you can be delivered from a state of disquiet

greek marketplacePhilosophy isn’t an esoteric inaccessible pursuit; it is lessons that can have a very real affect on life.  Often philosophers write about simple reactions and observations to life’s problems.  Montaigne for instance – I just learned – wrote mostly about everyday almost pedantic and sometimes domestic topics.

In his book Exercices Spirituel, and excerpted below, the writer Hadot tells us how philosophy is a spiritual exercise.  How with practice it can turn isolated unhappy wrecks into reflective, meditative, flourishing souls.

From Exercices Spirituel:

[Ancient philosophy schools]

agree that man, before his philosophical conversion, is in a state of unhappy disquiet [un état d’inquiétude malhereuse]. Consumed by worries, torn by passions, he does not live a genuine life, nor is he truly himself [il n’est pas lui-même]. All schools also agree that man can be delivered from this state. He can accede to genuine life, improve himself, transform himself, and attain a state of perfection [un état de perfection].


we have forgotten how to read: how to pause, liberate ourselves from our worries, return into ourselves, and leave aside our search for subtlety and originality, in order to meditate calmly, ruminate, and let the texts speak to us. This, too, is a spiritual exercise, and one of the most difficult.

Pierre Hadot, Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique (Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault)