Philosophy as a Way of Life in the Digital Age: The Dangers and Promises of “Non-Local” Philosophical Education

Eli Kramer (Visiting Assistant Professor [as of October 2018], The Department of the Philosophy of Culture, Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw).


Pierre Hadot’s conception of Philosophy as a Way of Life has revitalized questions about the meaning, purpose, training, and vocation of philosophers today. It has inspired and supported Neostoic, Neoplatonist, and other philosophical online communities of inquirers seeking to practice philosophy as a way of life. These new kinds of communities differ greatly from the in person communally reinforced practice of ancient philosophy, and the kind of individualized scholastic, philosophical education available in undergraduate and graduate departments today. Although the practice of this way of life is localized in sincere adepts across the world, their “community” is largely non-local and digital. In this presentation, I explore the prospects and dangers of this digital philosophical education. These digital spaces, like any others, allow for anonymity, trolling, and mythic manipulation, for example by far-right Neo-Stoics who create false quotes and manipulations of Marcus Aurelius to reinforce their own narrow way of life. I argue that although these digital spaces indeed include such dangers, and are no replacement (so far) for the quality of experience made available by in person philosophical communities, they do open up opportunities for wider, more diverse, philosophical education outside of the traditional boundaries of the modern university. I will suggest that these communities are a techne for what Hadot called “spiritual exercises,” and for what Foucault called “technologies of the self.”