Examined Lives tells the life stories of some famous philosophers. There are six ancients (Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine) and six moderns (Montaigne, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, Nietzsche), but no one who lived after 1900.
Some of these philosophers had lives that were relatively interesting, since national leaders and religious authorities used to care about what philosophers had to say. Some of them were hired to give advice and some were persecuted for the advice they gave. But even these twelve philosophers are mostly interesting because of what they said, not because of the lives they led.
The author is mainly concerned with whether the philosophers lived up to their ideals and their advice. Did they live the way they said a person should live in order to have a good life? Not very often. His main conclusion is that being a philosopher and examining your life is no guarantee of having a life worth living. Or, to be a little unkind: having a life worth reading about. (4/27/12)