School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Wrestling with thoughts of a better life – Meet Michael Tremblay

PhD candidate in Philosophy 

by Phil Gaudreau, March 2020

Amy Cleaver

What does it mean to have a good life?

It’s something we all search for, and yet fourth-year PhD candidate Michael Tremblay thinks he may have found it.

It was during his undergraduate studies while attending a lecture on the teachings of an ancient Greek philosophy called Stoicism. At the time, it wasn’t to his liking. But skip ahead a few years to his masters studies and one chapter of required reading quickly turned into a whole book’s worth of Stoicism.

“Stoics believe virtue is sufficient for happiness–that if you act well and if you are a good person, you have a good life,” Michael says. “This mindset puts a lot of accountability and control in your hands for your own happiness, and it means everyone has access to a good life.”

After completing his masters studies, Michael sought a university that had a PhD program in Philosophy with a supervisor who specialized in this discipline. He found Dr. Jon Miller’s biography on the Queen’s Philosophy department website, and not long after Michael became a PhD candidate.

“Queen’s Philosophy balances a welcoming atmosphere with academic excellence, which makes it a great place for graduate studies,” he says. “Kingston is also great because you get a small-town vibe where everything is walkable and this high degree of intellectual diversity. You have people from all over the world bringing different perspectives and insights into this small Ontario city by the water–it’s a great combination.”

Of course, Michael’s positive outlook is influenced by his worldview. His specific focus is on the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who encouraged his listeners to not only learn about Stoicism but also to practice several exercises that help keep you focused on your life and actions.

Another of Epictetus’ teachings was a comparison between philosophy and wrestling, where he noted that each discipline involves using tools to transform oneself. Perhaps its no surprise that Michael is also a competitive wrestler and martial artist who wrestled for Queen’s, teaches, and competes internationally.

“Both wrestling and philosophy are cultivation of different parts of the self, the mental and the physical,” he explains. “I hope to delve further into this topic through post-doctoral research.”

Once that research is complete, Michael hopes to become a professor so he can help make the wisdom of philosophers like Epictetus more accessible for average people, particularly those who don’t plan on completing graduate studies in Philosophy, so they can live better lives. For those who are considering more education on the Stoics, or any university subject, Michael says it’s important to stay motivated.

“If you like school and more school sounds fun to you, you’d like graduate studies,” he says. “It’s all the great parts of undergraduate but more intense and with more opportunity to dig deep into intellectual ideas.”

Michael was interviewed by CBC Ideas in 2019 about his thoughts on wrestling and philosophy.

To learn more about graduate studies in Philosophy at Queen’s University, or other Queen’s graduate study options, visit the School of Graduate Studies’ website.