Boston Book Festival 2011: How to Live?


From BBF site: “Join three amazing scholars as they discuss the age old questions of how to live a good life. Sarah Bakewell shares insights gleaned from writing her national book critics circle award-winning book: How to live, or, a Life of Montaigne, while Harvard’s maven of multiple intelligences Howard Gardner reflects on Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed and anthropologist and ethnographer Michael Jackson discusses Life Within Limits: Wellbeing in a World of Want. Moderated by art historian Joseph Koerner”.

The discussion opened with an interesting question from Michael Jackson – what in life is worth living for if you have nothing (post-war, lack of basic resources, nothing except for what could be made from mud). He recollects his trip to Sierra-Leon, one of the poorest countries in the world. You will find the answer in relations with others – words, humor, stories, passion for engaging and inquiry.

We have lost that kind of intelligence, social intelligence.

Howard Gardner: There is too much noise nowadays, and the noise comes from around the globe. People are looking for dry land, safety land, solid ground. They don’t want to dribble, but reflect on the big picture.

Howard’s book is about the trio of virtues. Young people should get general sense of ethical education, and be exposed to relative and post modernists views, but give them some dry land. People have always imagined places beyond home to live in, places where they can freely choose their own life, and where they find the upstream region of self.

Montaigne book starts with quotations: authenticity, author, authority have the same root… Do you have the authority to say things? If you are the author then yes. It comes to original source which is self.

What is the hardest thing and sweetest thing in your life? Those are always small things.

There are many different approaches regarding how to live. 100 years ago people studied more philosophy, 50 years ago – psychology, today – economics and policy. Evolutionary psychology, rational choice economics, social science …But they all about human agency – we do have choices.

And we make mistakes, we chose things that don’t make us happy and don’t choose things that will make us happy. In American society we often lose our way suspended between fear and greed.

Writers’ advice: Start conversations with people. Talk to people you admire and talk about your own choices… We need to establish common spaces, where everyone can talk about problems and get feedback. “World is a head load depending on how you carry it or how you interpret”.

“I regard every defeat as an opportunity”.

“Do good work, use your resources for someone else”.

“Promote what you do, not yourself”.

Is virtue another intelligence? No, virtue is about how we use intelligence, it is about character, which is more important than intelligence. It is skilfulness. Social intelligence is about what one does not what one is.

Friedrich Nietzsche: ”Goodwill is the best virtue”.

Main lesson: Living well is not about living in a perfect way with rules, but about sharing our feelings and engaging with others.

Visit “Mind adventure” booth: “If it ain’t practical – it ain’t spiritual”.

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