november, 2019

07nov4:30 pm6:00 pmContinental Philosophy SeminarPhilosophy as a Way of Life and the History of Philosophy: Restricted and Global Programs4:30 pm - 6:00 pm Flinders University | Room 203 Humanities BuildingAudience:Alumni,General Public,International students,Recent graduates,Researchers,Staff,Students,Teachers

Event Details

Pierre Hadot’s work on philosophy as a way of life in antiquity is preeminently associated with his reading of Stoic philosophers, led by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Hadot examines how ancient thinkers conceived of philosophy as a guide to life or therapy for the psyche, prescribing intellectual and spiritual exercises to form and transform students’ ways of seeing, being and thinking. Yet Hadot’s conception of ancient philosophy was for him the product of an earlier training in philology, and a wider approach to understanding philosophy influenced, amongst other thinkers, by Ludwig Wittgenstein. His own work on philosophy as a way of life in antiquity was continued throughout his life alongside work on Neoplatonism, mysticism, Patristics, and the history of the concept of nature. How are we to understand the Hadotian idea of “philosophy as a way of life” in relation to the history of philosophy? In this paper, I want to suggest that Hadot himself represents a “restricted” approach on this subject, distinguishing strongly between forms and periods of philosophical activity which were engaged in philosophy as a way of life, and “scholastic” and modern-university philosophy, which are not. This restricted approach will be contrasted to the “global” approach (my term) represented by Ian Hunter, who in his studies on modern German thinkers, including Kant, and postmodern French theory, including Derrida, has argued that all forms of philosophical activity can meaningfully be described as engaged in producing certain kinds of philosophical subjects or “personae”, if not enrolling people in specific ways of life. For Hunter contra Hadot, modern university philosophy, which does not so directly concern itself with forming and transforming students ethically, remains a specific way and form or forms of life. In this paper, strengths and weaknesses of both approaches will be appraised, and the ways that both militate against facile understandings of “philosophy as a way of life” as only an elevated apology for “self-help” will become clear.

Dr Matthew Sharpe is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Deakin University. Increasingly, he works on classical philosophy and modern receptions thereof, and the early modern period, up to and including the French enlightenment. He is interested in the history of Western receptions of its classical past, and the rich ethical legacy left by Stoic and academic schools in particular. Amidst so many ‘returns to theology’, he is interested in the ways that we might ‘return to classical philosophy’, and in contesting reactionary versions of this idea and levelling historicising depictions of ‘modernity’ which don’t reflect historical complexity and intellectual debates. He has published on aesthetics, the theory of ideology, eschatology and political theology, and critical theory.

Further Information: Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe – Continental Philosophy Seminar


Thursday 7 Novermber 2019 | 4:30pm – 6pm

Flinders University: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Room 203 | Humanities Building
Off carpark 5 | Humanities Road
Flinders University
Sturt Road | Bedford Park SA 5042



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(Thursday) 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


Flinders University | Room 203 Humanities Building


Alice Orchard | College of Humanities, Arts and Social | 8201 7550