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Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations [Paperback]

Jules Evans
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 2012
In his engaging book, Jules Evans explains how ancient philosophy saved his life, and how we can all use it to become happier, wiser and more resilient. Jules imagines a dream school, which includes 12 of the greatest and most colourful thinkers the world has ever known. Each of these ancient philosophers teaches a technique we can use to transform our selves and live better lives. These practical techniques are illustrated by the extraordinary stories of real people who are using them today - from marines to magicians, from astronauts to anarchists and from CBT psychologists to soldiers. Jules also explores how ancient philosophy is inspiring modern communities - Socratic cafes, Stoic armies, Platonic sects, Sceptic summer camps - and even whole nations in their quest for the good life.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rider; 1st ed edition (3 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846043204
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846043208
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 216,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jules Evans runs the Well-Being Project at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. He is a co-organiser of the London Philosophy Club, the largest philosophy club in the UK, and gives talks and workshops on practical philosophy around the world. He is the founder of, a project funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council. He writes for publications including the Wall Street Journal, The Times, the Spectator, Prospect and Psychologies, and has worked with organisations including the New Economics Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the School of Life, the philosophy school in London. His blog,, enjoys a loyal following around the world.

Product Description


"Instructive and thought-provoking...shows philosophy is not just for stuffy classrooms" (Financial Times)

"This wonderful book shows how modern psychology is consistent with the best that was thought and known in the Ancient World...also beautifully written" (Lord Richard Layard, author, Happiness: Lessons From A New Science)

"A revelation" (Alexander Linklater Observer)

"Witty and accessible.Highly recommended." (The Psychologist magazine)

"A brilliant and timely book." (Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to Be Free)

Book Description

A dynamic guide to philosophy for everyday life - using key ideas to live well and happily

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book sets out to teach you things you certainly aren't likely to have been taught at school, or at university for that matter. It draws on the ideas of a dozen thinkers: Socrates, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Epicurus, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, the Sceptics (treated as if one person - the original one was Pyrrho), Diogenes, Plato, Plutarch and Aristotle.

Evans says the aim is to convey "what it would be like to get a day-pass to the School of Athens". Rather than merely being dry and academic, this book constantly shows an awareness of how philosophy can be brought to bear on everyday situations. Evans has interviewed all manner of people (astronauts, soldiers, the politician Rory Stewart) and profiled plenty of others - such as a Chicago firefighter who gives classes in Stoic resilience - to see where philosophy fits (or can fit) into their lives.

The book is appealingly structured like a day's lessons or tutorials. The writing is fresh and thoughtful, pretty accessible, largely unpretentious and of a genuinely practical kind. This reminds me of Alain de Botton's Consolations of Philosophy, except that it has a much keener sense of philosophy's place and utility in the real world.

As a primer in Greek philosophy, the book works well, but is a good deal more than that - a wise, honest, original and helpful guide, which provides ample food for thought and has inspired me to do further reading (about which Evans provides a handy guide at the end of the book).

Highly recommended.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 11 May 2012
This is a wise, humane and often inspirational book. Though it tackles big and difficult questions - why are we here? how can we be happy? - it does so in such a clear and engaging way that it's always enjoyable and often gripping reading. Evans's subject is ancient Greek philosophy, but what he seeks in this philosophy isn't abstract truth but a practical, useful "medicine for the soul" that can help people exert more control over their emotions, feel better about themselves and lead happier and more flourishing lives. He shows that the central tenets of Greek moral philosophy - that we can know ourselves, change ourselves and establish better, healthier habits of thinking and acting - now form the basis of modern Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and in a series of compelling interviews threaded through the book he talks to people around the world of very different backgrounds whose lives were changed by an encounter with a particular philosopher or set of ideas. The book is organized as a series of lessons on the major Greek philosophers, and I think most readers will find Evans a congenial and stimulating instructor. I learned a great deal from it - it made me think hard about the way I live my life and what I could do to make myself a happier, saner person. Highly recommended!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Neil
To call this book a self-help book would be an insult to the author - it is so very much more. I don't believe any book of this genre truly answers the questions that most readers are looking for. However, Jules Evans's guided tour through the wisdom of the ancient greeks does a brilliant job of priming the mind with different strains of thinking, provoking the reader to examine for himself the different approaches to answering those questions that at some point in our lives we probably all ask ourselves. The author compares and contrasts brilliantly the stoics, the sceptics, the epicureans and the pythagoreans amongst others. The book seems to draw all the different themes together as it approaches the conclusion with a more detailed convergence on Plato, Aristotle and finally Socrates.

This book is an easy read but it took me a long time to finish because I was constantly sloping off to the internet to find out more about the characters, the texts and the references that so richly add to the reading experience - I even made notes (yikes)! Furthermore, the author seemlessly weaves into the text modern day, real-life examples of a diverse group of individuals and organisations that illustrate present day manifestations of the various philosophical themes. He also refers frequently and understatedly to his own travails with depression which he has surely overcome (I didn't know it but cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has its roots in philosophy).

I have long found philosophy a turn-off but this book has turned this view on its head. It is elegantly written in plain language but I found the content to be hugely stimulating.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Roadmap for life 25 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came to this book after reading 'A guide to the good life' by William Irvine. I've always been interested in Eastern Philosophy but have never read anything about Greek / Roman philosophy until reading these books. I found they helped to frame ways in which some of my own thought processes work and helped set out a roadmap of practise to play around with and develop these ideas. I've since signed up for a free philosophy course next year which was promoted on Jules Evans website and am taking part in the Stoic week, set up by Exeter University. It's funny how these ideas seem to be gathering momentum and becoming more mainstream now, perhaps as a consequence to the way modern life is going and the realisation that having what we want doesn't mean we will be happy or be satisfied with life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Educative and useful philosophy for real life
Easy to read, it illustrates philosophical ideas with life situations where the philosophy has been effective in making for a happier journey. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ac Sa Vickers
3.0 out of 5 stars Like a dinner table chat - covers lots of ideas but none in depth
I liked this book as it was informative on many topics; but as interested layman philosopher, I felt it was more like a dinner table chat with ideas brought up and quickly,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Benito Benito
4.0 out of 5 stars A good summary of early philosophers
A well written and entertaining intro into the main Greek schools combined with an attempt to assess their relevance to today's modern world. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tony Burton
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas Gift Went Down Well
Another little Christmas gift for a friend, so can't really comment on it as it wasn't for me - might buy it again though, as I read a great review in the Telegraph about it, and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Borisdog
2.0 out of 5 stars Third Hand Information
Disappointed - the author has written largely from someone else's experience and thrown in his viewpoints, I did not agree with a lot of his views and found it to be a pretty... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
Given as a Christmas present, and we have already had a request for a second copy for another family member, so obviously successful.
Published 3 months ago by Susanna
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Great book that covers many different ancient philosophical schools of thought. The author presents them and their merit from the philosophers point of view. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ahmed Zaki
5.0 out of 5 stars Enrol into lessons for life
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book; settling down to lessons from the great ancient philosophers, discovering their relevance to, and influence on, many aspects of modern day... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Olive
3.0 out of 5 stars Full circle trip around philosophical thinking. Aaaaand we are back at...
The author leads the reader on an exciting trip through the history of philosophy, from its classical origins through historical misinterpretations to where we are at now. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Liam
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Halfway through this book and loving it. Very readable, links ancient philosophy to modern life. A great starter in philosophy, or even if you're not sure but are interested in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Scousemum
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