In her new book, Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living, historian Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn offers a clear-eyed diagnosis of what she considers today’s culture of therapy. “We live in an era of the aphorism and the several-step program promising to fix everything imaginable,” she writes. But without a deeper vision of what life is about, we are subject to a tyranny of selfhood. Lasch-Quinn explains, “With no vision of the good, we are lost and bereft. All our projects become self-serving.”
…In elegant prose, Lasch-Quinn encourages us to look beyond self-optimization or political activism. At some point, we must ask ourselves: What if there actually is a coherent purpose of existence? What if living is an art? Ancient philosophy, she contends, can help us navigate these questions. She surveys five ancient schools of thought—Gnosticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Cynicism, and Platonism—for possible guidance, locating echoes of their themes in contemporary culture.
Sounds interesting. I’ve enjoyed both her and her father’s books. Well, I guess that’s my Christmas present sorted!