Aug. 4, 2021

Human Flourishing - Living the Excellent Life

In the first episode of season two, Andrea and Craig discuss some of the differences in how Aristotle, Dr. Martin Seligman, and Harvard view flourishing and some of the overlapping concepts in philosophy, religion, psychology and Daoism related to living a good life. Craig explains in depth how striving for flourishing is beneficial to anyone no matter what their religion or philosophy might be. We also learn about the three basic steps towards flourishing and developing a virtue and that grits are a vehicle for flavor. Yum!

 Here are links to the two books mentioned in this episode. (Note: We earn a very small commission when you use the links.)

 How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness, Russell D. Roberts

 The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith

Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life, Jim Kristofic


Craig 0:08

Hi folks. This is Craig Van Slyke. Welcome to the Rational Ignorance podcast, where we talk about ideas, values and living life well.

Andrea 0:15

Hi, I'm Andrea Christelle, a philosopher and outdoor enthusiast who lives in Sedona, Arizona. 

Craig 0:20

And I'm a business professor, author and rancher who lives in the middle of the woods in Eros, Louisiana. We're here to have fun, interesting conversations that help us get to the heart of what it means to live a good life. 

Andrea 0:30

Rational ignorance is an idea from economics that basically means there is a limit to what we need to know. So we'll skip the small stuff and focus on what really matters and help you move towards a flourishing life.

Craig 0:48

So Andrea, uh, here we are with another summer day of recording. Um, it is going to be hotter than blazes here in Louisiana. Our heat index is going to be 105 to 110 today. So I have taken care of my outside chores, even though it's only 10:30 in the morning, so.. I think I got a little dehydrated so if my voice sounds funny, that's why, so. You know, it's hot 99 degrees and 80% humidity is pretty miserable. How are things in Sedona? 

Andrea 1:24

I'm glad you're in out of that heat. Uh, we had that earlier this summer, but Sedona, we have just had some very welcome rainfall. We'd really been suffering from drought out here. They even closed the national forests for a time around the 4th of July, but we got some rain last week, but then just some, uh, really, uh, nice monsoon yesterday. And so we've been calling it the “nonsoons” for the last few years. So we're really grateful for the weather here. 

Craig 1:55

Yeah, that's really, that's awesome. I'm glad to hear that. So that'll cut down on the fire danger a lot. Yeah. It looks like it's one of those summers. So are you reading anything interesting these days? I found out about a new book yesterday. 

Andrea 2:09

Oh, well, tell me what you're reading. 

Craig 2:12

Well, I haven't started reading it yet. I just ordered it. It's a, a book by Russell D. Roberts called How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. When my friend Mihir told me about this, my first thought was, oh, Wealth of Nations. And it's not, it's all based on the theory of moral sentiments. So the, the other book that Adam Smith wrote. 

Andrea 2:37

Yeah, that's great. I'm, I'm glad that somebody is really bringing that out because you're right. And we really remember Adam Smith for the Wealth of Nations and in particular, the invisible hand. And I guess it's hard to be remembered for a lot of things. The theory of moral sentiments at its time was really a popular book in ethics and morality and Adam Smith, you know, again, we associate him as a more hard nosed economist, but I think you'll find when you read this book, he was really quite funny. One of my favorite parts from the theory of moral sentiments, when is when, um, he talks about sending young men off to the continent or to Europe, when in their early twenties, so that they can learn about, you know, art and literature and gain some experience of the world. And he talked and he said, you know, people say they always come back so much improved, but he makes the point. It's very difficult for men between the age of 20 and 22, not to improve immensely, no matter where they live, what they're doing. He's like, “I'm not so sure this has to do with sending them off to Europe.” 

Craig 3:45

They come back much improved. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a pretty astute observation that seems to endure even today. I, I know I was, um, had a lot of room for improvement, still do, but had a lot more room for improvement in my twenties. You know, it's kinda like lucky we survived those years. 

Andrea 4:04

Yeah. So, so we don't think of that, but, uh, I think, I think you'll really enjoy that. I'll probably pick that book up as well, because it's been a while since I've looked at Adam Smith, but I, right now I'm reading Reservation Restless, and that is a biographical account by, uh, Jim  Jim Kristofic and Jim Kristofic first became a well-known author for a book he wrote called on Navajos Wear Nikes, which was about his experience growing up with his mother and his brother on Navajo nation. And then this book is again a memoir, but written a little bit later. And then just to, just to great stories. 

Craig 4:44

So before we get into our topic of the day, which is human flourishing, kind of a kickoff to the substantive part of our season one, we would like to ask for your help with something we hope you enjoy and benefit from the Rational Ignorance podcast. If you do, help us spread the impact of the podcast and of the efforts that we put into it by sharing your favorite episode with one other person this week, uh, you know, the, the law of exponential numbers could help us spread the word immensely if we could just get each one of you to share it with one person that you think could benefit from it. Plus hopefully you'd be doing not just us a favor, but you'd be doing them a favor as well. 

Andrea 5:27

The topic that we'll discuss today, our season two is all about love living a flourishing life  and so we're just going to talk about, you know, what does that mean? What is flourishing? And basically that is just living as humans are intended to live, but, but what is that?

So we'll, we'll consider what it means to move towards flourishing as a human being. And this can be considered among one of the most fundamental questions facing us as humans. According to some traditions, flourishing is pursued for its own sake and not for the sake of anything else. So in contrast, there are many things that we do pursue for the sake of something else or because they have instrumental value. For example, we pursue money because it is instrumental in buying things or having security and many people pursued degrees because degrees are often instrumental in getting a job or learning a skill. Flourishing or living well has intrinsic value, we pursue it just for itself. And in this episode, we'll talk about some enduring strategies that people have used, and that hopefully you can use too, as you start your own journey towards flourishing.

Craig 6:42

Before we move forward too far, um, maybe I'll give a quick recap of the main points from our last episode, which was our reflections on season one and our preview of season two, we talked about flourishing there. So in an effort to not be overly redundant, we want to bring out some of the main points. So first, flourishing is a practice, it's not an adjective like excellent. So flourishing might be, part of flourishing might be living an excellent life, but we think of flourishing as a practice, not this descriptor for something else. It's also been termed as an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue and reason. So we're going to talk a lot about virtue. We always talk a lot about using reason. So, um, that's going to be important as we move forward. So in Aristotle's view, we can understand virtue as a kind of excellence. For example, if you are a virtuous friend, it means you're an excellent friend. There are virtues or excellences of character such as courage, friendliness, or generosity. You become virtuous in these excellence's through habits, just the way that you act and respond to people and the world on a daily basis. Virtue of character exists as a mean, or a middle point, but don't take middle too seriously or too, too, literally, I guess there's a better way to say it. So it's a mean between two extremes, one of excess and one of deficiency. For example, the virtue of kindness lies between not being kind enough or being unkind. Or going too far by being fawning. So finding that midpoint or what I think of as the sweet spot is different for everyone. It depends on who you are and it depends on the circumstances at hand. So it's not some objective universal value for this mean that Aristotle talks about. And then in contrast to virtues of character, which is what we, we focus on a lot in, or we will focus on a lot in this episode. There are also virtues of intellect. We won't get into that too much here, except to say that the idea of a mean between two midpoints doesn't apply to virtues of intellect. That idea of a mean is more a model for virtues of character. So in other words, you can't have too much intellect or too much wisdom. There is no, uh, vice of the excess there. And so we're, we're going to stick more to the character issues as we go through this seat. Did I cover everything? I think, I think I got it.

Andrea 9:20

Yeah. And I, and I think that, yes, I mean, in our character, I mean, that just has to do really with how we conduct ourselves, especially with relation to other people. Um, and you know, that's in our personal lives at home with our families, also in our professional lives, how we work with our calls. And even our political lives, how we conduct ourselves with citizens.

So virtues of character are really about dealing with other people in the world. 

Craig 9:46

Great. So that's what we covered in the last episode. And if you didn't hear that one, I would encourage you to, uh, give it a listen. And you can, you can go about halfway through and you see where we pick up on the flourishing part. So, Andrea, so this desire to flourish is, or really live life well is universal. It cuts across culture. It cuts across time. It applies to everyone, but that idea can be a little bit misleading because flourishing is really an individual journey, isn't it?

Andrea 10:20

Yes, that's exactly right. And you know, one of the reasons that people like Aristotle's model and one of the reasons that I like it is because it takes the idea of flourishing, or being ethical as something that is distinctly individual. It really depends on who and what someone is. And so it, we discover that by looking at, you know, our own unique talents and potentialities and circumstances. And so it's kind of tricky because while flourishing is unique to each individual person, it's also only achieved with other people. So flourishing is about how I can be my own best self, find that midpoint, right? Of kindness, you know, not going too far and not being unkind, but for, even though that's distinctive to me and distinctly individual, it has to do with how I relate to other people. And Aristotle thought that, that we loved to be around other people. He said, you know, people are distinctly social animals. Only a beast or a god would live outside the city, right? We all want to be around others now, Craig, neither you or I live in the city, right? We both kind of enjoy our living pretty far outside of it. But I think what, you know, Aristotle really meant by that is just, you know, our relationship with other people.

Craig 11:49

Right. I mean, you can't, you can't really, you can't live a flourishing life. If you're completely absent of any kind of relationships with others. You know, a hermit might be happy out in the woods, but they're not really living a flourishing life. And I think that, you know, even the Stoics, there are a number of quotes that essentially say that, you know, life isn't worth living, then things aren't worth experiencing if you don't have any, anybody to share them with. So even the, you know, kind of the, the philosophers that have this incorrect view of being stony faced and, you know, these completely logical, never feel anything people, which is totally wrong. We'll talk about that in a later episode. But even they recognize very clearly that life is only worth living if you live it with others. 

Andrea 12:40

Yeah. Make no mistake about it. I mean, these guys like to get together and throw parties. So that was a big part of what they did is get together and talk and so definitely friendship is a big part of a good life. And, you know, I think another thing to think about too is, you know, in Aristotle's time, the way people could connect with and relate to other people really depended on their ability to get together in person face to face. And, um, you know, as this podcast and almost all podcasts illustrate, we have a lot of other ways to connect and communicate with one another now. 

Craig 13:17

And I'll bet they didn't have to wear masks unless that was part of the party. So, sorry, that was, I'm tired. That's the best... 

Andrea 13:27

Right, but probably masks that covered, covered your eyes, not mask that covered your mouth.

Craig 13:31
 Yes, I’m sure that wasn’t a great joke, but I'm tired. 

Andrea 13:31

Which way, what is the mask covering? No, I think we need some mask jokes, there's been a lot of seriousness around masks, few mask jokes, or.

Craig 13:42

You haven’t seen my Willie Nelson mask. My favorite mask is a mask that has a picture of Willie Nelson on it and a bandana. And it says, “Have a Willy nice day”. I love it. You know, if you're going to wear a mask, it should be a fun mask. That's my view. 

Andrea 13:59

I'll have to work on that. See, I think I've got the vice of deficiency there. My masks are not nearly fun enough. I'll have to work on having excellence with respect, to, you know, celebrating the occasion to wear a mask. Right? I mean, how often do you get to paste a message right across your face? So you could take... 

Craig 14:15

Just because your personality is so shining, no mask could ever compete. So I need help. I need help, on the other hand.

Andrea 14:26

Oh, I think we could all use some help and I just, the opportunity to convey that message. But so maybe that has to do with the habit, right? What's our habit of wearing masks? I mean, the whole idea of flourishing right. Is an ongoing practice and it has to do with building up good habits. So, um, Aristotle called this practical wisdom because it has to do with developing good judgment about how we act in daily life. So it's very practical. It's also intentional and it has more to do with what you do and the way you act than what you know. So that's another way that practical wisdom is different than, than wisdom. Right? We have these virtues of character, you know, we learn things, you know, so that we can practice these virtues of character, but in the end you're cultivating this, not so that you have some knowledge or understand something you're cultivating these virtues of character so that you act in the right way. The idea of flourishing is that it's an ongoing practice and it has to do with daily life and developing good habits. It's called practical wisdom because it's about how we live day to day. And it has more to do with the way that we act than it does to do with, um, knowing anything. So wisdom or virtues of intellect are really about what we understand intellectually, the things that we learn, but practical wisdom is really about how, how we act with respect to other people and how we conduct our own lives. Aristotle thought, and we do too, that a flourishing life is one where you have a good character and this encompasses everything from how you acquire wealth and practice philanthropy to eating right and exercising to being a good friend and to not losing your temper too much or at the wrong time. So as you can tell, it's  pretty broad really has to do with your conduct overall.

And unsurprisingly, all this requires a good bit of effort. I mean, you have to work to first of all, to figure out what those virtues are for you, right. Because they're relative to us. They're not the same for everybody, but just because you may know what you should do doesn't mean it's necessarily easy to do it. So again, effort is needed to act in the way that you should, but just like any habit, the more you practice being virtuous, the easier it gets. And sometimes, you know, when Aristotle wrote about this, he talked about self perfection and we could think about self perfection, but that's pretty lofty. And, you know, Aristotle knew just like we all do that pretty much nobody's perfect. But even still, we can aim for that. And that's what the system of practical wisdom and virtues is really all about, is, you know, being your best version of yourself. 

Craig 17:23

Aristotle clearly never visited Louisiana. That whole eating well thing just goes right out the window when you're here. So we'll have to, I may maybe, maybe the, maybe the mean is just in a different spot in Louisiana. I don't know. 

Andrea 17:37

Well, I think that, you know, Aristotle's understanding of eating well, didn't I think mean necessarily eating as healthfully as possible, he meant eating good food. And I think from that point of view, Louisiana would fit right in there.

Craig 17:50

Yeah. I’ll tell you what, it's uh, everybody thinks about New Orleans and New Orleans has more great restaurants per block than any place I've ever been. But man, even the little gas stations around here have just good foods, so. It's 11 o'clock, so I'm starting to get hungry, so. 

Andrea 18:10

And New Orleans has, you know, absolutely has amazing, fine dining, but it has its own share of just, you know, gas station Po'Boys and very casual food that is outstanding. I remember when I was living in New Orleans, uh, once I was walking down Magazine Street and a car pulled over and they said, “Hey, can you tell us where the Wendy's is?’ And we said, “You are in New Orleans, why in the world would you go to Wendy's? Don’t do that!” 

Craig 18:40

Maybe they just wanted to avoid it. Although Popeye's is really big in New Orleans. So, but Popeye's is pretty good. I have to admit the best Po-Boy boy I've ever had in my life was in some dive bar in, in a, not so great part of New Orleans. So anyway, sorry. Like I said, it's close to lunchtime. So I think I've taken us off track here. 

Andrea 19:02

But actually you really, you really haven't. I mean, I think this is an important point because, you know, when we talk about, you know, eating well, I think we often think about like eating as healthfully as possible or, you know, watching our calories. But for Aristotle, he really thought that, you know, to eat well was to really enjoy yourself, right? And to that, he thought that this, this virtuous mean could be located in between, you know, the vice of excess is obviously gluttony. But he thought that if there was a deficiency that if you are constantly counting calories and drinking, nothing but water and worried about your health all the time, that you're really not enjoying food and company, the way that you were meant to. So I think, you know, Aristotle would fit right in in New Orleans. 

Craig 19:45

Alright, I'm going to go out and find some tater tots, then. So that's my big vice. It's been about 35 years since I've had a french fry. Oh, tots, I just can't, I can't resist them. So anyway, sorry. I said I'm hungry. Um, all right. So let, let me see if I can kind of summarize our substantive position on what flourishing is, cause I think it's important for people to know that. Flourishing is a state of being or an activity of the soul. It's not an end state to be pursued, so it's not something that you achieve and then you're done. It's something that you really, you kind of are. Is that, do I have that right? 

Andrea 20:33

I think so. And I mean, you know, we're borrowing this language and activity of the soul, right, directly from Aristotle, but I think that's worth thinking about a little bit. I mean, that's not language that most people banner around every day, I mean, what does that mean? An activity of your soul? You know, that means, like you said, it's like a way that you are, but it's active, right? It's it's not this state, it's just like a way that you're coming at the world and it's, it's very much, uh, you know, something that you're constantly doing. So I think it's worth, you know, talking that over just a little bit, cause it's kind of unusual, and not a way that most of us talk in our day-to-day lives. 

Craig 21:14

I would agree with that, but I think that's one of the things that makes it really a useful little phrase because it is so unusual and it does get, as you said, the part of the activity, the activity part, you know, it's something that we do. But I think the soul part is also, uh, important because one way we can think about the soul is that it is the core of who you are, not just as a human being, but if you believe in certain religions or certain views of what, what, you know, the universe is all about the soul is you. It is the deepest expression of you. And so this idea of flourishing is to try to, maybe feed isn't the right word, but you know, you're, you're trying to make your soul better. So it's not just your daily life, you're really trying to position your soul in a way that's going to be good for eternity. And I don't know, maybe that's a little woo woo, but that's kind of how I view it. 

Andrea 22:14

Yeah. I think we can go a little woo woo in that direction, and you're really right to point out that it is a substantive position to presuppose that there is a soul, that there is an essence of us, right? Because that's something that a lot of philosophers or people would deny, you know, that the soul is, you know, just this adventitious idea made up, right, and, and there's nothing really there, right? All we are is, you know, uh, a physical being, right? And we have these ideas and, but, you know, once we die, everything about us dies and nothing continues or there is no underlying thing. And Aristotle, you know, thinks that there's a soul or an essence of us. And think we take that position here as well. 

Craig 22:59

I certainly do. I mean, it just doesn't, it doesn't make any sense to me that it's, you know, any other way, people can believe what they want, it's up to them. But the, the, the thing about flourishing is, if there really is a soul and you're doing things that are going to improve your soul, that's a huge thing to do. But if there's not a soul and when we die, that's it, you've still made yourself a better human being during your time on this earth, to the benefit of yourself and all of those people that you interact with. So whether or not there really is a soul, I mean, it, if you try to live this flourishing life, then if there is a soul, you win, if there isn't a soul, you win. So I see nothing but upside. There's no downside to it. 

Andrea 23:45

Yeah, that seems right. And you know, we've talked a lot about, you know, practical wisdom and the virtues being about how we relate to other people and the way we act and dealing with others, but you're really right to point out that it's also about our experience of ourselves, right? So this has to do with how we get along with others, but it's also how we, you know, if we think about our soul, you know, how we experience ourselves or enjoy our own conduct or our own activities with others, or even, you know, the way we study. It's, it's really about self development and so I think that, you know, that's part of flourishing too. How do we conduct ourselves with respect to others, but how do we experience ourselves in this world.

Craig 24:26

Okay. Okay, great. Great. And so to kind of wrap up kind of the, this, um, overall summary. Flourishing is distinctly individual, but it is only done through interaction with others. You can't, it's an individual activity, but you can't do it alone. And then finally, flourishing, we want to flourish for its own sake. We don't, we don't need to flourish because it leads to something else. We, it is an end, end state bothers me a little bit, but it's a pursuit in its own right. So there's no higher, good that you're trying to pursue out of flourishing. So in anything you want to add, Andrea, do you think that captures the high points? 

Andrea 25:12

Yeah. No, I think that, I think that's it. And I just think again, one point to emphasize, and we've said this already is that it really does depend on you. So, you know, Aristotle likens this to hitting the bullseye with an arrow, right? You know, if virtue is an excellence, how do I get there? Because I want to have these virtues so I can flourish. And it's like, well, you have to do it at the right time. And the right measure with respect to the right person. And you just have to sort of nail it, right? You really have to get it right. And, you know, he says, well, there are all sorts of ways you can miss the bullseye, right? But if you get closer, that's better. But even though it's relative to each person, there is still a way to get it just right. And so, so if you think about it like this, it's really almost kind of like a game and it can be a lot of fun. So, cause I think that when we, you know, we talk about ethics or we talk about, you know, living a flourishing life or what we ought to do, I mean, this can sound sort of moralistic or heavy handed, but I don't think that's the way it's intended at all. It's intended to like, have a good time. Like how can you really enjoy your own life and getting along with others? And so I think that's important to, to remember that flourishing, isn't like something that you have to do to be a good person. It's about like, you know, how you want to be, to have the best time.

Craig 26:30

Let's take a quick break from talking about flourishing to let you know about another podcast that might be of interest: the Assorted Goods podcast. 

Assorted Goods Podcast Promo 26:39

You ever wish you could learn just a bit more about the world, but have no idea where to start? Well, I know how you feel. And that's what the Assorted Goods podcast is here for. Join Dan, me, a bad student turns a curious mind who's just trying to get a tiny bit smarter as he gets a little older. Every episode I pick a big topic or idea, do a little research, see what I find, then I pass it along to you. It's a podcast for anyone who's too damn busy to do the research. That’s what I'm here for. So stop by Assorted Goods, have a listen and join me on my journey to figure out the world one story at a time. Find Assorted Goods, wherever you get your podcasts, and I'll see you there. 

Craig 27:17

We're going to shift gears here in a minute and talk about different approaches. Different ways to view what flourishing is. And we're going to talk a lot about the Greeks and Aristotle, because that's kind of our experience and what we know about, but there are others, other ways to view this. So we've got the philosophical perspective and not just Aristotle, but other philosophical traditions, but we can also view flourishing through the lens of psychology. And so we're going to talk about that. And then we're also going to talk about how, uh, flourishing relates to religion and spirituality, how we can view it through those lenses. So we're going to talk about all of those in just a minute. 

Andrea 27:56

Yes, but right now we'd like to ask you, if you would like to help offset the expenses of bringing Rational Ignorance to you. You can make a one-time donation through Buy Me A Coffee or provide ongoing support through Patreon. There are links to both on We really appreciate your support. Thank you.

Craig 28:17

And if you support us at any level, you get a sticker. I don't know. I, you know, I, I love stickers. Everybody loves stickers. You can put it on your coffee mug, you can slap it on your laptop, whatever you want to do. And everybody will know that you're rationally ignorant, highly recommend it. Alright, thanks, Andrea. 

Andrea 28:33


Craig 28:34

Okay, so we just mentioned, there are a lot of different perspectives on flourishing. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about some of the philosophical perspectives. 

Andrea 28:43

So we've talked a lot about Aristotle's model, but you know, there are other views of what it means to flourish in different philosophical accounts. And I wouldn't say that these are  necessarily competing. I think that really, they tend to emphasize different points. So the Stoics are really popular. Who knew that the Stoics would enjoy such a popular resurgence in contemporary culture, but they have. And their view really had to do with controlling our emotions. And again, I think that Stoics can be mis-characterized sometimes as being all, you know, stony faced and serious and never showing any emotion, but that's not what the Stoics were really all about. Uh, they were really about not letting your emotions go too far or get the better of you in very difficult circumstances. But, you know, Stoics thought that we should relax and enjoy life as much as anyone, but their focus is, is on maintaining self control. And always, you know, if you are going to get angry, you know, that, that you're making a conscious decision about how you are regulating your emotions with respect to external circumstances and not just not, not losing control of yourself.

Craig 30:08

I was just going to add, sorry to interrupt, that you could argue that the point of stoicism is to live a tranquil life. That's one of their goals. So they want to kind of banish negative emotions and, and enhance the positive emotions. And we'll, we'll talk about stoicism, uh, more as we go through this season.

Andrea 30:26

Sure. And another school of thought that we'll look at is Daoism. The Tao Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu. And you know, I think that one of the things that's so important to remember about this is that Lao Tzu was a public administrator, right. We often think of philosophers or people that are disengaged from public life and practical affairs, but he was someone who was operating at the highest levels of political administration. And, you know, he really thought about how we can live in accordance with nature. So the Dao is often translated as “the way”, and this is the way that we see, you know, embodied nature by the movement of water by the changing of seasons. And this is something that certainly has an order to it, but that we can't quite name, but there is a way of being in sync and harmony with nature. And we'll explore some of these strategies. This is one of my favorite schools of thought, uh, lately, just because of the work that I'm doing with Sedona Philosophy and all of the time that I spend in nature, think this is a really great way to think about flourishing, but in addition to looking at some philosophical traditions, we'll also look at, um, contemporary social scientific approaches. And so Craig, maybe you could talk to us about how, for example, psychology views a flourishing life. 

Craig 31:59

Sure. There's a fair amount of attention given to flourishing right now. And part of that is because of the positive psychology movement, which has its detractors, but I think there's some useful things there. So the, arguably the person who kind of started this movement towards positive psychology was a Martin Seligman. And that school of thinking defines flourishing as the product of the pursuit and engagement of an authentic life that brings inner joy and happiness through meeting goals, being connected, being connected with life's passions and relishing in accomplishments, both through the peaks and the valleys of life.

That's a close quote from Dr. Lynn Soots. But we can see there's some overlap here with what we've been talking about with Aristotle, but it's much more goal oriented. You know, it's much more of a thing than an activity that the way that I read it. And in fact, uh, there, there are a number of researchers that are trying to measure flourishing, which if you take the Aristotelian view, I'm not sure that makes any sense and maybe they don't really think they're actually measuring flourishing, these are indicators of flourishing. Sorry, Andrea, were you going to interject? 

Andrea 33:18

I was just going to say that. I think that we're really open-minded about this. And so we're interested, not so much in nailing down what we think the one right way to live a flourishing life is. Like Aristotle we think this is very individualistic and we think a lot of different schools and strategies and approaches can be helpful. So that's our goal, to explore different strategies rather than to endorse anyone as being, you know, better or better than the others necessarily. I mean, we're just interested in looking at a variety of approaches and pointing out what we think some of the strengths and weaknesses are. 

Craig 33:56

So, and, and I, I should point out that I'm not, I don't mean to be critical here, in fact, I'm in the early parts of a research project where we're actually going to try to measure these indicators of flourishing. I'm not trying to be critical of it, I was just pointing out that, you know, there's, there's a little bit of a tension between some of these views, although there are overlaps too. So Seligman has what is called the PERMA, P E R M A model of flourishing that has five factors: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. And Seligman claims that these components are the foundations of human wellbeing and they're integral to flourishing or to living a good life. And he also claims that there's sought for their own sake rather than in pursuit of some other goal. So there's an overlap there where there, I mean, he can kind of think of these as being cardinal. There's, uh, an institute or a center at Harvard that takes a slightly different view, but kind of comes out of the same sort of thinking. So the Harvard view says there are six domains to flourishing. The first is happiness and life satisfaction. The second is mental and physical health. Third we've got meaning and purpose. Fourth is character and virtue. Fifth is close social relationships and the final one is financial and material stability. And so we can see that they're overlapped with Seligman's view, but I think you can clearly see the influence of the, of the Aristotle view and how Harvard is approaching this. And so we'll, we'll touch a little bit on the, I don't know that we're going to do a lot with the psychology view, but it's important to, to know that these, these different views do exist. So one final perspective is coming from religion and spirituality, which we're combining, even though they're not exactly the same thing. Andrea, can you share a little bit about what, uh, religion and spirituality, what that perspective might look like? 

Andrea 36:04

Sure. I mean, I think we want to discuss that because again, while we're not taking a substantive view on endorsing any particular religion or spiritual approach that this is for many people a really important part of living a flourishing life, and many people do experience connection with a creator or a universal energy force, or even transcendent experiences are very much a part of many people's religion and even personal experience and feeling that like, we are connecting with something either within nature, right?

Or something that takes us beyond this realm. And, and both of those things are part of, of spiritual traditions, right? So some spiritual traditions, especially like Christianity, for example, focuses on going beyond this world or transcending what is here while as other spiritual traditions, such as Daoism really locate the divine within nature itself, right?

It's not about going anywhere else or going beyond this world. It's about connecting more deeply with what is right here, this sort of imminence and presence. And this sense of connection, whether it's something beyond or something right here often provides a really profound sense of meaning and what some people conceive as you know, the, the ultimate purpose of human life and is the like sort of culmination of a flourishing life. And philosophy and religion have an interesting relationship. Historically, they've been very much connected and very much aligned and then recently, especially, you know, I would say in the last, you know, uh, 50 years or so, maybe even longer, those have really been, um, separated in the academy. So that now you have, you know, departments of religious studies that are very much separate from departments of philosophy. But when we look at, you know, certain traditions, there can be very much an overlap here. And we think for most people in day to day life, that some sort of a spiritual path can be a part of a flourishing life. So, um, we'll, we'll definitely talk about that. 

Craig 38:21

Right. And I think we can kind of close out this little bit by pointing out that there's a lot of overlap. You probably noticed, um, your listeners probably noticed as we went through that, there's, there's a lot of commonality across those. We're going to focus primarily on the commonalities, although we may get into some of the differences and play them off each other from time to time. 

Andrea 38:43

Yeah, and we’re really looking forward to this season because as you can see, like these questions about how to live a good life have been around for a long time, there are a lot of good and helpful traditions that come from philosophy or psychology or religious studies, and they all have something to contribute. And this is one of those things that, you know, we don't expect anyone ever to provide a final or settled answer. And yet we think that by having these conversations and talking to one another, that we can get, uh, gain little glimmers of insight that are helpful. And, uh, we encourage you to have these same discussions with your friends, because we really think that this is what the practice of philosophy is all about.

Not necessarily answering these questions, but continuing to, to explore these questions.

Craig 39:25

Great. And so we're, we're going to try to do two big things in the remainder of this season, we're going to give some examples of how people are approaching flourishing. How do we try to get at this practice flourishing? And then we're going to talk about some different, uh, dig into some of the different ways that people have viewed flourishing. I mean, we gave a preview of that in this episode, but we're going to go into more detail on some specifics. Our next episode is going to be a little bit different because we're interviewing Sebastian Siegel, who is the writer and producer of the film, Grace and Grit. I want to put grit first. It must be again, a hunger thing. You know, that our international listeners or people outside of the south might not know what grits are, but they're wonderful. So it's Grace and Grit. I always want to put grit first. 

Andrea 40:16

And just to be clear, it's yes, it's, it's the, the tough moral position, not, not the grits, plural, which are the delicious corn based, uh, breakfast food that Craig is making us think of or shrimp and grits for dinner, I mean, there are a lot of ways to enjoy grits, but it's very important to have to have grit, have determination and have that steely will that is such a perfect accompaniment to grace when you're dealing with life's challenges. I don't know how I got all the way from shrimping. 

Craig 40:50

It's getting close to lunchtime, at least here in Louisiana. And so we're going to really have an interesting conversation with Sebastian in that episode. Sorry, I've got this memory. I'm going to tell a story in it. If you'll indulge me for just a second. So when I did the doctoral consortium for my field, this is a, this was a big deal. So they picked 20 graduating doctoral students from the US and 20 doctoral students from outside the US and they brought us all together in the woods of Georgia, that it's affiliated with our international conference on information systems. And that was in Atlanta. So they took us off-site. And this place was Georgia. I mean, it was not Atlanta. It was Georgia. And we had these international students trying to communicate with these wonderful Southern ladies who were the servers at the lodge, where we were staying. And one of the guys looked at me and he said, Craig, what is a grit? And so I had to try to explain grits to this guy, who happened to be Chinese. And so I was just translating between the servers who couldn't understand the international students and their international students who could all speak English perfectly fine, but you know, certain parts of the south, it's not exactly the English that they're going to study outside the US so it was just a lot of fun explaining to them that grits are a vehicle for flavors. That's the best way to think about grits. It's all what you put in the grits. You don't want to eat grits with nothing. They're vehicles for flavor. 

Andrea 42:26

Well, and I think that's definitely related here because it's a perfect example of virtues of character versus virtues of intellect rate and practical wisdom versus wisdom. And when it comes to grits, they're just about, you want to have the practical virtue of just experiencing that and with the right amount of enthusiasm and, and his intellectual pursuit, really, isn't the point of knowing what is a grit. 

Craig 42:50

That’s right, what is a grit? Well, no, we don't think about it that way. I had the same kind of experience when I went to China, I finally figured out all I wanted to, I quit asking what things were. I just wanted to know how spicy it was. If it was really spicy, I probably wouldn't eat it, or I wouldn't eat much of it. If it wasn't spicy, go ahead and put it on my plate. I'm fine. I don't care what it is. I'll eat it. So it works out. 

Andrea 43:17

Well, I mean that's right, right. Yeah. I mean, a lot of times it's not the answer, it's figuring out how to ask the right question, so. 

Craig 43:24

Or not ask…

Andrea 43:27

But, and, and so we're going to work on that, ask or not ask, but we're going to work on, um, asking hopefully some, some different kinds of questions. When it comes to season two and thinking about a flourishing life, we're going to have artists and musicians, um, on here, we'll be exploring, you know, Western culture and Eastern culture, but also indigenous culture. So, um, we'll be looking, you know, at some of the most famous and well-known approaches, but also some different approaches. So we think it's a lot of fun and, uh, we hope you will too. Yeah, it should, it should be interesting. I think we'll all learn a lot. All right. So as we start to wrap up, Andrea, let's talk about three things, three things that people can do over the next couple of weeks to start moving more towards living a flourishing life.

Andrea 44:14

Craig and I have come up with a new sort of way to conclude these episodes, which is by having an action plan or, you know, offering just three practical things that you can do, uh, that will contribute to a flourishing life. So, uh, first thing that our listeners can try is to pick one virtue. Kindness, or temperance, I'm just giving some examples here. Moderation, maybe tranquility, maybe it's industry, working hard, or maybe your temper, just pick one virtue that you're interested in cultivating and work on that. So that's one thing you can do. 

Craig 44:50

Think hard about how living according to that virtue would help you be the kind of person you want to be. So, how.. I'll give you a really quick example. I had a little bit of my dad's temper who could be really quick, but then it was all over. And I I'm, I usually don't get upset about things that matter, I'll get upset about things that don't matter. And then I realized it was having a negative effect on my relationship with Tracy. And so I had to start reflecting, you know, what does it mean, you know, for me to, to maintain this, this, um, lack of virtue.

And so I started consciously reigning in, I was really bad in traffic. I mean, I wouldn't do road rage stuff, I’d just yell on the car, which I thought was a good release, but it bothered her. So I started training myself through, through practice, you know, just, okay. I need to be aware of this. You know, I need to tone it down. And over time, it got to the point where I was down in Orlando, driving somewhere with a couple of my really long time friends, friends from one of those I've been friends with since seventh grade. And one of them looked at me and said, when did you start driving like a normal person? You know, you haven't yelled at anybody,

you haven't honked the horn, you haven't done anything. And so, anyway, but, but think about what it means, if you can live according to whatever this virtue is that you're pursuing. All right, so that's two things. Pick a virtue, really think, really reflect deeply about what it means to your life, to live according to this virtue or to not live according to this virtue.

What's the third thing, Andrea. 

Andrea 46:30

Okay. And then the third thing is just over these next two weeks, try to really pay attention to whether you are bringing this virtue into your life effectively. So at the end of each day, think about any times you changed your action because of your awareness of the virtue.

So three steps, they're all connected to one another. One, pick the virtue. Number two, think about how really cultivating that virtue is going to help you be the kind of person that you want to be. And then three, just notice over the next two weeks, how you're doing.

Craig 47:04

Great. That sounds like a good plan. All right, I think it's time to wrap. Anything else you want to add? Any final thoughts? 

Andrea 47:12

No, really looking forward to this season. And thanks so much, everyone for listening. 

Craig 47:16

Thank you very much. I'm going to spend the rest of the day in the air conditioning, I think. Cause it's going to be hot here. All right. Thanks everybody. We'll see you in a couple of weeks. 

Craig 47:24

The Rational Ignorance podcast is sponsored by Sedona Philosophy, a completely unique tour company that uses Sedona’s amazing natural environment to unlock personal growth and insight. Explore nature, culture and history with a philosophical twist. Visit to learn more.

Andrea 47:40

Thanks, Craig. If you enjoyed this podcast, hit the subscribe button, please rate, review and tell your friends. Until next time.