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The Creative Act
Life Is Hard
How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way182
A NEW YORKER AND THE ECONOMIST BEST BOOK OF 2022 "Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway" The New York Times Book Review 'An eloquent, moving, witty and above all useful demonstration of philosophy's power to help us weather the storms of being human' Oliver Burkeman, author of FOUR THOUSAND WEEKS ______________________________________ Pain, Loneliness, Grief, Injustice ... Hope? Life is hard - as the past few years have made painfully clear. From personal trauma to the injustice and absurdity of the world, sometimes simply going on can feel too much. But could there be solace - and even hope - in acknowledging the hardships of the human condition? Might doing so free us from the tyranny of striving for our "best lives" and help us find warmth, humanity, and humour in the lives we actually have? Could it inspire in us the desire for a better world? In this profound and personal book, Kieran Setiya shows how philosophy can help us find our way. He shares his own experience with chronic pain and the consolation that comes from making sense of it. He asks what we can learn from loneliness and loss about the value of human life. And he explores how we can fail with grace, confront injustice, and search for meaning in the face of despair. Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy, as well as fiction, comedy, social science and personal essay, Life is Hard is a book for this moment - a work of solace and compassion. It draws us towards justice, for ourselves and others, by acknowledging what it means to be alive.
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Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway. * The New York Times Book Review * At last a philosopher tackles the meaning of life and comes up with useful answers -- James McConnachie * The Sunday Times * Through carefully crafted examples, [Kieran Setiya] makes the case that philosophy can help us navigate the adversities of human life ... No life worth living is free of suffering and pain. Better to face it with the clarity to which philosophy, at its best, aspires * Guardian * Attentive readers of this humane, intelligent book will come away with a firmer grasp and better descriptions of whatever it is that ails them or those they cherish * Economist * Kieran Setiya argues that certain bracing challenges-loneliness, failure, ill health, grief, and so on-are essentially unavoidable ... But it's good, the book shows, to acknowledge hard experiences and ask how they've helped us grow tougher, kinder, and wiser -- Joshua Rothman * New Yorker * Exceptionally rich and subtle -- Jonathan Derbyshire * Financial Times * An eloquent, moving, witty and above all useful demonstration of philosophy's power to help us weather the storms of being human - not with rarefied theories about the best way to live, but by making the best of life as it really is. Kieran Setiya is both an unusually gifted writer and as imperfect a human being as the rest of us, which is to say the perfect companion for the journey. -- Oliver Burkeman, author of FOUR THOUSAND WEEKS While there is no skimping on academic rigour, he makes existential inquiry relatable - offering gentle advice on how one might approach such experiences as grief and failure. * Irish Times * Life may be hard, but Kieran Setiya shows us better ways to think about it and how, despite everything, that can give us hope. -- Katherine May, author of WINTERING In LIFE IS HARD, Kieran Setiya shows us the gift that philosophy becomes when it removes its mask of impersonality to reveal its human face. His insights are stunning, his compassion sustaining. Anyone susceptible to life's hardships must read this book -- which means that everyone must read it. -- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of PLATO AT THE GOOGLEPLEX Kieran Setiya has produced the ultimate handbook of hardship. With nimble prose and crisp arguments, he shows why adversity is inevitable - and why facing up to that reality, rather than insisting on simple-minded notions of happiness, offers the only path to living well. Life Is Hard is a courageous - and ultimately hopeful - book. -- Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of THE POWER OF REGRET, WHEN, and DRIVE An elegant book - wise and surprisingly moving. Readers like myself will undoubtedly end up questioning and rethinking how they live their lives. -- David Edmonds, author of THE MURDER OF PROFESSOR SCHLICK Reflects what philosophy at its most helpful and humane can do ... insightful and empathetic * LA Review of Books * This is the most important type of book, the kind that sits on a bedside table through the long, dark nights of the soul. Life is Hard served as a very clear, very important reminder: being a philosopher entails a simple obligation, the responsibility to help." -- John Kaag, author of SICK SOULS, HEALTHY MINDS: HOW WILLIAM JAMES CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE Smart, richly sourced, and lucidly reasoned, Life Is Hard is a work of resplendent wisdom and humanity - one that has changed the way I think about the periodic upsurges of failure, grief, and loss in my own life. -- Jim Holt, author of WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST? Kieran Setiya is that rare bird, a philosopher of exceptional ability with the courage to face the deepest questions. His profound and far-reaching reflection on chronic pain and the other darknesses of life is a must-read. -- Zena Hitz, author o
Kieran Setiya was born in Hull and now teaches philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, and is the host of a podcast, Five Questions, in which he asks contemporary philosophers five questions about themselves. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and The New York Times.