Lydia Amir (Israel)


Lydia Amir (Israel) - Professor of Philosophy, President of the Israel Association of Philosophical Practice, lecturer at Tufts University (Boston, USA).

The Human Condition: The Tragic Sense of Life in Philosophy and Its Practice (Lecture)

Presentation Language: English

Prima facie philosophy deals with the human condition. However, when the tragic sense of life whether gained through a personal tragedy or a philosophic understanding, is at stake, the capacity of philosophy to recognize it and effectively address it is considerably reduced. While it is true that philosophers did and should act as doctors in the presence of the sick, this has been so at the price of offering rational consolations that are far from being helpful, unless one is Socrates or a Stoic sage. This has been the claim of such varied philosophers as Michel de Montaigne, Leon Chestov (Shestov) and Harold Bloom, based on their own experiences of illness, terror, and old age. While Greek philosophy begins in wonder, Kierkegaard argues that Christianity begins in despair, and more recently, Simon Critchley adds that the true beginning of philosophy is in disappointment. While the absurd was initially defined by Kierkegaard as the domain of faith against the realm of reason, the atheist philosophies of the absurd reached new peaks of absurdity by retaining the term while renouncing the faith it pointed to, leaving unclear why the human condition is absurd and bordering on bad faith through gesturing toward hidden mysticism. Philosophy is almost averse to the tragic sense of life and most of those of adopted this stance turned into religion. Considered "sick souls" by George Santayana and defended by his contemporary William James as purveyors of truth in danger of persecution, it is not clear what philosophy can or should do about those plagued by the tragic sense of life. As existential questions are amongst the non-controversial problems that philosophical practice addresses, the lecture addresses the tragic sense of life, and asks, what is the power of philosophy in its practical form as philosophical practice in relation to the tragic sense of life and the threats it represents to finding meaning, to the possibility and desirability of happiness, and often enough, to life itself?