How Should We Live? Book Summary - How Should We Live? Book explained in key points
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How Should We Live? summary

Roman Krznaric

Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life

4.5 (58 ratings)
32 mins

Brief summary

How Should We Live? by Roman Krznaric explores the most essential ethical questions we face and invites us to think beyond our present day concerns to consider the impact of our choices on future generations.

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    How Should We Live?
    Summary of 12 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 12

    The modern Romantic idea of a soul mate is impractical in reality.

    Finding love these days can be pretty tricky. After days spent trawling through profiles on dating sites, we spend countless evenings on awkward and unsuccessful dates. And, in the end, we wind up right where we began: alone.

    But why is it so hard to find that special someone?

    Well, we might be too narrow-minded when it comes to love. We expect a single individual to satisfy all our emotional needs. But these emotional needs are complex and diverse – and usually far too numerous for one person to meet.

    So we might want to take a tip from the ancient Greeks, who had a much better approach to love.

    They believed that love took six distinguishable forms:

    • Eros, the fiery, passionate yet dangerous love;
    • Philia, the platonic love between friends and comrades;
    • Ludus, the playfulness that is found among new lovers and children;
    • Pragma, the deep understanding that grows over time between partners;
    • Agape, the selfless, charitable love for our fellow humans;
    • and Philautia, the love of the self, which could be either a positive acceptance or a detrimental self-obsession.

    Rather than relying on one partner to satisfy all these needs, the ancient Greeks believed that each role could be fulfilled by different individuals. This allowed them to spread their emotional needs across a wide range of relationships, making it easier for them to find love.

    But how did we get from this ancient Greek ideal to our present, rather messy, state? Unfortunately, over the centuries, the six Greek forms of love gradually merged together.

    This merging began in the medieval literature of Arabia, which popularized the passion of eros between two lovers, and the joining of their souls. The idea spread to medieval Europe, where it was combined with the selflessness of agape and became cortezia, or courtly love. Chivalric culture expected knights to perform noble, selfless deeds in the name of passionate love.

    In the sixteenth century, the Dutch made these passions central to marriage, which was previously just a contract of alliance, and, in the process, combined them with the philia and pragma that grew between spouses.

    Finally, twentieth-century capitalism brought the narcissism of philautia, as love became tied to consumerism.

    So, if we want to find true love, it’s time we undid over two thousand years of history and looked for various individuals to fill our many emotional needs.

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    What is How Should We Live? about?

    How Should We Live? (2013) gives a wide-lense view of why we Westerners tend to think the way we do. From love to work to death, it explains how our modern-day views evolved, and offers some age-old advice on how we might improve them.

    How Should We Live? Review

    How Should We Live? (2020) by Roman Krznaric is a thought-provoking exploration of how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With insightful perspectives on topics like empathy, work, and love, it challenges conventional wisdom and encourages readers to reconsider their choices.
    • By incorporating historical examples of individuals who have lived purposefully, the book offers practical wisdom and inspiration for applying these insights to our own lives.
    • Through its engaging storytelling and thought-provoking questions, the book ensures that readers stay engaged, never finding it dull or repetitive.

    Best quote from How Should We Live?

    Medieval science believed in five additional inner senses: fantasy, instinct, memory, imagination and common sense.

    —Roman Krznaric
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    Who should read How Should We Live??

    • People looking for a historical take on lifestyle advice
    • Anyone interested in the roots of our cultural preconceptions
    • General-knowledge buffs after a little extra history

    About the Author

    Roman Krznaric, is a social philosopher and author. He is the cofounder, along with Alain de Botton, of The School of Life, in London. He has taught sociology and politics at both Cambridge University and City University London.

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    How Should We Live? FAQs 

    What is the main message of How Should We Live??

    How Should We Live? explores different ways of living and suggests that a well-lived life is one that embraces meaningful connections and personal growth.

    How long does it take to read How Should We Live??

    The reading time for How Should We Live? varies based on individual reading speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in under 15 minutes.

    Is How Should We Live? a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How Should We Live? is a thought-provoking book that encourages self-reflection and inspires alternative ways of living. Well worth the read!

    Who is the author of How Should We Live??

    Roman Krznaric is the author of How Should We Live?.

    What to read after How Should We Live??

    If you're wondering what to read next after How Should We Live?, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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