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What Is the Good Life?

Has inquiry into the meaning of life become outmoded in a universe where the other-worldiness of religion no longer speaks to us as it once did, or, as Nietzsche proposed, where we are now the creators of our own value? Has the ancient question of the "good life" disappeared, another victim of the technological world? For Luc Ferry, the answer to both questions is a resounding no.

In What Is the Good Life? Ferry argues that the question of the meaning of life, on which much philosophical debate throughout the centuries has rested, has not vanished, but at the very least the question is posed differently today. Ferry points out the pressures in our secularized world that tend to reduce the idea of a successful life or "good life" to one of wealth, career satisfaction, and prestige. Without deserting the secular presuppositions of our world, he shows that we can give ourselves a richer sense of life’s possibilities. The "good life" consists of harmonizing life’s different forces in a way that enables one to achieve a sense of personal satisfaction in the realization of one’s creative abilities.

330 pages | 1 figure | 6 x 9 | © 2005

Philosophy: Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

Religion: Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics


"Luc Ferry’s most recent book continues his quest of exploring the metaphysical and religious traditions of the past to see what we can still learn from them about self-transcendence and life’s meaning, despite no longer being able to accept their postulates about the divine or about the harmony of the cosmos. Ferry develops some quite innovative ideas about the inner, ’human’ significance of Greek, Christian, and Nietzschean conceptions of the good life. This is a courageous and insightful book by one of the ablest philosophers today."

Charles Larmore | Charles Larmore

"Luc Ferry has written a truly thought-provoking piece of work developed over a number of years, which one should read attentively and carefully. . . . The issue at stake is important, namely to develop a concept for wisdom for today . . . . Luc Ferry is a member of the contemporary movement that is rethinking the existential and practical role of philosophy. Abandoning a purely theoretical approach, one that is concerned only with knowledge for knowledge’s sake, he resumes and revitalizes an ancient line of questioning, one with a long history behind it, which has only slightly faded out in recent times: ’what does the good life consist of?’. . . . What is striking. . . above all is the honesty of [the author’s] reflections and the true openness of his thinking."

Roger-Pol Droit | Le Monde

"For anyone who wants to know why French philosophy after Foucault and Derrida continues to be of global importance, Luc Ferry’s What Is the Good Life? is a must. In his latest book, Ferry offers the clearest and most deeply personal exposition of his post-metaphysical humanism. To those unfamiliar with the work of Luc Ferry, What Is the Good Life? is an ideal introduction to the thought of one of the leading intellectuals of today’s France."

Edmund Leites | Edmund Leites

"Ferry boldly attempts to bring the intellectual traditions of humanism, religion, and materialism into dialogue with one another. At a time when most academic philosophy is technical and trivial, this volume stands apart."

Gordon Marino | Wilson Quarterly

"Ferry is one of those rare philosophers . . . who writes in a non-academic style that immediately draws you in. And yet this book is much more than a simple entertainment. It’s a banquet for a hungry mind, serving rich philosophy trimmed with sociology, anthropology, theology, psychology, and history. . . . What makes this book a terrific read is not the ’punch line’ found in the last chapter, the ultimate answer to the question of what makes the good life; it’s Ferry’s illumination of the human journey through history that has brought us to this answer."

Peter B. Raabe | Metapsychology

"A stunningly written, bravely conceived, and profoundly important book that quite simply needs to be read."

Michael S. Hogue | Journal of Religion

"As an extended ’friendly debate,’ as Ferry puts it, with materialism and religion, and with the ancient world and contemporary deconstruction, the book succeeds admirably. Moreover, it would be ungenerous not to recognize Ferry as the wonderfully aware, marvelously learned, sensible, good philosophical company that he is. He writes so clearly that whatever disagreements one has are . . . also his gift."

Guy Mansini | Review of Metaphysics

Table of Contents

Prologue - Our Daydreams: Success, Ennui, and Envy
Part I - Creating the Good Life: Metamorphoses of the Ideal
1. Beyond Morality, After Religion
The New Age of the Question
2. The Meaning of the Question and the Slow Humanization of the Responses
Part II - The Nietzschean Moment: The Good Life as the Most Intense Life
3. On Transcendence as Supreme Illusion
The Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer: The End of the World, the Death of God, and the Death of Man
4. The Foundations and Arguments of Nietzschean Materialism
5. The Wisdom of Nietzsche, or The Three Criteria of the Good Life
Truth in Art, Intensity in the Grand Style, Eternity in the Instant
6. After Nietzsche
Four Versions of Life after the Death of God: Daily Life, the Bohemian Life, the Life of Enterprise, or Life Freed from Alienation
Part III - The Wisdom of the Ancients: Life in Harmony with the Cosmic Order
7. Greek Wisdom, or The First Image of a Lay Spirituality
The Secularization of Salvation
8. The "Cosmologico-Ethical"
Power and the Charms of Moralities Inscribed in the Cosmos
9. An Ideal-Type of Ancient Wisdom
The Case of Stoicism
Part IV - The Here and Now Enchanted by the Beyond
10. Death Finally Conquered by Immortality
Philosophy Replaced by Religion
11. The Renascence of Lay Philosophy and the Humanization of the Good Life
Part V - A Humanism of the Man-God: The Good Life as a Life in Harmony with the Human Condition
12. Materialism, Religion, and Humanism
13. A New Approach to the Question of Happiness

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