Finished Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot. The guys on the Stoic Forum are always going on about Hadot so thought I'd give it a try. He was a significant French scholar who specialized in classical philosophy, especially that of the Stoic, Cynic, Academic and Epicurean schools. This book is a collection of several long essays by him.
Hadot makes a good case that classical philosophy had a large element of self-improvement: the purpose of which was to improve oneself through "spiritual exercises". These were carried through various schools, and made their way into the Christian tradition too. Hadot's particularly good on showing the links between Christian monasticism and classical philosophy. He continues tracing these elements into modern philosophers like Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.
Hadot's view is that many of the spiritual exercises of stoicism were incorporated into Christianity. He thinks it's at this time that philosophy become a less practical, more theoretical exercise, as it was demoted to serve as a handmaiden to theology.
The book is at a reasonably accessible level, though he (or the translator) does have a habit of introducing ancient Greek philosophical jargon without telling you what it means.
Hadot also makes some good points that the classical philosophical texts have to be considered as adjuncts to a mainly oral tradition: often just aides-memoires, exhortations or sales pitches for the school.
Hadot is enthusiastic and especially informative when comparing the different schools of classical philosophy against each other: despite some rivalry they had many elements in common.
Overall, interesting book with some new angles: well worth reading if you're moderately interested in classical philosophy. If you're an absolute beginner though this might not be the best introduction.
Saw Bedlam at the Globe. Original play, set in gin-happy 18th century London, with the Mad Doctor in charge of the Bedlam lunatic asylum under pressure from a more modern rival with radical ideas like not exhibiting the inmates for a penny a head.
Has a large cast, most of them in common with the Henry IV run. (That's been extended due to popular demand: go see it if you haven't, it's fantastic). Pretty hard work for the actors doing two different plays a day, though not quite up there with the staggering Elizabethan workload. They seem pretty comfortable and interact well with the crowd though: Barbara Marten managed a nice bit of improvisation when a rogue pigeon threatened to disrupt things. Good performances especially from Sam Crane as a preening poet.
Script is also pretty good, very funny in places. Does go on a bit long though especially since some of the reversals are fairly obvious and could have done with some trimming.
Overall though, a good play, worth seeing.
What I'm Watching
Saw Winter's Bone at the cinema. Drama about a teenager in the Ozarks seeking her missing crime-involved father. Read the book a while back and loved it. The movie's good too, with some nice laconic performances. Maybe a bit more sentimental with things like the folk music: this doesn't seem as brutally harsh an environment as in the book. Still worth seeing though.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kasper Hauser on DVD. Good film about a mysterious character apparently brought up in isolation: fairly accessible and good to watch.
What I'm Watching 3
Also finally got around to Back to the Future Part Two on DVD since I keep seeing references to it. Holds up fairly well, liked the way it's cleverly integrated with the first film, pretty good fun.
Video. OK Go: White Knuckles (about). NMA News: GOP derailed by Tea Party Express. Didn't know that Is Your Son a Computer Hacker made TV (via). The Canadian spoofs The American (via). Hand dance. Cthulhu Old Spice. Backin' Up Song.
Random. The Disney Vault (wondered why I couldn't find The Lion King on DVD)> SimSoc sociology RPG. Narcotics checkpoint (via). Yellowback novels (via). Selections of #spikedinthe18thcentury hashtag. Anthropology classic: Body Ritual Among The Nacirema. Guardian and National Portrait Gallery show portrait with exposed vulva.
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