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559 Kieran Setiya: Life Is Hard

“Life Is Hard” explores the challenges and complexities of human existence, delving into philosophical, political, and psychological perspectives on happiness.



"Life Is Hard" by Kieran Setiya provides a thought-provoking examination of the inherent difficulties and existential challenges of human life. Through a blend of philosophy, politics, and psychology, Setiya explores the multifaceted aspects of happiness and the pursuit of a fulfilling life. Drawing on philosophical traditions and engaging with contemporary ideas, the book tackles fundamental questions about the nature of happiness, the role of political institutions in shaping our well-being, and the psychological factors that contribute to our sense of satisfaction. By acknowledging the hardships of existence and offering insights into navigating life's complexities, "Life Is Hard" encourages readers to reevaluate their perspectives on happiness, providing a nuanced and reflective exploration of the human experience.


  1. Title: Life Is Hard: Philosophy, Politics, and the Pursuit of Happiness 
  2. Author: Kieran Setiya 
  3. Publishing Year: 2021 
  4. Publisher: Princeton University Press 
  5. Length in Hours: 5 hrs and 52 mins

5 main ideas

  1. The Complex Nature of Happiness: The book examines the intricacies of happiness, delving into different philosophical conceptions and exploring the challenges of achieving a lasting sense of well-being.
  2. The Role of Politics: Setiya investigates the relationship between political structures and individual happiness, exploring how social institutions impact our opportunities for fulfillment and flourishing.
  3. Existential Challenges: The book acknowledges the inherent difficulties of life, such as mortality, loss, and uncertainty, and offers philosophical and psychological insights for coping with these challenges.
  4. The Pursuit of Meaning: Setiya explores the importance of finding meaning and purpose in life, investigating the various philosophical and psychological frameworks that contribute to a meaningful existence.
  5. Practical Strategies for Happiness: The book offers practical advice and strategies for navigating life's hardships, drawing on philosophical wisdom and psychological research to help readers cultivate resilience and well-being.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Life may be hard, but it doesn't mean we can't find humor and joy in the absurdity and unpredictability of it all."
  2. "Sometimes the secret to happiness lies in embracing the small pleasures, like a perfect cup of coffee or a warm hug from a loved one."
  3. "In the pursuit of happiness, don't forget to indulge in guilty pleasures and occasional ice cream sundaes – they can be therapeutic!"
  4. "Navigating the complexities of life is like a dance; sometimes we stumble, but we can always find our rhythm and keep moving forward."
  5. "Life's challenges may be tough, but remember that laughter is a powerful antidote – find reasons to smile and laugh, even in the darkest moments."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "In our pursuit of happiness, we must confront the existential challenges that life presents, finding meaning and purpose amidst the difficulties."
  2. "Happiness is not a fixed state to be achieved, but a dynamic and ongoing process of navigating life's complexities and embracing its uncertainties."
  3. "Politics plays a crucial role in shaping the conditions for individual happiness, as social institutions and policies shape our opportunities and well-being."
  4. "Acknowledging the hardships of life does not diminish our capacity for happiness; instead, it invites us to cultivate resilience and find joy amidst the challenges."
  5. "The quest for happiness requires a balance between pursuing personal desires and engaging in meaningful connections with others and the wider community."

5 dilemmas

  1. The tension between individual happiness and the collective well-being of society, and the ethical considerations in navigating this balance.
  2. The challenges of finding meaning and purpose in life amidst the complexities and uncertainties of the modern world.
  3. The role of external factors, such as social and economic conditions, in influencing individual happiness, and the agency individuals have in shaping their own well-being.
  4. The paradox of choice: the overwhelming array of options in modern life and its impact on our ability to make satisfying decisions and find happiness.
  5. The interplay between personal desires and societal expectations, and the negotiation between individual autonomy and social norms in the pursuit of happiness.

5 examples

  1. Aristotle - The book engages with Aristotle's philosophical insights on happiness, exploring his concept of eudaimonia and its relevance to modern understandings of well-being.
  2. John Stuart Mill - Setiya discusses Mill's utilitarian philosophy and its implications for individual happiness and the role of government in promoting the greater good.
  3. Viktor Frankl - The book draws inspiration from Frankl's existential perspective, highlighting the importance of finding meaning in life as a pathway to happiness.
  4. Mahatma Gandhi - Setiya explores Gandhi's teachings on nonviolence, simplicity, and selfless service, and how they contribute to personal and collective well-being.
  5. Martin Luther King Jr. - The book reflects on the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and his advocacy for justice and equality, examining the relationship between social progress and individual happiness.

Referenced books

  1. "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius
  2. "The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom" by Jonathan Haidt
  3. "The Art of Happiness" by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler
  4. "The Courage to Be" by Paul Tillich
  5. "The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain de Botton

Share a quote

"Life's challenges may be tough, but remember that laughter is a powerful antidote – find reasons to smile and laugh, even in the darkest moments."

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