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The Stoic Life: Emotions, Duties, and Fate Paperback – March 29, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (March 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019921705X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199217052
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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"Brennan's book is an unusual specimen: a scholarly book that is hard to put down.... Highly recommended."--CHOICE


About the Author

Tad Brennanis Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Blinn E. Combs on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
What does it mean to be stoic? How can we aim to "live in agreement with nature," especially if every event is precisely determined? What sorts of things are (or should be) really important? To what extent ought answers to this question be informed by community standards?

I stumbled upon this book while looking for some suitable secondary literature for a course in Hellenistic Philosophy. It turned out to be a real gem. In addition to the obscurity of the material and the dearth of original texts, one of the main problems facing the newcomer to ancient stoic philosophy is the absence of clear introductory commentary necessary for anyone who lacks an extensive background in ancient Greek philosophy. This basic inaccessibility has tended to foster an environment which often relegates stoic philosophy to the domain of advanced graduate study, which has in turn fostered a great deal of well-informed, but highly specialized work on topics like Stoic logic and ontology.

What is often lost in this mix is the fact that the specialized topics of Stoic philosophy emerged from a need to defend and refine the stoic conception of how life should be lived. With this book, Brennan has taken dead aim on that goal, and used it as the springboard for a much broader discussion of Stoic epistemology, action theory, theology, and more generally moral psychology.

The work is very thoughtfully constructed. Brennan begins with a general discussion of modern uses of "stoic," and goes on to discuss the basic tenets of stoic psychology, and spends the lion's share of the book discussing particular topics in stoic ethics and the stoic view of fate (the last two full sections).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Karl Janssen on April 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book provides a fascinating, in-depth examination of Stoicism, though I think the title is a little misleading. "The Stoic Life" gives the impression that this is a book about practical applications of Stoic thought to one's life, which is not the case. This book never enters into "self-help" territory, like William Irvine's Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, for example, nor does it offer the sort of issue-specific Stoic advice (on grief, on anger, etc.) one might find in the writings of Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. Brennan doesn't advocate Stoicism, and I'm not sure he's even a fan of it. His primary objective is to define Stoicism, what it is and how it works. To do this he painstakingly dissects ancient texts word by word, phrase by phrase in order to clearly determine what exactly the ancient Stoics believed. While the contents of the book weren't what I expected, I certainly wasn't disappointed.

The Stoics believed that the key to happiness was to live in accordance with nature. But how does one put that into practice? Some of the things that we encounter in life are good (virtues), some bad (vices), but most are indifferents (neither good nor bad). How do we recognize which is which, and how should that affect our choices and actions in life? The bulk of the book consists of Brennan's analytical breakdown of this decision-making process. Once the ethical framework of Stoic behavior is established, Brennan goes on to address the conundrum of why any of it makes any difference at all, given that the Stoics believed that all events were predetermined by fate, even our own thoughts.

Brennan has a real talent for taking complex philosophical ideas and explaining them in clear and precise terminology that is easily accessible to the general reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on February 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Stoic Life" is a very interesting book, comprised of semi-independent essays on Stoic psychology and metaphysics. The writing is lively, the arguments are clear, and a nice balance is struck between exegesis and evaluation. Classicists as well as philosophers will enjoy it.

However, non-academic readers should know that "The Stoic Life" does NOT (in the words of the dust jacket) explain "how to live the Stoic life -- and why we might want to." On the contrary, the book is given over to analysis of fairly technical Stoic terms and doctrines. It contains remarkably little information on Stoic strategies for character formation and proper living. It is nothing at all like William Irvine's excellent "A Guide to the Good Life."

The book may deserve five stars, but the publisher's blurb deserves only one -- hence my three-star rating.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By pier on August 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
author knows the subject profoundly and explain it very accurately.by reading this book you find out how philosophy can be practical,profound, useful,and how significant is the role of stoicm in the history of mind and enlightment.
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