How Can Philosophy Help Us Find Meaning in Times of Crisis?

An audio-first education platformMay 28, 2020
Skye Cleary, public philosopher and author

For most people, "philosophy" isn't exactly practical. In the popular imagination, philosophy is bookish, abstract, and even elitist. According to this view, philosophy is the last thing we should be thinking about amidst the current COVID-19 crisis. But in a recent conversation with Zachary Davis on Expert Opinion, Skye Cleary, co-editor of How to Live a Meaningful Life, paints a very different picture of philosophy.

"Life is never made unbearable by consequences, but by [a] lack of meaning and purpose," Cleary says, quoting from existential philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. Drawing on tenets proposed by Frankl while facing a crisis in his own life, Cleary encourages the cultivation of creativity, gratitude, and positive mental attitudes as a way of overcoming negative feelings of isolation and uncertainty created by the pandemic. By focusing on the windows of freedom we do have––however small those windows may be––we can our make existence meaningful in spite of external suffering. If we're stuck with a bookish and abstract stereotype of philosophy, this advice might not seem very "philosophical," but what's the point of all those books and abstractions if not to help us find meaning in our lives?

Listen to Cleary's further thoughts about how philosophy can help us live a better and more meaningful life on Expert Opinion. To subscribe to Expert Opinion and discover other great educational podcasts, download the Lyceum app from