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In Praise of Unhappiness

Emilio Lledó

The word "happiness," says Emilio Lledó, is a frivolous label, but also the name of an undying aspiration, a hope that loses its way "on the horizon of dreams, ideals, desires, utopias, threats and pain" that entraps and envelops us.

That slippery word "tricks us into believing that to exist in the world is to be in a state of not having enough." If happiness is a process, a struggle on several fronts, the same might be said of unhappiness, the theme of Lledó's new book, which collects nine essays written over the past five years.

In Praise of Unhappiness branches out in several directions, ranging from a serious acknowledgment of pain and embodiedness to the internalization of conflicts; from an ode to friendship and the citizen ideal, to the fight against the savagery that assails us today with a brutishness we ill-advisedly accept.

And yet the book also challenges our ability to reflect on these "struggles," urging us to "read" and interpret them in the light of classical Greek narratives, ranging from the Iliad to Aristotle and from Pindar to Plato, and so find how they connect to our own lives.


Translated by Hope Doyle D´Ambrosio

Book Details

Elogio de la infelicidad (2005)
Emilio Lledó
Cuatro Ediciones
Elogio de la infelicidad
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Emilio Lledó

Emilio Lledó

(Seville, Spain, 1927). He studied philosophy and classics at the University of Madrid, where he graduated top of his class in 1952. The following year, he won a scholarship to the University of Heidelberg in Germany at the proposal of Hans Georg Gadamer and Karl Löwith. He later studied at Humboldt University, Berlin (1953-1955). Over a long and distinguished academic career, Lledó headed the history of philosophy department at the University of Barcelona from 1967 to 1978, as chair professor, and was the dean of San Raimundo de Peñafort College from 1971 to 1978. After holding a professorship of history of philosophy at UNED, Spain's national distance-learning university, from 1978 to 1998, in 2004 he was appointed chairman of the official board concerned with the reform of state-controlled media.

A fellow of the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study from 1988 to 1989 and a visiting professor at the Philosophy Institute of the Free University of Berlin from 1989 to 1992, in 1990 he won the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize (Bonn) on the nomination of that university's philosophy faculty.

Lledó has won numerous awards, including the Spanish National Essay Prize (1992), the International Menéndez Pelayo Award (2004), the María Zambrano Prize (2008) and the Observatorio D'Achtall Award (2010). A member of the Paris-based Institut International de Philosophie and other academic institutions in Spain, Germany and Britain, in 1993 Lledó was appointed to a seat in the Royal Spanish Academy, of which he was the Librarian from 1998 to 2006.

His many published works include El concepto "poíesis" en la filosofía griega (1961), Filosofía y Lenguaje (1970), La filosofía hoy (1975), Lenguaje e Historia (1978), El Epicureísmo (1984), La memoria del Logos (1984), El silencio de la escritura (1991), El surco del tiempo (1992), Memoria de la Ética 1994), Días y Libros (1995), Palabras entrevistas (1997), Historia de la Filosofía (1997), Imágenes y Palabras (l998), Símbolos del alma (2004), Elogio de la infelicidad (2005), Ser quien eres: Ensayos para una educación democrática (2009), El marco de la belleza y el desierto de la arquitectura (2009). Lledó, the author of over two hundred academic papers and articles across a wide spectrum of journals and periodicals, has edited numerous philosophical classics and-throughout his eleven-year career at the University of Barcelona-supervised thirty doctoral theses and 106 master's theses. He has published several translations of Greek and German works.


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To be free is not just to experience the world as possibility. Emilio Lledó , like the Greeks, sees freedom as an inward change. And there's no freedom without language: a language founded on truth that opens the gates of reason and life; a language wholly opposed to the frozen mass of dead words that keep us from honoring Socrates' enjoinder that we "say what we think," bringing us to a point where we can no longer think at all. It may seem utopian to wish human beings will one day...



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