Henry David Thoreau moved to Walden to explore a new kind of philosophy. His goal wasn’t to master the great philosophical texts or to “have subtle thoughts.” He went to live philosophically – “to live deep and suck all the marrow of life.”
After years of studying, teaching, and writing about philosophy, I founded Life Beyond Logic to explore this radical but mostly forgotten idea. Each week, we will test out a new philosophical idea – not by analyzing it or dissecting it, but by living it.
On Mondays, I will post an art of living experiment. I will update you on my experiences living it for the week, and I look forward to having you to join me on these philosophical explorations.
My name is Nate Klemp. I started studying philosophy as an undergrad at Stanford and then did a PhD in political theory at Princeton. For the last two years, I have taught political theory at Pepperdine University. I live in Los Angeles with my wife Kaley Warner Klemp.
I would love to say that I grew up dreaming of becoming a philosopher. The truth is that I went to college hoping to follow my father’s footsteps and become an engineer. But that dream was short lived. It ended when I got a D- in my freshman multi-variable calculus class (a grade that, ironically, later turned out to be based on a miscalculation).
For the next few years, I shifted from major to major: from physics to computer science to urban design and on and on. My passion was jazz piano. But my teacher made me promise not to become a jazz pianist. “The jazz scene is tough,” he would say. “Even if you’re the best guy out there, you’ll still probably end up living under a freeway.”
I reached my senior year in college and had to major in something. So I decided to throw all pragmatic aspirations aside and become a philosophy major. I knew that I might end up as a highly educated fry-cook at the local Wendy’s, but that wouldn’t matter because I would learn how to live well. That way, even if I did end up under the freeway, I could spend my days exploring life’s big questions.
I lived like a philosophical monk. I would wake up each morning and read the works of everyone from Plato to John Rawls. I would eat lunch while attending political philosophy colloquiums. I would spend my afternoons in seminars or teaching. And I would spend my evenings writing or out at the local bars arguing about the intricacies of Hobbes with fellow students.
After years of this kind of philosophical monasticism, my actual life was in disarray. My marriage was strained, and, even though I was in my late twenties, I felt like I was sixty. I was a mess, but I was so distracted by piles of ungraded papers and dissertation chapter revisions that I couldn’t see it.
I didn’t see it until the day I finished my PhD. After a successful dissertation defense, I had a realization that brought me to my knees: I realized that after so many years of intense philosophical training, the quality of my life had gotten far worse, not better.
I had received an amazing education, interacted with brilliant thinkers, and read the great works of philosophy. But I had learned almost nothing about the one skill that I desired most – the art of living well.
This realization turned out to be a great gift. Once I saw that I had given up my life for philosophy, I became dedicated to exploring what philosophy could do for my life.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on academic-style philosophy – that’s still my day job. It means that in addition to writing and teaching philosophy, I am committed to exploring it as a moment-to-moment way of being. I want to test out the idea that philosophy doesn’t stop when I exit the classroom door – that it happens while sitting on the beach in Santa Monica, walking through the hills of Malibu, or getting stuck in an LA traffic jam.
I founded Life Beyond Logic to explore this idea even more deeply. The goal is to take up Thoreau’s radical challenge to “live deep” and “live deliberately” and to use each moment to “paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.” I hope you’ll join me on the adventure…