Midlife | Kieran Setiya

Summary of: Midlife: A Philosophical Guide
By: Kieran Setiya


Embark on a philosophical journey through middle age with Kieran Setiya’s ‘Midlife: A Philosophical Guide’. This book examines the commonalities and complexities inherent in reaching midlife, offering valuable insights into topics such as the midlife crisis, finding happiness, balancing divergent values, and addressing life regrets. With an array of philosophical solutions, the author helps readers navigate the various challenges they may face at this stage in life. Taking a deep look into the nature of decision-making and happiness, this book will provide relevant strategies to flourish during midlife, making it a compelling read for anyone in this age demographic.

Middle Age: A Time for Reevaluation and Reflection

Elliot Jaques’ groundbreaking essay “Death and the Mid-Life Crisis” has popularized the idea of the midlife crisis. At the age of 40, many people experience dissatisfaction, as they learn that many of their childhood and adolescent dreams may never come true. Along with this realization comes an urgent sense of mortality that makes us feel dissatisfied. But scholarly work has shown that this process is not inevitable. By understanding the philosophical insights that come with this time of reevaluation and reflection, we can make midlife easier to bear.

Key Lessons from John Stuart Mill’s Early Life

John Stuart Mill’s early life provides insights on how to navigate middle age. His focus on obsessively pursuing his happiness led to misery, and he learned that happiness is found by aiming at something else. Mill also realized that focusing only on problem-solving neglects other aspects of life. It’s crucial to value and make time for passions that involve more than just addressing life’s misfortunes.

Embracing Missed Opportunities

Middle age serves as a reality check for dreams that may never come to fruition. Despite a fulfilling life, we often ponder on missed opportunities and the parallel lives we could have led. The feeling of missing out is inevitable in a world with divergent values. Philosophy offers a solution to ease this guilt by comprehending that life decisions involve trade-offs, and the things we choose between are often immeasurable. It’s impossible to experience everything in one lifetime, and we must accept that. Wondering about the lives we could have led is a natural consequence of living in a world where so much seems desirable and worthwhile. Embracing the life choices we make and appreciating the richness of the world can minimize the angst of unfulfilled aspirations.

Reasons to Embrace Regrets

This book excerpt explains how logical and philosophical reasoning can help people come to terms with their past regrets. The author argues that there are good reasons not to regret so-called mistaken decisions. For instance, many decisions we make have unforeseen positive outcomes that we would not have had if we had chosen differently. By regretting these decisions, we also discount the risks inherent in every choice, leading us to idealize the option we didn’t choose. Additionally, the author points out that some decisions are fundamental to our lives, such as the decision to have a child. Changing anything about our past would lead to a fundamentally different present. By embracing our regrets and recognizing their role in shaping who we are, we can move forward with greater acceptance and purpose.

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