Self-help gurus, life coaches, and business consultants love to tell us that we must strive for constant self-improvement to realize our full potential and become truly happy. But it doesn’t seem to work — for many of us, life still seems hollow and meaningless. So focused are we on personal development and material possessions that we’ve overlooked the things that make life truly fulfilling and worthwhile. 

But what are those things?

My guest today explores the answer to that question in his book Standpoints: 10 Old Ideas in a New World. His name is Svend Brinkmann, and he’s a Danish philosopher and psychologist. We begin our conversation discussing why modern life can feel like liquid, and how the typical approach to personal development and self-help doesn’t rescue us from drowning in it. Svend then contrasts the common approach to treating choices and people like instruments and means to an end with the idea of doing what’s good simply because it is good. Svend argues that we can do that by standing firm on certain philosophic principles, and we spend the rest of our conversation discussing a few of what these are, including the importance of endowing others with dignity, making and keeping promises, and embracing responsibility. 

Show Highlights

  • What is “liquid modernity”?
  • What the self-help genre gets wrong 
  • The wrong roadmap to meaning and fulfillment
  • Why looking “inside yourself” is problematic 
  • The instrumentalization of our lives 
  • How instrumentalization harms our relationships 
  • Knowledge as an end of itself 
  • So if meaning can’t be created from within, where do we find it?
  • What Aristotle can teach us about life and morality
  • What is dignity? What has instrumentalization replaced it with?
  • Why the capacity to feel guilt and shame is fundamental to morality 
  • What we can learn about promises from Nietzsche 
  • Self-constancy vs. self-development 
  • How gaining responsibility actually gives us more freedom

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Svend

Svend on Twitter

Svend’s website

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Coming soon!

The post Podcast #535: The Problem of Self-Help in a Liquid Age appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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