most consistently helpful to me. I'm very grateful for the way Dr. Stephen Erikson from Pomona College distills Nietzsche's work into manageable chunks I'm able to absorb. My attempts at trying to read the source material have not been real successful.

Most recently, I've been struck by Nietzsche's guidance about treating one's life as a "masterpiece", a creative project in need of constant re-invention. Also - paraphrasing Dr. Erikson's paraphrasing - Nietzsche's doctrine of "Eternal Return" counsels us to " ... say 'yes' to the totality of life without qualification ...", an easy pill to swallow when things are going my way. It's the suffering, cruelty, and misfortune - all included in the same doctrine - that often derail me as I'm creating my masterpiece. But it's worth all the effort I can summon.

If I've piqued your interest in Nietzsche, I'm thrilled. If however, listening to the Learning Company's lectures about his work or trying to tackle his dense writing does not appeal to you, a little seen film from 2007 called "When Nietzsche Wept" is worth tracking down. And Irvin Yalom's novel of the same name is also fine. In the meanwhile, why not tell me and others about a philosopher who has given you some useful guidance? 


  1. “From time to time, I open a newspaper. Things seem to be proceeding at a dizzying rate. We are dancing not on the edge of a volcano, but on the wooden seat of a latrine, and it seems to me more than a touch rotten. Soon society will go plummeting down and drown in nineteen centuries of shit. There’ll be quite a lot of shouting.”
    -- Gustave Flaubert (1850)