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This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  60 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A profound, original, and accessible book that offers a new secular vision of how we can lead our lives. Ranging from fundamental existential questions to the most pressing social issues of our time, This Life shows why our commitment to freedom and democracy should lead us beyond both religion and capitalism.

In this groundbreaking book, the philosopher Martin H�gglund cha
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Pantheon Books
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4.53  · 
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 ·  60 ratings  ·  17 reviews

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Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Being is time and time is finite. The being that we care most about is human being or any being that can take a stand on its own understanding, the most important being in the universe. Hägglund wrote a marvelous book which unpacks that italicized sentence for the reader. I’m going to explain why I thought this was such a marvelous and necessary book for today’s reader, but, I need to mention first that I listened to it on audio and therefore didn’t get the footnotes as I was listening and that ...more
Ryan Bell
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, programmatic, interdisciplinary analysis of our diminished lives under capitalism and religion, and the emancipatory possibilities under democratic socialism.

Possibly the best book I’ve ever read integrating our “spiritual” lives with our political commitments into a coherent humanist call to action. I will be interviewing the author this week for my podcast. Stay tuned at
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
More repetitive than even "The High Cost of Free Parking". And although Parking repeats the same (probably) correct logic over and over, this book keeps circling back to "and you can only feel loss, love or commitment because the person's life is finite" and it's like "Wait, what?" That statement that doesn't make sense is not explained in the first ~200 pages, but is repeated over and over. Abraham (and Isaac) are mentioned what must have been 500 times, with very little variation.
There is no
Dan Graser
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is, perhaps, the most intelligently formed and poetically written argument for secular thought since Bertrand Russell. In this dual critique of religious and economic fundamentalism, Hägglund engages with the most complicated issues and previous works with great authority and erudition.

The dual critique of religion and economic dogmas is one that most will be familiar with since Marx. Hägglund works through the tangled webs spun by the likes of Kierkegaard and Augustine to show the fatuity
Peggy Kahn
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an engaging, intellectually rich, focused book, making the argument that human, lived time is central to human identity and the social world. The positive arguments about the finitude of human life and inevitability and importance of loss, suffering and boredom; about the practical making of projects and practical identities through not only individual commitments and efforts but social norms and institutions; and about the necessity of a radical critique of capitalist value and social t ...more
Daniel C.
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about atheism, but it would be wrong to group it with books by Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens. Where popular books on atheism largely focus on ridiculing the irrationality and lack of empirical evidence supporting religious belief, or casting it in the causal role of various atrocities, Hägglund has a more constructive project in mind. As he writes late in the book, echoing Marx: "If we merely criticized religious beliefs as illusions—without being committed to overcoming the forms ...more
Clinton Wilson
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Did Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling blow your mind and shift your thinking about faith? Does Hegel both inspire and confound you? Do you have a tentative grasp of democratic socialism. Can you just not put your finger on it?

If you appreciate the work of Sam Harris, but prefer something a little more penetrating and scholarly, read this book. This is an essential and masterful critique of religion and capitalism that sets forth and argument of how we can lead better and more enriched lives of sp
Jack Wolfe
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want to apologize in advance to everyone who actually knows me: all I'm gonna wanna talk about for the next several months (years?) is "This Life" by Martin Hagglund. This is the kind of big effing mindblower that I luck into every once in a while... A game changer for my personal and political identity... A book that I hope (that I'm gonna try to make sure) has as wide a readership as possible. Cuz, hoo wee. This one makes "Capital in the 21st Century" look like the Boxcar Children. (Hagglund ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
A real disappointment. I have been a fan of Hagglund's since his early articles and Radical Atheism was a very important book in my young life so I was incredibly excited for this book to arrive.

If this book was framed simply as a positive vision of a life affirming, secular metaphysics it could have been a real achievement. That's what makes this so frustrating; the seeds of a great book are all here, but they've been smothered by several hundred unnecessary pages of Hegel and Hayek. As an att
Brian Trinh
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intelligent immanent critique of religion and capitalism centered on the fact that we live finite lives. Hagglund gives us a thorough philosophical justification for why a secular life is necessary to have any practical commitments and makes a very good case for why democratic socialism (as opposed to social democracy) can create a society that maximizes spiritual freedom for each individual who chooses to sustain it.

I enjoyed the analysis of Capitalism in Chp 5 (The Value of Our Finite Time
Seamus Thompson
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A difficult book to rate. I wholeheartedly agree with the ideas and I applaud the scope and scale of the work itself. I appreciated Hagglund’s ability to move from the individual experience of a secular life to how we could reorganize society with secular values that would better serve the project of human existence. My only complaint is that, for all the enviable clarity of his prose, Hagglund is prone to over-explaining many of his concepts. Still, for such an ambitious book that is a minor sh ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a really insightful read that is really broad--perhaps a bit too broad? He covers Kierkegaard, Marx, MLK, CS Lewis and even contemporary philosophers. The thesis is hard to argue with and I think he spends too much time making the point, but his engagement with other thinkers was really enlightening. Basically, life is short YOLO
Patricio Herbst
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is worthwhile reading. Much of the beginning discussion on secular faith and spiritual freedom is well developed and compelling. As he starts going more and more into politics his idealism takes over intellectual rigor.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars--Probably more later.
Mesut Bostancı
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such an incredible book that deepens your thinking on each philosopher he takes up. A fantastic synthesis of the life philosophy and political philosophy I already ascribed to.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A good read with a wonderful perspective. This book left me feeling like I learned new things and had me questioning things i hadn't thought of before. Won courtesy of the author and
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Made me think about what exactly I have been selling my life away for.
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And vice versa
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Martin Hägglund is a Charlotte W. Newcombe Fellow in Comparative Literature at Cornell University. He is the author of Chronophobia: Essays on Time and Finitude, which was published in Swedish in 2002. In Spring 2009, CR: The New Centennial Review published a special issue devoted to his work.