Andrew Taggart (Ep.23): Skimming the surface of life

Andrew Taggart is a practical philosopher who works with executives and entrepreneurs. He challenges them to investigate life’s basic assumptions, even if it’s uncomfortable. We discuss high performers’ antagonistic relationship with time and their desire to turn life into a series of problems which can be resolved — and how this can mask our disorienting relationship with mortality. Instead of avoiding these question, we consider how “an examined life is a life lived more fully.”

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Show Notes

Starting points for philosophical inquiry

Who am I? Why am I here? How did I get here? What am I doing with my life? What is a life most excellently lived?

Ruling out wrong answers to “what is a good life?”

When you think about status, you’re never fulfilled with where you are. There’s always someone above you and below you.

With wealth, typically people don’t want it for it’s own sake, but instead what it makes possible. We’d have to investigate that. You may want wealth for the sake of happiness or freedom. But then you’d wonder, is wealth necessary to have freedom or happiness.

One common answer is hedonic pleasure. A good life is one where you have pleasure, where you avoid pain. But the ancient skeptics used to argue that pleasure is fleeting, in the next instance gives rise to a neutral state, or worse, pain. That’s not a knockdown argument, but it does give us room to debate whether a great Friday night or sexual pleasure is a sufficient reason for how to live a good life.

Some “good” potential answers

Wisdom, the common good, justice, or love.

On Mortality

Emily Dickenson wrote: “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.”

Many entrepreneurs say: I’m ceaselessly active, I’m manifesting my creative potency in the world. To some extent that’s fine. There’s a lesson there, if you don’t stop to contemplate death, it’s going to catch you off guard and very much by surprise.

On the problemization of the world

We have a post-christian view that the world is fallen. The world is not as it should be. But now we no longer turn to the divine to try to find some sort of deliverance, RATHER, we hold that human powers are sufficient to change the world from its current state of fallenness to a better state of being. If you think of the world as problems to be solved, then you have a really clean way of thinking that your human action is acting at the level of a particularly well-scoped problem, to bring about a solution — rinse and repeat.

Robert Nozick on Socrates’ “examined life” quote:

I don’t say that the unexamined life is not worth living.I say rather, that an examined life is a life lived more fully.

Philosophical Resources (via Andrew)

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