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Fredonia philosophy professor dissects the ‘good life’ in new book
Friday, June 12, 2015

Fredonia philosophy professor dissects the ‘good life’ in new book

Drawing upon the works of both classical and contemporary philosophers in his newest book, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Raymond Angelo Belliotti of the Department of Philosophy tackles the age-old question of what constitutes a good life and, through that evaluation, affirms that philosophy is worthy of study in the 21st century.

“Why Philosophy Matters: Twenty Lessons in Living Large,” published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, demonstrates that philosophy still matters in everyday living and that people who ignore the enduring, fundamental questions that it has explored through the ages are unwittingly relinquishing part of their humanity.

Dr. Belliotti, who has taught philosophy at Fredonia for 31 years, accomplishes this daunting challenge by interpreting and critically examining the works of over 30 major thinkers, such as Plato, Cicero, Aristotle and Marx, in relation to issues involving building character, forging personal relations, promoting sound political strategies, living meaningfully and dying gracefully.

According to Belliotti, the question “How should I live my life?” was one of many profound topics that animated Western philosophy during its earliest recorded years.

“Given that belief in the Greek and Roman gods failed to provide substantive guidelines for everyday living, philosophy arose in large measure as practical instruction in the art of living the good life. Throughout history philosophers have provided vastly different answers to the question of what constitutes such a life,” Belliotti said.

“By analyzing carefully their disparate definitions, recipes and accounts of the good human life we understand better who we are and who we might become,” he said.

Belliotti explains that lessons in building character include learning how to delight in the process of life, to relish freedom, to appreciate that virtue has its own reward, to take responsibility for what is in one’s control, to develop a sense of honor and to strive for authenticity.

Forging better personal relationships requires welcoming different forms of friendship and nurturing love, while examining what is owed to others. Promoting sound political strategies includes understanding and unraveling the problems of dirty hands – how political leaders must sometimes act immorally in services to their constituents – while nurturing political and cultural transformation and examining political and economic structures that go beyond pure capitalism and communism.

“Living meaningfully requires that we appreciate how we can transform our destinies; that we promote and seek fulfillment in creative activities; that we evaluate pleasure and craft meaning and that we assess the importance of personal happiness in relation to other values,” Belliotti said.

Dying gracefully involves distinguishing biological from biographical lives; considering the possibility of posthumous harms and benefits and defying the grim reaper to the extent possible for finite beings, he added.

While being both accessible and enjoyable, a peer evaluator indicated the book offers its readers an abundance of life lessons, adding that it’s a well-written, high-quality book with argumentation that will change the mind of anyone who thinks philosophy doesn’t matter in everyday life.

“Why Philosophy Matters” is the 16th book written by Belliotti, whose credentials include the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the William T. Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award and the SUNY Foundation Research and Scholarship Recognition Award. He also selected in 1995 to present the Kasling Memorial Lecture at Fredonia.

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