A Guide to the Good Life eBook ë A Guide PDF/EPUB ²

A Guide to the Good Life [PDF] ✈ A Guide to the Good Life Author William B. Irvine – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk ‫«از زندگی چه می‌خواهید؟ ممکن است بگویید همسری مهربان، کاری خوب و خانه ای زیبا اما اینها صرفاً چیزهایی است که ‫«از زندگی to the PDF/EPUB Ä چه می‌خواهید؟ ممکن است بگویید همسری مهربان، کاری خوب و خانه ای زیبا اما اینها صرفاً چیزهایی است که «در» زندگی می‌خواهید اما پرسش این است که در میان چیزهایی که در جستجویشان هستید کدام‌یک برای شما از همه ارزشمندتر است؟خیلی از ما اصلاً نمی‌دانیم هدف A Guide PDF/EPUB ² اصلی زندگیمان چیست شاید بدانیم در هر دقیقه از زندگی یا هر دهه از عمرمان چه می‌خواهیم، اما هرگز درنگی نکرده‌ایم تا به هدف اصلی زندگیمان بیندیشیمبدون فلسفه‌ای برای زندگی ممکن است بد زندگی کنیم یعنی با وجود تمام سرگرمی‌های لذّت بخشی که داریم ممکن است در آخر کار، Guide to the MOBI õ زندگی را با تلخکامی به پایان ببریم و وقتی در بستر مرگ افتاده‌ایم ببینیم تنها فرصتمان برای زندگی را از دست داده‌ایم»‫ویلیام اروین، که مسئلهٔ اصلی‌اش یافتن راهی برای «خوب زندگی کردن» است، در این کتاب پس از پرداختن به ضرورت داشتن فلسفه‌ای برای زندگی به این پرسش می‌پردازد که «کجا باید به دنبال چنین فلسفه‌ای بگردیم؟» زیرا در دوران جدید فلسفه بیش از اندازه تخصصی شده است و در کمتر دانشگاهی فلسفهٔ زندگی درس می‌دهند اما همیشه اینطور نبوده و بسیاری از فلاسفهٔ یونان و روم باستان نه تنها فلسفهٔ زندگی را موضوع ارزشمندی برای تأمل می‌دانستند بلکه اصلاً باورشان بر این بود که هدف اصلی فلسفه همین است‫او به این نتیجه می‌رسد که کاوش در میان فلسفه‌های کهن راه نویدبخشی برای یافتن چنین فلسفه‌ای است و از این میان فلسفهٔ زندگی رواقیون را یکی از بصیرت‌بخش‌ترین و قابل دفاع‌ترین‌ها فلسفه‌های زندگی می‌داند و می‌کوشد با بازبینی و دسته‌بندی این آموزه‌ها و با استفاده از تجربه‌های شخصی‌اش در مسیر رواقی زیستن نشان ‌دهد چطور بینش‌ها و توصیه‌های عملی رواقیون می‌تواند به ما آدم‌های دنیای امروز کمک کند بهتر زندگی کنیم.


About the Author: William B. Irvine

William B to the PDF/EPUB Ä Irvine is professor of philosophy at Wright State University The author of seven books, including A Guide to the Good Life, he has also written for the Huffington Post, Salon, Time, and the BBC He lives in Dayton, Ohio.



10 thoughts on “A Guide to the Good Life

  1. Roy Lotz Roy Lotz says:

    There will be—or already has been!—a last time in your life that you brush your teeth, cut your hair, drive a car, mow the lawn, or play hopscotch.

    In my review of Feeling Good, a self-help book, I noted the lack of practical philosophies in the modern world. Far from an original insight, I now see that this idea is a relatively common criticism of contemporary education and modern philosophy. The other day, for example, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel, the School of Life, an educational project that tries to teach life lessons rather than academic knowledge. This book, an attempt to revive ancient Stoicism, is part of the same loose movement.

    William B. Irvine set himself the task of making Stoicism viable and palatable in today’s world. To put it bluntly, this meant rummaging through the Stoic classics to make a self-help book. Whereas the classic Stoic authors—Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus—dispensed practical advice without much order, Irvine tries to create a systematic practice that any reader can follow.

    Irvine’s system consists of several mental exercises, or tricks, that the novice Stoic can use to gain tranquility. The most important of these is negative visualization: take a moment to imagine how things could go wrong, how you could lose what you have—your health, job, or spouse—and how everything you take for granted might never have existed at all. This will counteract what Irvine calls “hedonistic adaptation,” which is when we get used to the good things in our lives and lose the ability to enjoy them. Hedonistic adaptation is the real enemy of tranquility, because it forever enchains us to desire—as soon as one desire is satisfied, we have another one, and the process repeats without us getting any happier.

    Another Stoic exercise is the internalization of goals. First, determine the extent to which you can control the outcome of any situation; then, make sure you only worry about that part which you can control, and don’t trouble yourself about the rest. If you are going on a first date, for example, don’t make it your goal to impress the person—since you can’t directly control whether someone likes you or not—but make it your goal to try your best. In the language of self-help, that is, focus on the process and not the product, the effort and not the outcome.

    The last major technique can be better described as an attitude rather than an exercise. This is to take a fatalistic attitude towards the past. Since what happened in the past is beyond your power to alter, don’t trouble yourself with “if-onlys” or fill up your mind with regrets. Instead, try to cultivate amor fati, love of fate; learn to appreciate the good in what has happened, rather than think of all the ways it could have been better.

    The general attitude that a Stoic wishes to cultivate is a mixture of enjoyment and detachment: the ability to enjoy all of the little pleasures of daily life without becoming so attached to anything that you are incapacitated without it. It is rather like the attitude of a spectator at a play: heartily enjoying the show, while keeping in mind that all the action is staged and not worth getting upset over. With this mentality you could, in theory, be satisfied with anything, and maintain your tranquility under any circumstances.

    These, in nutshell form, are the book’s major pieces of advice. The rest of the book is divided into a brief historical sketch of Stoicism, a series of short chapters about applying Stoicism to specific challenges, and a broader cultural criticism from a Stoic perspective. The latter of these was the most interesting—Irvine isn’t a fan of political correctness or of grief counseling. He also has a lot of advice about responding to insults, some of which I thought was obvious, some of which I thought was wrong, and most of which made me wonder: Why is he talking so much about insults? Is poor Irvine getting insulted all the time?

    My main criticism of this book is its style. Perhaps because Irvine was trying to appeal to a popular market, the prose is painfully simple, and filled with unnecessary clarifications and wearying redundancies. Repetitive is a charitable description. Added to that, I often got the feeling that he was purposefully avoiding delving deeply into any topic, for fear of losing any novice readers, which irked me.

    The important question is: Do the techniques work? I have been having some fun imagining my life going horribly wrong: my metro being crushed underground in an earthquake, my computer bursting into flames and blinding me—getting struck by lighting on my walk to work, all of my friends leaving me en masse, and so on. Somehow, this exercise does tend to put me in a cheerful mood. I also agree with Irvine about desire—why hedonism doesn’t produce contentment, why connoisseurship is counterproductive, why it’s wise to accustom oneself to some disappointment and discomfort.

    At the very least, this book is an interesting experiment: trying to revive a dead philosophy of life for the twenty-first century. Now, to put Stoicism into practice, I'm going to imagine this review not getting any likes.


  2. Amir Tesla Amir Tesla says:

    Recommended to: If you are interested in applying philosophical views and wisdom to your life and if you value tranquility and inner peace above all.

    What this book is about: The author William Irvine who is a professor of philosophy at Wright State University after having read through many philosophy schools from Zen Buddhist to Cynics and Stoics has come into conclusion that living a stoic life is worth pursuing due to its promising benefit which is tranquility and joy. He has thus compiled teachings of great Stoics from Seneca to Marcus Aurelius and tailored them to suit the modern days.

    Pros:
    Author has provided well organized, practical bits of advice which are the essence of Stoic philosophy from negative visualization to practicing self-discipline through self-denial.

    Also, he has made a decent contribution on portraying an actual picture of what Stoicism is really about.

    Cons:
    Franky I saw no use of the last chapter, it had no relevance to a guide to a good life and it wasn't a short chapter believe me and the contents were advocation of stoic philosophy which he had done already in previous chapters very well.

    Selected synopsis:
    A potent way of confronting a disturbing situation is the use of negative visualization, namely, imagining what would happen if you lost your dear possessions, be it your car, house, or even your beloved. It argues that by doing so you come to appreciate your belonging far more than those who take things for granted.
    ---
    Internalize your goals: A beautiful piece of advice. It says that we must focus our attention on what we have full or partial control on, not the things we have no control over.
    For example, if you have a tennis match, don't set your goal on being the winner, because if you fail, you will lose your tranquility and become utterly upset, instead, make your goal to practice and play at highest level possible which in turn can have the added value of winning the match.
    ---
    What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about these things.
    ---
    What point is there on being unhappy, just because once you were unhappy...
    ---
    We can easily replace out feelings of regret at having lost something with feelings of thanks for once having had it.
    ---
    Reason, is the best weapon against grief. Unless reason puts an end to our tears, fortune will not do so.
    ---
    If we seek social status, we give people power over us: since we have to do things calculated to make them admire us and we will have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor.
    ---
    To retain inner peace, focus on what you have control on, It's foolish to concerns ourselves with what we can't control like when the sun rises or when a dear person to us might die.
    ---
    Vices are contagious: They spread, quickly and unnoticed, from those who have them to those with whom they come into contact.


  3. B. Rule B. Rule says:

    This book gets 5 stars for subject, 2 stars for execution. The Stoics themselves are fascinating and every quote is a gem. However, the author doesn't trust the ancient Stoics to carry the argument. Instead, his account is a series of straw man arguments (you might think that a Stoic would eat babies, but there's another reading... Not quite that bad but almost.). Further, when he gets to the section on updating Stoicism for the modern world, the section where he has to do the heavy lifting by himself, he has a failure of nerve or a bout of laziness or both. It turns into a hypothetical argument (if one were to argue, one would start by describing how evolution supports Stoicism... but he never actually makes the argument!) One should go ahead and make his argument, rather than totally copping out with a sketch of an idea. I was predisposed to like this book given the subject, but I was left wishing for a far better treatment. The Stoics deserve better.


  4. Jeffrey Jeffrey says:

    There aren't many books written on a philosophy of life as there are 'philosophies' for life out there; and there aren't many books that exist in the great divide between academic philosophy and water-downed caricatures of philosophy (think Consolation of Philosophy but PART TWO...). Mr Irvine's book, however, provides one fairly detailed philosophy of life as Stoicism goes and bridges the divide by not only describing what is Stoicism but also, how to practice Stoicism for both tranquility and joy in the context of our insane and insatiable consumerist culture amid other existential fears and anxieties.

    Let me say this first: this is a timely book in view of the Financial Crisis of 2008 transforming into something Unknown and Monstrous for 2009 and beyond. Here, Mr Irvine's book contains not just sound advice for living amid hardship, but also useful tidbits of wisdom in the face of calamity and unrest. But as the Fates would have it, it may be all good but a tad too late.

    Even so, Mr Irvine's book is part self-reflection, part 'what is Stoicism' (and who the Stoics were), and part how to be a Stoic. If you find yourself immediately put off by the word 'Stoic', don't. Mr Irvine has done marvelously well on explaining why the modern interpretation of 'Stoic' has been more of a misinterpretation than the lived reality of a good life: his reflection of those mundanely trivial but existentially heroic accounts of his own life suffice.

    However, what I find singularly troubling is Mr Irvine's ambition in explaining Stoicism at an extremely high level of evolutionary psychology; that the Stoics techniques have been designed to short-circuit what might be the undesirable consequences of human evolution on autopilot to the ultimate demise of the human psyche and society (e.g. insatiable greed for security and an extreme one, an eye for an eye to ensure one stays as the Alpha Male for reproduction). But consistent to the claims of the evolutionary psychology one can also find himself inevitably suggesting that because Stoicism exists, it must have also been somewhat effective in increasing the chance for successful reproduction; that merely than short-circuiting anxieties, fears, greed and so on for 'short-term' tranquility, it also acts as a long term catalyst, if not a direct cause for successful reproduction. So is Stoicism a cure or a cause? Is it both? In trying to explain the causes of the symptoms Stoicism tries to cure via evolutionary psychology, Mr Irvine opens up new questions he was not prepared to answer.

    In fact, what I find most satisfying, and also where the philosophical lore is the richest, are those direct and honest accounts of living as a Stoic in today's world. For example, in one of Mr Irvine's account of changing a 16 year old car for a 9 year old 'new' one with neither a radio nor a cup-holder brought a smile to my face--indeed, why do we need three jumbo cup-holders and 8000 channels on our car radios today? By 'downgrading', Mr Irvine suggests (he would probably use the word, 'simplifying') our materialistic lives, we are in fact 'upgrading' in virtuous Stoical character-building. I think I see Mr Irvine nodding.

    Yet, Mr Irvine shies away from those difficult, pressing questions as the contemporary mouth-piece, if not a modern peer to philosophers like Seneca and Epictetus. Sure, one can see how a new Ferrari can disturb one's newfound Stoical tranquility and joy. But what if one is not choosing between a materialistic entity which works on the principle of decreasing marginal satisfaction (hence an increasing indifference, if not dissatisfaction ) and a virtuous good, but between two competing virtuous goods, for example, in being responsible to my children, spouse or parents and being responsible to the duties and commitments of the workplace? The ultimate good of both choices are no different than the Stoic version of the highest goods of tranquility and joy, yet one is often compelled to choose only one, assuming that an acceptable balance between the two means some compromise to this tranquility. To this ultimate competition of ultimate goods, Mr Irvine's Stoicism has nothing to say. This is not to say that Mr Irvine's account is a straw-man account. But very often, perplexities and anxieties in life has to do with the competition of virtuous goods, and not to the marginal acquisition of a Ferrari or a Renoir. Perhaps this was why Marcus Aurelius hastened his own death as a public servant-emperor, who most likely, had to choose between two competing goods as a Stoic.

    In addition, what about those who collect Ferraris and Renoirs so they can appreciate their beauty? Because Mr Irvine assumes that crass materialism has solely been undertaken for the envy of our neighbors, Mr Irvine also misses the point that a good number of 'materialists' out there can also be aestheticians. Sure, Stoicism dismisses connoisseurship, especially connoisseurship that overly commits one to dependency on luxury, Mr Irvine argued. But surely a Stoic would not dismiss the appreciation of beauty through materialism as a path to Stoic tranquility and joy, as one may collect humble stamps and common vases, or grow roses?

    Lastly, Mr Irvine's overall account tacitly position his interest in broadly speaking to a certain class of citizens in certain advanced capitalistic economies. Tacitly, I think he was speaking to the middle and upper middle class of the American society. I don't know if Marcus Aurelius or Seneca made that assumption, though both were reputably wealthy individuals who had SOMETHING they can imagine themselves losing and hence, feel content through the practice of negative visualization. But it is true that in the world today, there are many who have NOTHING to lose; that is, they are not even substantively well-off and have nothing but their own bodies to be exploited and harvested by others. To tell these folks about practising negative visualization is to also mock them. If so, does this demonstrate that Stoicism is a philosophy predicated upon the class structure? To some extent by the absence in Mr Irvine's depiction, yes. But since we know the classical Stoics were not unreasonable brutes, then we must commit to the possibility that something is lacking in Mr Irvine's modern account in an unreasonably unjust world. This, I suppose, would be up to the readers' own musing, for Mr Irvine has nothing to say to this regard.

    Indeed, what Mr Irvine fails to mention--and I think if he did, aptly in a time like this--is that personal tranquility and joy may be necessary but not sufficient for a Good Life. Unlike the Greeks or the Romans who blissfully lived their circumscribed spheres thinking that theirs was the known world, Moderns can no longer afford the luxury of a the Good Life based on a Personal notion without relating to the Others (who often do not have it so Good). What we seem to need today, if Stoicism is indeed the philosophical practice for the Good Life, is not only to deflect insult for insult; or to abandon crass materialism for character-building; or to be justly indifferent to external circumstances, but in fact, to broadly engage these external circumstances in a fast-deteriorating and destructively spiraling external world we all inhabit, Stoics and 'materialists' alike. Mr Irvine lamented the demise of Stoicism after the Empire; but likely is the possibility that its notion of the Good Life is limited when Others don't have it so good.

    Without such an engagement, even a Stoic may find it difficult to attain the Good Life.


  5. Darryl Darryl says:

    This popular book won't be of much interest to those who have already read Seneca, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius, or, indeed, to anybody who has read a solid introduction to their thought.

    Nor would it satisfy those looking for a clear and concise description of Stoic psychological techniques or 'exercises': for that, one might turn to Stoic Spiritual Exercises by Elen Buzare.

    However, the book may be of interest to those seeking an easy-to-digest introductory exposition of Stoic practice and philosophy of life.

    Be warned, however, that Irvine's treatment of Stoic philosophy is a somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation. Irvine attempts to make Stoicism palatable for modern readers and applicable to their lives. In pursuing this end he may actually have, to some extent, distorted or misrepresented Stoicism. He points out, however, that he is writing to help people find a practical philosophy of life, not to please academics. He also points out that he is but one in a long line of interpreters of Stoic philosophy which stretches all the way back to the ancient world.

    A Guide to the Good Life is a popular book and probably deserves its popularity: the proof of the pudding is, after all, in the eating. However, it wasn't of much use to me personally, hence only three stars.


  6. Paula Vince Paula Vince says:

    The author's first book, On Desire: Why We Want What We Want was great, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read this new one. Professor Irvine suggests that many people are dissatisfied and gloomy because we unconsciously live a lifestyle he calls enlightened hedonism, in which we try to maximise the pleasure we experience, believing that as soon as we achieve a given goal, we'll be happy. The problem is that other unfulfilled desires instantly well up to take their place. He puts forward the alternative of living as the ancient Stoics used to, adapting their philosophy for our modern lives. Like many of us, he'd assumed that Stoicism was an outdated creed all about bottling our emotion and keeping stiff upper lips. Instead, he discovered that it may well hold the answers to a lifestyle of joy, satisfaction and peace.

    Basically, this is it in a nutshell.
    1) To appreciate blessings more, we should take time to reflect how much worse off we'd be if we had them ripped away from us. He calls this negative visualisation. Having read many books on the law of attraction, this idea of focusing on the negative bothered me at first. I guess that taking the advice in many of the books about gratitude on the market may achieve a similar result.
    2) We shouldn't worry about dealing with things over which we have no control, and for things over which we have only partial control, we should internalise our goals. Instead of declaring, I aim to win this tennis match we'd be better off saying, I'll play to the best of my ability. Then, even when results are not ideal, we can rest easy knowing that we've accomplished our goal and done our very best.
    3) We should occasionally put ourselves in the position of being uncomfortable (cold, hungry, thirsty, nervous) to better appreciate the value of what we have at other times.

    I was interested in the Stoics' opinion about not seeking fame. It comes at a price which they thought far outweighed any benefit it could confer. The Stoics were careful to be indifferent about the opinions of others, whether positive or negative. Their attitude to wealth and an affluent lifestyle was that these may deaden our ability to take delight from simple things. Connoisseurs with an inability to enjoy anything but 'the best', rather than being admired, are to be pitied for seriously impairing their ability to enjoy life. And the Stoic Epictetus' advice on how much wealth we should acquire was, an amount that doesn't descend to poverty but isn't far removed from poverty. That's way different to many other self-help books written in the 21st century. As far as that goes, I'm already pretty well there.

    He concludes with the point that it does take effort to follow stoic principles but more effort not to. I'm intrigued to keep it all in mind and give it a bit of go. I think the areas discussed do address the areas in which I've felt most dissatisfaction. It directly contradicts advice in other popular books, such as, achieve more, become admired, live like a king. Interestingly, I couldn't help thinking that although Jesus was not a Stoic, he was a contemporary of them and shared many of the same characteristics. It seems the best way to gain satisfaction may be not to do as the world tells us and work our butts off to satisfy our desires, but instead, to work to master those desires. Although I noticed some scholarly type reviewers ranked this book low because it doesn't read like a dry, university text book, I believe the author intended it for ordinary, laymen types like me, and I appreciated it.


  7. David David says:

    This was a pretty good if brief introduction to the Stoic philosophy. What's notable about it is that the author, William Irvine, is not merely presenting historical information about the Stoics, or a primer on Stoicism for purely educational purposes, but actually advocating Stoicism as a philosophy of life with applicability to modern Westerners. He spends some time talking about the history of the Stoic schools and pointing out that Stoics really did spend time constructing proofs that the Stoic philosophy was the most correct one for living a virtuous and fulfilling life. He then elaborates on their beliefs and techniques, and makes a case for being a practicing Stoic in the 21st century.

    Was it convincing? Well, while I didn't find this book to be particularly deep or transformational, it was interesting enough that I want to read more, and I do see a lot of appeal in Stoicism.

    One of the things the author points out is that Stoicism has a lot in common with Zen Buddhism - they prescribe a lot of the same behaviors and attitudes, though they get there from different directions. Since I've also had an interest in Zen, this clicked with me, and since the author rejected Zen for the same reason I did - he's too analytical and sitting for hours trying to empty your mind would be painfully tedious for people like us - the Stoic approach has promise.

    Of course, one problem with the Stoics is their philosophy is predicated on what man's purpose is, with that purpose presumably declared by our creator, Zeus. You can easily transfer this to God (Stoicism is pretty compatible with Christianity), but it requires a bit more rationalizing to achieve an evolutionary purpose applicable to Stoicism for us atheists and agnostics.

    So what did the Stoics believe and what should you do as a Stoic? Irvine spends a lot of time trying to preemptively rebut misconceptions about the Stoics - e.g., that they were joyless, unemotional, believed in forsaking pleasure and suppressing grief, etc. In fact, the Stoics did believe in enjoying life, and they did not deny emotion. They taught that one should not allow one's emotions to control you, and that the seeking (or enjoyment) of pleasure should not be your primary purpose in life nor your chief objective, only a side benefit of living a virtuous life. And that you might not enjoy any such side benefits - if you lived a virtuous life, you might wind up miserable because that's fate, and if that happens, you should suck it up and keep going.

    The last part may not be particularly encouraging, but I actually liked it because as the author points out, it flies in the face of a lot of modern psychology. Irvine has some particularly harsh criticisms for grief counseling, claiming that studies have shown that getting counseled for grief actually prolongs one's grief, whereas taking a Stoic approach helps you get over it more quickly.

    That can sound kind of cold, since the Stoic message is basically Yes, it sucks that your child died, but she's dead now and you can't change it, so move on. But really, how does it benefit someone to prolong their grief over unchangeable events? Mastery of Stoicism doesn't mean you don't grieve over a dead child - it means you grieve, accept that it happened, and move on. More importantly, the Stoic philosophy encourages people to appreciate what they have now - e.g., your living child - and take nothing for granted, because you never know when it could be taken from you.

    Am I actually convinced that Stoicism is for me? Well, like I said, based on this book, I am willing to give it a try. At the same time, the book was a very cursory introduction and while it talked a little bit about Stoic techniques (such as negative visualization - imagining that the things you have have been taken away, or that your life sucks more than it does) it doesn't really provide much in the way of useful instruction. Back in Greco-Roman days, there were actual Stoic schools to teach these things, but Stoic schools today are kind of hard to find. So I guess I will have to look for more books on the subject. But whether you are interested in trying out Stoicism for yourself or not, this book is a decent entry point.


  8. robin friedman robin friedman says:

    Stoicism As A Philosophy Of Life

    Academic life often leads people in unexpected directions. William Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. After receiving his PhD from UCLA in 1980, Irvine taught and practiced analytic philosophy for many years before gradually losing interest in it as overly technical and removed from life. Irvine looked for other philosophical and personal options and came close to adopting a Zen Buddhist practice. He ultimately rejected Zen because it did not fit the analytic quality of his mind. Irvine then began a serious study of the Greek and Roman stoics, philosophers he never had to read during his years of philosophical study. The result was his book On Desire: Why We Want what we Want (2006) followed by this book, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2008) in which Irvine articulates a contemporary stoic philosophy.

    Irvine writes for the educated lay reader rather than for academic philosophers. He argues that an important task of philosophy is to help individuals form a philosophy of life that gives meaning and purpose. Without a philosophy of life, Irvine argues, there is danger that you will mislive-- that despite all your activity, despite all the pleasant diversion you might have enjoyed while alive, you will end up living a bad life. There is, in other words, a danger that when you are on your deathbed, you will look back and realize that you wasted your one chance at living. Instead of spending your life pursuing something genuinely valuable, you squandered it because you allowed yourself to be distracted by the various baubles life has to offer.

    Besides helping a person to discover his or her grand goal in living, philosophy also has the task of pointing out a path or strategy for realizing the goal. As mentioned above, Irvine seriously explored Zen Buddhism but found ancient stoicism more suitable to his character in setting out a goal and a means for its attainment.

    In his book, Irvine explains the need people to reflect and form a philosophy of life, the value of stoicism, and the means of practicing stoicism. He also takes stoicism out of its ancient theological and teleological (teleology means finding that nature acts purposefully) bases and restates it under assumptions of naturalism.

    In the first part of the book, Irvine offers a rapid overview of ancient philosophy and ancient stoicism, culminating in four philosophers of the Roman Empire, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.Irvine shows that the grand goal of these philosophers shifted gradually from the reason and eudamoneia (a difficult word meaning roughly virtue) of the Greeks to a goal of emotional tranquility. This, rather than the Greek goal, is the goal Irvine adopts. The goal of tranquility does not advocate suppressing emotions or becoming a zombie. Rather, Irvine defines tranquility as a psychological state marked by the absences of negative emotions, such as grief, anger, and anxiety, and the presence of positive emotions, such as joy.

    After identifying the goal, Irvine offers steps towards its attainment. He recommends living modestly, being content with what one has, letting go of the past and of feelings of remorse and guilt, and meditation and reflection on one's goals. A stoic life is internalized, which means it depends of developing what is in one's control rather than seeking for happiness in things outside one's control. To give examples from my own life. I get frustrated when my teachers and others do not rate my piano playing as highly as I would like. I have to remember that the goal of playing the piano is not to have a concert career or to impress others but to bring out music for myself and for those who want to hear. Then again, closer to home, I get angry when I spend time on an Amazon review only to have it curtly negated. I have to remind myself that I write to read and to learn rather than to seek approval from negginators. When I find myself overly bothered, I post here on Goodreads which has the virtue of no negators.

    In the third part of the book, Irvine offers more broadly-based discussions of stoicism as a guide to life. He discusses the control rather than the repression of emotions such as grief, and strategies for living contentedly with others. He focuses on his own and on his reader's mortality by eloquently reminding of the inevitability of old age and death and of the stoic wisdom of loving life in its transience and letting go.

    In the fourth part of the book Irvine, describes again the metaphysical bases of ancient stoicism, which Irvine rejects by rephrasing stoic insights against a backdrop of evolutionary naturalism. Many readers may not be convinced by this attempt to jettison stoicism out of its original context. I think Irvine's point could be better made not by substituting one metaphysical view for another but rather by eliminating the need for a metaphysical underpinning for a philosophy of life altogether. The latter stoics showed little interest in teleology or metaphysics. In other words, stoicism stands of falls on its own merits and results as a philosophy and does not require a metaphysical support. This conclusion is consistent with much modern technical philosophy, as I understand it, which Irvine claims he no longer wishes to pursue. In the final part of the book, Irvine turns autobiographical and offers insights on what a stoic practice has meant to his own life.

    Throughout the book, Irvine approaches his subject with enthusiasm and with at times an almost missionary zeal. There are two parts to the story to be distinguished. The first is the value to a person of developing a philosophy of life. Convincing the reader of the value of a philosophy of life is Irvine's greater goal and, most of the time, it is the source of his enthusiasm and preaching to the reader. The second is the stoic philosophy that Irvine has adopted for himself. Here too, Irvine develops his stoic philosophy and tries to persuade his readers. But he recognizes that a single philosophy will not suit all temperaments, and that there are varied approaches to the good life. His approach has strong components of pragmatism as taught by William James.

    This is an excellent work of philosophy for non-specialists. A growing number of philosophers work to make their thoughts accessible, and Irvine is, perhaps, too harsh on the academic study of philosophy. The book has received substantial attention, with many thoughtful reviews and valuable criticisms.


  9. Radiantflux Radiantflux says:

    30th book for 2019.

    A nice introduction to Stoic philosophy, for the general public, in the style of a self-help book written in an analytic philosophical style. This is not a good book if you are looking for an in depth analysis of the various Stoic philosophers and their writings.

    I think this would be best suited to those who are attracted in developing a philosophy of life and not sure how to go about it, and are interested in learning more abut Stoicism. It offers an excellent starting point exploring the original writings of the Stoic philosophers in great depth.

    4-stars.


  10. WILLIAM2 WILLIAM2 says:

    This is a very practical guide to living well. Please don't let the grounding in philosophy put you off. The Stoics were the most useful of philosophers. What Irvine has done is to distill the teachings of Seneca, Epictetus, Musonius, Marcus Aurelius and the others into concise guidelines that can be applied to everyday life. No abstractions heaped on abstractions here. This is lively prose intended to instill a number of basic mental concepts that can bring tranquility--the overarching Stoic ideal--to our lives. A final section showing why Stoicism fell from popular favor and why we should integrate it into our lives is particularly interesting. Read it as an Introduction to the aforementioned authors, or as a refresher.


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