Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 8, 2021

Drafted into a Foreign War?

On the Very Idea of Ancient Philosophy as a Way of Life

Matthew Sharpe
From the journal Rhizomata

Abstract

This paper examines the central criticisms that come, broadly, from the modern, ‘analytic’ tradition, of Pierre Hadot’s idea of ancient philosophy as a way of life.: Firstly, ancient philosophy just did not or could not have involved anything like the ‘spiritual practices’ or ‘technologies of the self’, aiming at curing subjects’ unnecessary desires or bettering their lives, contra Hadot and Foucault et al. Secondly, any such metaphilosophical account of putative ‘philosophy’ must unacceptably downplay the role of ‘serious philosophical reasoning’ or ‘rigorous argument’ in philosophy. Thirdly, claims that ancient philosophy aimed at securing wisdom by a variety of means including but not restricted to rational inquiry are accordingly false also as historical claims about the ancient philosophers. Fourthly, to the extent that we must (despite (3)) admit that some ancient thinkers did engage in or recommend extra-cognitive forms of transformative practice, these thinkers were not true or ‘mainline’ philosophers. I contend that the historical claims (3) and (4) are highly contestable, risking erroneously projecting a later modern conception of philosophy back onto the past. Of the theoretical or metaphilosophical claims (1) and (2), I argue that the second claim, as framed here, points to real, hard questions that surround the conception(s) of philosophy as a way of life.

References

Annas, Julia (2008): “The Sage in Ancient Philosophy”. In: F. Alesse, F. Aronadio, M. C. Dalfino, L. Simeoni, E. Spinelli (eds.): Anthropine Sophia. Naples: Bibliopolis, pp. 11 –27.Search in Google Scholar

Blackburn, Simon (2001): Being Good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Celenza, Christopher S. (2013): “What Counted as Philosophy in the Italian Renaissance”, Critical Inquiry Vol. 39, No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 367–401.Search in Google Scholar

Cooper, John M. (2007): “Socrates and Philosophy as a Way of Life”. In: Dominic Scott (ed.): Maieusis: Essays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 20–42.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199289974.003.0002Search in Google Scholar

Cooper, John M. (2012): Pursuits of Wisdom: Six Ways of Life in Ancient Philosophy from Socrates to Plotinus. Princeton: Princeton University Press.10.23943/princeton/9780691138602.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Corneanu, Sorana (2011): Regimens of the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226116419.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Domański, Juliusz (1996): La philosophie: théorie ou manière de vivre. Paris: Cerf.Search in Google Scholar

Fischer, Eugen J. D. (2011): “How to Practice Philosophy as Therapy”, Metaphilosophy 42:1–2 (January 2011), pp. 49–82.Search in Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel (2006): Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–1982, edited by Frederic Gros, translated by Graham Burchell. New York: Picador.Search in Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel (1976): Histoire de la sexualité, 3 volumes: La volonté de savoir, L’usage des plaisirs, and Le souci de soi. Paris: Gallimard; trans. History of Sexuality, 3 volumes: Introduction, The Uses of Pleasure, and Care of the Self, translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1988–90.Search in Google Scholar

Gaukroger, Stephen (2001): Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early-Modern Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511612688Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Ilsetraut (2015): Sénèque: Direction spirituelle et pratique de la philosophie. Paris: Vrin.Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (2010): “Course de L’École Pratique des Hautes Études. Année 1979–1980”. In: Pierre Hadot, Études de patristique et d’histoire des concepts. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, pp. 162–167.Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1998): Études de philosophie ancienne. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Including the essays: “La philosophie antique: Une éthique ou une pratique?”, pp. 214–223. “La figure du sage dans L’Antiquité gréco-latine”, pp. 233–258. Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1981): Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique. Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes. Including the essays: “La physique comme exercice spirituel ou pessimisme et optimisme chez Marc Aurèle”, pp. 145–164. “La philosophie comme manière de vivre (Annuaire du Collège de France, 1984–1985, pp. 477–487)”, pp. 289–304. “Un dialogue interrompu avec Michel Foucault. Convergences et Divergences”, pp. 305–312. “Postface à la seconde édition (1987)”, pp. 313–321. “Mes livres et mes recherches”, pp. 367–376. Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1962): ‘Jeux de Langage et Philosophie’, Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 67: 3, pp. 330–343.Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1992): La citadelle intérieure. Introduction aux Pensées de Marc Aurèle. Paris: Fayard. With trans. Michael Chase (1998). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1996a): Philosophy as a Way of Life. trans. Michael Chase. Oxford: Blackwell. Including the essays: “Forms of Life and Forms of Discourse in Ancient Philosophy”, in Philosophy as a Way of Life, pp. 49–70. “Spiritual Exercises”, pp. 71–125. “Ancient Spiritual Exercises and ‘Christian Philosophy’ pp. 126–143. “Reflections on the Idea of the ‘Cultivation of the Self’”, pp. 206–214. “The View from Above”, pp. 251–263. Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1997): Plotin ou la simplicité du regard (4th ed.) Paris: Gallimard (1st ed. 1963).Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (1996b): Qu’est-ce que la philosophie antique? Paris: Gallimard. With trans. Michael Chase (2002). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hadot, Pierre (2009): The Present Alone is Our Happiness. Conversations with Jeannie Carlier and Arnold I. Davidson, trans. Marc Djaballah. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hagberg, Gary (2003): “On Philosophy as Therapy: Wittgenstein, Cavell, and Autobiographical Writing”, Philosophy and Literature, 27:1 (April 2003), pp. 196–210.10.1353/phl.2003.0023Search in Google Scholar

Hankey, Wayne J. (2003): “Philosophy as Way of Life for Christians? Iamblichan and Porphyrian Reflections on Religion, Virtue, and Philosophy in Thomas Aquinas”, Laval Théologique et Philosophique 59: 2 [Le Néoplatonisme] (Juin 2003), pp. 193–224.Search in Google Scholar

Harrison, Peter (2014): Territories of Science and Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226184517.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Inwood, Brad (2010): “Introduction” to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Selected Philosophical Letters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Inwood, Brad (2004): “Review of John Sellars, The Art of Living: the Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy”, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2004.04.04, https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/23760-the-art-of-living-the-stoics-on-the-nature-and-function-of-philosophy/, last accessed November 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Inwood, Brad (2005): Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Including the essays: “Rules and Reasoning in Stoic Ethics”, pp. 95–131. “The Will in Seneca”, pp. 132–157. Search in Google Scholar

Jacquette, Dale (2014): “Later Wittgenstein’s Anti-Philosophical Therapy”, Philosophy 89:2 (April 2014), pp. 251–272.10.1017/S0031819114000011Search in Google Scholar

Jedan, Christopher (2009): Stoic Virtues: Chrysippus and the Religious Character of Stoic Ethics. London: Continuum.Search in Google Scholar

Joll, Nick (2010): “Contemporary Metaphilosophy”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/con-meta/, last accessed November 2015.Search in Google Scholar

Long, A. A. (2002): Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/0199245568.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Lucian, “Philosophers for Sale”. In: Lionel Casson, ed. and trans. (1968): Selected Satires of Lucian. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Search in Google Scholar

Morgan, Kathryn (2020): “Paying the Price: Contextualizing Exchange in Phaedo 69a–c”, Rhizomata 8, pp. 239–67.10.1515/rhiz-2020-0011Search in Google Scholar

Mureşan, Valentin (2010): “Filosofia ca mod de viaţă sau despre relaţia filosofie-biografi”, Revista de Filosofie Analitică Volumul IV, 2o, Iulie–Decembrie 2010, pp. 87–114.Search in Google Scholar

Nussbaum, Martha (1994): Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.10.1515/9781400831944Search in Google Scholar

Overgaard, Søren, Paul Gilbert & Stephen Burwood (2013): An Introduction to Metaphilosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9781139018043Search in Google Scholar

Owens, Joseph (1987): “Aristotle’s Notion of Wisdom”, Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science 20, pp. 1–16.Search in Google Scholar

Peterman, James F. (1992): Philosophy as Therapy: An Interpretation and Defense of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophical Project. New York: SUNY Press.Search in Google Scholar

Robertson, Donald (2010): The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy. London: Karnac.Search in Google Scholar

Seal, Carey (2015): “Theory and Practice in Seneca’s Writings”. In: Shadi Bartsch & Alessandro Schiesaro (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Seneca. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 212–223.10.1017/CCO9781139542746.020Search in Google Scholar

Sellars, John (2007): “De Constantia: A Stoic Spiritual Exercise”, Poetics Today 28, Number 3, pp. 339–362.Search in Google Scholar

Sellars, John (2009): The Art of Living: the Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (2nd edition). London: Bristol Classical Press.10.4324/9781315198354Search in Google Scholar

Sorabji, Richard (2000): Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199256600.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Urstad, Kristian (2010): “The Moral Virtues and Instrumentalism in Epicurus”, Lyceum XI: 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 328–340.Search in Google Scholar

Voelke, André-Jean (1993): La philosophie comme thérapie de l’âme: Études de philosophie hellénistique. Preface by Pierre Hadot. Fribourg: Academic Press.Search in Google Scholar

Williams, Bernard (1994): “Do Not Disturb”, London Review of Books, 20 October 1994, URL: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v16/n20/bernard-williams/do-not-disturb.Search in Google Scholar

Williams, Bernard (1997): “Stoic Philosophy and the Emotions”, Aristotle and After, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplementary Volume 68, pp. 211–13.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2021-05-08
Published in Print: 2021-04-06

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow