NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: searching for the good life.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Karen Swallow Prior is a professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She’s written a lot about literature and the way it shapes culture and worldview.
But great books also shape individuals. Can they help us find the good life?
EICHER: The professor believes they can and explains why on this week’s Listening In. Host Warren Smith started their conversation by asking her to define the good life.
KAREN SWALLOW PRIOR: Well, you know, that’s a classical saying and anyone who has studied a little bit of Aristotle or a little bit of moral philosophy will recognize that the term “the good life” comes directly from Aristotle and his ethics. And it’s often translated, interestingly enough, as happiness and it’s actually the same kind of happiness that our Founding Fathers meant when they talked about, in the Declaration of Independence, everyone’s right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.
What they really meant was not just the kind of materialism or consumerism that we think of today, but really the good life, which is the virtuous life, which really anyone can pursue virtue, but freedom makes it easier for people to pursue the virtuous life and that’s what they were talking about.
WARREN SMITH: Well, I wanted to start with that question because it really is an important question, isn’t it? I mean how you define the good life will really order the way you live life.
PRIOR: Exactly, and if we watch television for 20 minutes, we will see visions for the good life that compete dramatically with what Aristotle and even the Founding Fathers were talking about. I mean, if you watch television or listen to music or read a Twitter scroll for very long, then you get these ideas that the good life consists of having this, having that, being in this relationship, or looking this way or having this accomplishment, and that’s not what Aristotle and moral philosophers over the course of history have meant at all.
EICHER: That’s author and professor Karen Swallow Prior speaking with Warren Smith. You can hear Warren’s full interview tomorrow on Listening In. It’s available on your favorite podcast platform.