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A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  5,239 Ratings  ·  432 Reviews
One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA
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A Guide to the Good Life by William B. IrvineMeditations by Marcus AureliusLetters from a Stoic by SenecaThe Art of Living by Sharon LebellPhilosophy for Life by Jules Evans
Popular Books on Stoicism
1st out of 26 books — 76 voters
Meditations by Marcus AureliusA Guide to the Good Life by William B. IrvineLetters from a Stoic by SenecaDiscourses and Selected Writings by EpictetusThe Art of Living by Sharon Lebell
Books on Stoic Philosophy
2nd out of 32 books — 44 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sophia Park
May 23, 2012 Sophia Park rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this up from a recommendation on the Stoicism subreddit. I went there from a passing curiosity I developed while reading about Zen Buddhism, and I was curious about how they differed. I basically discovered a doctrine (sorry: philosophy of life) I was already living by, and it was kind of eerie reading it. I cleared it in 3-4 hours.

The book could've used less arguing with invisible people. It quickly adopts a defensive tone, as if universally persecuted - you're not selling Satanism to
...more
Maryam
Jun 08, 2015 Maryam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
رواقیان هم مثل بودایی ها ما را به فکر کردن به سرشت ناپایدار جهان فرا می خوانند. سنکا تاکید می کند که هر چیز انسانی زودگذر و ناپایدار است.مارکوس هم همین نکته را به ما گوشزد می کند که همه ی چیزهای ارزشمند ما انسان ها همچون برگ درختان به وزش بادی بندند.او تاکید می کند که ناپایداری و تغییر در جهان پیرامون ما امری تصادفی نیست بلکه جزء ضروری آن است
Jeffrey
Jan 18, 2009 Jeffrey rated it really liked it
There aren't many books written on a philosophy of life as there are 'philosophies' for life out there; and there aren't many books that exist in the great divide between academic philosophy and water-downed caricatures of philosophy (think Consolation of Philosophy but PART TWO...). Mr Irvine's book, however, provides one fairly detailed philosophy of life as Stoicism goes and bridges the divide by not only describing what is Stoicism but also, how to practice Stoicism for both tranquility and ...more
Fatemeh sherafati
وقتی که این کتاب رو خریده بودم فکر می کردم قرارِ با یه کتاب فلسفی روبرو بشم، اما کم کم که پیش می رفتم کم کم حس کردم تا حدودی دارم از فلسفه فاصله می گیرم.
کتاب من رو بیشتر به یاد کتاب های زرد می انداخت.

فصل اول، بیشتر معرفی تاریخ فلسفه ی رواقی، ومعرفی فیلسوف های رواقی بوده.
اما در ادامه، نویسنده بیشتر با بیانی تبلیغاتی تلاش کرده زندگی رواقی وار رو اونقدر خوب جلوه بده که خواننده ها هم این نوع زیستن رو انتخاب کنند.
یه جاهایی با نظر نویسنده موافق بودم، اما در بیشتر جاها مخالف، مثلا نویسنده یه جایی تشویق
...more
B. Rule
Jun 06, 2012 B. Rule rated it liked it
This book gets 5 stars for subject, 2 stars for execution. The Stoics themselves are fascinating and every quote is a gem. However, the author doesn't trust the ancient Stoics to carry the argument. Instead, his account is a series of straw man arguments ("you might think that a Stoic would eat babies, but there's another reading..." Not quite that bad but almost.). Further, when he gets to the section on updating Stoicism for the modern world, the section where he has to do the heavy lifting by ...more
David
May 21, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Philosopher-kings, Zen Buddhists who suck at meditating, wannabe Vulcans
This was a pretty good if brief introduction to the Stoic philosophy. What's notable about it is that the author, William Irvine, is not merely presenting historical information about the Stoics, or a primer on Stoicism for purely educational purposes, but actually advocating Stoicism as a philosophy of life with applicability to modern Westerners. He spends some time talking about the history of the Stoic schools and pointing out that Stoics really did spend time constructing "proofs" that the ...more
Paula Vince
Sep 07, 2013 Paula Vince rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author's first book, On Desire: Why We Want What We Want was great, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read this new one. Professor Irvine suggests that many people are dissatisfied and gloomy because we unconsciously live a lifestyle he calls "enlightened hedonism", in which we try to maximise the pleasure we experience, believing that as soon as we achieve a given goal, we'll be happy. The problem is that other unfulfilled desires instantly well up to take their place. He puts ...more
Darryl
Mar 07, 2014 Darryl rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, stoicism
This popular book won't be of much interest to those who have already read Seneca, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, and Marcus Aurelius, or, indeed, to anybody who has read a solid introduction to their thought.

Nor would it satisfy those looking for a clear and concise description of Stoic psychological techniques or 'exercises': for that, one might turn to "Stoic Spiritual Exercises" by Elen Buzare.

However, the book may be of interest to those seeking an easy-to-digest introductory exposition of Stoi
...more
Amir
Oct 13, 2016 Amir rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Recommended to: If you are interested in applying philosophical views and wisdom to your life and if you value tranquility and inner peace above all.

What this book is about: The author William Irvine who is a professor of philosophy at Wright Stare university after having read through many philosophy schools from Zen Buddhist to Cynics and Stoics has come into conclusion that living a stoic life is worth pursuing due to its promising benefit which is tranquility and joy. He has thus compiled tea
...more
Paul Toth
Dec 15, 2012 Paul Toth rated it really liked it
Lucky for me, some years back I stumbled into Diogenes, who refused to write prescriptions but referred me to the Stoics and Cynics. Slowly, I learned how to better bear the onslaught of life's unnecessary absurdity and how to remember how, despite myself and you. If my reasoning seems circular, so's the earth. Irvine renders Stoicism a relevant and applicable philosophy of life, especially for those lacking the time and inclination to read the source material. I don't pick bones, but I will ...more
Nick Klagge
Aug 20, 2014 Nick Klagge rated it really liked it
(tl;dr--nice book, Stoicism is awesome)

This was a very enjoyable and accessible book on Stoicism. The author describes himself as a "congenital Stoic," i.e. one whose mind is naturally in accordance with many aspects of Stoic philosophy, and I think I could be described as the same (thus my interest in reading this). For anyone who is interested, I also highly recommend some of the primary sources: the "Handbook" of Epictetus and the "Meditations" of Marcus Aurelius. They are very accessible too
...more
C. Derick
Jun 16, 2012 C. Derick rated it really liked it
Dr. Irvine presents Stoicism in its own context from the Roman period (which is the one where the ethics are more clearly developed, although it doesn't deal with the virtue and proto-physics of the Greek Stoics) and then puts it in a modern psychologized and evolutionary context.

First, this book is wonderfully layman friendly. He doesn't use the exact Greek and Roman terms. He doesn't discuss apatheia, prohairesis, and sunkatathesis. Dr. Irvine discusses tranquility, virtue, and reason. Dr. Irv
...more
Robin Friedman
Aug 05, 2013 Robin Friedman rated it really liked it
Academic life often leads people in unexpected directions. William Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. After receiving his PhD from UCLA in 1980, Irvine taught and practiced analytic philosophy for many years before gradually losing interest in it as overly technical and removed from life. Irvine looked for other philosophical and personal options and came close to adopting a Zen Buddhist practice. He ultimately rejected Zen because it did not fit the ...more
Neil White
Mar 05, 2011 Neil White rated it it was ok
As much as I wanted to like this book, I'm forced to give it little more than a resounding "meh" with a B+ for effort. As much as I enjoy the subject matter, and appreciated the author's attempt to bring an ancient philosophy in line with the present day (which he does do with success), the writing itself feels stuck somewhere between a soft, feel-good self-help title that helps one live their life to the fullest, and a serious academic study of an influential philosophy. It seems Irvine ...more
Aniket
Aug 24, 2014 Aniket rated it liked it
I picked up this book after having read The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman, and The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday, and parts of "Meditations". I would suggest the beginner to Stoicism to read Burkeman's book first, the concepts and principles involved stick better in Burkeman who backs up the principle tenets of Stoicism with extensive anecdotes, and cites psychological findings. Irvine's book is much more qualitative and self-help like, which is useful to refresh your understanding of ...more
Micole
Feb 07, 2015 Micole rated it it was amazing
Very accessibly written, easy to apply guide to stoicism

Appreciate what you have (negative visualization)

Focus on what you can control (dichotomy/trichotomy of control) and do not concern yourself with things that are actually irrelevant (who invited you where, who complimented or insulted you)

Ask yourself, are you living by your values, not are you succeeding by someone else's (misguided) measures of success (wealth, material things, status symbols)

Practice poverty, discomfort, challenge... T
...more
Eric
Oct 07, 2014 Eric rated it really liked it
I found this book rather helpful and enjoyable to read. It's a good combination of the theoretical and practical. Earlier this year, I had been reading-up on Buddhism and, before that, on Taoism; I can see a pretty fair amount of overlap with Stoicism as it was outlined here...it feels like a good midpoint between the two. And where Stoicism does diverge a bit, I'd say that is an even better fit for me. For instance, I have been doing some form of negative visualization my whole adult life, and ...more
Mohammad
حتماً کتابی‌ست مفید و آموزه‌دار. امّا چند ایراد نیز به‌نظرم می‌رسد که دارد. یکی از آن‌ها عدمِ سازواری‌ست. یعنی مجموعه‌ی دیدگاه‌های این کتاب به‌مثابهِ یک جهان‌بینش٬ یک‌دستی و سازواریِ مطلوبی ندارد. مشکلِ دیگرش این است که مغالطاتی منطقی در آن به چشم می‌خورد. به‌خصوص در مواقعی که نویسنده با هدفِ دفعِ دخلِ مقدّر به تبیین و دفاع از دیدگاه‌های مکتبِ رواقی می‌پردازد. گاه این مغالطات آن‌قدر ابتدایی‌اند که تعجّب می‌کردم از این‌که یک فیلسوف این سطرها را نوشته است. ولی در مجموع کتابِ غیرِمفیدی نبود و ...more
Pooya
خواندنی
Fatima
Dec 04, 2015 Fatima rated it liked it
I read about the idea of negative visualization as opposed to thinking positive in a different book and I was really interested in learning more about it and more about the Stoics who introduced it. In this book the author takes us through a journey of learning the Stoics practices. The ultimate goal of those practices is to achieve tranquility through various techniques such as distinguishing between the things we can control and the things we can’t control and observing those people who can ...more
Jack
Jul 13, 2015 Jack rated it it was ok
This book is one man’s interpretation of various Stoic source materials blended into a pseudo-scientific philosophical snack bar. “Eat my special blend of Stoic ingredients and you too can live a tranquil life!”

Admittedly, Stoicism, like many philosophical systems, is not static, and Mr. Irvine has done a fine job interpreting some key points of Stoic philosophy in an attempt to develop a practical philosophy that, according to him, has positively impacted his life. I enthusiastically agree with
...more
Hemanth
Mar 03, 2016 Hemanth rated it liked it
I have given 3 Stars only for the author's attempt at popularizing Stoic philosophy. I came to this book with a lot of expectations after reading Letters from a Stoic and maybe, that is why I am so disappointed with this book. It begins by giving a brief background of Stoic philosophy and its origin. The book also, frequently refers to prominent Stoic figures like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Cato among others to highlight how they dealt "stoically" with various challenges in life. Then it goes on ...more
Richard
Jul 06, 2010 Richard rated it it was amazing
This book is a great introduction to the basic ideas of Stoic philosophy - not "stoic" in the common meaning of the word, but the ideas and practices of the Greek and Roman Stoic philosophers. Professor Irvine's wonderful book achieves a number of great things. First, he clarifies what Stoic philosophy is and isn't. But just as importantly, he does so by bringing the stoic philosophers to life for the reader. In doing so, he encourages the reader to go beyond his book and dive into the original ...more
Sam Torode
Jun 05, 2013 Sam Torode rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book in every way, starting with the cover image and design. It's an introduction to ancient Stoic philosophy (primarily Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius), with a focus on applying Stoic insights to modern life.

For me, the most important (and difficult) aspect of Stoicism is letting go of all things outside of our control. The only path to tranquility is to focus on our own thoughts and actions, do our best, and not worry about outcomes. One helpful example Irvine gives
...more
Nick
Jul 11, 2013 Nick rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nick by: Todd Becker
Very actionable and has already improved my subjective experience countless times. I made a checklist for a few Stoic habits I can run through once a week to keep my mind on the practice:

- Negatively visualize: imagine losing something.
- Negatively retrospectively visualize: imagine never having had something I lost.
- Have I been careful to internalize my goals?
- Have I paid attention to the future and refrained from dwelling on the past?
- Have I been practicing self-denial?
- Have I been respond
...more
William1
May 16, 2012 William1 rated it liked it
This is a very practical guide to living well. Please don't let the grounding in philosophy put you off. The Stoics were the most useful of philosophers. What Irvine has done is to distill the teachings of Seneca, Epictetus, Musonius, Marcus Aurelius and the others into concise guidelines that can be applied to everyday life. No abstractions heaped on abstractions here. This is lively prose intended to instill a number of basic mental concepts that can bring tranquility--the overarching Stoic ...more
Stephanie
Dec 08, 2010 Stephanie rated it liked it
The book was divided into four parts: history, techniques, advice and stoicism today. My favorite section was on techniques. Although some of the terminology was different, many of the ideas are common:
1) Negative Visualization (Imagining the worst and planning through it)
2) Dichotomy of Control (Making your sphere of concern match up with your sphere of influence)
3) Fatalism (Similar to 2 but related to time - we can't change the past)
4) Self-Denial
5) Meditation (Mindfulness with reflection)

My
...more
John Doyle
Dec 18, 2014 John Doyle rated it really liked it
Modern interpretation of Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus that describes a path to "peace-of-mind." Friends won't be surprised that much of the advice seems quite natural to me.
Tony61
Sep 05, 2016 Tony61 rated it it was amazing
This is what philosophy should be, and was at one time: a guide to live by! Whether or not the reader chooses to become a Stoic, Dr. Irvine makes the case and provides the tools.

He points out that historically, ancient Greece was the first opportunity humans had to sit down and think about what life meant and to put thought into developing a better way to live.

The author, a philosophy professor, appropriately subtitles his book The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. This is unlike any book I've read and
...more
Amirhossein Alesheikh
Oct 02, 2016 Amirhossein Alesheikh rated it really liked it
A good practical book. Though I'm not convinced, yet it was time worth reading. A good and easy read.
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“Indeed, pursuing pleasure, Seneca warns, is like pursuing a wild beast: On being captured, it can turn on us and tear us to pieces. Or, changing the metaphor a bit, he tells us that intense pleasures, when captured by us, become our captors, meaning that the more pleasures a man captures, “the more masters will he have to serve.” 18 likes
“Your primary desire, says Epictetus, should be your desire not to be frustrated by forming desires you won’t be able to fulfill.” 16 likes
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