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Living Philosophy

Reflections on Life, Meaning and Morality

Christopher Hamilton


The mystery of birth and death, of fate and destiny, of the nature of wisdom, and of the meaning of life itself have preoccupied philosophers since time immemorial.

Some of the perplexities of our moral life form the basis of Christopher Hamilton's book. In a series of original and perceptive philosophical essays - including those on 'Birth and Death', 'Virtue and Human Flourishing', 'The Need to Sleep', 'Sex', 'Truth and Reality', 'Vanity and Destiny' and 'The Fear of Death'- the author reflects on the nature of morality and its relation to experience; on the individual mind and its place in philosophy; and on the strangeness of life itself.

Drawing widely on literature and philosophy, and grouping many of its reflections on thoughts found there - from Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, from Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, George Eliot, Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, D H Lawrence and others - Living Philosophy has some affinities with the philosophy practised by such figures as Martha Nussbaum, Stanley Cavell and Peter Winch. Written in a gentle, meditative and exploratory style, the book develops a way of approaching philosophy that opens up room not so much to answer the pressing questions of life as to deepen our sense of what those questions are.

Key Features

  • Can be used for both introductory and advanced courses on ethics
  • Engages with contemporary philosophical and cultural issues
  • Provides numerous literary and philosophical examples
  • The clear, direct and non-technical style of writing makes the book accessible to those outside academic life who are interested in philosophy and to established philosophers
  • Constitutes a bold critique of current academic writings in the area


Introduction: A Personal View of Philosophy
Birth and Death
Virtue and Human Flourishing
Morality and Style
Truth and Reality
Vanity and Destiny
Morality and Life
The Need to Sleep
The Fear of Death

About the Author

Christopher Hamilton is Head of German and Philosophy at Bedales School, Hampshire


In this hugely stimulating and extremely well-written book, Christopher Hamilton advances a conception of philosophical enquiry which contrasts boldly with the outlook of academic philosophy. In essays on concepts which are of fundamental human importance - birth, destiny, spirit, sexuality, wisdom, death - Hamilton evokes the immense difficulty of grasping human life through philosophical reflection, while raising by several degrees our awareness of the philosophical significance of literature.
- Sebastian Gardner, Department of Philosophy, University College London
Living Philosophy is a remarkable work that fully rises to its title. Philosophy lives in it. Christopher Hamilton brings to his discussion of the great problems of philosophy a penetrating, humane and quite original intelligence. With wisdom, tact and humour he discusses (amongst other things) the fear of death, vanity and destiny, sex, truth and, unusually, our need of sleep. Always the discussion is enriched by reflections on wonderful quotations from philosophers, novelists and poets. In Living Philosophy the reader will find philosophy enlivened by a fine literary sensibility that is in turn disciplined by philosophy. Truly a book to make one think.
- Raimond Gaita, Professor of Moral Philosophy, King's College London and Professor of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University