Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life Panel
Friday March 27: 7:30PM – 8:30PM
Doors open 30 minutes before the start of the event.
George Scialabba and Skye C. Cleary will be in conversation with author John Kaag for this panel on William James, a critique on psychiatry care, and how to live an examined and meaningful life.
In 1895, William James, the father of American philosophy, delivered a lecture titled "Is Life Worth Living?" It was no theoretical question for James, who had contemplated suicide during an existential crisis as a young man a quarter century earlier. Indeed, as John Kaag writes, "James's entire philosophy, from beginning to end, was geared to save a life, his life" and that's why it just might be able to save yours, too. Sick Souls, Healthy Minds is a compelling introduction to James's life and thought that shows why the founder of pragmatism and empirical psychology and an inspiration for Alcoholics Anonymous can still speak so directly and profoundly to anyone struggling to make a life worth living.
Kaag tells how James's experiences as one of what he called the "sick-souled," those who think that life might be meaningless, drove him to articulate an ideal of "healthy-mindedness," an attitude toward life that is open, active, and hopeful, but also realistic about its risks. In fact, all of James's pragmatism, resting on the idea that truth should be judged by its practical consequences for our lives, is a response to, and possible antidote for, crises of meaning that threaten to undo many of us at one time or another. Along the way, Kaag also movingly describes how his own life has been endlessly enriched by James.
Eloquent, inspiring, and filled with insight, Sick Souls, Healthy Minds may be the smartest and most important self-help book you'll ever read.
In How to Be Depressed, George Scialabba presents an edited selection of his mental health records spanning decades of treatment, framed by an introduction and an interview with renowned podcaster Christopher Lydon. The book also includes a wry and ruminative collection of "tips for the depressed," organized into something like a glossary of terms—among which are the names of numerous medications he has tried or researched over the years. Together, these texts form an unusual, searching, and poignant hybrid of essay and memoir, inviting readers into the hospital and the therapy office as Scialabba and his caregivers try to make sense of this baffling disease.
In Scialabba's view, clinical depression amounts to an "utter waste." Unlike heart surgery or a broken leg, there is no relaxing convalescence and nothing to be learned (except, perhaps, who your friends are). It leaves you weakened and bewildered, unsure why you got sick or how you got well, praying that it never happens again but certain that it will. Scialabba documents his own struggles and draws from them insights that may prove useful to fellow-sufferers and general readers alike. In the place of dispensable banalities—"Hold on," "You will feel better," and so on—he offers an account of how it's been for him, in the hope that doing so might prove helpful to others.
Together, the pieces in How to Live a Good Life provide not only a beginner’s guide to choosing a life philosophy but also a timely portrait of what it means to live an examined life in the twenty-first century.
A collection of essays by fifteen philosophers presenting a thoughtful, introductory guide to choosing a philosophy for living an examined and meaningful life.
Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” but what does it mean to truly live philosophically?
This thought-provoking, wide-ranging collection edited by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye C. Cleary and Daniel A. Kaufman brings together essays by fifteen leading philosophers reflecting on what it means to live according to a philosophy of life. From Eastern philosophies (Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism) and classical Western philosophies (such as Aristotelianism and Stoicism), to the four major religions, as well as contemporary philosophies (such as existentialism and effective altruism), each contributor offers a lively, personal account of how they find meaning in the practice of their chosen philosophical tradition.
John Kaag is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an NPR Best Book of the year, and Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, which was also an NPR Best Book of the year. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, and many other publications. He is professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and lives in Carlisle, Massachusetts. He tweets @JohnKaag.
George Scialabba is an essayist and literary critic whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Baffler, The New Republic, Dissent, and others. His writings have been collected in several volumes, including Slouching Toward Utopia, Low Dishonest Decades, and What Are Intellectuals Good For?.
Skye C. Cleary is a philosopher and author of Existentialism and Romantic Love and co-editor of How to Live a Good Life. She teaches at Barnard College and Columbia University and is the editor-in-chief of the American Philosophical Association’s blog. Her work has been published in Aeon, The Paris Review, The Times Literary Supplement (London), TED-Ed, Los Angeles Review of Books, and others. She tweets @skye_cleary.