Apart from providing an overview of the central tenets of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, distilled from many of the primary texts, and introducinApart from providing an overview of the central tenets of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, distilled from many of the primary texts, and introducing the reader to history's most notable scholars and practitioners along the way, this is essentially one man's search for a unifying philosophy of life that is both (a) practicable today and (b) suited to his own personality type, circumstances and aspirations.
Fulfilling the first requirement, in order to offer stoicism as a viable philosophy of life to his contemporaries, involves revisiting and updating some of the, now somewhat dated, assumptions about our natural world and the motivations that drive us that stoicism is rooted in, which I thought the author, as an academic and professor of philosophy, handled in a credible way.
For the latter, as far as looking for a philosophy of life that is logical, defendable from an academic's perspective, and that does not resort to the metaphysical, the author, rather than limiting the group of readers that would potentially enjoy the book, argues that most people, irrespective of personality type, belief system, or personal circumstance, would benefit from experiencing and maintaining a certain level of 'tranquility' (as the Stoics would put it). And that the pursuit of tranquility is at least one of, if not the most important, characteristics of a good life.
In a way then, the author offers the practice of stoicism as an alternative to Xanax as a coping strategy for preventing life events, and others, from harshing one's mellow.
Some time is also spent dispelling the myths and clearing up common misconceptions surrounding stoicism. Far from being a passive philosophy of 'grinning and bearing it', the author shows how the practicing stoic aims to live a life of joy and gratitude (by being mindful of the impermanence of all things), enjoy whatever wealth come their way (taking care to be the user, but not the slave, of the gifts of Fortune), and adopt a somewhat fatalistic view of the world that they live in (by being mindful of what is and what is not within their control).
It is an interesting read that bridges the gap between philosophical treatise and self-help book, and a valiant effort to resurrect and popularize a world view, rooted in logic, that has all but vanished. Somewhat inexplicably....more