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There is no cure for the human condition: life is hard. But Kieran Setiya believes philosophy can help. He offers us a map for navigating rough terrain, from personal trauma to the injustice and absurdity of the world.
In this profound and personal book, Setiya shows how the tools of philosophy can help us find our way. Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy as well as fiction, history, memoir, film, comedy, social science, and stories from Setiya’s own experience, Life Is Hard is a book for this moment—a work of solace and compassion.
Warm, accessible, and good-humored, this book is about making the best of a bad lot. It offers guidance for coping with pain and making new friends, for grieving the lost and failing with grace, for confronting injustice and searching for meaning in life. Countering pop psychologists and online influencers who admonish us to “find our bliss” and “live our best lives,” Setiya acknowledges that the best is often out of reach. Instead, he asks how we can weather life’s adversities, finding hope and living well when life is hard.
Kieran Setiya teaches philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is the author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and The Yale Review.
Moderator John Kaag is Donohue Professor of the Arts at UMass Lowell and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is author of Hiking with Nietzsche (NPR Best Book and NYT Editor Choice) and Sick Souls Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life.