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Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
In describing his seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the late Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale has said: "In that atmosphere of death and hopelessness, stripped of the niceties, the amenities of civilization, my ideas on life and leadership crystallized." Despite torture, intimidation, and isolation, Stockdale fulfilled his duties as senior office ...more
Hardcover, 241 pages
Published July 31st 1995 by Hoover Institution Press (first published 1995)
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May 06, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, philosophy
This is probably one of my favorite books ever read. As a young Marine Corps Lieutenant, I stumbled on to it and it was one of the few that really made a lasting impression.

Anyone under 30 probably has no idea who Stockdale is; Those over 40 may recall him as the odd-ball Vice Presidential nominee under Ross Perot's ticket in 1992. He came across as fairly senile, but this book opened my eyes to one of the most intelligent, toughest men ever built.

The book: As a young Naval Officer in the earl
Jun 25, 2015 Ryan rated it it was ok
Contains some good stuff, but a lot of redundant material; read "Stockdale on Stoicism" instead. I was interested to learn more about Stockdale's relationships with Rhinelander and Brennan. No index.
Sep 28, 2012 Len rated it it was amazing
Brilliant stuff from one of the world's most credible Stoics. True, "rubber-hits-the-road" philosophy which re-invigorated my concept of what the United States could become if it came back to what the founders wanted it to be - a reincarnation of the Roman Republic.
Jul 10, 2014 Sepideh rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
This book was written by Jim Stockdale, the vice presidential candidate who was Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. Since he really did not say much in the debates, it was interesting to see that he had thoughts about things. However, the book did not live up to my expectations. This book was a series of speeches and not really a book. The chapters were repetitively discussed how Stockdale was a prisoner of war during Vietnam. Many phrases were repeated over and over. For example, there was somet ...more
C. Patrick
Apr 26, 2014 C. Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One can't be faulted for developing the sense that Providence played a role in charting Stockdale's life experiences so that he would have the will or moral purpose to lead an American flyer prison population in Vietnam for 7.5 years. This collection of speeches, essays, and other documents represent his post-captivity purpose to contribute to society's understanding of human nature as revealed to him in the crucible of a torture prison. Several items that penetrated my mind:

- The Stoic. I had a
Hai Quan
May 13, 2013 Hai Quan rated it did not like it
Almost all people in the world and authors of books and articles about Viet Nam war have agreed that this war that has started by the USA was morally wrong.The enormous protests in the US in the eve of this war is a strong testament to this assessment
If we realize that the much talked about DEFEAT OF FRENCH COLONIALISM marked by the shameful surrender of French troops and its Legionair slaves in the valley of Dien Bien Phu and the equally shameful defeat of American neo-colonialism right after
Possibly my favorite book. As a collection of speeches and articles, it is often repetitive. This helped me grasp the nuances of Stockdale's stoicism as they were repeated to diverse audiences. A must read for leaders, but especially military and political leaders.
Jan Beck
Apr 22, 2013 Jan Beck rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I read this book because many excerpts from it were featured in Donald Robertsons "The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy". I had hoped for more insightful wisdom covering the Stoicism topic but frankly Robertson already put all the nuggets in his book. The leftovers are mainly cold-war military, business and politic talks that I found very tenacious to get through. One should also mention that this books contains speeches th
Feb 14, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, biography
This is a memorable book. Despite the repetitions of some of sequences among the lectures of Stockdale, here, we have a testimony - and one of the most radical one can imagine - that goes against the current conception of philosophy, ie, that it is a discipline without any practical significance (a pure theory). And as well, in such days when everyone is a victim of circumstances, victims of their color, their financial position, social, national origin or disability etc, it's nice to hear someo ...more
Ross Cohen
At his worst, Stockdale sounds like TR circa 1912; at his best, like Epictetus himself.
May 15, 2014 Shayne rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-book
Collection of speeches; don't expect this to be a single coherent narrative. Nonetheless, good for learning more about Vietnam and/or stoicism. Might make you want to pick up the Enchiridion for yourself!

Edit: if you want to get the gist of this thing, just read the last talk in it, and you'll be pretty good, saving yourself a lot of duplicate reading.
May 31, 2012 Colin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Reading (borrowed from Amazon Prime) on my Kindle. I was sad to have to return it, and may have to purchase it someday. A collection of talks, speeches, and essays by Vice-Admiral James B. Stockdale about his experiences in Viet Nam, particularly how Stoic philosophy helped him survive life as a P.O.W. for 8 years. Directly practical experience with Stoicism . . .
Mar 30, 2014 Ixris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of Stockdale's post-war writings and speeches. Honestly, most of them blend together a lot, and I found myself saying 'yes, yes, yes, okay, I know.' Because a lot of them were the same thing in different wrappings.

That said, the final speech/essay/whatever ACTUALLY got into stoicism pretty hardcore. And that one piece saved the whole book for me.
Mark Fallon
Mar 28, 2013 Mark Fallon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thought-provoking and sometimes difficult book to read. A collection of articles and speeches by Admiral Stockdale, where he explains how he came to adopt stoicism as a way of life, and how that helped him not only to endure torture, but to remain a leader in the prison camps in Hanoi.
Aug 04, 2016 Kevin rated it liked it
Tough to review, because it has a lot of great points and is well worth reading. On the other hand, it's a collection of speeches and so goes over the same life stories many times.
May 24, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading in schools. He's the definition of the warrior scholar. Though he's been gone a number of years, his inspiration lives on.
Apr 24, 2013 James rated it really liked it
Sad they lampooned this guy on SNL back in the 90s. So much for respect for elders, or highly decorated war veterans /ex-POWs.
Jay Tillman
Sep 10, 2012 Jay Tillman rated it liked it
Great sea stories. Wish I could have been at the bar when they were told.
Bruce Lindsay
This book sucked
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“It is the future that we are more likely to think of immediately when the idea of progress is brought up," says Robert Nisbet, "but it was only when men became conscious of a long past . . . that a consciousness of progressive movement from past to present became possible" (History of the Idea of Progress, New York, 1980, p. 323).” 0 likes
“George Bernard Shaw said that most people who fail complain that they are the victims of circumstances. Those who get on in this world, he said, are those who go out and look for the right circumstances. And if they can't find them they make their own.” 0 likes
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