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Philosophy for Life: And other dangerous situations [Paperback]

Jules Evans
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2013

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 ourselves 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rider (2 May 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846043212
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846043215
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,047 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


"An important book, because it reminds us philosophy is not just about analysis. It's also about the good life." (Matthew Syed Times books of the year)

"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)

"Hugely enjoyed Philosophy for Life. Am an avid fan of classical philosophy & this book applies it thoroughly & beautifully." (Derren Brown)

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
59 of 61 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 36 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy 19 July 2012
By Houdini
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book most enjoyable. I knew relatively little about Ancient Greek philosophy but now feel quite informed on the subject. The book is rooted in the practice of philosophy, citing many interesting cases where people have been helped to overcome, or cope with difficulties, through using the ideas of the ancient philosophers. Consequently, it's packed with great advice and anecdotes, such as realising and accepting what is beyond our control, whilst taking responsibility for that which is in our control. And the story of Diogenes living in a barrel in Athens, being offered anything he desired by Alexander the Great, he replied by asking that he stop blocking the sun. One thing I would say, is that "ordinary" people are not given much consideration (the extraordinary types adopt the approaches), however, it non-the-less serves as an exemplum to model a good life. I also liked the way he linked his discussions to modern day psychology. All in all, a very good read.
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9 of 10 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars On time. All fine
On time. All fine
Published 3 days ago by RodgerTL
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Outstanding book killed my fear of dying
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
brilliant book - as always the aristotle is so boring.
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Thought provoking - in a good way and both engaging and instructive.
Published 29 days ago by Michael Lane
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting link of anecdotal comment with the Greek philosophers.
Published 1 month ago by CJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting!!
Published 1 month ago by Christine Grainger
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring
Thought provoking, informative, written to a level to allow understanding without treating the reader like an idiot like some of this books do. Brilliant and inspiring. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Franjapani
5.0 out of 5 stars great book.
Great informative read.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read!
I came across Jules Evans' article in a national newspaper about how CBT and philosophy had saved him from anxiety, as someone who is struggling with anxiety and about to start CBT... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ben
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