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The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson (Cultural Memory in the Present) Paperback – December 23, 2008


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The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson (Cultural Memory in the Present) + What Is Ancient Philosophy? + Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault
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Product Details

  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804748365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804748360
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,147,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"There is much here that could affirm and inform a philosophical counseling practice, both in attitude and content. There is much here to remind ourselves of the importance of spiritual or philosophical exercises in our own trying times."—Helen Douglas, Philosophical Practice


"Hadot's refreshing efforts to free philosophy and its history from the sterile constraints of abstract theorizing and academic specialization find a lively and productive outlet in the interviews collected here. Introduced by Jeannie Carlier, a French scholar of Neo-platonic religious thought and friend of Hadot, and conducted in turns by Carlier and Arnold Davidson, the American philosopher and intellectual historian most responsible for the introduction and dissemination of Hadot's work in English-speaking contexts, these conversations explore in depth and varied detail both the personal and the intellectual development of a scholar whose own work insists above all that the personal or existential cannot rightly or fruitfully be separated from the intellectual or philosophical. Enacting the kind of dialogue that Hadot believes essential to any philosophy that would constitute a living relation between persons rather than an abstract relation to ideas, these interviews could not find a more suitable subject."—Thomas A. Carlson, University of California, Santa Barbara


"If your own experience of 'Philosophy 101' way back when was just shy of miserable, disconnected from the daily or generally incoherent—gridlocked, for instance, in self-serving terms—here, in The Present Alone Is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Cartier and Arnold I. Davidson, a good-souled man—Hadot himself—winks. He seems to say, 'Here's what happened, and here's why philosophy really is for you.' And if you are a teacher or a pedagogue, it's for you all the more."—Teachers College Record

About the Author

Pierre Hadot is Professor Emeritus at the Collège de France, where he held the Chair of the History of Hellenistic and Roman Thought. Most of his major works have been translated into English, including Philosophy as a Way of Life, What is Ancient Philosophy? (1995), and The Veil of Isis (2006). His most recent book is N'oublie pas de vivre. Goethe et la tradition des exercices spirituels (2008). Arnold I. Davidson is Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and Professor of the History of Political Philosophy at the University of Pisa. He has written widely on contemporary French philosophy, is the English language series editor of Michel Foucault's courses at the Collège de France, and is the author of The Emergence of Sexuality (2001). Jeannie Carlier is Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. She has published essays on philosophy and religious practices in late antiquity and is a specialist in Neoplatonism.

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on July 10, 2009
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I have just recently come across the work of Pierre Hadot and I must say it has been a treat for my soul. I am not expert across the breadth of contemporary writings in philosophy in English but I know of no one like Hadot in our language. He is an academic who is astonishedly learned yet he argues forcefully for a need to engage in philosophical practice. Hadot argues that philosophy is something that we do, that we live as a result of an existential choice that we make.
Before I explain that a little, let me explain the format of this book. It contains a series of ten interviews with Hadot conducted by Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson. They are friends of Hadot's and fine scholars in their own right. The first two interviews are by Carlier and serve as an intellectual biography. The book takes off in the third interview where Davidson starts to question Hadot about his ideas on discourse in philosophy. The remaining interviews are all focused on particular ideas that Hadot has about the philosophical tradition.

So what is so impressive about all this? The previous reviewer mentioned that Hadot started off fascinated with Plotinus and has increasingly come to revere Marcus Aurelius (MA). That is true as far as it goes. Really, Hadot started off working on the writings of Marius Victorinus who is a relatively unknown philosopher from the early Christian/late antiquity period. The extant writings of Victorinus contain textual issues that lead Hadot to Porphyry and Plotinus and indeed to the whole of ancient philosophy. The previous reviewer wants to emphasize Hadot's interest in the Stoics. I think that is his major influence but he know his Platonists, his sceptics, his peripatetics, his Epicureans as well as Epictetus, Seneca and MA.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carl Barrentine on June 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
A highly recommended book especially for those who are disinterested in learning more about the construction of philosophical systems (in a strictly academic sense) but who are existentially ready to begin thinking seriously about the merits of the Stoic philosophy as a way of life. Pierre Hadot, professor emeritus at the College de France, reflects on a lifetime's worth of thinking and scholarship, which began with a passion for Plotinus and culminated with an abiding reverence for Marcus Aurelius. This book is a wonderful introduction to the writings of Pierre Hadot as well as a genuinely provocative exploration of Goethe's sage advice (from 'Faust II'), "The present alone is our happiness."

The Present Alone is Our Happiness: Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson (Cultural Memory in the Present)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on January 26, 2011
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Pierre Hadot is maybe one of the smartest people I've ever read. This is my third book of his. I wouldn't start with it though. So if you haven't read Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault or The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, ignore everything else and get them both. Hadot's point has always been this: the concept of philosophy as an overarching system that explains our words is a fundamental misinterpretation of what ancient philosophers did and set out to do. Yet it's through this lens that we attempt to decipher Aristotle or Plato and the like. It's how we can say foolish things like, "Epicureanism is full of contradictions." The reality is that almost all of philosophy was articulated through dialog or correspondence, through human beings interacting with each other to address the basic problems of everyday life. Of course they contradicted themselves, as situations often call for. Instead of trying to explain and systemize the world, philosophy has been about the practical pursuit of the good life (being free from fear, anxiety, unnecessary pain, being happy, excelling). Philosophy as a Way of Life is essentially a book about the wisdom these men cumulatively acquired and how we can use the same exercises in our struggles. The Inner Citadel is mostly about Marcus Aurelius and the stoic concept of the self as a fortress. This book is a series of interviews with Hadot. A better way to describe it would be watching a master at work. See if you can't sprint to keep up with him by reading it--doing it for just a few pages is worth the whole thing.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Toad on March 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you don't mind that for Pierre Hadot true philosophers are either ancient Greeks or modern Frenchmen, with a few old Romans and 19-century Germans thrown in for taste, then this book of ten interviews will be a feast for your brain. Either as preparation for his books "What is Ancient Philosophy?" and "Philosophy as a Way of Life" (this one with a dazzling foreword by Arnold Davidson), or read for itself as a showcase of erudition and creative interpretation of classical Greek and Stoic philosophy - you will see Socrates and other kindred spirits in the Greco-Roman world with new eyes and a better understanding of what they intended, as well as what modern academic philosophy offers instead.

Rather than treating ancient philosophical texts as if they were (incomplete) systems that could have been written by contemporary (analytical) philosophers, Hadot makes a convincing argument for the oral tradition and demonstrating it through the dominant practice of dialogs and exercises, for instance between Socrates and his disciples. While this in itself isn't new, Hadot strengthens his case by claiming that this practice was not just a scholarly whim or brought about by the lack of books, but that it led to a way of not only doing philosophy but of leading a happy life: philosophy not as a bookish system, but as a way of life, and spiritual exercises as group-therapy.

In the last interview, Hadot quotes Goethe's line from Faust II: "Die Gegenwart allein ist unser Glück" - which is the title of this collection: "The Present Alone is Our Happiness.
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