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This Life ❰Read❯ ➳ This Life Author Martin Hägglund – A profound original and accessible book that offers a new secular vision of how we can lead our lives Ranging from fundamental existential uestions to the most pressing social issues of our time This A profound original and accessible book that offers a new secular vision of how we can lead our lives Ranging from fundamental existential uestions to the most pressing social issues of our time This Life shows why our commitment to freedom and democracy should lead us beyond both religion and capitalismIn this groundbreaking book the philosopher Martin Hägglund challenges our received notions of faith and freedom The faith we need to cultivate he argues is not a religious faith in eternity but a secular faith devoted to our finite life together He shows that all spiritual uestions of freedom are inseparable from economic and material conditions What ultimately matters is how we treat one another in This Life and what we do with our time togetherHägglund develops new existential and political principles while transforming our understanding of spiritual life His critiue of religion takes us to the heart of what it means to mourn our loved ones be committed and care about a sustainable world His critiue of capitalism demonstrates that we fail to sustain our democratic values because our lives depend on wage labor In clear and pathbreaking terms Hägglund explains why capitalism is inimical to our freedom and why we should instead pursue a novel form of democratic socialismIn developing his vision of an emancipated secular life Hägglund engages with great philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel and Marx literary writers from Dante to Proust and Knausgaard political economists from Mill to Keynes and Hayek and religious thinkers from Augustine to Kierkegaard and Martin Luther King Jr This Life gives us new access to our past for the sake of a different future.

10 thoughts on “This Life

  1. BlackOxford BlackOxford says:

    Swedish MistI find it odd and oddly annoying that Martin Hägglund should choose to present his otherwise sensible philosophy in terms of faith He apparently intends to establish philosophical thought as a sound basis for ethics without reference to religion and its supposed revelations of ultimate truth On the face of it he would like to replace religious faith with faith of some other sort My uestion is ‘Why?’Although not all religions rely on faith Christian insistence that faith is euivalent to religion has penetrated global consciousness But even among Christians there is no agreement on what constitutes faith except the communal profession of some verbal formula Since Hagglund does not propose any alternative credal statement to the Christian religion or any other it is clear that he is not using the term ‘faith’ in any recognisably religious senseInstead Hägglund constructs a straw man His essential claim is that “the common denominator for what I call religious forms of faith is a devaluation of our finite lives as a lower form of being” This may be Those religions which emphasise the existence of some other world than the universe we inhabit in which perfect justice is achieved human defects are corrected and happiness reigns do implicitly devalue not just human beings but also all that exists But not all thought which accepts the possibility of a reality beyond expression perhaps even beyond perception insists upon such a position Yet such thought is religious in the specific sense that our consciousness itself implies an impenetrable mystery about our existence and its place in the cosmos Many for example myself included consider literature as a religion Our liturgy consists principally in our acts of reading and writing These acts are exploratory but they are never decisive Language that which exists within us and around us and yet is not part of us is our God This is a God which we use mercilessly but which also uses us with the same absence of care We may reverence our God but we do not idolise it We respect the immense power of language and we continuously try to outwit it We are bound to fail not because we are finite but because the God of language our own creation is infinite in its potential We will never exhaust its possibilities nor be able to control either its use or the way in which it connects to the world of other things What we do not have is faith in language We mistrust it because it lies about the world which is not constructed according to its principles We try relentlessly to pin it down by definition and explanation to no avail as we find that words can only be defined by other words Through language we create law and society and prosperity We also create hydrogen bombs and gas chambers and racist mobs We may pretend that we are free in our use of language But the reality is that we are trapped by it and within it It is the source of our unfreedom something Hagglund would like mistakenly to attribute to religionImportantly there is no creed of the God Language Language is undoubtedly there it exists but eually it is beyond our comprehension in its scope its future or even when it first appeared among us It is eternal but there is nothing about language which can be distilled into fundamentals of belief Hagglund would reject this however “all religious visions of eternity as we shall see ultimately are visions of unfreedom” he saysHägglund doesn’t like the eternal as a fundamental principle a sort of credal premise of his secular faith “The problem is not that an eternal activity would be ‘boring’ but that it would not be intelligible as my activity” In this he is simply too prejudiced by faith to be argued with Language will never become boring I challenge Hägglund to even express the feeling of boredom without it How free would he be without the eternity of language?So while I agree with Hägglund’s thesis that religious faith is bad for humanity and bad for existence it is faith not religion which is the issue There is no need for a secular faith because faith is the problem to be solved not allowed to expand Faith kills regardless of its content It kills intellectually by attempting to fix what the world is in language It’s kills biologically by insisting upon ‘natural’ relations of power which are expressed in terms of language And it kills spiritually by implying that there is some endpoint at which the exploration of language will reach its goalIn short it appears that Hägglund is preaching to a philosophical or religious choir that feels itself deficient without some sort of faith There is no valid reason to do this In fact he is implicitly justifying the acts of religious faith as eual competitors to his secular faith A mis directed and self defeating argument therefore The world needs yet another faith as much as it needs another SUV

  2. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    A thought provoking work Hägglund's basic thesis developed out of a close inspection of primarily Marx but decorated with dozens of writers and thinkers suggests that both capitalism and religious faith limit our ability to maximize our freedom and our uest for the good I'm with him about 45 of the way I wish he had edited the book down a bit he got a bit repetitive and could have probably said the same thing in 12 the words Like I said I need a bit time my leisure to really clearly communicate the areas I enjoyed there were many and the areas I thought were a bit self indulgent also many I think as I get older I get a bit suspect of so much certainty whether religious economic or philosophicEnough for now I choose my bed

  3. Gary Beauregard Bottomley Gary Beauregard Bottomley says:

    Being is time and time is finite The being that we care most about is human being or any being that can take a stand on its own understanding the most important being in the universe Hägglund wrote a marvelous book which unpacks that italicized sentence for the reader I’m going to explain why I thought this was such a marvelous and necessary book for today’s reader but I need to mention first that I listened to it on audio and therefore didn’t get the footnotes as I was listening and that led to a disconnect until I glanced at the index on Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’ is my favorite book by far and my second favorite book is Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Mind Spirit’ I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the author had not mention Heidegger until I looked at the footnotes on His footnotes explain a that he is currently writing a book elaborating on BT and b he mentions those two books and Hegel’s ‘Logic’ as three of his most important books I love being a human In particular I love being a secular human That is a person who thinks life is important because of the meaning I choose to give to it and as an individual within a group who reuires another in order to exist as an end for its own end not as a means to an end That’s close to how the author explains what it means to be a secular human I will digress just a little in order to explain what I mean According to Hägglund in the sixth volume of Karl Ove Knausgård’s ‘My Struggle’ he mentions that in Adolph Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kempf’ German for ‘My Struggle’ Hitler only speaks of the ‘I’ the ‘we’ and the ‘they’ and never speaks of the ‘you’ ie individuals such as me or you When he told me that I realized that Donald Trump does that same thing That’s why Trump can call people ‘animals’ and ‘varmints’ and such as he did yesterday 452019 That means for a narcissist like Trump and his enablers they do not need another in order to validate their own existence and ultimately their sense of self is lacking a characteristic of being a human since the others for them will always be ‘an animal’ or ‘varmint’ This book doesn’t fully take the argument this far but for those who are interested ‘The Bernstein Tapes’ of the course ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ does and I would recommend anyone listen to those tapes for the best source out there on PoS except for Hegel’s book itself Btw and since this is a digression anyways I started reading ‘My Struggle’ and absolutely love it so far and as this author will mention Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ is foundational for ‘My Struggle’ This author Hägglund connects many various pieces in his story telling Hägglund will say ‘My Struggle’ is all about the ‘you’ of the reader through the ‘I’ of the author and I would add through the life of the everyday where ‘the everyday starts off as the human experience of being in the world proximally and for the most part by understanding itself in terms of its world as the world reveals itself as itself and not as a Self outside itself’ I cheated I took a sentence for my review of ‘Critiue of Everyday Life’ by Lefebvre a Marxist and this author too definitely has a Marxist way of thinking When Jesus said ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ there are three ways one can take that statement 1 a divine command from God and true since God said it was and Truth Good and Justice are what God says they are 2 as a moral truth worthy of consideration since it’s reasonable and possible to defend a variation of it or 3 just ignore it For those who accept 1 the religious they are outsourcing their beliefs outside of themselves and are the most nihilistic ones of all since they have no meaning within themselves or for themselves as an end for an end in themselves and they become to themselves and for themselves only as an means to an end for a promised or hoped for or wished for or some other asserted but not supported by empirical evidence supernatural desire in an afterlife or karmic resolution For those who lean towards 2 the secular they find there meaning through deserving considerations based on a finite world of which they inhabit and for the third class of people who ignore it I’ll just ignore them because who cares what they think? Plato’s Euthyphro gets at this from a slightly different way I wanted to mention some cool discussions that the author had on the absolute goal of detachment the Buddhist strive for and similarly for the stoics with their acceptance of circumstances that leads to a need for no meaning purpose or freedom for an individual and the author advocates attachment as the worthy goal There are also some wonderful summations on various writings by Kierkegaard and how Kierkegaard really does understand the trap that the finite finds themselves in and ultimately how ‘irony paradox is jealous of the authentic’ this author doesn’t use that uote I did just because it is a uick way to summarize his long discussion on Kierkegaard Hegel Spinoza Marx Adorno Frankfurt School Piketty ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ a book for which I loved but this author doesn’t seem to like him nearly as much as I did and various other familiar thinkers are all eruditely discussed The author will argue that because we are finite we have meaning If we were infinite and knew it with certainty there would be no necessity and hence no freedom Our freedom to act and choose is what gives us our meaning purpose and caring ‘Caring’ is a loaded word and I used it purposely because in ‘BT’ Heidegger will use it as the foundation for human being Dasein and within the word is a tacit acknowledgement of the future as the ontological foundation for our being leading to always becoming until being unto death Shortly after ‘BT’ Heidegger will pivot to ‘will’ for his ontological foundation but Heidegger being Heidegger will always act as if that he meant that all along and won’t explicitly acknowledge the change For a good discussion on this I would recommend Hannah Arendt’s ‘Life of the Mind’ btw this author didn’t seem to like Arendt or at least uickly dismissed her at one spot in his book and for an even better discussion on Heidegger’s change from ‘care’ to ‘will’ I would recommend Fynsk’s ‘Heidegger Thought and Historicity’ Marx critiues capitalism and liberalism through an immanent critiue and will show that capitalism and liberalism must be inadeuate through their own assumptions according to this author and for example value is than just capitalist surplus value through exploitation and alienation of the labor workers but also needs to include our social values and spiritual values We need a reevaluation of value for today where for example unemployment should not be just a way for Capitalist to exploit labor by paying lower wages and exploiting all labor to demand lower wages and so on towards a downward spiral against labor but we need to value individuals beyond their surplus profit potential I’ll even say that if machines and super AI replace the workers by making them redundant the right attitude is that we need to see beyond just making the already insanely rich even richer; we can find a better way by enabling unemployed or underutilized labor to actualize themselves as individuals and as social beings and reevaluate our values by valuing social well being above uneual distribution of wealth This author will recommend a Democratic Socialist alternative to capitalism and neo liberalism as a viable approach for achieving a just society Hegel always moves in three movements the thesis antithesis and the synthesis for example stoic skeptic to unhappy consciousness as a movement Each of the first two movements are immanently unstable ie they can’t coherently stand by themselves without internal contradiction and will lead to the ‘unhappy consciousness’ ie Christianity or Religion which reuires the infinite an outsourcing of meaning therefore the ultimate in nihilismTrump and his enablers are not able to transcend the world from which they were thrown into They do not recognize anyone who is not them and therefore have no way of understanding themselves in order to get beyond their capitalismliberalismabsolutist mindset This book is for those who are capable of understanding that the ‘I’ needs a ‘you’ in addition to another ‘them’ and our meaning purpose care and freedom reuire understanding the paradox of outsourcing our beliefs and meaning to the infinite Actualizing human being reuires participating both as an individual and socially and optimizing our spiritual values beyond just material well being that does not rely on an infinite horizon To properly actualize our meaning as being one needs to realize that ‘being is time and time is finite’

  4. Ryan Bell Ryan Bell says:

    Incredible programmatic interdisciplinary analysis of our diminished lives under capitalism and religion and the emancipatory possibilities under democratic socialismPossibly the best book I’ve ever read integrating our “spiritual” lives with our political commitments into a coherent humanist call to action I had an hour long conversation with the author on my podcast Life After God covering many of the themes he explores in the book You can hear the podcast on my website wwwlifeaftergodorg

  5. Jack Wolfe Jack Wolfe says:

    I want to apologize in advance to everyone who actually knows me all I'm gonna wanna talk about for the next several months years? is This Life by Martin Hagglund This is the kind of big effing mindblower that I luck into every once in a while A game changer for my personal and political identity A book that I hope that I'm gonna try to make sure has as wide a readership as possible Cuz hoo wee This one makes Capital in the 21st Century look like the Boxcar Children Hagglund even devotes a sub chapter to a pretty devastating but also calm and polite critiue of Piketty ZingWhat is it about? Man everything man It's both the most convincing and absurdly moving defense of secular identity I've probably ever read as well as the most convincing and absurdly moving argument for democratic socialism I've definitely ever read It is in short about our commitments Hagglund asks us to embrace our fragility our vulnerability our mortality to commit to our transience to embrace secular faith over religion He claims that most of us already do this whether we acknowledge it or not to engage in any project to attach any meaning to any person or thing is to implicitly affirm that you have a limited amount of time in this world Hagglund finds the concept of eternity not just incomprehensible but undesirable the things that make life INTERESTING that make it precious are the things that we have to risk the things that can be taken away In three dense but well paced chapters Hagglund defines this notion of secular faith employing the words of both great religious thinkers Zing and great unreligious ones the mini essay on Karl Ove Knausgaard is worth the price of admission if yer a fan of My StruggleBut that's just the beginning yo In the second half of the book on Spiritual Freedom Hagglund claims that an idea of limited time is fundamentally connected to the uestions of what we ought to do as well as if we ought to do what we ought to do the double ought He insists that the best forms of economy are the forms that maximize our spiritual freedom the ones that allow us to take ownership of our decision making In this way he thinks capitalism is totally flawed to the core and that it must be overturned and replaced with some sort of democratic socialism It's the issue of value that matters most to Hagglund here In a capitalist system the thing that's finally valued is profit No amount of welfare programs will change this fact the point of human life in a capitalist system is to create surplus value by way of wage labor In this kind of system our free time is therefore never truly free just an excuse for activities that allow us to replenish ourselves before we get back to the real profit making tasks of our life What Hagglund proposes is not a single system to replace capitalism but a truly democratic decision making process one where we can assess what actually matters to us what really has value Along the way he totally resuscitates Karl Marx from totalitarian death read This Life and suddenly all the criticisms of Marx himself look kind of like criticisms of other things things that democratic socialism is explicitly opposed toThis second part of the book is even jam packed with ideas that the already pretty heavy first half but then again it has to be Hagglund is facing down millennia of received wisdom about what is natural about what is functional about what is supposedly the best way for humankind I don't know if I got all of it but that I got the thrust of it is a testament to both the writer's clarity and vigor He's making a serious moral argument here this isn't a ha ha New Atheist style rant and I do hope people approach him with moral seriousness I didn't have to be convinced that there is no God this is something I've believed for at least fifteen years but to read Hagglund's account of secular faith and how it must lead us to making real changes in this world for the end of each other's lives and not some hope of eternity has profoundly altered my understanding of my place on Earth It's telling that the last philosopher Hagglund talks about in detail is not an avowed atheist but one of the most legendary Christian leaders of all time Martin Luther King Jr who in his writings and work finally demonstrated a commitment to this life a commitment that necessarily involved a new vision for human flourishingSo get ready America Imma put this book in yer hands

  6. Dan Graser Dan Graser says:

    This is perhaps the most intelligently formed and poetically written argument for secular thought since Bertrand Russell In this dual critiue of religious and economic fundamentalism Hägglund engages with the most complicated issues and previous works with great authority and erudition The dual critiue of religion and economic dogmas is one that most will be familiar with since Marx Hägglund works through the tangled webs spun by the likes of Kierkegaard and Augustine to show the fatuity with they discuss mortality and finitude In a stunning achievement unto itself he makes Hegel's philosophy somewhat discernible and also levies great critiue on superficial readings of Marx especially from the likes of AdornoHe concludes with the side of MLK Jr that we have decided to forget for the sake of convenience the being the economic radical whose racial and social change were but a first step towards a much needed complete societal overhaul This is a work with which you will want to take your time as the author has certainly taken great care to form this dual critiue in the most urgent yet thorough fashion This is just a staggering work of intellectual honesty and certainly will not be the last work of his I read

  7. Daniel C. Daniel C. says:

    This is a book about atheism but it would be wrong to group it with books by Dawkins Harris or Hitchens Where popular books on atheism largely focus on ridiculing the irrationality and lack of empirical evidence supporting religious belief or casting it in the causal role of various atrocities Hägglund has a constructive project in mind As he writes late in the book echoing Marx If we merely criticized religious beliefs as illusions—without being committed to overcoming the forms of social injustice that motivate these illusions—the critiue of region would be empty and patronizing The task is rather to transform our social conditions in such a way that people no longer need to have recourse to the opium of religion and can affirmatively recognize the irreplaceable value of their own livesHis argument follows in two parts The first part seeks to invert a the common assertion by the religious that without some higher order or transcendence there is no basis for a moral or meaningful life Hägglund argues that the opposite is true eternity renders our temporary mortal lives inconseuential in comparison Only in realizing that our lives are impermanent that wasted time can never be recovered and that death is a permanent end does what we do have real stakes Committing oneself to undertakings and to people bounded by this risk and impermanence is what he defines as secular faithThe second part argues that the implication of this outlook is that our goal should be the expansion of spiritual freedom the freedom to ask ourselves not just what we ought to to do with our time but if we ought to do what we supposedly ought to do From this perspective the collective wealth of a society is the degree to which people have the time and ability to do so This concept of wealth and value is incompatible with capitalism My brain being math addled I would say that capitalism optimizes the wrong objective function Contrary to Keynes' predictions capitalism will never produce a 15 hour work week and social democratic redistributive policies will always be limited by arguments that they diminish the wealth they seek to redistribute Only under some form of democratic socialism where true social wealth is strived towards Hägglund argues will we get free Along the way we get some deep readings of Kierkegaard Knausgaard Hegel Marx Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr among many others The book doesn't assume a deep philosophical background but neither is it a breezy polemic typical of atheist lit It demands something of the reader but it is profound and very moving in parts

  8. Peggy Kahn Peggy Kahn says:

    This is an engaging intellectually rich focused book making the argument that human lived time is central to human identity and the social world The positive arguments about the finitude of human life and inevitability and importance of loss suffering and boredom; about the practical making of projects and practical identities through not only individual commitments and efforts but social norms and institutions; and about the necessity of a radical critiue of capitalist value and social transformation were excellent The explications of texts and important thinkers including Augustine Knausgaard Kierkegaard Hegel Marx Adorno MLK were valuable His distinction between social democracy a political economy of redistributive public policy within capitalism and democratic socialism a replacement of capitalist political economy by structures and processes that value self determined life time is theoretically valuable However the reduction of religion and religious faith to a belief in eternal life is problematic The text fails to convey how diverse religious practices are how many religious believers live in the world why religious practice and secular faith are not exclusive of but may reinforce each other and how some progressive Christians interpret the Bible as a story of human freedom The author changes somewhat his presentation of religion in his ending discussion of Martin Luther King and the US civil rights movement Here he acknowledges that religion is not simply belief in eternity but also practices in the book generally when it comes to religion he singles out one key belief; but when he talks about secular commitment and practical identity he talks about practices and even institutions However he sticks to his position that when religious believers are advocating political and economic projects and drawing upon the deep relationships and solidarities within communities of believers they are not practicing religion but secular faith

  9. Lada Lada says:

    More repetitive than even The High Cost of Free Parking And although Parking repeats the same probably correct logic over and over this book keeps circling back to and you can only feel loss love or commitment because the person's life is finite and it's like Wait what? That statement that doesn't make sense is not explained in the first 200 pages but is repeated over and over Abraham and Isaac are mentioned what must have been 500 times with very little variation There is no attempt to expand the thought experiments to explore just a bit beyond the same tired scenario For example immortality did not stand in the way of all sorts of drama between the Greek Gods Or what if God had asked Abraham to never see or speak to Isaac again letting them both live on separately in eternity Would this not be loss? I gave up right around the time the book started talking about life and maintenance maybe that direction would have been promising

  10. Dylan Dylan says:

    A real disappointment I have been a fan of Hagglund's since his early articles and Radical Atheism was a very important book in my young life so I was incredibly excited for this book to arrive If this book was framed simply as a positive vision of a life affirming secular metaphysics it could have been a real achievement That's what makes this so frustrating; the seeds of a great book are all here but they've been smothered by several hundred unnecessary pages of Hegel and Hayek As an attempt to expand Hagglund's work to beyond the idea of religion and address the experience of living this life to a popular audience this doorstop of a tome is a painful failureThe book constantly gets dragged into arguments against religion that make no reference to the actual lived experience of being religious Even as an agnostic who was raised an atheist and has never been religious the counterarguments seemed obvious and unaddressed The number of people who actual experience religion has solely or primarily a uest for positive infinity is exceptionally slim There is a reason that every popular conception of the Christian heaven includes individuals angels demons our ancestors in white robes looking down experiencing the cutting of time much like we do Since the whole book is spent sparring with Kierkegaard and company it ends up having very little to say about the living this life for most of the billions on this earth

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