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The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics Hardcover – May 2, 1994
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From Library Journal
In recent years, several books have appeared whose central thrust was to demonstrate that the methodology of philosophical thought and analysis has practical application. Here, Nussbaum (philosophy, classics, and comparative literature, Brown) has concentrated on Hellenistic ethics--i.e., those of the Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics--arguing that these schools have been ignored in traditional historical accounts, particularly with regard to their treatment of emotion. She analyzes texts by such writers as Aristotle, Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus, and Plutarch to show that their concerns regarding emotion are no different from ours and could be applied to the psychological problems, both private and public, we currently face. Nussbaum's criticisms and analyses of each writer are carefully worked out. Some professional (read "technical") philosophers may object to her approach, but it is encouraging to see philosopy viewed as having practical consequences. Recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries with substantial philosophy collections.
- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly and beautifully written account of late Greek and Roman thought in which Nussbaum (Philosophy, Classics, and Comparative Literature/Brown Univ.) analyzes the use of philosophical argument as a technique for enabling people to grapple with fear of death, love and sexuality, anger and aggression. Her theme is the ancients' concept of philosophy as a practical art of living (analogous to medicine) that welds ethics, religion, and emotional introspection in the pursuit of truth and the removal of unsound beliefs from the soul. Omitting Plato, who has been the subject of excellent recent work by other scholars (especially Gregory Vlastos), Nussbaum begins with background chapters on Aristotle and then works her way through the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Stoics. Much of the book is devoted to the writings of Lucretius and Seneca, whom she treats as thinkers in their own right rather than simply users of other people's thought as a vehicle for personal poetic or dramatic expression. She questions Lucretius' view of erotic love as essentially aiming at fusion rather than intimate responsiveness. Here and elsewhere Nussbaum makes subtle but vital distinctions. As in The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (not reviewed), she writes with a mixture of passion and delicacy on the one hand, professional scholarship on the other--a blend that in itself expresses her concept of philosophy as practical, compassionate, and inclusive. She sees in the Hellenistic philosophers a basic tension between transcendence and involvement in life, and an understanding of politics and emotion that has much to teach us today. There is a useful glossary of philosophers and their schools for the nonexpert. Stimulating, solid fare, likely to appeal to classicists, philosophers, and all who are concerned with perennial human issues. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
I wanted to point out one detail relevant to potential buyers. The 2009 edition is not too different from the earlier 1994/5 edition. In the 2009 edition Nussbaum includes a 8 page preface and a 2 page bibliography of relevant material she has written since then (most notably Upheavals of Thought).
If you are wavering between the earlier edition and the 2009 edition and if the earlier edition is significantly cheaper, I would opt for the earlier edition.