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Aging and the Art of Living

, 304 pages

5 b&w illus.

August 2012



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Aging and the Art of Living

In this deeply considered meditation on aging in Western culture, Jan Baars argues that, in today’s world, living longer does not necessarily mean living better. He contends that there has been an overall loss of respect for aging, to the point that understanding and "dealing with" aging people has become a process focused on the decline of potential and the advance of disease rather than on the accumulation of wisdom and the creation of new skills.

To make his case, Baars compares and contrasts the works of such modern-era thinkers as Foucault, Heidegger, and Husserl with the thought of Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Cicero, and other Ancient and Stoic philosophers. He shows how people in the classical period—less able to control health hazards—had a far better sense of the provisional nature of living, which led to a philosophical and religious emphasis on cultivating the art of living and the idea of wisdom. This is not to say that modern society’s assessments of aging are insignificant, but they do need to balance an emphasis on the measuring of age with the concept of "living in time."

Gerontologists, philosophers, and students will find Baars' discussion to be a powerful, perceptive conversation starter.

Jan Baars is professor of interpretive gerontology at the University for Humanities in Utrecht. He is author and co-editor of almost twenty books, including Aging, Globalization, and Inequality: The New Critical Gerontology, in English, German, French, Finnish, and Dutch.

"There is no other book that I’m aware of that has achieved such a masterful synthesis of philosophy and gerontology."

"One of the world's leading proponents of critical gerontology, Jan Baars creates a rich mosaic in Aging and the Art of Living. Deftly integrating classic texts, continental philosophy, and contemporary social theory, Baars encourages us to see how wisdom and vulnerability ripen experiences in late life."

"Any college-level collection strong in aging and social insights on the process will find this a thought-provoking discussion."

"This is a vision infused with hope and potential, and in this lies the art of living meaningfully. The last chapters in which Baars describes the rich possibilities of individual story and proposes an alternative idea of aging well are worth the trip."

"Recognizing life’s finitude, honoring one’s own personal story, nurturing intergenerational relationships, and seeking to live wisely are among the important ingredients for living the art of aging. Simply raising these issues and helping the reader to understand their importance are reasons enough to encounter this intense yet highly intelligent book."

"Aging and the Art of Living revitalizes the origins of philosophy which began with the search for the good life... This well-written and clearly organized book weaves poetic insights with precise reflections on topics that include living in time, wisdom, and the meaning of aging. This book makes significant and unique contributions to gerontology by challenging assumptions, articulating alternative perspectives, and inspiring new possibilities for aging and living fully."

"This publication -- which contains an endless wealth of spurs to thought and engagement -- should initiate a long and important conversation in which we learn to treat and to experience ageing more critically, much more creatively and with greater enjoyment."

"Jan Baars is the premier philosopher of aging, working in Europe and the United States today. Actually, to call him a philosopher of aging is to diminish the range of his thought and his accomplishments."

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