Todd May: A Fragile Life

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It doesn’t seem to me to require any obscurity to challenge people and to put them in new positions.
Todd May

Todd May discusses his book A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability with Chris Richardson. May is the Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of the Humanities at Clemson University. He is the author of fourteen books of philosophy, most recently A Fragile Life: Accepting our Vulnerability and A Significant Life:  Human Meaning in a Silent Universe, both from University of Chicago Press.


This book opened up for me the possibility of thinking about the meaningfulness of our lives in a new way.  My two most recent books have deep roots in this set of lectures.

In "Moral Luck," Nagel raises the problem that the morality of what we do is sometimes out of our control, which means that we can have a tragic moral life without our being able to do anything about it. As I wrote the book I kept his example of the truck driver--which I refer to in the book--in mind as a way of recognizing that there are lives which are inescapably damaged by things that we do but whose consequences are beyond our control

Nagel's essay "Death" in the previous book and Williams' essay "The Makroupoulos Case" here, engage the issue of death and whether and how it is ultimately a bad thing for us. If anything reveals our vulnerability to us, it is certainly the fact of our mortality.

Pierre Hadot's "Spiritual Exercises" speaks of the spiritual exercises of ancient philosophers and how those exercises helped them deal with their lives and their mortality. This article allowed me to ground my thought about philosophy in the question of how we might live more than almost any other philosophical piece I've read.