Volume 10, 2018
Ancient Spiritual Exercises in Contemporary Philosophy
Actualization of Philosophy as a Way of Life
The goal of this paper is to understand in what way contemporary philosophy apprehends spiritual exercises as they were conceived, shared and practiced by ancient philosophers. Aimed at self-improvement and self-trans-formation, spiritual exercises were intended to enable one to live a philosophical life. As such they represented an essential element in the main concerns of antique schools. Thus philosophers elaborated doctrines and theories, while maintaining a real and daily practice of these views. Indeed, the axis theôria/praxis is one the most important of spiritual exercises and is also a connecting thread in this paper leading to a better understanding of the notion of “spiritual exercise” itself. Pierre Hadot is the one who discovered traces of spiritual exer-cises - their construction and implementation in ancient philosophy. However, philosophy goes far beyond the antique philosophers, to our contemporary era. As a result, for more than 2,500 years spiritual exercises have been ques-tioned, reorganized by their environment, notably the religious environment. Consequently, the aim here is to determine the very essence of the antique spiritual exercises in the evolution of philosophy in a general sense, and more particularly in contemporary philosophy. Keeping in mind both theory and daily practices we can notice that there has been a certain re-introduction and actualization of ancient philosophy. First, in America through Pierce’s pragmatism, which tends towards melioration and self-transformation, and through Stanley Cavell’s thoughts - notably his “ordinary” theory - which questioning the very existence of contemporary popular spiritual exercise. And then in the old continent through Nietzsche, Wittgenstein or even Foucault, who seems to have defined spiritual exercises with his aesthetics of existence.