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A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability
It is perhaps our noblest cause, and certainly one of our oldest: to end suffering. Think of the Buddha, Chuang Tzu, or Marcus Aurelius: stoically composed figures impervious to the torments of the wider world, living their lives in complete serenity—and teaching us how to do the same. After all, isn’t a life free from suffering the ideal? Isn’t it what so many of us seek? ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published March 1st 2017 by University of Chicago Press
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I great read--the author argues that the great Buddhist (and other) philosophies about the nobleness and idealism of getting to point that one can "let go" of anything in life, that one can get to a point of not suffering, even over a terrible grief such as the loss of a child, is achievable by only a very few and is, in fact not something that most of us really want to ever do. He differentiates between the "Small Matters" (getting stuck in traffic, e.g.) and "Large Matters"--a tragedy in life, ...more
Terrific. Proves that good philosophy can and should be accessible to the general reader. Moreover, it is an important argument about how and why suffering is always entangled with care. I felt the analysis of the doctrines of invulnerability should have been accompanied by at least some reference to metaphysical grounds for acceptance of suffering but he shies away from this and leaves us mainly with rational grounds.
As a practicing Stoic / Buddhist, I was intrigued by May's exploration of what he feels is missing from these 'invulnerablist' approaches to life. In the end I don't quite agree with him, largely because I don't agree that these approaches require the sort of emotional distancing he seems to believe they do. I suppose he might be right in one sense - the Stoic Sage or the Enlightened Buddhist may have that level of detachment, but being concerned about that is like a 97 pound weakling not liftin ...more
I really cannot say enough about the approachability of Todd May's work. He finds a intellectually rigorous yet human readable way to convey both the surface and the nuance of life's biggest questions. A Fragile Life is an amazing complement to his work in A Significant Life. ...more
Todd has been teaching at Clemson for nearly thirty years. For many of those years his area of specialization in philosophy was recent French thought, especially that of Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. More recently he has turned his attention to broader life concerns: meaning in life, coping with suffering, acting with moral decency, and so on. He is the author of sixteen books of philosophy. ...more
“I am like a wave on the sea. While the wave rises I appear to have some independent existence. However, I am just a movement of the sea, and my death is nothing but a crashing of water into water. My truth is that I am of the sea, and as a wave I appear independent of it only for a moment.”
“We are all born to no point, live out our days as best we can, and are then dissolved into the earth.”More quotes…