Antonia Macaro is an existential psychotherapist, author of More than Happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age, Reason, Virtue and Psychotherapy and co-author of The Shrink and the Sage. She has many years’ clinical experience in the field of addictive behaviours. Antonia also has a degree in Oriental Studies, an MA in Philosophy, and was part of the UK’s philosophical counselling movement from its early days.
Her latest book, Life: a User’s Manual, co-authored with Julian Baggini, is now available.
How did you become interested in philosophy?
I have always been interested in how human beings tick, and over the years I have worked to develop a blend of psychotherapy and philosophy that I see as a primarily ethical enterprise, a context for people to reflect on their values and the good life.
What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?
I don’t really see myself as a teacher, more as a facilitator of reflection and self-discovery. Aristotle’s idea of “the mean” is an important guiding principle for me but of course what that means in practice, in any given area, has to be worked out in relation to each individual. It’s not just a piece of information to be imparted but something that requires reflection and exploration.
What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?
That there are no ready-made answers, even from the ancients. Living a good life is an exploratory journey of a lifetime. If we are serious about it we will keep learning and questioning, with curiosity. Philosophy may provide us with some fertile ideas but we still have to work out how to apply them to our own life.
Do you have a favorite quote that you use?
For example, fear, confidence, appetite, anger, pity, and in general pleasure and pain can be experienced too much or too little, and in both ways not well. But to have them at the right time, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the mean and best; and this is the business of virtue. Similarly, there is an excess, a deficiency and a mean in actions.Aristotle, (Nicomachean Ethics)
What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?
I try to explain how I work in my website. My book More than Happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age reflects my fundamental approach.
Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy, in Athens.
It would depend on the event but I would certainly be awed by a deep sense of history and continuity.