Emrys Westacott on Philosophy and Everyday Living

Interview by Sophie Roell in The Browser:

25rude_CA1.450Your own book, The Virtues of our Vices makes, I think, a brilliant case for applying philosophy to everyday living, because, as you point out in the introduction, apparently trivial things – like a colleague being rude to us – have a much bigger impact on us on a day-to-day basis than ruminations on the meaning of life.

A lot of philosophy concerns fairly theoretical issues – the correct definition of concepts like justice, the relation between mind and body, or the nature of the soul. These are problems that have been inherited down the years from Plato and Aristotle, Descartes and Kant. There is another tradition which sees philosophy as a reflection on life. This includes discussion of ethical problems that we face, but also focuses on the way we conduct ourselves, the way we live, the way we relate to each other. I see my book as a contribution to that tradition. Not so much an attempt to solve complex metaphysical problems, or problems in the theory of knowledge or the philosophy of mind, but a reflection on the way we live.

Do you feel this side of philosophy has been neglected?

I do. In one of the books I’ve chosen, The Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William Irvine makes this very explicit. In ancient times, Plato and Aristotle and other philosophers did deal with theoretical problems, but the Greeks and the Romans understood philosophy as something that people had and used in everyday life, and there were competing schools of philosophy.

More here.