A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William B. Irvine
I read this book out of a basic curiosity about how Stoic philosophy could apply to modern life. What I learned interested me even more. First, I thought I knew what a Stoic was - and I didn't. Second, I found that Stoic philosophy is a philosophy of life, a practical system that one can use compatibly with most major religious belief systems, or atheism for that matter. I found that Stoicism had parallels with Zen Buddhism, another practice I have studied and admired. I also was amazed at how close my current philosophy of life was to Stoicism, as well as my current methods of minimizing anger, anxiety, and negative emotions. Professor Irvine writes for a general reader. There are no obfuscatory linguistic tricks or subtle logical arguments - the book is remarkably straight-forward. After an introduction to the birth of Stoicism in Greece, Irvine introduces the reader to four major Roman Stoics - Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. Irvine shows how commonplace frustrations like insults were handled by the Roman Stoics, and how easily their ideas translate to our civilization. Many notes and a guide to further reading accompany the text. If you are seeking more tranquility and sincere joy in your life (and I know of few people who aren't interested in these goals), and you believe that you can work toward these goals through reason, this book is a very worthwhile read.
Review by Scott Curtis