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Is balance really the key to a good life?

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

My philosophy classes usually begin with a sermonette to the effect that philosophy is about loving and acquiring wisdom in contrast to knowledge. In other words, I want my classes to influence students’ lives, I want to leave them with something that they can take with them through life. With that aim in mind, I like to end my seminars asking the question, “What have you learned in terms of life wisdom from our study together?”

This year I led a small seminar on Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth German philosopher who declared, “I am no man, I am dynamite.” When pressed with my final exam type question, my cadre of undergrads came to the surprising consensus: “The key to a good life is balance” — by which they seemed to be pointing to a balance between work and leisure.

I have heard this cant for years, not only in classroom contexts but also in therapeutic type group sessions: “You have to lead a balanced life!” No doubt, millions of people around the world greeted the New Year with the resolution to lead more balanced lives.

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