Posted on: June 1st, 2011 Ancient Therapies & Human Suffering

In his Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot writes

In the view of all philosophical schools [Epicureanism, Stoicism, the
Schools of Plato and Aristotle, the Skeptics and the Cynics] mankind’s
principal cause of suffering, disorder, and unconsciousness were the
passions: that is, unregulated desires and exaggerated fears. People are
prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated
by worries. Philosophy thus appears, in the first place, as a
therapeutic of the passions. Each school had its own therapeutic
methods, but all of them linked their therapeutics to a profound
transformation of the individual’s mode of seeing and being. The object
of spiritual exercises is to bring about this transformation. (p 83)

A clear subtext of Hadot’s work is the analogous ways of functioning
between these ancient schools on the one hand, and the church (or
perhaps more specifically, monasteries) on the other.

If these schools were able to provide a measure of therapy to suffering
people through the transformation of their whole persons, how much more
the church, to whom has been given “the Spirit without measure” as
John’s Gospel says.

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2 Responses to “Ancient Therapies & Human Suffering”

  1. Jonathan Says:
    June 3rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Does Hadot delve into shortcomings of philosophy to cure these fears or is he mainly concerned with reading philosophy tied to the context of curing fears, and the therapy that schools of thought employed through spoken word and interaction with the subject?

  2. matt Says:
    September 18th, 2011 at 10:15 pm


    Hadot is scathingly critical of modern acamedic philosophy which has in his view gotten away from the ancient and premodern understanding of philosophy as a living wisdom for daily existence.

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