Friday, September 10, 2021

Notes and What I learned from "The Present Alone is Our Happiness" - Unacceptable? by Pierre Hadot

This is part 9 of a 12 post series reviewing the book "The Present Alone is Our Happiness"

Regarding how to communicate suggestions for a way of living, he says,

the method of indirect communication.  If one says directly, do this or do that, one dictates a conduct with a tone of false certainty.  But thanks to the description of the spiritual experience lived by another, one can give a glimpse of and suggest a spiritual attitude; one allows a call to be heard that the reader has the freedom to accept or refuse (p. 148).

Regarding memento mori

The exercise of death is in fact an exercise of life (p. 149).


to train for dying is in no way to torture one's body; it is 'to train for dying to one's individuality, to one's passions, to see things from the perspective of universality and objectivity ... this does not imply repulsion with regard to the flesh (p. 149).

Regarding the Christian connection to ancient philosophy

the Christians, wanting to seem like a philosophy, generally adopted Platonic philosophy, sometimes tinged with Stoicism (p. 152).

Regarding becoming invulnerable

philosophy is a mode of life ... does not mean that one must slavishly adopt all the attitudes (p. 153).


Socrates sincerely loved his children, but he also accepted the order of the world, the will of the gods (p. 153).


passions [are] a profound upheaval of intelligence, of insanity ... false judgement ... passions are false judgements ... make [people] lose their head, and [become] incapable of acting (p. 154).


the virtues imply respect for the other, whereas the passion of pity basically implies contempt for the other ... one must not allow oneself to be induced into the passion of pity, which disrupts the soul and obscures reason (p. 154).

Regarding desires

All the misfortune of our current civilization is indeed the exasperation of the desire for profit, in all the classes of society, for that matter, but especially in the ruling class.  Common mortals can have simpler desires: work, happiness at home, health (p. 156).


To be happy, therefore, one must diminish as much as possible the causes of suffering, that is, desires.  [Epicurus] wanted to heal the misfortunes of humans, and therefore recommended renouncing desires that are very difficult to satisfy, in order to try to be content with the desires that are easer to satisfy ... to eat, to drink, to clothe oneself (p. 157)

Regarding Providence

in the Stoics, one must represent providence not as a divine will interested in all the particular cases, but as on original impulse that instigates the movement of the universe, and the links between cause and effect that constitute destiny (p. 157).

Regarding "anthropological regularities" (e.g. criminal injustices, massacres, provoked famines, misery of the billions)

the Stoics considered there was no evil except in human will.  Thus, for them, what you can anthropological regularities do not belong to the order of the world, and thus, when they speak of collaborating in the work of the Whole, that meant for them recognizing themselves as a part of the universe; a part that, through its existence, contributes in its own way to the general movement of the universe.  It is not that one should consent to everything that is a moral evil, such as injustice and the exploitation of humans by humans, but one should combat it (p. 159)


But if action against evil fails, the Stoic is in this case obliged to recognize reality such as it is ... If he is absolutely reduced to powerlessness, he must not revolt uselessly against destiny, but believe that universal Nature and Reason, which here seem to suffer a defeat, since evil seems to be victorious, will be capable of turning what obstructs their path to their favor.  To believe this is to believe in the final triumph of Reason in the World (p. 159).

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