How can you reconcile yourself with the lives you will never lead, with possibilities foreclosed, and with nostalgia for lost youth? How can you accept the failings of the past, the sense of futility in the tasks that consume the present, and the prospect of death that blights the future? In this self-help book with a difference, Kieran Setiya confronts the inevitable challenges of adulthood and middle age, showing how philosophy can help you thrive.
You will learn why missing out might be a good thing, how options are overrated, and when you should be glad you made a mistake. You will be introduced to philosophical consolations for mortality. And you will learn what it would mean to live in the present, how it could solve your midlife crisis, and why meditation helps.
Ranging from Aristotle, Schopenhauer, and John Stuart Mill to Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as drawing on Setiya’s own experience, Midlife combines imaginative ideas, surprising insights, and practical advice. Writing with wisdom and wit, Setiya makes a wry but passionate case for philosophy as a guide to life.
"Midlife has a self-soothing quality. . . . [It] teaches a lesson about midlife: it’s sometimes best to go with the flow."—Joshua Rothman, New Yorker
"Mr. Setiya hopes to lift sufferers out of this dip [of midlife] and help them flourish by conveying the insights of modern philosophy. . . . For a philosophy professor, [he] can be refreshingly unstuffy. He doesn't see a flashy sports car as a midlife crisis-mobile, that trite substitute for lost youth and virility. No, he sees it as an opportunity to change from goal-oriented, utilitarian thinking to a life-affirming experience of being in the moment."—Eric Felten, Wall Street Journal
"Setiya serves as an engaging companion for those in the throes of the dreaded midlife crisis, as he brings the wisdom of the ages to bear on the contemporary malaise. A self-help book with a strong—but not heavy-handed—philosophical foundation."—Kirkus
"[Setiya’s] book is a reminder that philosophy, at its best, can be both wise and humane."—Anil Gomes, Times Literary Supplement
"Setiya is a clear-thinking, plain-speaking companion who doesn't take himself too seriously."—Jeremy Clarke, Literary Review
"A model for how to write philosophy clearly and non-technically without lapsing into banality or truism. . . . Warm, lucid and sane."—Joe Moran, Times Higher Education
"A concise, entertaining and humane guide through life's most difficult territory."—Simon Ings, The Spectator
"A delightful amalgam of self-help and intellectual inquiry."—The Economist
"Setiya’s elegant little volume is a 'philosophical guide' to what he calls the 'existential questions of midlife'."—Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times
"An accessible exploration of what history’s great thinkers have had to say on the subject [of midlife]."—Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
"There’s an uplifting message here for everyone. If you’re in midlife, rest assured you wouldn’t really enjoy being young again. If you’re young, stop worrying about future regret, since even the best choices necessitate loss. And if you’re old? Be glad all those panic-inducing choices are behind you."—Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian
"This is a wonderfully rich and illuminating examination of the turmoil of midlife."—PD Smith, The Guardian
"Setiya rediscovers very old wisdom here. It might help with a midlife crisis. But really, he is talking about the meaning of life. It is good that analytic philosophy is so much less scared of that topic than it used to be. I very much hope that Setiya’s valuable and accessible book might help it to be less afraid also of the stages on life’s way."—Christopher Hamilton, Mind
"To me the book has succeeded in making a real difference."—Thomas Pölzler, Ethical Perspectives
"Written with charming simplicity and wry humor, Midlife is a philosophically rich source of what might be called ‘the higher life hacks'—reflective ways of dissolving the sense of emptiness and regret that tends to hit each of us with the onset of middle age. A work of disarming wisdom."—Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?
"As someone who has suffered from a midlife crisis since the age of seven, I found Kieran Setiya's Midlife: A Philosophical Guide both instructive and consoling. If it fails to slim the waistline or stave off death, it nevertheless proves, like a trusted spouse or pet, a very companionable guide on the way to the void. It may even make you, as it did me, see the virtue of being forty-two."—Joshua Ferris, author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
"Kieran Setiya's new book is an elegant application of philosophy to the midlife crisis. Whatever your preoccupations on the subject, you will find strategies here important to your peace of mind. Written with urgency and wit, the book has a great mix of philosophy, personal narrative, and practical wisdom. Highly recommended."—Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History
"In this engaging and insightful book, Kieran Setiya uses the resources of philosophy to illuminate and help allay some familiar forms of anxiety and distress that afflict people just when they are in the prime of their lives."—Samuel Scheffler, author of Death and the Afterlife
"In this engaging and accessible book, Kieran Setiya explores questions about what we live for, what it makes sense to regret in the one life we each have, and how to think about the end of it all, and he does so in writing that is at once literary, intimate, and philosophically rigorous."—Richard Moran, Harvard University
"Kieran Setiya's Midlife is a sort of cognitive cleanser laying bare the issues we all face at midlife and beyond. Invoking philosophers from Mill to Schopenhauer, the book offers wise and lucid insights on our inevitable regrets, fear of death, and need for enjoyment as well as meaning. It’s succinct, so savor it slowly."—John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy and A Numerate Life
"Midlife is Intelligent, insightful, creative, and enjoyable. I wish I could have had a copy of this book ten or twenty years ago!"—Troy Jollimore, author of Love's Vision