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Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations Paperback – 3 May 2012


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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 (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 217,058 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 www.thephilosophyhub.com, 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, www.philosophyforlife.org, enjoys a loyal following around the world.


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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 36 people found the following review helpful By Joe Drury on 11 May 2012
Format: Paperback
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Petrolhead VINE VOICE on 30 Mar 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For all the reviews and blurbs telling you what an inspirational, life altering book this is, I must add a note of dissent: it actually makes it quite apparent that none of the philosophers (at least the ancient Greek ones who are the focus of this book) have anything useful to tell the vast majority of us about how to live our lives. It turns out that in the modern world, many of the schools of thought sampled by Evans have translated into quackery, cults, new age groupthink, anti-globalisation activism and even schools where pupils were physically abused.

The book is very fluent, readable and amusing, but Evans is strangely muted in his criticism, and tends to say that a certain strand of philosophy doesn't appeal to him, without savaging its purported modern adherents. I came away from it rather relieved that there are not more people trying to steer a course through life using ancient Greek thinking as a guide.

However, I really did enjoy the rapid ride through different schools of philosophy and, while I suspect this kind of 'pop wisdom' has left out vast amounts of what the ancients actually said, it was a darn sight easier zimmimg through this book than I imagine it would be to get your head around the original texts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Benito Benito on 4 Feb 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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, opionion rendered, then on to the next topic. At times it seemed to be on the lookout to add as many names, movements, organisations as possible to give the feel of researched ideas but the overall tone was like something from a sunday magazine, like a stocking filler. It was informative and I enjoyed, it, but for me a mark of a good book is if I want to read it again, or at least go through my Kindle highlights. I did not have the urge with this.

If you are keen on a pratical guide to the stoic portion I'd recommend William Irvine's A Gude To The Good Life: he is an academic so the writing is not as lucid as Jules, but there are more concrete, solid tips. Jules's book left me with a taster of everything, but if I were to make something of it, I'd have to research those areas of interest further.

One thing that did bother me was that the book made references, say to Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, but the reference at the back did not give the exact quoattion. So I know he quoted the book but can't look it up myself.
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