ABSTRACT

In a challenging work of intellectual synthesis and existential engagement, Pierre Hadot argues for the permanent relevance of certain spiritual exercises that informed ancient philosophy especially in its Stoic and Epicurean forms. These exercises were oriented toward overcoming the fear of death and the constant anguish of longing and regret that mark human life. Taking his lead from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but incorporating a vast range of materials, Hadot challenges us to appropriate the life lessons of the ancients. In this essay I evaluate and extend Hadot's reflections by focusing in particular on the existential good and centrality for human living of living in the instant, exemplified in being present to one's life in all its dimensions. In this way our rush through time to death is overcome in a way analogous to the awakening to the world that informs aesthetic experience in ways that transcend any restriction to art alone and extends to the recognition and contemplation of the marvel of the cosmos, an existential stance that joins the ancients with a nonreductive philosophical naturalism that is remarkably close to the ancient tradition.

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