The Examined LifeAs a sort of antidote to Robert Hare’s Without Conscience, I have just read Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves. A respected and experienced psychoanalyst, Grosz serves up in thirty-one relatively short chapters anonymised accounts of patients illustrating particular themes, such as beginnings, lies, loving, changing and leaving. There is no general conclusion, but each account is rounded off with an observation or a supposition on Grosz’s part, and he, as the psychoanalyst, is happy to draw himself and his own experiences into the story. There is, in particular, a touching story about how his father, a Holocaust survivor, had difficulty in revisiting his roots. (There is a good review of the book by Alexander Linklater here.) Despite the lack of any didactic approach, I learned a great deal from this book; about how there cannot be change without loss, about how every separation is also a link, about how we try to make sense of our lives through stories, and about how winning is also losing. This is my favourite passage in the book: ‘Psychoanalysts are fond of pointing out that the past is alive in the present. But the future is alive in the present too. The future is not some place we’re going to, but an idea in our mind now. It is something we’re creating, that in turn creates us. The future is a fantasy that shapes our present.’ (p. 157)