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Philosophy - the love of wisdom

Updated: Jun 19

An introduction to the second book of 2023 on Pain Geeks: Life is Hard by Kieran Setiya

By Laura Rathbone

Philo - love
Sophia - wisdom

In modern times, philosophy has an unintentional culture of exclusivity to it with a strange language all of its own. But what if philosophy was a way of life? Or as Dr Kieran Setiya writes: "a tool with which to work through life's adversities"?

Dr Kieran Setiya is a philosopher at MIT in the United States of America and teaches on moral philosophy and ethics.  In Life is Hard, Kieran brings together the style of a personal essay and philosophical exploration to consider how we navigate the difficulties of life.  He's no stranger to this style and wrote an earlier book: Midlife - A Philosophical Guide, offering mid-lifers a way to reflect upon what it means to lose 'youth' and find themselves again as they progress on with life in the mid-life!

Kieran likens the tradition of moral philosophy to the more modern tradition of self-help - a way to explore what it means to live well? 

But the problem is; who can speak on behalf of all of us? Is there just 'one' way to live well? Each of us are navigating our own path through life and experiencing our own challenges, sicknesses and eventually, death. Kieran is pressing back against the common narrative of 'positivity' and offers us the opportunity to develop skills in acknowledging what 'is' - even when that is 'hard'. 

And it is hard.  

This book is not a book that will skim over the very real and very difficult challenges that being alive comes with.  It open's up Pandora's box of pain and infirmity, grief, loneliness, failure and injustice as well as the absurdity of being alive and, perhaps the most controversial one of all, Hope.

Kieran opens up the space for us non-philosophers and guides us to ask; what if philosophy was personal? A philosophy that "speaks from one's own life, even as it draws on arguments and thought experiments, philosophical theories and distinctions"? 

This is the task set out in "Life is Hard", supporting people to use philosophy in their own life to navigate the challenges and distressing situations that inevitably come up.  Kieran shares with his own intimate and personal struggle with chronic pelvic pain, and uses philosophy to explore the personal and social experiences that come with it.

This book is a lovely introduction into moral philosophy for those of us who have never been exposed to this line of thinking and a practical guide to turning this inwards and asking ourselves about our own experiences.

This month, Dr Julian Kiverstein and I will be supporting your reading of the book with a series of blogs exploring the chapters.  We will be dropping a blog every week this month, starting with a blog by Julian next week exploring the first chapter - Infirmity.

Don't Forget

We will also be holding an open Q&A session with Kieran Setiya on Thursday the 15th of June at 16.45 Amsterdam time and our membership Readers are welcome to join! The recording will be uploaded to the membership spaces for you to watch back.

The Book Club Discussion group

Will be held on the THIRD Friday of the month due to availability of the hosts.  Please remember to RSVP in the members events page to get the reminders and links >> HERE <<

This month will be another interesting exploration of 'ways of thinking' that will be both professionally and personally meaningful, and I can't wait to see you there!

Laura x

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1 Comment

Jun 17

Comment from: Mariam Hamouda MSK physio, MSc in Pain Management (UK) 🦸 Super Geek

Jun 2, 2023:

It’s a lovely idea to support the reading of the chapters with Julian’s and your blogs. Looking forward to it.

I have read through the book now and must say it wasn’t that easy to read in terms of language. I still felt it was intellectually very challenging especially in terms of the many authors Kieran mentions that I am not familiar with.

I must admit though that I am s bit proud to be a “Berliner” (born and raised) and to have the luxury of reading Karl Marx’s quote: philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to…

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