In Humanities, the flagship magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Furman University professors Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey seek to give meaning to the popular but elusive “balanced life” ideal, and suggest that striving to achieve so-called balance might be the source of our lack of contentment.
In the article, “Balancing Act,” the politics and international affairs professors channel competing philosophies of 16th and 17th century thinkers Michel de Montaigne and Blaise Pascal to inform how we should live, especially in light of the demands of a liberal arts education where “negotiating the traditional passage to successful adult life now means speeding ahead while sampling everything,” they say. Instead, they write, “If liberal education is to be more than a pointless hustle, it will need to do better at helping people learn to face their lives as beings born not just to sample, but to choose.”
Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey teach political philosophy at Furman University and direct Furman’s Tocqueville Program. Their essay is adapted from “Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment” (Princeton University Press, 2021). Learn more at jbstorey.com.