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On Being Me

A Personal Invitation to Philosophy

Illustrator: Emily Bernstein

A moral philosopher’s meditations on some of life’s most important questions

We’ve all had to puzzle over such profound matters as birth, death, regret, free will, agency, and love. How might philosophy help us think through these vital concerns? In On Being Me, renowned moral philosopher J. David Velleman presents a concise, accessible, and intimate exploration into subjects that we care deeply about, offering compelling insights into what it means to be human.

Each of Velleman’s short, personal chapters begins with a theme: “Being Glad I Was Born,” “Wanting to Go On,” “Fearing the End,” “Regretting What Might Have Been,” “Aspiring to Authorship,” “Making Things Happen,” and “Wanting to Be Loved.” Reflecting on how daily life presents us with thorny riddles that need working out, Velleman arrives at unexpected conclusions about survival and personal identity, the self and its future, time and morality, the rationality of regret, free will and personal efficacy, and goodness and love. He shows that we can rely on our own powers of thought to arrive at a better understanding of the most fundamental parts of ourselves—and that the methods of philosophy can help get us there.

Beautifully illustrated by New Yorker contributing artist Emily Bernstein, On Being Me invites us to approach life philosophically.

Author Information

J. David Velleman is professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University. His books include How We Get Along and Self to Self. He is a founding editor of the open-access journal Philosophers’ Imprint. He lives in New York City. Emily C. Bernstein is a visual artist and animator who lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been published in the New Yorker and on Vice.com.


" On Being Me is an exhilarating intellectual journey, filled with vivid moments of insight and some surprising twists. Velleman's writing is elegant, his style oracular but down to earth, and his ideas consistently provocative and engaging. A book to savor." —Kieran Setiya, author of Midlife

"This is a bold, stimulating reflection on what it is to be a person. Written with flair and wit, it is at once remarkably personal and universal. There is no other book out there comparable in style and ambition."—Susan Wolf, author of The Variety of Values

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