How to Live a Good Life | Robert Wright, Skye Cleary, & Massimo Pigliucci [The Wright Show]

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hello sky and Massimo hi Bob hi Bob nice

to be here

good to have you let me introduce this

I'm Robert Wright this is a right show

available on both streaming video and

via audio podcast you are respectively

sky Cleary and Massimo Pigliucci and by

the way as I speak your names I think

I'm going to activate the feature of

this that magically highlights the

person who is speaking like magic

yeah we don't normally do this because

normally it's just two people but I

think we would be a little on the small

side if we tried to cram all three of us

and so sky you have never been on menial

or TV well you better mean the right TV

but not with me is that true that's true

yes well with our co-editor Dan Kaufman

um and when he was moderating a

discussion between Massimo and I about

stoicism and existentialism that was a

masterful segue to book promotion sky

because that leaves you no choice but to

talk about your book which is what we're

going to talk about it's called how to

live a good life a guide to choosing

your personal philosophy as you suggest

it has co-editors one of them is Massimo

who is here another's day and Kaufmann

who may be familiar to some of our

viewers and listeners as host of the

sofia podcast which is also on meaning

of life dot TV so why don't you to say a

little bit more about yourselves your

plot spoiler you're both philosophers as

is dan but beyond that why don't you sky

why don't you start and give us a little

sense yourself

sure so I teach at Barnard College and

Columbia Potts line and I'm also the

editor in chief of the American

Philosophical associations blog

and my first book was on what's called

existential ISM and romantic love that

came out in 2015 so this is my huggle of

a good life it's my second book and I'm

working on a third book about Simone de

Beauvoir and how her philosophy is

relevant to today okay and she is of

course famous existentialist wise that's


yeah so in fact the chapter that I wrote

so how to live a good life was kind of

what sparked me to explore that realm

further yeah and we will definitely be

talking about existentialism but before

we do that let's turn to Massimo who has

been on with me before talking about his

is it unfair to call it a hobby horse

Massimo I guess we should say hi mine

didn't call it your personal philosophy

as a matter yeah so I'm a professor of

philosophy at the City College of New

York and my background is mixed I

started my academic career as a

biologist interested in gene environment

interactions or what normally are

referred to as nature nurture things and

then after my midlife crisis I switched

field went back to school got my degree

and now I am in philosophy of science

but yes in the last several years

Storrs ism somehow has sort of taken

over my life and it's these days it

truly is most of what I do in fact so ok

let's say a little bit about the book

before we get back to you to and your

relationships to the book you know it

has it has chapters on various

philosophical traditions and I should

say religious traditions some of the

major religious traditions are they all

written by proponents of the

philosophies as a and the traditions as

opposed to mere analysts of them yeah

that was part of the idea that we wanted

we didn't want an academic book of you

know people explaining the theory of

whatever we pay that Buddhism

you know existentialist and so on we

wanted people who actually are

practicing or living by or attempt to

live by those philosophies and religions

and so we want to yes of course there is

a part about the theory I mean you have

to know something about what these

things what these traditions say but we

wanted somebody who actually instead of

authors who actually were trying to live

by them and tell us about their stories

and how that fit in their life okay yeah

and this came from actually the ID came

from the conversation we had with Dan on

the meaning of life safeiy because my

smile Massimo and I were talking about

how philosophy had radically changed our

lives and so we thought hey let's talk

to other people who's trying to live

their choice and philosophies and you

know ask them how it helped them to lead

better lives that's great so meaning of

life TV will be getting a piece of the

royalties then it sounds like did we

forget to get you to sign the contract

so some of the traditions you look at

I'll just quickly recap the table of

contents Buddhism Confucianism Taoism

under the ancient philosophies from the

East heading under ancient philosophies

from the West there's two Chilean ism

stoicism epicureanism I just had by the

way Catherine Wilson on who's written

how to be an epicurean in some ways

analogous to here how to be a stoic man

same publisher - oh really

then religious traditions Hinduism

Judaism Christianity progressive Islam

ethical culture and modern philosophies

existentialism pragmatism effective

altruism secular humanism if we have

time I'll ask you a question about the

the religious thing the religious

section but we're probably going to

stick mainly with philosophies so for

starters do you so you said you know the

authors are ad advocates of the

traditions proponents of them is it fair

to say in your two cases that you're

almost a

Evangelos in the in the sense that that

in other words it isn't just that after

a kind of objective perusal of the

various philosophical traditions do you

think one has stronger intellectual

foundations than the other it's more

like in here two cases at least these

philosophies actually had a dramatic

impact on your life I definitely get

that from your chapter sky and is it

fair to say for you to Massimo

to some extent I mean those two

possibilities you just outlined I don't

think they actually mutually exclusive

because in my case I actually did do

pretty much what you just described I

did go out and sort of shop for it for a

new philosophy of life over a period of

a few years I did not do it such a

comprehensive job as it's done in the in

the book and of course even the book

only takes a look at 15 traditions

there's probably in your dozens more

that we could have included but I did do

something like that I mean I grew up

Catholic I realized for a number of

reasons that that was you know

Christianity in general wasn't wasn't

going to do it for me or in fact any

religion that used some kind of

transcendental element of a god-like

type so that screw did a bunch of things

but when I started looking more actively

I actually did explore seriously secular

humanism I took a look at Buddhism and I

took a look at two other eudaimonic

philosophies Aristotelian ISM and

Epicureanism so even though it was not a

comprehensive search I did search and

and stoicism is the one that struck me

as the best fit for me for my

personality I wouldn't I wouldn't

necessarily argue that this is good for

everybody or that this is the best way

to go about these sort of things but so

I don't think the two are mutually

exclusive of course once you start

practicing a particular philosophy then

you actually become also invested you

know personally in it which is part of

the things that we want and we wanted to

get readers to get these feeling that

philosophy is not an abstract only at

least in abstract pursuit of you know

intellectual truths or something like

that it's it's something you can live on

a day-to-day basis okay

yeah and I don't know if I would call

myself an evangelist and I'm certainly

not I wouldn't call myself an

existentialist in the same way that

muscle my Michael and self a stoic

because there no exist n shalese ever

did but it did and I think those 1 don't

say that did that I know yeah but I

think the issue with existential ISM is

that it is very ambiguous and you know

that you don't have specific practices

like cold showers or fasting and

essential Assad famous for cold showers

I have to say exactly yeah yeah but I

mean you know there's no specific

doctrine it's more like a bunch of

overlapping themes but at the same time

it is a living philosophy and you know

what I wanted to show in my chapter was

that sometimes I think about my life and

my choices in an existential way ok so I

thought you would spend some time

exploring both of your your

contributions in particular I mean

there's a lot to talk about in the book

we will we will touch on some other

questions but it's it's a good

opportunity to to dig deeply into the

traditions you represent and sky in your

case that's especially welcome for me

personally because honestly I've never

had a super clear idea of what

existentialism is you these phrases pop

up existential dread you know you think

of absurdity in some sense but I don't I

have to say I'm hoping to learn a lot

from you well I learned a lot for your

chapter but but I'm hoping hoping that

our audience will learn more here and

then I will as well

what do you before we talk about how

existentialism entered your life which I

think we should do what is your answer

when people ask you what is

existentialism first of all it's


but there like that there are a few key

things and I mean one of the key ones is

that existence precedes essence so

although we didn't choose to be born we

can't choose the situations into which

were thrown and you know the world is

absurd and there's no ready-made meaning

I mean sometimes we inherit philosophies

from our parents which is something we

talk about in the book but for

existentialist the key point is too is

that it's up to each individual to

figure out how to live and one of the

key is sort of the key theme is freedom

so we're free to choose our actions but

with freedom comes a heavy burden for

our responsibilities and that can be

very anxiety inducing and the goal of

life is so that's that's the existential

dread part when you realize that you are

actually free and therefore in some

sense accountable or responsible for

what happens next

exactly so there's no if most of the

existential philosophers were atheists

so you know once if you accept that then

there's no one to forgive your sins once

you get to heaven or wherever it is and

so the goal is to try and live your life

as authentically as possible okay so

when you say existence precedes essence

existence is just kind of the fact of

your plight it's like you're here deal

with it that's the existence part and

then the essence part is like is that

kind of what you choose to make of it

the the essence you choose to create the

essence of you as a person or what

exactly yeah and the essential forces

talked about it in terms of facticity

and transcendence so there are facts of

our lives that we can't change you know

we live in certain social political

systems you know in certain bodies but

of what we need to try and focus on is

what we can do to you know move move

beyond our facticity so yet they call

that transcendence so if we strive

towards self chosen goals okay now right

there I sense an dinner's

action of sorts with stoicism just just

in the sense of you know there are these

facts there are some facts you're not

going to change it's certainly the fact

well the fact that you exist I don't

recommend changing and most people to

change that but there are other facts as


stoicism meso really emphasizes the the

the Gremory reality of the feral ISA

stubbornness of some facts and Klem yeah

yeah I mean that is one of the you have

to be corrected that is one of the areas

were stories ism and existentialism

actually have quite a bit in common I

mean the Stoics start out with a

principle called the dichotomy of

control and that is the notion that some

things are outside of our control and

other things are under our control so we

some things are up to us as epictetus

one of the leading stories ancient stoic

success and other things are not up to

us so then then wisdom essentially

consists in realizing and internalizing

this this distinction and then focusing

your efforts on the things that actually

are under your control the things that

you can actually do and then developing

a attitude of equanimity toward the rest

stuff happens and you know sometimes the

universe will turn in your way sometimes

it won't turn your way this is a surface

effect of life and part of being an

adult responsible person is that you are

prepared to accept that despite all your

best efforts sometimes you're gonna

you're gonna fail that doesn't mean that

you are morally culpable for that

failure unless in fact you did make

errors of judgments unless you did act

badly and but those things those errors

and those actions are under your control

so both stress agency is that fair to

say yes and I guess one difference

between the two between stoicism and

existentialism would be the extent to

which we live in a universe with

inherent meaning I mean I take the the

Stoics to be kind of moral realists

right I mean they think there is moral

truths out there it's it's

the scent embodied in the universe right

and and and and their philosophy is

founded on that whereas existentialists

start from what might ostensibly seem a

grimmer starting point yeah that's an

interesting point because that is

actually a point of contention among

modern Stoics so the ancient Stoics

certainly believed in a providential

universe so there's reasons why things


now when I say providential universe

don't think the Christian God who has

order things for the best and all that

sort of stuff what they did they were

pantheists they thought that God was the

same thing as nature and in fact they

saw nature as a gigantic living organism

and so imagine that the cosmos is a

living organism and we are just cells

you know in there are bits and pieces of

this organism so in a sense whatever we

do as cellular components of this

gigantic organism has a meaning because

it helps the organisms function in

whatever way it needs to function that

doesn't mean that things are gonna go

well for us that doesn't mean that the

organism actually cares about individual

cells but there is a sense of comfort in

the fact that you know whatever happens

to me even bad stuff it's actually

helping the the universe at large

Epictetus has this wonderful metaphor of

you know imagine your foot that is an

organ of the of the body and the foot

has to cross a muddy path because the

organ the body has to get home now the

foot isn't gonna like it to have to step

into the mud but you know ease the foot

and and so once he realizes that is

member you know it's a part of these

like a gigantic organ is then it will do

it clearly because hey that's the only

thing we all get home not just not just

me moanin Stoics have disagreements

about this some is more component small

number of modern Stoics maintain the

original position of panties the

position but the majority modern Stoics

are either agnostic or atheist and so

they actually lean toward metaphysics

that is much closer to what sky was was

describing mmm-hmm now in that case you

lose the

to Providence and so as modern stoic

Laurence Baker put it in a book called a

new story says you know deep economic

control basically reduces to follow the

facts the facts of science the

universities whatever science tells us

it is or the best approximation that we

have and the the stoic attitude is both

that's a part of what the existentialist

will call facticity and now it's still

up to me however how to deal with that

is a lot to me as I said to transcend

that facticity not in any sort of

metaphysically hive a sense not in the

sense that we can somehow you know arise

above the laws of physics but in the

sense that we are part and parcel of the

universal web of cause and effect we

things don't just happen to us we are

part of the way things happen and and

therefore our responsibility lies in

that little bit of the universal web of

cause and effect that goes through us

okay okay you know just put add in the

Simone de Beauvoir describes that

actually that I think she took also from

us historic philosophy is that we're

like stones in an arch that no pillars

support so we're gonna in this together

we're in webs of relationships that were

kind of left adrift in the universe and

the response to that is gonna be

different depending on which existential

philosophy you're talking about and also

you know which stage and had existential

philosopher was that for example

jean-paul Sartre was much more focused

on radical freedom and he said well if

you come across you know a craggy

Mountain that you know you just can't

Traverse then we'll change your course

and go a different way whereas the

mandible would say which was much more

attuned to the limitations on our

freedom especially that she got into in

the second sex and saying you know it's

it's not okay that some that there are

some mountains in front of some people

and so we need to kind of bond together

and change the structures in which we

live to be able to live a better life

okay but I do I gather in existentialism

one thing there is a fair amount of

agreement on

in contrast to stoicism it sounds like

is is this starting point of a universe

within a certain sense intrinsic

meaningless or at least no intrinsic

meaning is is that putting it too

strongly maybe maybe a way to ask the

question is to ask you to elaborate on

something you say in the book which is

that you you characterized Friedrich

Nietzsche as the like intellectual

grandfather something of existential so

I took that to mean that you know III I

was thinking the excuse me the god is

dead part of nature right

so yeah Nietzsche said God is dead and

we have killed him meaning that you know

the structure of society used to be

founded on religion but then the

Enlightenment came along and you know we

discovered that we're not here because

of Adam and Eve but because of evolution

and so the problem that Nietzsche had

was that we keep on living in society as

if on these false foundations you know

as if there were still a God that you

know not everyone believes in anymore

and then kamut elucidated that we we are

thrown into this world I mean what if

the Atheist existential philosophers

said enough actually it was Heidegger's

turn to talk about being thrown but you

know we're here with no kind of

guidebook what for how to live I mean if

you're religious yes you have certain

texts but even then it's you know

ambiguous and so but if you're a theist

then you know there really there's

nothing and we're left adrift and you

know it's really hard to understand what

to do and that's why part of the

existential project one of the

fundamental parts of the existential

project is you know figuring out for

ourselves how to live and it's not easy

okay that's our Bob that's I think where

what the one distinction which does is

me is interesting you characterized

stoic philosophy a minute ago as sort of

morally realistic and I suppose to some

extent that's true especially for the

ancient stoicism Stoics but but I

actually would characterize it as quasi

realism there is somewhere between

between moral realism and and sort of

moral constructivism so those are as you

know those are the two broad categories

when it comes to moral truths you know

if you are moral realist then you think

that moral proofs are in a sense mind

independent they're out there they're

they're really analogous to at least

mathematical truths is not if not

physical truths and if your model and

what a constructivist you just say no

more IDs and human invention in witches

make up stuff as it goes and as we go

and some things work better than others

as it turns out so empirical

experimental the Stoics especially

monasteries have a kind of an

intermediate situation which I find

particularly palatable because they say

that on the one hand yes

human ethics is a construction of human

beings after all the word ethics comes

from the Greek Eddy cause which just

meant you know a way to get along

together the point of ethics is to learn

how to get along with other people and

that may mean different things depending

on different contexts and who those

people are and and and what they want

but at the same time they also maintain

Stoics also maintain that there are some

fairly serious constraints on what makes

for a good ethics or not a good ethics

and those constraints are found in human

nature so and by UNH I don't mean any

any kind of impermanent you know I mean

so sorry permanent essence that defines

human beings I just mean the facts of

being a human animal right and those

facts the math mattered the most for the

stories are we are eminently social and

we're capable of reason for them it

follows therefore you take those two as

sort of axioms of of the human condition

and it follows that therefore a good

human life consists in using that about

ability to reason in order to improve

society to improve the world to make

things better for everybody okay so why

don't we delve a little into your

personal stories in relationship to your

personal philosophies I mean as I said

yeah I think sometimes when somebody is

a proponent of philosophical traditions

because of the impact it had on their

lives sky do you want to talk about how


I mean both of you actually neither of

you started out as a philosopher you

both had kind of career changes that

that are are related to your interests

in philosophy sky do you want to you

want to talk about how you where you

were in your life when you happened upon

existentialism and decided to move into

philosophy as career sure so yeah my

background is in financial markets so I

worked there for quite a few years and

then actually in New York and then I

moved back home and did an MBA and that

was I guess the collision of factors

that were happening it also in my late

20s and I had you know pressure to get

married I had soul friends getting

married you know I had kind of

boyfriend's channeling me into certain

expectations and then you know pop

culture at all these no Disney rom-coms

about you know meeting a1 and falling in

love getting married and living happily

ever after but at the same time I saw

that um you know a lot of married

justice around me were pretty unhappy

and you know divorce was the rates are

still kind of close to 50% and so I

wasn't sure if that was a good idea like

why should we get married if it really

doesn't work out so I had a lot of

questions about how we should live and

you know how can you choose to love was

one of the big questions I was dealing

with and and how should we love and you

know who should we love and how do you

know if they're the one is there even

such a thing as the one

you know we've read magazines and it's

like oh well if he doesn't opal other

women and if he doesn't like spicy foods

and then you're fine I mean these crazy

things so I was in a an MBA class and I

went to Macquarie University in Sydney

where there are some philosophers and

faculty and in one of the classes one of

the instructors started talking about it

was I guess her PhD was about

substantial ism in the boardroom and so

she's time talking about jean-paul

Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and

freedom and responsibility and anxiety

ambiguity and that really spoke to me

because they seem to be dealing with

similar questions that I was asking now

I know I didn't get any answers in that

in that lecture but I think just having

the narrative through which to think

about some of these issues I found

really helpful and intriguing but it was

existentialism per se as much as

philosophy more broadly that kind of

captured you at that point yeah I mean I

had done some philosophy in my

undergraduate degree but it was very

analytic and I it just didn't capture me

at all and so there was no

existentialism in in my undergraduate

degree so yeah I was really I guess

coming across like this new way of doing

philosophy that I hadn't encountered

before that I found really intriguing

and was it was it partly a sense of kind

of radical freedom that in other words

it sounds like you were to point in your

life where you weren't sure you're on

the right path and I gathered that kind

of one of the take homes of

existentialism is you know take the bull

by the horns go crazy maybe maybe that's

not a formal doctrine well two things am

I am I wrong in in in the way I'm

thinking of existentialism or the

subtext of it or whatever and be what

can you can you can you put a finer

point on what exactly got you kind of

excited about it I think I found it very

liberating that I think I started to

become aware of these I guess pressures

around me and also the internal

narratives that I've been but well

they've noticed that I'd internalized

about what a good life should be

and how we should live and so yeah I

think it was the this idea of freedom

that we we can choose to throw it all

away and at the same around the same

time there was a book that came out by

hazel Riley called tete-a-tete give her

the lives of Simone de Beauvoir

jean-paul Sartre and I read that and I

mean they were very radical for that

time I mean this was like the 1930s

1940s they didn't get married they but

they had an open relationship and it was

a lifelong romantic commitment and I

really admired some of the ways that

they tried to first of all try to live

their philosophy but also the way that

they kind of issued social expectations

of what they were meant to do and

created you know a relationship on their

own terms

and you know there was a cost to that I

mean they're always as a cost to turning

away from what society is pushing you

into but I think that's idea that I

could do something different and that's

that there wasn't one size fits all and

spur what was really I think that was

really liberating for me okay um so to

some extent I gather it was almost the

appeal of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

as kind of role models right I mean it

was there was something about the

lifestyle that was intriguing and I and

I'm sure it's easy to get confused

between their lifestyle and their

philosophy right so can you talk a

little about like what parts of their

lifestyles and their stories do

authentically represent the philosophy

yes so I think they were specifically

trying to create a philosophy to be

lived I mean they'd been through college

and got bored with how abstract

you know Hagel and all the others were

and so they you know if the root of

existential philosophy came from sitting

down over an apricot cocktail and

Raymond Aaron said oh if you are a

salmon or a phenomenologist you could

make waspy out of this cocktail I'm not

going to blew their minds so this this

idea that you could tie together life

work philosophy on an internet basis can

you can you poke some bad itself a

little more the phenomenology in the

cocktail first of all what do we mean by

I know what a cocktail is what do we

mean by phenomenology style it's about

looking really deeply at experiences and

describing as accurately as possible

the phenomenon of what's going on and

that's why you know existentialism

certainly picks up on this idea of being

kind of more descriptive than

prescriptive which goes back to what I

said earlier is there's not necessarily

specific practices because it's all for

us to to work it out for ourselves so I

I think that yes they tried to live

their philosophy and this is one of the

reasons that they wrote novels and

published their Diaries and published

their letters because it was them trying

to trying to figure it out as they went

along and there was certainly some

conflict in there I mean I think one of

the biggest conflicts was Sochi and such

a tripod such we tried to create an open

relationship and establish themselves as

essential and they could have other

relationships that were contingent but

when it was in fact well I realized

later on that's you know that was a

floor in their system to assume that the

contingent loves would would just go

along with it and a lot of them were

really hurt by their relationship so I

think that's a big area where you know

if they found that their philosophy fell


okay so Massimo at this point why don't

we why don't we ask you to do a little

more in the way of comparing and

contrasting before we I do want to get

back into existentialism per se a little

more but but first just by spiking

stereotype you would think that stoicism

and existentialism are in some ways the

opposite we think of Stoics as very kind

of disciplined people who preserve their

equanimity while all around them is flux

and challenge and so on and again by

stereotype the existentialists at least

the ones we've been talking about are

not known particularly for their their

equanimity or their discipline you know

they stay out all night and they drink

and smoke and so on is that a is that a

valid apprehension of actual differences

in your view between the two this

something to that I mean the Chancellor

juice in these lives and opinions of the

eminent philosophers says that Stoics

drink wine but they don't get drunk for

instance so you know they're okay with

pleasure pleasure is a selectable thing

is a preferred thing but so long as you

control the pleasure and not yet not the

other way around right and so long as it

doesn't become sort of an all-consuming

you know major part of your life so to

some extent there are some certainly

there are behavioral differences however

there are the more that Skye was talking

the more I was struck by actually more

fundamental similarities I mean we're

already highlighted so the stoic version

of the existentialist facticity and

transcendence you know there are facts

about life that you can't change and

what is really up to you is how you deal

with with with those facts so those are

may that's a major thing in common the

other thing that is in common is you

interestingly asked Skye could sort of

separate the life of the Philosopher's

you know certain doís from their

philosophy this is a very modern that

kind of question reflects a very modern

attitude toward fallarbor v think the

existentialist and certainly the Greek

Romans would we think it's misguided

because in fact in the interim I mean

the reason why we have the Elgin is

largely spoke on the lives of the

philosophers and not just opinions is

the lives in the opinions of the

philosophers is because any

who will live their philosophy will be

considered a hypocrite and in fact you

would learn as much if not more about

people's philosophy by looking at the

way they lived

you know the quintessential case of

course being Socrates you studied just

as much what Socrates actually did

particularly if you read examine phone's

version of Socrates as opposed to Plato

which is more more analytical and more

into the actual philosophy and I like

this notion that it doesn't make any

sense to espouse the philosophy of life

and then not live through it I mean we

all live it you know more or less you

know perfect why we're all failures well

well you know nobody's a sage and that

sort of stuff fine

but if you keep talking about something

and then you don't do it that seems just

you know that strikes me as a

supercritical and it turns out that this

this difference in attitude between you

know the classical stance of if you if

you espouse the philosophy you better

leave it and the modern one is like now

it's all about analytics is in my mind

is best exemplified by a series of

studies that have come up over the last

few years about the behaviors of moral

philosophers mean professional

philosophers who actually specialized in

ethics you know in moral philosophy

turns out that by a number of different

measures moral philosophers are no more

moral or ethical than economists aren't

economists famously bad people according

to some study that's a good question I

think the comparison was the average

academic at their own campus and so

they're no better than they're no worse

either but they're no better than the

average academic and many people rightly

I think were surprised by this because

what is the point of studying ethics if

you're not better at living your life I

mean that would be like a statistician

who nevertheless you know very

understand probability theory and

nevertheless fancies retirement on on

playing the lottery that that makes no

sense that means that the guy Peter

doesn't understand the stuff that is

teaching or just doesn't care which

would be really bizarre and yet this is

not surprising because the modern modern


just like any other modern academic

discipline is in fact a highly

analytical highly specialized you know

technical piece of work so that you can

spend your entire life

commenting on without really being

at the intelligence without really

following Kant's philosophy you can

spend you know you can write dozens of

papers a chance to a meal without

actually being a utilitarian in your

life that to the ancient Greek Romans

and I assume to the existentialists from

what Scott would say makes no sense if

you buy into a philosophy if you think

this is a good way of living your life

then you better try to live your life

accordingly as I said you know with with

all the limitations that actual lives

you know imply sky would you say that's

fair that existentialists in particular

would expect some kind of alignment

between accepting the logic of

existentialism I guess and and living it

I mean I would think that in principle

if you accepted the logic of any

philosophy you you you would be expected

to align your life with it but maybe

maybe not in any event

skite is that how does that look from an

existential point of view yeah I think

that's absolutely right I think that's

what the existential philosophers were

trying to do and I mean Kay who God who

is often considered the father of

existentialism not to be confused with

the grandfather who as we each a son

before but if each of the grandfather

and Kierkegaard is the father I guess

that's where we are sorry nobody was

religious but you know he one of his

gripes was that the problem with

people's relationship with God at the

time was that it was so abstract and the

the priests were the ones who were sort

of into mediating the relationship and

so one of kaykai gods key things was to

develop a personal relationship with God

and that was what a lot of his

philosophy was revolved around that

personal like understanding and thinking

about frameworks for him personally

and I think all the ex - illicit well

pretty much will TI stench less than I

can think of that came off - that were

for at the same view yeah that's that's

interesting because I had previously

suggested that you know existentialism

starts from the assumption that there's

no inherent meaning and we have to build

whatever meaning there is but

Kierkegaard as a Christian wouldn't have

I guess wouldn't have bought into that

exactly I mean why was he thrown in

because he wasn't he doesn't he predates

by a little bit the classic

existentialists he probably didn't call

himself an existentialist what so what

do you say a little more about why

everyone else is calling him one yes so

I mean he he was brought up religious

and he guess what he actually came to

the conclusion was but yet there is he

went through the similar process to them

that the later extensionists

came to was like well how do we find

meaning in a world and he's God valid um

and I guess he came to the conclusion

that well you know Christianity promises

eternal happiness in the afterlife like

why wouldn't you want that so it's

always I think you missing well you know

there is no inherent meaning in life and

therefore we're gonna make one up and

that and I think Christianity is a

really good one to link to okay so he's

he's almost asserting Christianity as

much as accepting it just accepting it

on faith it sounds like it's a choice

it's a choice being a Christian is a is

a choice yeah absolutely and she you

saying you know and it's a choice that

you need to reiterate with every step

but then you know you need to make a

kind of a definitive leap of faith to to

to assert that but and then the later

existential philosophers kind of were so

attracted to Kierkegaard because of his

work in like understandings of the

aesthetic and the ethical realms and

they kind of Sakurai's Kierkegaard

and focused on you know the personal

passionate subjective experience on the

one hand but also you know the ethical

engagement with others okay

now speaking of faith there's a phrase

called bad faith associated with Sartre

I guess and that may be related to the

question of authenticity which looms

large I guess in existentialism I didn't

realize how large until I glanced at the

stanford encyclopedia of philosophy

according to their article on

existentialism I mean they make it sound

like authenticity is almost like a

metaphysical category I mean it's it's

it's like let me read you two sentences

extol ism does not deny the validity of

the basic categories of physics biology

psychology and other sciences and and/or

and it doesn't reject moral theory per

se but there is this it almost elevates

authenticity to the level of those kinds

of things here's the sense

existentialism therefore may be defined

as the philosophical theory which holds

that a further set of categories in

addition to those categories governed by

the norm of authenticity is necessary to

grasp human existence so do you want to

say a little about what they mean by

authenticity and maybe relate that to

this notion of bad faith if it's

relatable yeah so what bad faith is

basically denying your that you have

choices you know denying your freedom

and so authenticity I guess I mean in

existentialism there aren't any like

official virtues or anything but if

there were an authenticity would

certainly be one that comes close and

your authentic when you actively take

charge of your life and and choose to do

what you think is genuine and right and

it's not always easy to know what's

genuine and right which is why I'm

Simone de Beauvoir wrote about ambiguity

in one of her main books as the ethics

around the Cure

so I mean the idea is that you know we

should be striving for authenticity it's

not a goal that we can you know achieve

because exponential philosophy is the

philosophy of action and doing so it's

always you know about acting

authentically and authentic choices are

ones that open up our future and and

that's why before I was very concerned

with women not being the second sex

anymore because their oppression means

that their choices are limited and their

futures are limited and so she said that

you know in order for women to be

authentic to they need to be able to

choose from a range of options in an

open future and so bad faith is when you

deny that you have those choices and and

say oh well you know I I guess in the

attributed to biology like oh I have no

free well after all as pre-programmed to

do it like that kind of thinking is bad

faith that also included in bad faith

would just be the the relatedly

the acceptance not just a biology but of

social convention as some kind of valid

constraint right I mean there is a

spirit of nonconformity in

existentialism for that reason I gather

I mean of course it's possible you can

decide that your authentic self happens

to be exactly the same as the set of

roles that society has assigned you from

birth that could happen butBut I

gathered that in existentialism you're

supposed to not assume it's the case

kind of let go of socially defined

you're socially defined self as you

explore all possible selves and then

pursue whatever the quote authentic self

is regardless of what society is has

mapped out for you yeah exactly and I

think that's one of the questions I

dealt with it was that

yeah I guess my my path was kind of I

saw it as being railroaded a little bit

into you know suddenly you know getting

married and things like that and yeah

and just to do that and say oh well you

know we should get my aegis because

that's what everyone does or that's the

socially acceptable thing yeah that

would be bad faith but actually and I

mean it it does come up as a big

question it's like well what if you

choose anyway I mean I think it's gonna

be hard to know I mean I got married

that's not I think it's gonna be hard to

know like whether I did that because of

some kind of you know very ingrained

idea I had about what what I should do

but I still think going through that

exercise of challenging what people

expect of you is really important yeah

and Massimo you were gonna say something

that is yet another you know kind of

area deep agreement between sources men

existentialism although this toy circles

were put it differently but there is a

famous passage in epic tillis discourses

where he's talking to his students and

he's saying essentially that they have

to make choices in life in life and

choices are up to at least that's one of

the things you know decided to do or not

to do something or try to do or not to

do something is in fact up to you nobody

can really make the choice for you and

he's talking about integrity so instead

of sort of the existential way of

describing things he's talking about the

character integrity is like you need to

make a choice that are true to your to

yourself to whatever it is that you want

to do in you whatever it is that you

think it's it's good way to do things

and at some point concludes that pin in

the discourse and says look you know by

all means at some point you might have

to sell your your your your integrity

your soul but at least sell it at the

highest possible bit better in other


so this is where Skye's background and

financial markets I take it that

victimís is talking in a sense about

what if centuries mean by authenticity

right so if you wanna meet your choice

you have to be yours by all means do

get married if that is what you think is

a good thing for you but not as a

reflexive you know sort of automatic

thing oh well everybody does it so I

suppose this is also my turn but rather

as wait a minute let me stop and think

about this stuff and you know I may

still decide that certain choices that

society expects from me are in fact okay

I'm okay with those I'm gonna be happy

with those but those are gonna be my

choices in the sense that I I paused and

reflected before actually making them I

didn't do it automatically in a sense so

the story is recurrent the opposite of

the Nike commercial don't just do it

stop and think about it and then you may

or may not want to do it it's the

defense well that's an interesting

question so skyward the existentialist

just do it although by stereotype we

imagine them just doing it right but

they reflect no I think yeah absolutely

it's reflection I mean I think so for

example cue God would get to the stage

where you do you do reflect and then at

some point you're gonna stop and take a

leap so because otherwise if you're

infinitely reflecting then you're not

gonna be you know not gonna be doing

actually doing anything so yes there is

at some point where you do have to stop

and do it but sometimes I think there's

potential philosophers I think emphasize

that sometimes you don't know what the

right answer is though you don't know

until you actually do it and then like

if they're reflecting while doing is

also important mm-hmm so Massimo you

were seeing a real commonality there

between stoicism and existentialism in

in the importance of you know not taking

for granted socially defined constraints

in a way defies stereotype a little I

would have expected because we think of

the Stoics is saying okay here's your

situation deal with it you know I would

think that your situation includes your

your social position I mean that is if

that's not true I assume that's a

stereotype you have to fight and

relatedly the idea that there's a kind

of quiet ism and stoicism you know a you

know just kind of like passive

acceptance of the of the social order

are you here to say that that's all


just that it's overstating I know it's

it's definitely all wrong I mean it's

like every stereotype there is a grain

of truth right so it is it is certainly

the case that endurance is a stoic

matter right if you can't change things

then your only choice is either to

endure them or to just complain the hell

out of them and the Stoics say that

complained the hell out of things that

you cannot change it's not not only not

helpful because you can't change them

it's actually going to make things worse

because then you're gonna feel you know

you're gonna add self-inflicted you know

injury to the one that already exists so

there is a the stereotype is based on a

fundamental notion that it is the fact

that that story exciting to endurance at

the same time however they kind of

strike a balance between those two

positions that sky earlier associated

with Sartre and the boy in terms of you

know Sartre wasn't that more on the on

the side of a radical freedom while I

sort of accepted the fact that wait a

minute but there are societal

constraints here there are certain

things you know if I'm a woman I'm and

there's certain kinds of constraints my

radical freedom is limited by society in

a way that it isn't for for for men

the Stoics kind of strike a balance

between the two so the note the

fundamental notion is ultimately the

only things you control are your own

judgments and decisions to act or not to

act that's it you know you don't control

the outcomes but that doesn't mean you

cannot influence outcomes there's a

distinction between controlling and

influence and right so destroyed

equanimity comes in to the fact that

whenever you're trying to do something

you accept from the get-go that you may

or may not succeed and you're gonna tell

yourself I'm gonna be okay even if I

fail okay but that doesn't mean not

gonna try and and in fact there is a lot

of interesting episodes in the actual

lives of actual ancient Stoics as I said

earlier stoicism like existentialism is

focused on the lives of these people

actually what what they were actually

doing and not just what they were saying

there is a group of philosophers that is

mentioned in philosophers and Roman

senators mentioned in Epictetus

discourses and about about which we also

have independent sources that is kind of

collectively referred to as the stoic


like opposition was in number of people

who openly opposed three Emperor's Nero

visitation and omission because they

considered those Emperor's to be tyrants

and to limit people's freedoms such as

days they were understood of course in

ancient Rome right and these people

actually openly objected to the emperor

and some of them lost their lives as

lives as a result some of them were sent

into exile including epic tales himself

the victimís was thrown out of Rome by

the mission and he had to move to

Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where

he established re-established in school

so these were people who understood that

at that particular historical moment

there was something really wrong with

the Roman system with the Imperial with

the Roman Imperial system those the

people that were running the state were


there were tyrants there were therefore

to be opposed so that is a case where

you are trying to change things on a big

scale you're not trying this is not a

you know the fact challenging the

emperor in ancient rome is as large a

scale as it possibly can get in terms of

challenging the system but they were

doing that again with the knowledge that

i'm trying to do this because this is my

own decision my intake i'm selling my

integrity pretty high by risking my own

life about you know by speaking up but I

also understand that I don't control the

outcome you know may or may not survive

my efforts and in fact he did survive

the first round of efforts eventually

did not survive the second one so so it

is certainly not the case that Stoics

don't are not into and not sensitive to

the fact that there are some situations

you need to change another big example

again in terms of even more in terms of

his life rather than he is philosophy

because he didn't write much and we

don't know much about his philosophy

other than he was a stoic was Cato the

younger Cato

was a arch enemy of Julius Caesar II saw

Caesar as a tyrant correctly he

understood that if Caesar had won the

day that would have been the end of the

Roman Republic which is in fact what

happened and he took up arms against the

Caesar right history literally started

revolution in order to put an obstacle

to what he saw it

kind of political systemic change that

was going in the run in the wrong


and he lost his life as a result of it

so these are people who fight the what

they for what they think is right even

at the cost of their own lives and even

at the large scale of you know starting

revolutions and changing systems okay so

I want to spend a little time before we

go talking about the book more broadly

and that will mean venturing beyond

existentialism stoicism but first Skye

I'd like to ask you to talk a little

more about authenticity I mean how do we

decide I mean let's take me as a

test-case I would love to live a more

authentic life and I'm always up for a

major life change and I'm starting to

really see the appeal of existentialism

you may have a convert here but how how

do I decide what's authentic is it like

a feeling is it and yeah you know I

don't really know where to start like I

don't know if I should like look to my

cultural background and say well stay

authentic to what you know you inherited

for your parents because that seems kind

of arbitrary right I'm like so how do I

I seek your guidance okay

why I'm looking to your cultural

heritage yeah that's one aspect but also

if you stick too rigidly to it then

that's going to turn into bad faith

because that's doing just what we were

brought up with one way that um yeah can

I do this by an example I guess yeah

okay so I mean one of the ways I think

about is Beauvoir's understanding of

authentic love which is a mutual

recognition of two liberties so I mean

one of the key things I found useful

about existential philosophy was

thinking about how to relate to other

people and so authentic relationships

are based on respecting and

acknowledging each other's freedom and

like not being possessive and jealous

and and dominating and supporting the

other person in you know their their

hopes and dreams and also figuring out

goals together and

authentic love in by that definition is

you know not just it's inspiring us to

be better people so from that I would

say you know in terms of authenticity

you know what is it that seems to be

right and true for you so and this is

the problem with excess philosophy

because there is no quick fix there is

no you know algorithm that's going to

tell you okay well you need to take into

account you know your background you

know who your friends are that sort of

thing although you know because we live

in webs of relationships all these

factors are going to influence our

decision and so in this way Kierkegaard

called it you know the the dizziness of

freedom because we are free to choose

how to live our lives but you know

that's very I will dizzying but also

very anxiety inducing so I guess what

I'm saying is that there's no hard and

fast answer but what's important is is

to reflect on what your goals are in

life and how you relate to other people

in achieving those goals and the

existentialism can be a little bit I

have a bad reputation for being very

individualistic but I think that's

misplaced because they think we're we're

thrown into webs of relationships and

you know we're responsible you certainly

for ourselves but we're also responsible

for other people by virtue of them being

there and being in relationship with

them so yeah so thinking about your

goals but also in the context of being

in relationship with other people okay

so for you the authentic you turned out

to be a philosopher was that the way was

that the decision you made yeah at the

moment I think it's all quiet tentative

with it yes yes I was so consumed with

these types of questions that yeah I

gave up finance and turned to philosophy

yeah and so but I think that's also part

of the the existential idea is that you

know we're always growing and becoming

so even though I'm a philosopher now

doesn't mean that I might not change my

career you know in the future but it's

always you know what's important is to

make sure I have that open future in

order to be able to change if I can or

if I want to okay now let me let me ask

you both to venture beyond your your

kind of favorite philosophies I

mentioned early in the conversation the

various the various traditions that are

covered in the book let me ask you each

to choose one that you kind of like that

you find appealing and and you and you'd

like to say something I'm favorable but

maybe it's even a rival maybe if you

were asked I if you were deprived of


Massimo of stoicism wasn't available

maybe it's the one you choose as an

alternative but in any event why don't

you both take the opportunity to talk

about chapters other than the ones you

wrote in the book okay shall I go first

sure and so I mean I think what I loved

about editing this book was that there

are so many different options or so many

different philosophies of life so I

think I got you know an incredible

appreciation for the for the sheen

numbers of how people are trying to live

and trying to live amongst other people

and so I would say like there are lots

of the philosophies that kind of

appealed to me in various ways but um I

think the one I found most intriguing or

one of the ones that I found most

intriguing and that I admire is the

effective altruism chapter which is

based on utilitarianism and maybe should

just pause and say that it is of course

utilitarianism is the idea to try to

maximize overall human welfare or

happiness or something and then

effective altruism is this attempt to

really I guess spearheaded by Peter

Singer among others really measure like

if you're deciding how to what charity

to donate to or whatever or even just

how you're gonna spend your life to

almost quantify what utilitarian value

would come from pursuing this path as


okay so that's my interjection sorry go

ahead yeah I know I mean I'm further to

that I mean one of the difficulty is

quantifying it you know what is gonna

create the most good and that is you

know that's really a really hard

question but I like the emphasis on

thinking about the consequences of our

actions and encouraging people to use

whatever like resources they have to do

the most good and kelsey piper who wrote

the chapter you know she became a

journalist who writes about you know

issues in the world that she wants to

fix and she donates to charity and she

gets up it i know some crazy our once

once a year when facebook matches

donations so but i I mean I'm not a

utilitarian in any respect but I really

admire the way that you know they're

thinking about you know Kelsey Piper how

she is joining in communities and to try

and live in ways that minimize calm and

and costs to the world we live in

ok Massimo my choice is gonna be

Buddhism which is you you know something

about in fact you know I hell of a lot

more than I do about it

and in fact originally we asked you to

write that chapter but you were busy

working on your book and so we turned to

Owen Flanagan to do the job but before I

tell you why Buddhism would be a good

substitute for a miracle alternative to


let me step up step outside for a second

and take a look at the bigger picture

the reason we have there a number of

philosophies of life and religions right

as well as things that could qualify

either way

such as Buddhism is because we define in

the introduction a philosophy of life a

life philosophy has been made of at

least two components sometimes we have a

third one the two fundamental components

are a metaphysics and an ethics a

metaphysics is a in account of how the

world hangs together so to speak right

so I have a religion

or philosophy whether it is

existentialist choices Christianity

bullish and so and so forth has some

kind of story about how best to conceive

the world in which we live and then the

second components that the ethics which

is well given that understanding of how

the world works how we supposed to

behave in the world what are you gonna

do about it right the third component

that some traditions have but not all is

a set of practices I mean sky was saying

that X centuries doesn't really come

with a set of practices but both

Buddhism and stores do and in fact all

religions do because if you're talking

about reflecting on sacred texts or

praying or meditating or anything that

those are all practices right have some

sort so that is what what those are the

three threads or to two to three threads

depending they kind of unified the whole

the whole bunch so Buddhist now Buddhist

metaphysics are different as you know as

far better than I do there are very

different understandings in Buddhism so

what she talked really about Buddhism is

plural because and the reason for that

is because of course it's a tradition

it's an uninterrupted tradition that's

been going on for two and a half

millennia which means it has spun out a

bunch of different schools and some

schools some of which are more

marketable religious some which are

essentially secular or skeptical this

has not happen with sources because

doesn't got interrupted by the rise of

Christianity but it went on for about

500 years and then the rise of

Christianity basically meant the end of

all the elements that philosophy schools

so stoicism kept influencing people

including Christians you know some some

of the major Christian authors and then

all the way into modern philosophy but

as a tradition it only reemerged right

but recently in the last in the last few


so stoicism in a sense is far more sort

of lessiter genius there are differences

as I mentioned earlier monsters

themselves but it's far less that

edginess then put the Buddhism so

however if we take let's say what it's

hopefully probably a majority of

traditions in Buddhism I actually don't

feel particularly comfortable with the

metaphysics aspect of it so I don't

believe in you know reincarnation karma

and all that sort of stuff although I


there are secular bullies who also don't

you know also reject those I think with

Buddhism more than some traditions it's

actually possible to separate a

philosophical component from a religious

so to speak component and I've always

gonna focus on the philosophical inrun

in advocating so but in terms of the

ethics there is a lot of stuff in

Buddhism that goes very well with the

teachings of stores is more or

vice-versa and you know for instance you

know that the notions of non-attached

non-attachment is is something that you

also also find in borås in stories and

we have a slightly different emphasis

and again coming from a different

metaphysical background Buddhists are

often you know there's often a reference

to this this notion of no self which my

understanding at least by reading of

your stuff and a knowin stuff is that a

lot of Westerners have this

misconception that no self means that

there is no metaphysical self the while

no self actually means that you should

be less attached to your own stuff and

cared less about about you and more

about others because after all while the

major goals if not the major goal of

Buddhism is to decrease suffering in the

world then I would just say quickly

that's the ethical implication of not so

from the ethical dimension there is a

metaphysical version of it that in some

renderings are more extreme than the

average right equivalent is you know the

Stoics accepted Heraclitus metaphysics

of course was a pre-socratic philosopher

the one that famously said that you

never step in the same river twice why


because the river itself and that you

are not fixed objects you don't have an

essence you are dynamic processes where

you change all the time

and so even for the storix the self is

not an essence it's a dynamic process

but nevertheless there is such you know

there is me I am I am now talking to you

whatever you want to however you want to

understand I and I am the one that is

responsible for my own decisions not not

you even though of course my own self

will change and has change I'm not the

person I was five years ago or 10 years

ago 20 years ago and presumably another

person that will be in five years or ten

years under oath

there are the many other points of

context in terms of the ethics I mean

the the notion of be mindful for

instance of you know right reason right

intention all of those concepts found

find the equivalent in stores in terms

of the practice of the four virtues

which are you know practical wisdom

courage justice and temperance the

language is different the way they're

presented is different but the

fundamental concept I think actually

very similar in fact they are so similar

that as I mentioned earlier during my

period of exploration of a number of

laws with Buddhism as on my list I did

with you know a number of things in that

area because it intrigued me it was

something that was actually speaking to

me okay let me just quickly ask you and

just take off on it because because

Massimo brought up the word kind of

essence now I know I mean essence is a I

mean Buddhist Buddhism is very anti

essentialism that's certainly true and

that's part of what is meant by the

not-self idea there's a sense in which

there is no essence of me you mentioned

that essence enters existentialism in

the formulation existence precedes

essence is it wrong for me to think that

in trying to find my authentic path by

existential lights I am some sense

trying to figure out what is the

essential me like what is essence of Bob

is that wrong yeah well I think the

essential view is that there isn't an

essence that's already there that you're

trying to discover it's an essence that

you're creating by pursuing a project by

doing things by living projecting

yourself into the future so it's

something so I guess you choose the

essence you want to construct rather

than trying to align your life with what

you just is self-evidently your essence

right okay I guess I'm up for that

it might be easier if somebody could

just tell me what the essence of me is

but I guess I have to construct it I

guess I'm willing to try so let me I

have a kind of a closing question before

I ask it's guy I want to ask you about

your time constraint so you are you okay

for a little longer you

the one okay so quickly let me just say

enough that it will allow you both to

basically say anything you want to say

in closing but it has to do partly with

the connection between philosophies and

religions you have both philosophical

traditions and religious traditions

Buddhism you've got under philosophy

because oh and Flanigan is more

interested in the kind of philosophical

naturalistic you might say part of

Buddhism but you know Hinduism you've

got under religion there's one other

little kind of quirk here which is that

in under religious traditions you've got

Hinduism Judaism Christianity

progressive Islam see it's not just

Islam its progressive Islam and a couple

of things I mean first I can imagine

someone objecting like wait a second is

the assumption that Islam per se is is

not progressive whereas these other

things inherently are and of course

that's not true I mean there there are a

variety of kinds of Christians and

Hindus and so on and in a way my well

it's not a question I'm demanding that

you both answer or anything but it's

it's an issue I want to raise it's it

gets back to essentialism in a way

essence like it seems to me that certain

philosophies at least it's fairly easy

to characterize as having in some sense

in essence I mean Massimo you said

partly because stoicism didn't have a

lot of time to diverge and branch out

and evolve and it and it developed

initially in a kind of a local area it's

a reasonably coherent set of principles

whereas all of these religions you know

you can you can find adherents who take

them in radically different ethical and

for that matter metaphysical direction

so I guess again there's no one question

you have to answer I mainly want to give

you both to change to say whatever you

want to say but I guess the the backdrop

is this whole question of well there's

there's there's a decision to put

religious traditions as well as

philosophical the question of whether

with religious

traditions it's it's even harder to

describe an essence or a single

tradition than it is with many

philosophical traditions and I guess

more broadly the fact that many people

choose one or the other

they say you know I'm a religious person

that's my source of guidance or I'm not

religious and then they may be lucky

enough to have a philosophical tradition

that they can really put stock in and

and use that so you can say almost

anything in response to that and you can

do it in any order um all right well I

just mentioned that I absolutely agree

with you that you know religions asked

so incredibly diverse that it's

difficult to generalize and it was

difficult for us to kind of narrow down

you know why why these few but we tried

to sort of focus on some of the main

ones and the progressive Islam was

really kind of we were looking yeah for

the stone once but we're also looking

for you know interesting ones like I

mean ethical culture is much smaller but

it's like a really interesting idea

because it's spiritual but it's also

what some people consider at a religion

song giant so and then you know the

contributor as when we were talking to

him he's done some really great writing

on on Islam and you know it just turned

out that his particular way of living

his philosophy was progressive so I

guess in that way it wasn't like an in

so intentional other than just trying to

give a really diverse perspective of it

like a few examples say ethical culture

you did put in a religion that's

interesting because I am the ethical

culture Society almost see as being by

self definition alternative religion but

they do the kind of rituals that's the

interesting thing I mean they have a

service and they and so on so yeah

that's a chapter worth reading by and

claisen I think who's is there at

Columbia um

that's right so but the question here

with with progressive Islam for instance

could at least just as easily a reason

where Buddhism if or when I decided to

change the title of the book so the book

the of this chapter - you know secular


then there would have been a particular

tradition or particular s but a

particular way present in Buddhism in

fact originally we actually asked our

authors to cover the more general

version of their philosophies that are

chosen philosophies but some of them

said no I'm not gonna do it that way I'm

gonna do it the way much I actually live

it and that was fine with us I think

that to some extent in answer to your

original question but you know what's

the essence if any of these different


I'm gonna go Vic and Stein on you

meaning that that has weakened Stein you

know prominent mid 20th century

philosopher pointed out language is a

game in a sense meaning that it is it's

a question of agreement abound among a

community of language speakers and so

there is no such thing as the essence of

any of these terms these are cultural

traditions both religious or

philosophical or sometimes kind of

having aspects of both and if I consider

myself a stoic all of that means really

is that my way of thinking has been

inspired by a particular tradition that

generally speaking is labeled as

historic the same goes for for you know

the Christians for instance I mean the

other tradition I'm familiar with is

Christianity because I grew up Catholic

I mean there are some Christians were

actually secular they believed that

Jesus was like a Socrates figure not not

the Son of God so that's pretty radical

in terms of sort of you know the

differentiating yourself from from a

very long and very well-established

tradition and even within Christianity

as we know there is a number of

different ways of interpreting and

putting emphasis on one thing leather

than the other what brings them all

together is the fact that they that all

member all people who think of

themselves as Christian to refer to a

certain cultural tradition often I'm

asked you know I've been involved in

this project of so trying to update

voices in particularly aspects of stoick

ethics and especially stoic metaphysics

to the 21st century

and often the questions that I get asked

is well but is that it still stoicism

and my answer is frankly well if I say

it is meaning that or if enough people

say I should say more correctly say it

is then it is right you don't you don't

pick your own language but but if you

have enough people I said yeah that's

close enough

that's that's uh I can see why you would

you would go that way then it is a fun

and if you have people are gonna say no

actually you know what mask you know

what you're doing it doesn't it's not

recognizable it starts and then then I

guess it will become something else or

nothing at all depending on whether

people pay attention to it or not so I

think we should be we shouldn't be

overly concerned with you know but is it

really Buddhism or is it really into ism

or something like that there's really no

reason no no no no particular pay pay

off in being trying to be sort of

purists about about this sort of stuff

another aspect of the same question is

what what about eclecticism so there are

some people like for instance our

missing co-editor you know contain

kaufman is is often sort of it comes

across as a little bit of eclectic I

mean if he wrote the chapter on restore

New York's Italian ISM but it's like you

know I bits and pieces of things he's

open at different different influences

and some people reject that and they say

well but if you start picking pieces

right and left and you're gonna end up

with an incoherent jumble and I think

that is a reasonable concern if if you

do it's only a mindless why but we also

have to remember that pretty much all of

these traditions themselves were

influenced by other traditions both

before and during the Stoics came out of

Socratic philosophy and they were highly

influenced by the the cynics and part of

their philosophical understanding

changed as a reaction over time as a

reaction from of critizise from the

outside from the Epicureans and the

academic sceptics so all of these are in

fact eclectic in some sense but you want

to be eclectic in a way that makes sense

in a way that is you know sufficiently

coherent so because after all what is it

that we're talking about here you

earlier were asking sky for specifics

like you know so what I how can I behave

in an authentic way

something like that right we remember

that most of these traditions in fact I

would like you actually all of them even

the even the the in political ones the

ones based on sort of Commandments kind

of stuff and rigid rules they're really

not supposed to tell you what to do on a

moment-by-moment basis they are a

framework right they are there a general

compass they're kind of oriented

yourself in in your life and so if I am

if I follow the stoic compass it turns

out that that you know for most of the

the things that I do doing in my day I

ask myself well is this why is this

courageous is this just an it is is this

temperate those are just helpful ways of

organizing my thoughts the answer to the

question in the specific is this

particular action going to be temperate

just and so on so for that that's up to

me nobody else is gonna say you know

nobody's gonna is communicate me from

from stoic church for giving the wrong

answer in fact in a sense that's that's

why they're called personal philosophies

they're they give you a general

framework and a way to navigate your

life in a more coherent and useful

fashion but after about at the end of

the day you know it's up to you at what

price you sell your integrity Epictetus

put it and I think one of the goals of

the book is that it's um it's more like

an opening or a gateway for people to

kind of get a taster and understand

different philosophies and to reflect on

their own philosophy of life or religion

but also you know like I said have an

appreciation for other philosophies of

life and hopefully to enter into a

conversation about you know about other

perspectives and you know because I

think the world could do with a whole

lot more understanding right now yeah I

think you're yeah it's like you know

Whitman's chocolates used to have this

thing called a Whitman sampler and it

would have like one thing of all these

different kinds of chocolates this is

like a philosophical sampler it's a good

you've got commendably short chapters on

all of these different traditions

written by people who in some sense

believe in them and and so it's it's a

great smorgasbord to switch keulen Airy

metaphors a little bit and I'm glad you

mentioned Dan the missing co-editor Dan

Kaufman who wrote the chapter on

Aristotelian ISM maybe maybe Dan can can

later at some point come on and just

defend Aristotelian ISM because that is

something that like existentialism

I started out knowing very little about

and sky thanks for bringing me closer to

my authentic self in the course of this

congratulations to both of you on the

book this is this is what it looks like

holding it up to the camera very

recently published by vintage books how

to live a good life a guide to choosing

your personal philosophy congratulations

and good luck with it thank you