‘We are really guests at the dinner party of life’

The British academic and philosopher A.C. Grayling in conversation with Srijana Mitra Das, in The Times of India:

In turbulent times, can people achieve a state of reason?

An individual really has to sign up for trying to live the considered life, very much a response to the great Socratic demand to be reflective about life. I like to remember what the Greek writer Plutarch said in an essay about the dinner of the seven wise men – it’s always men in ancient times – where he talks about two sages going to a dinner party. One says to the other, we know what the duty of the host is, provide the food and wine, but what is the duty of a guest? The other says – to be a good conversationalist.

This means he should be informed, thoughtful and he organises his thinking, so he can have a point of view, explain and defend it – and that he’s a very good listener. He can hear what the other person is saying, which is quite an art. To be informed and attentive requires us to educate ourselves. This doesn’t only mean book education but to remember that wisdom is free and belongs to everyone. We can use wisdom in the conversation of mankind because we are really guests at the dinner party of life. We should be people who are such good conversationalists and listeners.

Read the full interview: A.C. Grayling

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If it works for the young man, it sure works for us