Life Is Hard | Kieran Setiya

Summary of: Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way
By: Kieran Setiya


Embark on a captivating journey through the pages of Kieran Setiya’s insightful book, ‘Life Is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way’. Drawing on his own experiences with chronic pain, Setiya delves into the ways that philosophy can provide solace and understanding in times of hardship, such as loneliness, grief, and failure. Through the lenses of influential philosophers like Aristotle, Kant, and others, Setiya explores the intricate nature of friendships, mourning rituals, the importance of focusing on the journey over destination, and how to withstand the blows of life’s inevitable challenges. Immerse yourself in this enlightening book summary and discover the transformative power of philosophy to guide you toward a richer, more resilient life.

Living With Chronic Pain

Kieran Setiya’s book discusses how chronic pain affects life, but doesn’t have to ruin it. The importance of managing pain, as well as the privilege to do so, is emphasized.

Kieran Setiya’s book details his experience with chronic pain and how it affects his life. It is a condition that struck him suddenly and has lasted for over a decade, but he has managed to live a fulfilling life despite the discomfort. Setiya acknowledges that some disabilities can be limiting, but states that it does not have to prevent one from enjoying life. Living with this pain has given him empathy and compassion for others who also suffer. He emphasizes the necessity of managing pain, which can include seeking medical treatment or simply finding ways to cope. The book stresses the importance of recognizing the privilege of having access to healthcare and affordable treatments, as not everyone has the same resources. The lesson to be learned is that while we may have limitations, we can still find ways to enjoy life and live well.

The Value of Friendship

The book explores the connection between loneliness and the value of friendship through the views of Aristotle and Immanuel Kant. While Aristotle believed that friendships are based on the virtues of the friend, Kant argued that all people have value regardless of their virtues. The book explains that loneliness hurts because being away from friends deprives us of life-affirming interactions and leaves us feeling unvalued. The cure for loneliness lies in meaningful connections with others, focusing on their value rather than what they can do for us. Small steps towards connection can help us feel more connected to the world and farther away from loneliness.

The Chaotic Nature of Grief

Grief is not a predictable set of stages but can come in scattered waves that vary from person to person, as illustrated in B.S. Johnson’s experimental novel The Unfortunates. Mourning rituals help provide structure to the chaos of grief, and these rituals date back to ancient times in various cultures. Even though we know death is inevitable, the pain that comes from mourning a loved one can be overwhelming, as illustrated in Annie Ernaux’s I Remain in Darkness. Grief causes pain, but it is a suffering that comes from loving and living well, and is worth enduring.

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