John Kaag || How William James Can Save Your Life


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Today we welcome John Kaag, the Chair and Professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He received his Masters in Philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oregon. His writing has been published in The Paris Review, The New York Times, and Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of Hiking with Nietzsche, American Philosophy: A Love Story, and his most recent book is Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life.

In this episode, my conversation with John Kaag revolves around the existential question we’ve all had: is life worth living? John expounds on William James’ answer of “maybe”. He shares about his near-death experience and how vulnerable moments in his life have led him to a more nuanced understanding of philosophy. We also touch on the topics of metaphysics, determinism, suffering, religion, and transcendence.


Twitter: @JohnKaag


03:53 Existential anxiety, fear, freedom

08:50 Is life worth living?

11:14 Seizing control over existence

14:23 Metaphysical chance is real

17:36 The unseen order and human blindness

25:43 “Living unnecessarily near our surface”

30:18 Pragmatism, zest, authenticity

33:26 Resignation or hope in the face of mortality

38:10 Dissolution of the self

42:26 Spiritual narcissism

44:24 Companions in misery

49:28 Melancholy among philosophers

52:13 Life is for living

53:41 The loving cup

332 episodes