- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: OUP USA; First Printing edition (5 Feb. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195374614
- ISBN-13: 978-0195374612
- Product Dimensions: 18 x 3.3 x 13.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 70 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy Hardcover – 5 Feb 2009
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regardless of what one thinks of Stoicism, one can still applaud a book that seeks to breathe new life into the idea of philosophy as a reflection on and practical guide to the way we live. (Emrys Westacott, The Philosopher's Magazine)
All in all Irvine does a fine job in offering his 'resolutely practcal' brand of Stoicism to a popular audience. His citation of the original sources is effective and stimulating of interest. His tone is just right one for the popular audience he wishes to reach. (Walter M. Roberts III, Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
Dr. Irvine has used very simple language in his book. He gives a notion of modern stoicism and urges modern readers to practice stoicism. (Sareer Ahmad, The Nation (Pakistan))
One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers.Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune.We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have. Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own life. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life. See all Product description
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Having only really read some Seneca and bit of Aurelius' Meditations before, Stoic Joy tied together the central concepts of Stoicism for me and provided a jumping off point to the original sources, i.e. Seneca, Aurelius and Epictetus (with some Musonius Rufus thrown in for good measure).
There is also some nice contrasting of what the other Hellenistic schools such as the Cynics and Epicureans thought on matters relating to desire, control, luxury and power. The insights on anger, pleasure are all highly relevant today given the consumerism we're fed and buy into in modern society.
One criticism I have with Irvine's interpretation of Stoicism is his treatment of Epictetus' teachings that we ought focus our energies and attention on those things we can control while being indifferent to those we cannot. In diverging from what Epictetus taught, Irvine tends to muddy the waters by adding a third scenario: things that are partially under our control. The third category is unnecessary, because, to use Irvine's example, placing a tennis game in this newly created category of things we have some control over actually offers no insight to us. When you analyse the game of tennis itself it follows that there are aspects of a game we either can or cannot control. No need for a third category.
Despite that wrinkle, the book is a good primer and reference for Stoicism. Be aware, however, that "A Guide to the Good Life" is very much a starting point for further study, as some of Irvine's interpretations of Stoic philosophy diverge from what the ancients conceived and taught.
1. Rich Dad Poor Dad.
2. The God Delusion
3. This one.
I am so happy I found it. I want to live my life by its rules. To a certain extent I already am but it’s nice to find a philosophy that fits me like a glove and I can make my life better with. I already feel it changing me and I only finished it yesterday. The future is bright, the future is stoicism!
I do however note an omission that I believe would have supported the author's case; the stoic philosophers directly influenced the development of modern day cognitive therapies, yet Prof. Irvine does not mention this. Surely this is one of the biggest recommendations one can make for the stoic philosophy.
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