Virtual Memories Show 448:
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“The cultivation of the inner life is a way of looking at the self as though the inner sanctum isn’t a lonely, isolating chamber of echoes, but can be transformed into a rich inner garden.”
With Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living (Notre Dame Press), Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn explores how different philosophies of the ancient Greeks and Romans continue to play out in our modern era. We talk about the interplay between antiquity & modernity, how we can learn to move beyond therapeutic culture, and why she’s a born Platonist (the book also gets into Gnosticism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cynicism). We also get into why instrumentalizing people is one of the worst developments of our time, what it means to have an authentic outward-facing inwardness, rather than the inward-facing outwardness of our age, whether philosophy prepares us for death (and whether it should). Plus we discuss how students have & haven’t changed over her 30 years as a professor, the vale of WikiHow, the moment she was entranced by a philosophy seminar titled “Love”, and what virtue is & whether it can be taught. Give it a listen! And go read Ars Vitae!
“In Platonism we can find a way to renew our sense of why on earth we would ever want to act virtuously or good, or restrict our desires, or think about someone other than ourselves. That’s what’s missing from our times, what’s fallen away in the modern therapeutic consumer culture.”
“You can often understand divisions among people by asking what their underlying reasons are. You find sources of commonality, or at least something that would allow people to stay in the same conversation, if you go below the claims people are making to the reasons for those claims.”
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About our Guest
Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn is a Professor of History at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and author of Ars Vitae: The Fate of Inwardness and the Return of the Ancient Arts of Living. Her research interests include modern American social, cultural, and intellectual history, ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, ancient and modern thought/history of ideas/philosophy (US and Europe), comparative literature, film and visual culture, Plato and Neoplatonism, and the arts. Her other books include Black Neighbors — which won the Berkshire Prize — and Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution, as well as three edited volumes. Professor Lasch-Quinn’s writing has also appeared widely in both scholarly and prominent public venues, including The New Republic and The Hedgehog Review.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Elisabeth by someone else. It’s on my instagram.