A philosophical guide to facing life’s inevitable hardships
There is no cure for the human condition: life is hard. But I believe philosophy can help. It offers us a map for navigating rough terrain, from personal trauma to the injustice and absurdity of the world.
Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy as well as fiction, comedy, social science, and personal essay, Life Is Hard is a book for this moment – a work of solace and compassion.
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"In Life is Hard, Kieran Setiya shows us the gift that philosophy becomes when it removes its mask of impersonality to reveal its human face. His insights are stunning, his compassion sustaining. Anyone susceptible to life’s hardships must read this book – which means that everyone must read it." – Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex
"Kieran Setiya has produced the ultimate handbook of hardship. With nimble prose and crisp arguments, he shows why adversity is inevitable – and why facing up to that reality, rather than insisting on simple-minded notions of happiness, offers the only path to living well.” – Daniel H. Pink, author of The Power of Regret, When, and Drive
"Smart, richly sourced, and lucidly reasoned, Life is Hard is a work of resplendent wisdom and humanity – one that has changed the way I think about the periodic upsurges of failure, grief, and loss in my own life." – Jim Holt, author of Why Does the World Exist?
"An eloquent, moving, witty and above all useful demonstration of philosophy's power to help us weather the storms of being human – not with rarefied theories about the best way to live, but by making the best of life as it really is." – Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks
"This is the most important type of book, the kind that sits on a bedside table through the long, dark nights of the soul. Life is Hard served as a very clear, very important reminder: being a philosopher entails a simple obligation, the responsibility to help." – John Kaag, author of Sick Souls, Health Minds
"Life may be hard, but Kieran Setiya shows us better ways to think about it and how, despite everything, that can give us hope." – Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
"Life Is Hard is a humane consolation for challenging times. Reading it is like speaking with a thoughtful friend who never tells you to cheer up, but, by offering gentle companionship and a change of perspective, makes you feel better anyway." – New York Times Book Review
"At last a philosopher tackles the meaning of life and comes up with useful answers." — Sunday Times
"Through carefully crafted examples, [Kieran Setiya] makes the case that philosophy can help us navigate the adversities of human life … No life worth living is free of suffering and pain. Better to face it with the clarity to which philosophy, at its best, aspires." – Guardian
"a consoling guide to this vale of tears" – Economist
"Kieran Setiya argues that certain bracing challenges – loneliness, failure, ill health, grief, and so on – are essentially unavoidable … But it’s good, the book shows, to acknowledge hard experiences and ask how they’ve helped us grow tougher, kinder, and wiser." – New Yorker
"reflects what philosophy at its most helpful and humane can do … insightful and empathetic" – LA Review of Books
"Setiya is a tonic in an increasingly individualistic world." – Prospect
"honest, bleak and wryly humorous" – Literary Review
"Setiya excels at discerning which ideas speak to modern maladies and which don’t hold up. This thought-provoking treatise enlightens." – Publishers Weekly
"A lighted path for dark times ... Pragmatic, compassionate advice." – Kirkus Reviews