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The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics
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The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics

4.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  106 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
The Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics practiced philosophy not as a detached intellectual discipline, but as a worldly art of grappling with issues of daily and urgent human significance: the fear of death, love and sexuality, anger and aggression. Like medicine, philosophy to them was a rigorous science aimed both at understanding and at producing the flourishing of human ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published March 7th 1996 by Princeton University Press (first published 1994)
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Sep 28, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing
This is a book I started several years ago and have only now gotten around to finishing. If you can ever really be finished with a book like this. A description of the work of the greatest Hellenistic moral philosophers--Epicurus, Seneca, Cicero, Epictetus--that doesn't just summarize their influence on each other and describe their historical significance, but actually engages them, struggles with them, and tries to show in what ways they were right and in what ways wrong. I am not a philosophe ...more
John Doe
Jun 27, 2013 John Doe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
When I first became a christian, I was blessed to be introduced to the scripture by a gifted pastor. He knew Paul's writings were scripture, but he taught us to distill and take from his letters what we understood to be true. It is best to have a light interpretive framework, so that we don't read into things. And, in some cases, we need to be comfortable with ambiguity. That is, we should grant Paul's writing with the same strength as we give the thoughts in our own mind, knowing Paul was thoug ...more
Dec 29, 2012 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Her book is about Hellenistic philosophers' use of medicine as a metaphor for the practice of philosophy to alleviate suffering. As she explains it, the purpose of philosophy is to heal diseases; diseases caused by false beliefs. It is only after we eliminate false beliefs from our minds can we experience a flourishing life. She then evaluates the adequacy of various schools of philosophy from Plato to Aristotle to the Epicureans to the Skeptics to the Stoics through the point of view of a woman ...more
Christopher Taylor
Dec 08, 2015 Christopher Taylor rated it really liked it
In this book Martha Nussbaum looks at four schools of Greek (and Roman) philosophy as “therapy for the soul”: a form of talking cure that clears away problematic attachments and emotions by means of logical arguments. Nussbaum begins with a discussion of Aristotle and then compares his views with those of the Epicureans, Skeptics and Stoics. It is a grand tour of ethics in Hellenistic philosophy (i.e., Greek and Roman philosophy post-Aristotle).

Nussbaum is a well known and highly regarded moral
Paul Fadoju
Mar 20, 2009 Paul Fadoju rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
I followed the journey of the young lady as she moved from each school to find healing for her soul. And in all the prescriptions I find wisdom.

Martha Nussbaum has weaved a complex story of the ancient world and make it plain to the modern mind.
Aug 05, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very nerdy book, but full of brilliance if you can manage the slow trek. The book is a practical commentary on ancient Greek and Roman schools of ethics/psychology. There are moments that will change your thinking about things like anger and death, and that is a momentous feat for some words on a page. In short, Nussbaum is one of the greatest minds on the planet right now, and she reveals it here. I am currently reading it alongside all of the ancient texts she is commenting on in eac ...more
A wonderful book, very scholarly and magisterial, on the nature of three Hellenistic schools of philosophy (Epicureanism, Skepticism, and Stoicism) and their relationship with earlier Aristotelian thought. But most of all, it is an examination of those philosophies as viable, practical ways of living rather than esoteric fields of pure study (which tends to be the modern view of "philosophy," completely at odds with anything the original practitioners would have recognized). My own sympathies l ...more
Paul Cardwell
Nov 09, 2012 Paul Cardwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Nussbaum displays here the practice of philosophy at its very best. She is at the same time brilliantly analytical and deeply human. She engages with the schools of Hellenistic philosophy in a manner which is forensic and detailed without ever losing sight of the reality and primacy of our human lives. Therapy of Desires describes the strengths and shortcomings though of the major schools of Hellenistic philosophy with scholarly insight and, in the final instance, with deep compassion.
Feb 01, 2011 Rhesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This book presents epicureanism, stoicism & skepticism as conceptual & practical "tool" to diagnose & cure mental disease "medically" in ancient greek culture. rewarding read to the max for those who concerned about the nature & legacy of greek philosophy.
Jul 25, 2015 Dwight rated it it was amazing
A first-rate work on the Hellenistic schools of philosophy and their practice of "care of the soul," typically conceptualized on analogy with the practice of medicine, or "therapeia," for the soul.
Jan 06, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Nussbaum is brilliant.
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Professor Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School. She is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and ...more
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