- 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: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (350 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"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
"Dr Irvine has used very simple language in his book. He gives a notion of modern stoicism and urges modern readers to practice stoicism." -- The Nation, Pakistan
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.
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $2.99 (Save 70%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.
For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now lets you buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less. (Textbooks available for $9.99 or less.)
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Although I would have to practice a modified Stoicism (I doubt that most of us would like to sleep even occasionally on a board or give up sex except for procreation), there is much of Stoicism that we can use in the modern world. Unlike the Cynics who slept on boards all the time and generally followed ascetic practices, Stoics wanted to enjoy life and followed something akin to the Middle Way of Buddhism. This attitude could certainly be of use to counter the worst of this "me first" society of rampant consumerism. In truth you really cannot take it with you when you die and to act like you can is the height of folly.
This book is a fascinating exposition of Stoic philosophy and its possible uses in the present day. The current economic collapse and other disasters of modern living could be a fertile ground for a revival of Stoic ideas. I also recommend it as a refreshing antidote for the hectic modern world in general. Take what is useful, and leave the rest, but read it if you would live deliberately and thus be free!
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.
Reading through the book's last chapters, and especially Chapter Twenty-One--Stoicism Reconsidered--I experienced an exhilarating rush of wholesomeness, being confronted for the first time to a coherent philosophy of life. Religious minds would say I got a revelation. Being agnostic myself, I would call it an epiphany, and it came in the form of Irvine's proof that Stoicism was a "correct philosophy of life," not by referring to Zeus as the ancient Stoics did, but to evolutionary theory in general, and evolutionary psychology in particular. Not being a professional philosopher myself, I cannot adequately criticize Irvine's argumentation, but it made sense to me. In fact, I would even go as far as challenging the author's excessive modesty, and suggest that he actually delivered a modern proof for Stoicism's overall correctness.
To say the book convinced me is an understatement. It converted me, not only to the doctrine, but to the scholastic approach of ancient philosophy. And as Seneca put it, "I do not bind myself to some particular one of the Stoic masters; I, too, have the right to form an opinion." (Seneca, "On the Happy Life," III.2). So let me offer some suggestions as to how Stoicism could be extended to benefit from more recent discoveries.
First, the notion of "duty," which ancient Stoics justify by the mere fact that we are social creatures and that we all mutually benefit from virtuous social behavior, should be further developed. In order for it to become more acceptable, its justification should go beyond the benefits of harmonious inter-personal relationships, and include a notion best described as statistical Karma: if more people act benevolently with others in a pass-it-forward kind of way, the world at large will become a better place, and we will all benefit from it indirectly.
Second, the notion that fame after death should not be set as a goal, while advisable at first, is unnecessarily challenging for those who do not believe in life after death. Instead, I believe that one's goal could (should) be to create a lasting legacy, either by passing the virtuous of a Stoic life to one's descendants, or by making positive contributions to mankind, small or large. Such a legacy can reasonably be considered as some form of life after death by agnostic philosophers, or a component of life after death by their religious counterparts. Furthermore, because such a legacy will be judged by those who survive us after our passing, setting its creation as a primary life goal should not expose us to the usual traps of fame seeking. Last but not least, it should be obvious to anyone that such a legacy should be a positive one, as in one that will benefit those who survive us and for generations to come, as opposed to a free entry into history books for reason of crime against humanity.
Third, I believe that the Stoic reaction to insult (offense might even be a more appropriate term) should be extended in order to include what is possibly the most powerful discoveries of the past two millennia: Christian forgiveness. Before explaining what I mean by that, let me give some personal background: my mother was born in France and received a Catholic education. My father was born in Algeria and was raised as a Muslim. I was born in France thirty-five years ago and grew up in a perfectly atheist environment, like many kids of this time in post-68, pre-socialist France. Nevertheless, I later developed a keen interest for Christianity and its principles, originally through the watching of movies from David Lynch. Fire Walk with Me gave me an intuitive understanding of the notion of the original sin and its repercussions on our collective psyche as members of a Judeo-Christian community, while The Straight Story offered a moving demonstration of the power of forgiveness. While I view the concept of original sin as fundamentally anti-Stoic, I consider the notion of forgiveness as the ultimate exercise of Stoic mastery. The reason for this is simple: on one hand, ignoring an insult or offense is neutral at best, even slightly negative as the author would admit, for it creates frustration on the side of the offender. On the other hand, genuine forgiveness, although tremendously challenging for the one who received the offense and arguably rare, has the power to deliver a transforming epiphany to the offender. In other words, forgiveness could be the ultimate act of Neostoicism, and is positively viral by nature, therefore should be practiced whenever possible.
I am now sitting on a plane on my way back home. Practicing negative visualization, I realize how fortunate I am that the previous three legs of my trip were completed without any incidents. And while I contemplate the prospect of the plane crashing before we make it back to SFO, I know in my heart that I am living a good life now, at this very moment (carpe diem). I realize that I shared through these lines more than I expected to, and that it does not make me a proper stealth Stoic as advocated in Irvine's book, but I also know that many of the ideas he brought back to life were born through Socratic debate. I simply wish to contribute to the discussion, with as much innocence that my ignorance will afford me.
Tonight, I found my way (in a Taoist sense), and this brings me joy.