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DATE: Tuesday, April 20
TIME: 1 PM Princeton time (EST) / 8 PM Bucharest time (GMT+2)
PANEL: Hadot, Spiritual Exercises, and Philosophy as a Way of Life
SPEAKERS: Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest), Dana Jalobeanu (University of Bucharest), Paul Lodge (University of Oxford)
Reading, meditation and enactment: Hadot’s formative exegetics
Dana Jalobeanu (University of Bucharest)
In my paper I am trying to reassess some of Pierre Hadot’s contributions to the history of philosophy from the perspective of the ‘practice turn’ we are all living through in the later years (especially those of us dealing with history of science). I will be looking at a particular class of spiritual exercises (“imaginative spiritual exercises”) and show what we gain if we think of them as recorded (philosophical) practices.
“Spiritual exercise” is an umbrella term designating a wide array of practices of reading, research and meditation having in common a personal, existential engagement, described in terms of an imaginative, emotional and cognitive repositioning of the practitioner with respect to “the whole” (Nature, or Universe). Spiritual exercises constitute, according to Hadot, one of the trademarks of a philosophical way of life. Much has been said about these spiritual exercises, and Hadot followers and critiques attempted to define, classify and describe them. So, in looking at a particular class of spiritual exercises I am following in the footsteps of those who attempted to clarify and classify spiritual exercises.
Meanwhile, I also intend to address a more general set of problems having to do with our ways of reading and interpreting texts. I begin with Hadot’s proposal for a “formative exegetics,” i.e., a way of reading based on two guiding principles: 1) ancient texts record philosophical practices (spiritual exercises) and 2) these recordings are done through a process of “bricolage” through which one re-assembles set building blocks (references, quotes, formulas, topics coming from a limited number of sources). Reading becomes thus a process of disentangling, from the bricolage, the philosophical practices (i.e., spiritual exercises) recorded in a text. In my talk I will try to put these principles at work, showing on a set of choice examples what are the steps of Hadot’s “formative exegetics,” and what insights do we gain if we read texts in this way.
Lived logic: the discipline of assent and the cure of error
Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest)
Philosophy as a way of life, Hadot tells us, is the counterpart of theoretical philosophical discourse. If, according to the Stoics, for example, the latter is comprised of logic, physics and ethics as bodies of arguments, the former consists in living logic, physics and ethics, i.e., in engaging in the types of practical exercises that will train us to think and speak well, to contemplate the cosmos, and to engage in just actions. In this talk, I would like to take up the ‘lived logic’ component of the art of living as Hadot construed it. What does it mean for logic to be lived? In other words, how are we to understand the idea that the stuff of logic – our thinking, judging, reasoning, arguing, etc. – can be taken up as a transforming practice? Moreover, is this supposed to be a purely intellectual practice, or are there crossovers with the other quarters of the mind, such as the passions and the imagination? I propose to investigate these questions with the help of Epictetus on the discipline of assent in the Discourses and Galen on the cure of error in The passions and errors of the soul, to which I will add some comments on the historiographic and conceptual gains that looking at logic as a practice can afford.
Philosophy as a 21st Century Way of Life?
The expression ‘philosophy as a way of life’ emerged in the writings of Pierre Hadot primarily as a tool for making sense of some of those who are standardly referred to as ‘ancient philosophers’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, it has since served as a source of inspiration for how philosophy might be conceived, and indeed rejuvenated, today. After introducing a recent project which has this as its express aim, I discuss an article by two of the people involved in it, Stephen Grimm and Caleb Cahoe, in which an attempt is made to articulate three principles that should underwrite such a conception.