[UCP Books]: A Fragile Life

“Would that all philosophers wrote as clearly as May! A Fragile Life is a clear and honest exploration, illustrated by helpful stories, of how we should think about our vulnerability to suffering. It will appeal to anyone who’s interested in how philosophy can illuminate and guide our lives.”
Scott Samuelson, author of The Deepest Human Life



A Fragile Life
Accepting Our Vulnerability
Todd May

US Publication: March 15, 2017 / International Publication: April 10, 2017

Cloth ISBN-13: 978-0-226-43995-2 / $25.00 / £19.00


We live in exceptionally pained times. Turn on the television and the news is grim: incessant civil wars, mass shootings, millions of people displaced, a world economy always on the brink of collapse, and our very planet threatened at every corner. There is no doubt about it: we suffer. And how are we taught to deal with that suffering? For over forty years, Todd May has been thinking about how inadequate our typical responses to suffering are. Look in nearly any era and you’ll see a society that has espoused this virtue: we should try to be invulnerable.

Of course, life requires strength: we need to survive. We need to be steadfast in the face of adversity. But no one is Superman and, as May so elegantly shows, no one should be. In this moving and sensitive book, he confronts us with what we all know but are too afraid to accept: suffering is what makes us human. We should embrace our vulnerability. This does not make us weak; it does not mean we shouldn’t act to solve the serious problems that we face. In fact, it means the opposite: we should draw on our vulnerability to motivate ourselves, to come together under common hardships, to be more empathetic, more ethical, more involved with each other and the world. Our fragility is one of the best gifts we have been given, one we have for far too long pushed away from us. This book shows us how to receive it.


Todd May is the Class of 1941 Memorial Professor of philosophy at Clemson University. He is the author of many books, including A Significant Life, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He is available for interviews. Please contact Carrie Olivia Adams at (773) 702-4216 or coa@uchicago.edu.


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