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Why We Are Restless  By  cover art

Why We Are Restless

By: Benjamin Storey,Jenna Silber Storey
Narrated by: Laurel Lefkow
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Publisher's Summary

This audiobook narrated by Laurel Lefkow reflects on how our pursuit of happiness makes us unhappy.

We live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, yet everywhere we see signs that our pursuit of happiness has proven fruitless. Dissatisfied, we seek change for the sake of change - even if it means undermining the foundations of our common life. In Why We Are Restless, Benjamin and Jenna Storey offer a profound and beautiful reflection on the roots of this malaise and examine how we might begin to cure ourselves.

Drawing on the insights of Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, Why We Are Restless explores the modern vision of happiness that leads us on, and the disquiet that follows it like a lengthening shadow. In the 16th century, Montaigne articulated an original vision of human life that inspired people to see themselves as individuals dedicated to seeking contentment in the here and now, but Pascal argued that we cannot find happiness through pleasant self-seeking, only anguished God-seeking. Rousseau later tried and failed to rescue Montaigne’s worldliness from Pascal’s attack. Steeped in these debates, Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831 and, observing a people “restless in the midst of their well-being”, discovered what happens when an entire nation seeks worldly contentment - and finds mostly discontent.

Arguing that the philosophy we have inherited, despite pretending to let us live as we please, produces remarkably homogenous and unhappy lives, Why We Are Restless makes the case that finding true contentment requires rethinking our most basic assumptions about happiness.

©2021 Benjamin Storey, Jenna Silber Storey (P)2021 Princeton University Press
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Absorbing, elegant, and stimulating, Why We Are Restless possesses an easy fluency and understated wit that are as rare as they are delightful.” (Wilfred McClay, author of The Masterless)

“We moderns face a paradox. The freedom and abundance our societies have brought us only serve to make us discontented. In Why We Are Restless, Benjamin and Jenna Storey unearth the philosophical roots of this predicament. Their discussions of Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau, and Tocqueville are unfailingly lucid, humane, accessible, and engaging. This is popularization in the best sense. It is relevant, eloquent, and never talks down to the reader.” (William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep)

Why We Are Restless refuses to settle for easy and superficial solutions. Storey and Storey set out the deep tensions within each philosopher’s thought, and why they cannot be brushed aside.” (Ann Hartle, Emory University)

What listeners say about Why We Are Restless

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Good primer.

A helpful introduction to early French (and American by way of Tocqueville) contributing explanations to our now dire (?!) post-enlightenment milieu. I was largely unfamiliar with Montaigne and Pascal, and only slightly more with Rousseau and Tocqueville, so really appreciated this tour and commentary on how they helped shape where we now find ourselves. A bigger picture is better offered (and referenced) by Charles Taylor in his classic A Secular Age, along with MacIntyre’s After Virtue. Not sure if this caliber of reflection is available for how to think about the now very curious (!, maybe better word available) contributions of Marx, Frankfurt School, Latin American Socialist influences and of course the much related evolving Critical Theory(ies), (maybe Carl Trueman’s Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self) but would like to see more on that as well. Then of course, I still think Augustine had it largely correct about the root cause of our restlessness and our consequent anthropological-political-social displacement. May God be pleased to send his Spirit and help us in our brokenness and weakness, and reconcile us to him, each other and ourselves through Christ, and in shalom.

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A Refreshing Voice from History

The authors bring French philosophy alive in an examination of "the good life." I thoroughly enjoyed the personal expositions of the philosophers in ways familiar to the modern reader. One feels the sense of striving for meaning and happiness in their own lives, going from one extreme solution to another, never quite hitting the mark. And the book properly raises the right questions without the presumption of knowing the right answer, but rather examining previous answers, their strengths, and their inadequacies. The book provides an intellectual mirror harder to find in modern philosophy which seems more concerned with inventing and enforcing terminology than original ideas.

Excellent listen and look forward to any future writings by this talented team.

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What’s the point?

I wonder who the audience is... it keeps aluding to highschoolers but it’s obviously too pedantic for then; as a self-helf it doesn’t offer any solutions and the diagnosis is so diluted as to become elusive. Despite coming out strong and having a serious style on a practical issue, it just doesn’t amount to anything material. Dissapointed.

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man's quest for imminent contentment

I was struck by a few things about this wonderfully researched, written and read work. One is the well made point about our modern affliction with distraction keeping us ignorant but certainly not delivering bliss. Also, a necessary question is asked, "Must one cease thinking for himself in order to learn how to think for himself?"

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Terrific Read- Deep Thought Provoking - Wise

If you are trying to understand our times this book is a great explanation. It takes time you must take it all in to understand the conclusions. It also gives me great hope for our future. The answers are right in front of us.

The writing is excellent in the end you will be wiser and richer for taking in this work.