Monday, January 14, 2008

Why the good life question?

I sometimes use the "What is the good life?" as the focal point of a whole course. "What's so important about the good life question?", I hear you ask. After all, it's not a question you hear discussed on TV everyday, or in the pub, or - anywhere at all, actually. So here are my three good reasons to give the pub or TV a miss for once and think about this question

1. It can give you a direction is life. As the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca suggested,

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable”.
Once you formulate your answer to the question, you will be better able to resist the winds of chance and peer pressure face dragging you off course.

2. It's the big question
Once you know what the good life is, other questions - such as "should I be in a relationship?" , "should I work more or enjoy myself more?" and "Should I have children" fall into place. As management guru Stephen Covey said,
"Many people climb the ladder of success only to find the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall."


3. You can improve your answer
In week 1 on my course I ask people to come up with a provisional answer to the question "What is the good life". Over 10 weeks, they then learn both philosophical methods and ideas of philosophers about the good life and refine their definition. The improvement in definitions is often startling.

I hope that's reason enough to think about the good life question. What would your answer be?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Aristotle that the ultimate goal in human life is happiness. So the good life is the one that pursues happiness most efficiently. What kind of life is that? The life of the philosopher? Why not the life of the artist? Or the motivated businessman? Or the politician? Or all of these?

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