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Abstract

This work seeks to demonstrate that Johann Wolfgang Goethe 's practice of an art of living closely corresponds with the ancient philosophical form of life as elaborated by Pierre Hadot, in his work, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. I demonstrate how Hadot's conception of ancient philosophy as a concrete way of life consisting in the practice of spiritual exercises or techniques designed to substantively alter fundamental modes of behavior in commerce with the world to effectuate a new perspective on reality, corresponds with Goethe's conception of philosophy as an art of living. I offer a descriptive account of such a Goethean philosophy of existence, elucidating its specific character, normative committments and concrete know-how by drawing from what I take to be the central Goethean text recounting the practice of spiritual exercise; the Italienische Reise. I utilize the Italienische Reise as a case study documenting Goethe's practice of the concrete methods constitutive of an ancient spiritual way of life. Finally, I demonstrate the way in which Goethe innovatively retrieved an ancient art of living premised on spiritual exercise by embedding it in the practices of natural scientific inquiry and the reception and production of art. I argue that Goethe in a way revived and modernized the ancient art of living, giving it a new foundation for the existential task of fashioning a life worth living.

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