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A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy Hardcover – November 4, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195374612 ISBN-10: 0195374614 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195374614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195374612
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1.3 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Irvine excels at giving a "walking tour" of the many schools of Stoic philosophy, from Greek to Roman traditions, identifying individual Stoic thinkers (many more than Seneca) and their principles and techniques, which Irvine argues are even more relevant in modern times than their own." --Philosophical Practice


"Another valuable ally in your personal morale campaign can be found in William B. Irvine's A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, which removes the grim grey mask of noble, resigned fatalism attached to the popular conception of Stoic philosophy and lets the humanity out and the air in.... It is a work of clarion clarity, and you won't have to read that far into it before the phrase 'stoic joy' ceases sounding like an oxymoron and becomes a workable proposition."--James Wolcott, Vanity Fair


"Irvine's book excels as a guide for practicing Stoics or for individuals seeking to improve that practice." --The Common Review


"Irvine's intended audience is nonphilosophers, but everyone can profit from his clear presentation on the on the benefits of using philosophical doctrines to live a meaningful life."--Library Journal


"If, however, you are skeptical that even therapy will make you happy -- if you are looking for a life philosophy -- A Guide to the Good Life is for you.... Irvine's book is more thought-provoking."--Austin American-Statesman


"He writes in clear, almost jargon-free prose that is well suited to his target audience, and maintains a cheerful tone throughout the book...that perfectly expresses the sort of rationally grounded upbeat attitude that is one of the payoffs of becoming a practicing Stoic.... I can firmly recommend Irvine's A Guide to the Good Life to anyone interested in exploring some of the ways philosophical work can be brought to bear on the ordinary problems of living.... there is a great deal of useful thinking and excellent advice to be found in it, presented in a clear, straightforward and often charming manner."--Lauren Tillinghast, Metapsychology Online Reviews


"Bill Irvine has given us a great gift: the most accessible and inviting description of modern Stoicism available. Read this book and be prepared to change your life!"--Sharon Lebell, author of Epictetus's The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness


"Well-written and so compelling, this is a rare example of a book that actually will make a difference in the lives of its readers. Whether it's coping with grief or arriving at lasting happiness, Irvine shows, with care and verve, ancient Stoic wisdom to be ever relevant and very, very helpful." --Gary Klein, author of Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions


"Never have I seen so delightful, empathetic, and supple a presentation of Stoicism as Irvine gives us here. Hardly Christian even in sensibilities, the Stoics were, none the less, wise in the ways of life, a benison Irvine exposes, and then delivers here, with panache and great acumen."--Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours


"Irvine's calm yet impassioned presentation of a Western philosophy of life that one can actually abide by and practice will be good medicine for many readers...I heartily recommend it." --The Christian Century


About the Author


William B. Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of On Desire: Why We Want What We Want.

More About the Author

William B. Irvine is professor of philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. For more on his life and writings, visit his author website at WilliamBIrvine.com.

Customer Reviews

Classic Stoicism preaches a way of life that can bring tranquility and joy to anyone.
Ismael Ghalimi
The author makes you really think about what is important in life, and keeps you honest about your likely mistaken answers.
kaŝperanto
Dr. Irvine's book is excellent in its description of Stoic philosophy in an understandable manner.
Samer A

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

283 of 291 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on December 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first read Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" while flying to the eastern United States for a scientific meeting. It was during a rather difficult period in my life and I had picked up on "Meditations" because of a mention of this work by Edwin Way Teale in "Near Horizons" as a book he turned to in times of trouble. I was not disappointed by these insightful notes written for his own use nearly 2000 years ago by the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher. It was thus that I was primed to read William B. Irvine's "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy." This is one of those books that can be really life changing, if the reader is ready for it.

Irvine briefly discusses the history of Stoic philosophy and its relationship to other philosophies in ancient Greece and Rome. He concentrates most of the book, however, on the Stoics of the Roman Empire, namely Seneca, Gaius Musonius Rufus, Epictetus and of course, Marcus Aurelius. After his historical review Irvine spends some time on the practical aspects of Stoicism, including negative visualization (visualizing how your life could be worse), dichotomy of control (what we can and cannot control), fatalism (about the past and present, not the future), self-denial (putting off pleasure so as to appreciate it more when you have it), duty (what we owe to others), social relations (how we relate to others), insults (how to react to them), grief (how to deal with loss), anger (how to turn it to humor), personal values (how to deal with fame and fortune, or the lack thereof), old age (how to deal with the aging process), and dying (how to prepare for this certainty). The last part of the book is devoted to the practice of Stoicism in the modern world, with both its pluses and minuses.
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137 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Ismael Ghalimi on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Once in a while, one comes across an idea so profound that it has the power to change one's life. So was the case for me yesterday on my way to Columbus, OH. Feeling like Christopher Columbus (re)discovering the Americas, I re-discovered the ancient Stoic philosophy through the reading of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B Irvine's, thanks to a program I recently listened to on KPFA. I had never read the philosophy of Zeno of Citium, Epitectus, Seneca, or Marcus Aurelius, but I knew in my heart that such a liberating yet deceivingly simple way of living must have been devised before. I just did not know where to look for it. And much like the author, I had been recently intrigued by Zen Buddhism, but could not fully relate to its esoteric nature.

Classic Stoicism preaches a way of life that can bring tranquility and joy to anyone. Through simple psychological techniques such as negative visualization, dichotomy (/trichotomy) of control, or internalization of goals--all brilliantly described in Irivine's book--one can suppress negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, or frustration, while learning how to better deal with insult or grief, and why fame and luxury should not be looked for (more on this later).

While reading through the 336 pages of Irivine's book, I was amazed at how natural the overall philosophy felt to me. Its guiding principles were some of the very few absolute values that I could genuinely call mine, and many of its techniques I had discovered myself over time. In the author's words, I must be a "congenital Stoic." Nevertheless, I had never been able to spell out such a coherent system on my own, nor had I come across anyone who had until now.
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86 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Reader on March 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In `A Guide to the Good Life' William Irvine makes a case for Stoicism in the modern Western world. A short popular work, the text does not presuppose or require prior acquaintance with philosophy in general or stoicism in particular. The following comments are offered for potential readers.

First a few words with respect to context. Along with Epicureanism and Cynicism Stoicism was a well-known school of Greek philosophy in the ancient world that thrived for many centuries. Stoicism is often divided into three periods, Early Stoicism (Zeno and Chrysippus), Middle Stoicism (Panaetius and Posidonis) and Late Stoicism (Seneca, Musonius, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius). Irvine's book centered on the latter Roman period which has a pragmatic rather than theoretical focus; at least the extant texts are skewed in this direction. With the exception of some occasional pockets of resurgence Stoicism vanished from the intellectual landscape in the early centuries of the Common Era.

While I appreciate stoicism and think that it has something to offer to contemporary society, I have mixed feelings about this text. On the positive side Irvine writes in a manner that is accessible to a broad non-academic audience and as such may expose Stoicism to readers that it might not otherwise reach. His observations, while overly general, regarding the superficial and commercial nature of modern Western society are worth noting and likely to resonate with reflective readers. Additionally he does an adequate job of introducing and discussing some Stoic techniques for dealing the challenges of life (e.g. desire, anxiety and anger), and attempts to dispel the stereotype of stoics as cold and joyless people.
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