John Kaag || How William James Can Save Your Life

May 26, 2022

Today we welcome John Kaag, the Chair and Professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He received his Masters in Philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oregon. His writing has been published in The Paris Review, The New York Times, and Harper’s Magazine. He is the author of Hiking with Nietzsche, American Philosophy: A Love Story, and his most recent book is Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life.

In this episode, my conversation with John Kaag revolves around the existential question we’ve all had: is life worth living? John expounds on William James’ answer of “maybe”. He shares about his near-death experience and how vulnerable moments in his life have led him to a more nuanced understanding of philosophy. We also touch on the topics of metaphysics, determinism, suffering, religion, and transcendence.

Website: johnkaag.com

Twitter: @JohnKaag


  • Existential anxiety, fear, freedom
  • Is life worth living? 
  • Seizing control over existence
  • Metaphysical chance is real
  • The unseen order and human blindness
  • “Living unnecessarily near our surface”
  • Pragmatism, zest, authenticity
  • Resignation or hope in the face of mortality 
  • Dissolution of the self
  • Spiritual narcissism
  • Companions in misery
  • Melancholy among philosophers
  • Life is for living 
  • The loving cup

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