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Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault
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Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault

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4.33  ·  Rating details ·  795 ratings  ·  65 reviews
This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot's book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 3rd 1995 by Wiley-Blackwell (first published 1981)
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Ron
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. This is the book I've been looking for ever since I read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius 4 years ago. That book opened my eyes to something essential, which is the thesis of this book: ancient philosophy was not the abstract theoretical discourse that philosophy is today, but was a way of life, a means of transforming one's perception of reality, and was accompanied by spiritual disciplines to help people transform their lives. Philo-sophia, the love of wisdom, was for living. It was ...more
Elena Holmgren
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This incomparable work tasks itself with resurrecting a lost tradition of reading, and therefore of understanding and of doing philosophy, in which the use of spiritual exercises is seen as an integral part of the meaning of philosophic texts, theories, and practices. Hadot's is an effort to excavate and make available for contemporary use older, but larger, meanings which would allow us once again to see how philosophy can be more than just an abstract theoretical endeavour: a personally transf ...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
An exceptional book. Highly recommended.

I Blocked. Not only have I struggled with writing this review, but I have let it get in the way of others reviews. Time to get over it so here goes.

Point 1. If you want to read an overarching review of this excellent book, read Elena’s review below. She serves the author, Pierre Hadot, well.

Point 2. In my view, ‘Philosophy as a Way of Life’ is really about attaining the “good life”. This is not to be confused with “living the good life” as defined as ha
...more
Yashvir Dalaya
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
Hadot's clear-cut understanding of the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, particularly Stoicism and Epicureanism, is manifestly presented, albeit in thesis form, in this book. He points out how philosophy, in its current practice, has become more about abstract theorizing on the manner of the universe and our own lives, from its purpose in antiquity of serving as a practical guide to a "way of life".

This book will serve more as an exposition of the several schools of philosophical th
...more
Kang
Aug 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Hadot strikes me as a cross between Foucault and Leo Strauss: he shares with the Strauss the view that, as the book title suggests, philosophy is not primarily and perhaps not even ultimately concerned with assigning truth values to assertoric propositions. He shares with Foucault a certain historicism; the way he talks about the doctrines and methods of so-called "schools of thought" is somewhat symptomatic of this fact. The editing in this volume is lazy, and Hadot is repetitious and his style ...more
Mary-Jean Harris
This was a great book, though not at all like I expected. It was a series of lectures about practices in ancient philosophy (primarily Stoicism, Epicurianism, and Platonism) and how they are focused on living a good life. I expected a practical guide, but this was more of a historical overview of the philosophies that talk about living a philosophical life. If you want to know how philosophy can be applied to your life (the spiritual exercises spoken of in this book), you have to read the books ...more
Olivier Goetgeluck
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"People are not troubled by things, but by their judgments about things."
- Epictetus

Epictetus' three acts or functions of the soul:
- judgment
- desire
- inclination or impulsion

Since each of these activities of the soul depend on us, we can discipline them, we can choose to judge or not to judge in a particular way, we can choose to desire or not to desire, to will or not to will.


The goal of spiritual exercises is to influence yours
...more
Rob
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in ancient philosophy and seekers of wisdom. This book has a great way of explaining how it was when philosophy was a way of life and will give you suggestions on how to think for yourself and for the present moment.
Ira
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a good read and it cheers me up. The chapter on Socrates is particularly interesting: insights into approaches to teaching and dialogue, as well as the role of Eros as demon. And about incommunicability, language and death. Finally some ancient wisdom. I will re-read Euripides tragedies. The form of dialogue is first a form of friendship. It is a journey in which the interlocutors do not know the destination. They do not respectively defend a ‘truth’ or conclusion yet it is a kind of bat ...more
Tasshin Fogleman
Oct 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Dresden
Read much of this book on a one-to-one study group with Dresden; we both enjoyed what we read, although she said that John said that he had heard Hadot was "Foucault light." Hadot is certainly simple, and one can tire of his seemingly endless search for sources and authors that match his thesis—and yet that thesis opens up a new realm for philosophy past and future, but most especially in the present. Now. Yes. Now. (Did you get that?)

Hadot made me want to re-read Plato properly, and
...more
James
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Hadot presents philosophy as "spiritual exercises" through essays on Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and others. In addition to the exercises the book includes essays on the methods of philosophy, discussions of Socrates and Marcus Aurelius. The essay on Marcus Aurelius was enhanced by my concurrent reading of his Meditations which can be seen as an example of the way of practicing philosophy described in Hadot's book. The book concludes with a section on "Themes" where the nature of happiness and understanding ...more
Timothy Kestrel
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What if I was to say that, in the end, your life was nothing but a stain on the pavement? Quite likely you would be offended and retort how I dare to utter such repulsive remark. However, in my defence I would say that is exactly the point for I am a philosopher. I am not here to please anyone. Philosophy as a way of life does not involve being rude, but it does mean to express ideas that may seem odd and/or offensive to some. I would also maintain that instead of being offended, you should answ ...more
Özgürel
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Despite his own thesis that ancient philosophy "was a mode of existing-in-the-world, which had to be practiced at each instant and the goal of which was to transform the whole of the individual's life", Hadot's book does not provide much information on the ancient philosophers' mode of existing in-the-world and the relationship between their philosophy and their way of life. There is not much historical evidence on the lives of ancient philosophers that their philosophy determined their way of l ...more
Gary Brooks
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Superlative examination of philosophy's evolution through practical guide to the good life, scholastic theological foil, to it's present academic, abstract form. Hadot details the spiritual exercises of Stoicism, Epicureanism, Pythagors and Plotinus; concentrating also on themes in common such as devotion to the present moment, virtue as a lived exercise and philosophy as a means of living well. Recommended.
Joe
Jul 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book.

Unfortunately I only understood every third paragraph. Much of the book went over my head, but the third that I did understand made it one of the best books I've read.

If you are interested in Stoicism then I would recommend giving this book a read. I would love to have someone to discuss it with and perhaps help me gain some insights on the bits I couldn't fully appreciate.
Ben
Apr 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Self-help for would-be philosophers. De Botton avant-la-lettre. Rather boring and clichéd. Fails to move or provoke. Reads like the philosophical equivalent of a satisfied Socrates cultivating his garden...
Henry Manampiring
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finally finished this book. It's not very easy to read, especially since it was written originally in French, but it is not impossible to comprehend and enjoy.

It has changed my view on ancient philosophy in a fundamental way. I used to think that philosophy is just intellectual discourse for the privileged, wholesale. Hadot showed us that this is so contrary to the original intent of the philosophy schools. In Hadot's words: "It is an invitation to each human being to transform himse
...more
Patrick Iain
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A truly excellent book - gives a wonderful, historical sweep on the evolution of spiritual exercises from the time of antiquity to the present day.

I would recommend it to the religious and non-religious alike, anyone who is interested in the big questions in life and how we might examine them, and live our responses to them, on a moment-by-moment basis.

Hadot was an innovative genius.
Y
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
There is a lot of information in here but not the kind that I was looking for... I did not enjoy the thesis defending writing style.
Frankie Della Torre
This book changed my life.
Alex Winikoff
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
BEAUTIFUL book on philosophy.
Adam Lam
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's a faulty text for sure. It can't decide whether it wants to be a scholarly book on the early history of applied philosophy, or if it wants to be an actionable guide to influential ideas of philosophers, intended to help the reader make the most of their life.

Yet at its best, it gives you a new, powerful lens to assess how you act in the world, and how others act in the world. My favourite chapter (that I've kept returning to over the course of this year) is an essay by Canadian
...more
ვახო   ჰიბრის სვანიძე
What is Ancient Philosophy and how it differs from one, which we call modern and contemporary philosophies. An answer, which Hadot sets, is that in modern times there is immense gap between Philosophical discourse and Philosophical life itself, whereas in Ancient way of perceiving philosophy, those two parts were coherent, in hierarchy that Discourse was perceived as a server of experienced philosophy, basis for exercises of soul. Later, he shows an importance of present instant and how it was p ...more
Don Putnam
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. Having read The Inner Citadel and loving it, I was looking forward to reading this one too. It is a collection of 11 essays and an interview between the translator and Hadot. A lot of the same ideas found in the Inner Citadel are found in this book. The Inner Citadel has many of these same ideas fully fleshed out, while Philosophy as a Way of Life widens the lens a bit, as it were.

Like The Inner Citadel, I plan to pick this book up time and time again. I just simpl
...more
Barry Andrews
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pierre Hadot is a historian of philosophy, specializing in the philosophies of Ancient Greece and Rome. In this book he describes the spiritual exercises prescribed by the various philosophical schools—Stoicism, Epicureanism, etc. These exercises were eventually taken up by the Catholic Church, but they are typical of self-cultivation philosophies generally, including Confucianism, Taoism, Vedanta, and Transcendentalism. I find this book to be an excellent resource in my on-going study of self-c ...more
Morgan Johnson
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hadot persuasively shows that philosophy originated not primarily as abstract thinking or systematic discourse but as a way of living truly and wisely in the world. Though thinking and discourse are necessary for the philosophical life, the main goal of philosophy is to transform one's life within a community of other human beings. This is also why early Christianity claimed to be the true "philosophy". After all, philosophy is the love (i.e. pursuit) of wisdom, and in Hadot's words, "real wisdo ...more
Logan Mitchell
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a book I first heard about from reading Ryan Holiday’s “Ego is the Enemy,” which also led me to read Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations,” both of which I recommend. This book, however, was remarkably astute and engaging. While it can be repetitive, I think the lessons and ideas being discussed are important enough to make the repetition feel less redundant and more like a spiritual exercise in itself, bringing us closer to a new understanding of philosophy and its place in our lives.
Shane Orr
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Hadot is a historian of ancient philosophy writing. Here he takes a look at philosophy's evolution. Today, philosophy is viewed as a mostly theoretical topic, while for the ancients it was a true way of life. He also considers Christianity and its ties to philosophy. Overall, I found it to be a little too heavy for my liking.
Dan Sheehan
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book on Hellenistic and Roman philosophy that I have read. It reads more as a collection of essays than a systematic treatment of its subject, but that makes it on the whole a stronger work. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in philosophy and the art of living.
Jeremy Rios
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A fantastic book surveying some of the history of philosophy, reading strategies for approaching the ancient world, and a tacit argument for retrieving philosophy as a way and not a discourse. I've taken pages of notes, and will certainly return to these for review in the future.
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Pierre Hadot (né à Paris, le 21 février 1922 - mort à Orsay, le 25 avril 2010) est un philosophe, historien et philologue français, spécialiste de l'antiquité, profond connaisseur de la période hellénistique et en particulier du néoplatonisme et de Plotin. Pierre Hadot est l'auteur d'une œuvre développée notamment autour de la notion d'exercice spirituel et de philosophie comme manière de vivre. ...more