The Life of Contemplation

Tue, Apr 26

Ancient philosophers drew an important distinction between the "vita activa" (the life of action) and the "vita contemplativa" (the life of contemplation). In this class period, we'll read examples or two philosophers advocating for contemplative virtues -- Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Stoicism) and Henry David Thoreau (Transcendentalism).  

By the end of this class, you will:

  1. Compare and contrast the life of action with the life of contemplation, particularly considering views of human nature and happiness that each vision assumes
  2. Understand where Stoic and Transcendentalist philosophers fit within the tradition of virtue ethics we have been studying
  3. Weigh advantages and costs to pursuing a life of contemplation; argue for a position about how contemplation fits within your apology.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Marcus Aurelius and Henry David Thoreau: Live a Life of Contemplation

APPLICATION TEXT (Access on "Persuall" via Canvas):

If You’re Reading Stoicism for Life Hacks, You’re Missing the Point (NYTimes)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Is there anything you could see yourself spending the rest of your life contemplating? If so, what is it? If not, why?
    • If you wanted to be more stoic in your approach to the good life, what would you try to do?

After you've finished today's reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section's Canvas page.

Watch This: