Northwestern Events Calendar


Aristotle on Living Well with Profs. Edith Hall (King's College, London) & Richard Kraut (Northwestern)

When: Friday, January 18, 2019
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: John Mocek   (847) 491-5364

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


This panels celebrates, and places in dialogue, these two eminent scholars’ 2018 books published in 2018: Edith Hall, Aristotle's Way. How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life (Random House, Penguin) and Richard Kraut, The Quality of Life. Aristotle Revised (Oxford)

In Aristotle's Way, Edith Hall shows that for Aristotle, happiness is not about well-being, but instead a lasting state of contentment, which should be the ultimate goal of human life. We become happy through finding a purpose, realizing our potential, and modifying our behavior to become the best version of ourselves. With these objectives in mind, Aristotle developed a humane program for becoming a happy person, which has stood the test of time, comprising much of what today we associate with the good life: meaning, creativity, and positivity. Most importantly, Aristotle understood happiness as available to the vast majority us, but only, crucially, if we decide to apply ourselves to its creation–and he led by example. As Hall writes, “If you believe that the goal of human life is to maximize happiness, then you are a budding Aristotelian. Hall lays out the crux of Aristotle’s thinking, mixing affecting autobiographical anecdotes with a deep wealth of classical learning. For Hall, whose own life has been greatly improved by her understanding of Aristotle, this is an intensely personal subject.
Edith Hall first encountered Aristotle when she was twenty, and he changed her life forever. Now one of Britain's foremost classicists, she is the first woman to have won the Erasmus Medal of the European Academy. In 2017 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Athens University.
In The Quality of Life: Aristotle Revised Richard Kraut presents a philosophical theory about the constituents of human well-being. The principal idea is that what Aristotle calls 'external goods' - wealth, reputation, power - have at most an indirect bearing on the quality of our lives. Starting with Aristotle's thoughts about this topic, Kraut increasingly modifies (and occasionally rejects) that stance. He argues that the way in which we experience the world is what well-being consists in. A good internal life comprises, in part, pleasure but the most valuable aspect of this experience is the quality of our emotional, intellectual, social, and perceptual experiences. These offer the potential for a richer and deeper quality of life than that which is available to many other animals. A good human life is immeasurably better than that of a simple creature that feels only the pleasures of nourishment; even if it felt pleasure for millions of years, human life would be superior. Going against contemporary discussions of well-being, which often appeal to a thought experiment devised by Robert Nozick, Kraut concludes that the quality of our lives consists in the quality of our experiences. While it is held that we must live in 'the real world' to live well and that one's interior life has little or no value on its own, Kraut's interpretation of this thought experiment supports the opposite conclusion. Richard Kraut is Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Brady Scholars Program in Ethics and Civic Life at Northwestern University.

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