A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability

Univ. of Chicago. Apr. 2017. 232p. notes. index. ISBN 9780226439952. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780226440019. PHIL
In this jargon-free and carefully reasoned book, May (philosophy, Clemson Univ.; A Significant Life) does what he does best: tackles a significant topic that sits at the heart of what it means to live a human life; spells out the options; takes a clearly enunciated position; and tells his readers why it matters and what difference it makes. Here he argues against the official view of Stoicism, Buddhism, Daoism, and ancient Epicureanism, that cultivating invulnerability is the way to end much of personal suffering. May finds such meditative practices valuable for pain caused by small matters but calls for a philosophy that affirms acceptance of vulnerability in matters of major significance, particularly relationships in which openness to hurt seems part and parcel of a meaningful life.
VERDICT Readers may suspect that May's presentation of the "official doctrines" that he challenges deserves a richer understanding. Even so, they will appreciate this moving exploration of lived philosophy.
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