Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way

Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way

Although I talk a lot about happiness, I’m well aware we can’t be happy all the time.

Although I talk a lot about mental health, I’m well aware we’ll all struggle at times.

It’s ok not to be ok all the time; but it’s also ok to search for and try to apply anything and everything that might helps us cope and manage better.

And this cool article by Kieran Setiya via the Next Big Idea Club is definitely worth reading …

Kieran Setiya is a professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Below, he shares 5 key insights from his new book, Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help

1. Acknowledgement comes first.

Here’s an experience you may have had: You tell a friend about a problem you are coping with, maybe a blowup at work or in a close relationship, or a health scare that has you rattled. They are quick to reassure you or to offer you advice, but their response is not consoling. Instead, it feels like disavowal: a refusal to acknowledge what you’re going through. What we learn in moments like these is that assurance and advice can operate as denial. What we need in our affliction is acknowledgement.

Philosophical reflection here is as much about attending to adversity as it is about arguing around it. As the novelist-philosopher Iris Murdoch wrote: “I can only choose within the world I can see, in the moral sense of ‘see’ [that turns on] moral imagination and moral effort.” Paying attention to what’s happening in someone’s life, finding the right words to describe it, isn’t just consoling in itself. Often, it’s the better part of knowing what to do.

2. Don’t try to be happy; try to live as well as you can.

Who doesn’t want to be happy? At the end of the day, you might think, it’s happiness that matters most; it’s the reason for everything we do. Being happy is not the same as living well, though. Happiness is a mood or feeling, a subjective state; you could be happy while living a lie. We can illustrate this with a thought experiment, riffing on The Matrix. Imagine Maya, submerged in sustaining fluid, electrodes plugged into her brain, being fed each day a stream of consciousness that simulates an ideal life, the only real inhabitant of a virtual world. Maya doesn’t know she’s being deceived; she is perfectly happy. But her life does not go well. She doesn’t do most of what she thinks she is doing, doesn’t know most of what she thinks she knows, and doesn’t interact with anyone or anything but the machine. You wouldn’t wish it on someone you love, to be imprisoned in a vat, alone forever, duped.

“The unhappiness of grief or anger at injustice aren’t things we would be better off without.”

The truth is that we should not aim to be happy but to live as well as we can. I don’t mean we should strive to be unhappy, or be indifferent to happiness, but there is more to life than how it feels. The unhappiness of grief or anger at injustice aren’t things we would be better off without. In living well, we cannot extricate justice from self-interest or divide ourselves from others. Our task is to face adversity as we should—and truth is the only means. We have to live in the world as it is, not the world as we wish it would be…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE