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Philosophy for Life: And Other Dangerous Situations

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In his engaging book, Jules Evans explains how ancient philosophy saved his life, and how we can all use it to become happier, wiser and more resilient. Jules imagines a dream school, which includes 12 of the greatest and most colourful thinkers the world has ever known. Each of these ancient philosophers teaches a technique we can use to transform our selves and live better lives. These practical techniques are illustrated by the extraordinary stories of real people who are using them today - from marines to magicians, from astronauts to anarchists and from CBT psychologists to soldiers. Jules also explores how ancient philosophy is inspiring modern communities - Socratic cafes, Stoic armies, Platonic sects, Sceptic summer camps - and even whole nations in their quest for the good life.

292 pages, Paperback

First published November 19, 2012

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About the author

Jules Evans

7 books141 followers
Jules is policy director at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, at Queen Mary, University of London. He is also co-organiser of the London Philosophy Club, and is researching and promoting the growth of philosophy clubs around the world.

He's written on philosophy and psychology for the Financial Times, Wired, The Times, Spectator, Prospect, The Observer, Psychologies and others; presented on BBC 2's Culture Show; spoken on BBC Radio 3, Radio 4, RTE-1, ABC Australia, at the RSA, and at several festivals including Hay-On-Wye and Latitude. He is a BBC New Generation Thinker for 2013.

His first book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, looks at how ancient philosophy is used by people today, and how it directly influenced Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It has come out in 19 countries, and was described as 'something of a revelation' by the Observer, and as a 'wonderful book, beautifully written' by Lord Richard Layard. It was one of The Times' books of the year in 2013.

He blogs at www.philosophyforlife.org

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 196 reviews
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,152 followers
September 5, 2022
Una dintre numeroasele confecții care ilustrează așa-numitul „stoicism modern”, o mișcare populară de evadare în Absolutul Liniștii și Armoniei Cosmice prin invocarea „tehnicilor” și „exercițiilor” descrise de filosofii de la sfîrșitul Antichității (Epictet, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius etc.).

În acest curent euforic de luminare interioară s-ar înscrie și Jules Evans. Membrii mișcării neo-stoice și-au trecut printre fondatori (fără să-i întrebe, firește) autori prestigioși ca Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre (After Virtue, University of Notre Dame Press, 1984) și Martha C. Nussbaum (The Therapy of Desire, Princeton University Press, 1994). Invocarea acestor nume nu oferă însă nici o legitimitate „mișcării” și scriitorilor contemporani care o ilustrează. Și nici lui Jules Evans, „un blogger imprevizibil şi fară calificări academice”, cum însuși se caracterizează la p.372.

Este vorba, în realitate, de folosirea inadecvată / diletantistică a textelor unor gînditori latini (ajunși la modă în Occident și la noi prin lucrările lui Pierre Hadot și Michel Foucault), cunoscute doar în engleza traducerilor și înțelese după voie și plac. Pentru a ține echipelor de rugby prelegeri de calmare (cum face Jules Evans) e suficient, poate, dar pentru a fi trecut într-o bibliografie serioasă e foarte puțin.

Cine este de fapt Seneca în opinia lui Evans? Iată: „Seneca - politician, bancher, guru al dezvoltării personale”.

Stilul și conținutul capitolelor lucrării e cam acesta: „Am văzut în lecţia lui Epictet [despre Epictet, probabil, n. m. VG] că US Army se bazează pe tehnici de TCC, inspirate de stoicism, pentru a-i preda fiecărui militar curajul în faţa sorţii. De fapt, înainte de introducerea programului Comprehensive Soldier Fitness în 2009, armata americană le preda deja stoicismul unor militari, pentru a-i ajuta să rezolve anumite probleme de echilibru şi de stăpînire a furiei, prin activitatea maiorului Thomas Jarrett” (p.99). Abia acum pricepem de ce au avut americanii atîta succes în Irak.

Avem de a face cu un soi de protocronism „à l'américaine”. De pildă, terapiile lui Albert Ellis (1913 - 2007) s-ar origina în unele intuiții prezentate de Seneca și Marcus Aurelius, priviți îngust și anacronic ca psihologi cognitiv-comportamentiști și, foarte puțin sau deloc, ca filosofi pur și simplu, care se pricepeau nu numai la firea omului, dar și la argumente. În urma acestor manipulări, rezultă un talmeș-balmeș psihologico-stoico-terapeutico-soteriologic, din care orice anxios naiv pricepe ce vrea, dar din care lipsesc tocmai filosofii antici și, nu în ultimul rînd, Albert Ellis.

Erudiția autorului provine îndeosebi de pe site-uri de popularizare și foarte puțin din bibliotecă: doar titluri răzlețe, fără loc, editură, an al tipăririi și celelalte fleacuri academice.

Nu pot omite cîteva propoziții din secțiunea de „Acknowledgments”:

„Mulţumiri agentului meu, Jonathan Conway, pentru isteţimea, înţelepciunea şi sugestiile sale privind stilul de viaţă. Mulţumiri către The Literary Consultancy pentru a mă fi recomandat editorului meu, minunata Sue Lascelles, care mi-a oferit un contract şi m-a ajutat să elaborez această carte: îţi rămân dator!” (p.373).

Nici traducerea românească nu e mai brează. Citez: „Acum îmi dau seama că mijloacelor media nu le pasă să spună adevărul, atît timp cît atrag atenţia oamenilor” (p.182).
Profile Image for Donald Robertson.
Author 10 books760 followers
June 1, 2012

Jules has written a superb introduction to practical philosophy.  This book is perhaps quite unique, although it’s written in a very accessible style.  I think I read it in the space of 2-3 days.  It introduces the reader to a range of classical philosophical ways of life, by means of many anecdotes and examples that paint a vivid picture of how modern followers of these philosophies make use of them in coping with adversity and living meaningful and satisfying lives.  Jules begins with three chapters discussing some of the most well-known Stoic authors of antiquity: Epictetus, Musonius Rufus and Seneca.  The Stoics feature prominently, in fact, which should be no surprise as theirs is widely-regarded as the philosophical school most systematically concerned with the Socratic art of living, or practical philosophy.  However, Jules adopts an eclectic (or “pluralistic”) approach, introducing the reader to the possible benefits of the main philosophical traditions of the Hellenistic period, and also raising some potential criticisms along the way.  He proceeds to explore the great rival of the Stoic school, Epicureanism. Later chapters also touch upon the other major philosophical movements: the Sceptics and Cynics, and the schools of Plato and Aristotle.  The pre-Socratic philosophers Heraclitus and Pythagoras also have chapters dedicated to them, as does the Platonist philosopher Plutarch.  Throughout, references to modern therapy and positive psychology, etc., are interwoven with anecdotes about contemporary individuals who have made use of philosophy in their lives.


I was very impressed by the way that Jules covered so much ground in the space of a single book.  We’re left with a sense that these philosophers offer us a variety of lifestyles, which are different enough to make for interesting comparisons but similar enough to intersect and complement each other in important ways.  Indeed, many philosophers of antiquity were not rigidly devoted to the teachings of a single school but drew upon different traditions in quite an eclectic manner, much as Jules’ book does.  Even those identifying themselves as “Stoics” or “Platonists”, etc., used to dip into the texts of opposing schools, which I believe Seneca called “raiding the enemy camp” for ideas.  In that sense, Philosophy for Life stands in a long tradition of philosophical texts that inspire readers to learn about and perhaps imitate the philosophical lifestyles and practices of the great philosophers of different orientations, inviting them to make comparisons, generate their own synthesis or perhaps choose between them.  Most of the Hellenistic schools considered themselves to be descendants, to varying degrees, of Socrates, the pre-eminent Greek sage.  However, the Stoics particularly aimed to preserve the practical example of Socrates’ philosophical lifestyle, by means of various strategies and techniques associated with the “art of living”.  These happen to resemble modern psychotherapeutic procedures, particularly those of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), as Jules notes, alluding to his own personal story as an example of someone who combined both CBT self-help and classical philosophy to learn methods of emotional self-regulation and personal improvement.


My own orientation is broadly Stoic, a subject I’ve written about in one of the books Jules mentions in Philosophy for Life.  So I’m tempted to add some more comments about the Stoic tradition.  Jules gives a lot more space to the Stoics than the other philosophies and is broadly sympathetic to their approach, although he also raises some potential criticisms.  He gives several examples of individuals who are influenced by Stoicism or provide good examples of Stoic resilience, prominent among which are, quite rightly, modern military personnel such as admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war during the Vietnam war whose allegiance to Stoicism helped him endure many years of torture without breaking, Rhonda Curnum the head of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness programme, and several US marines and Green Berets, including Major Thomas Jarrett who combines Stoicism and REBT in his own resilience training programme.  These anecdotes include great examples of modern Stoic attitudes and ways of coping with adversity.  I used the story of James Stockdale in my own book and talked at length about the military metaphors in Stoicism.  However, it seems this way of portraying Stoicism can also be off-putting to some people and may create a rather “macho” image that’s arguably not the whole story.  Toward the end of this book, Jules actually concludes that the whole Socratic tradition, including all the philosophies described here, may be legitimately criticised for “its overemphasis on the self-sufficient rational individual and its lack of compassion and charity” (p. 255).  Of the Stoics in particular he says:



We are not, and should not try to be, invincible Stoic supermen, safe in our lonely fortresses of solitude.  We need each other.  We need to admit this need, and embrace it. (pp. 210-211)


In some ways, this is a fair point, but I think it deserves a response.  It’s not entirely clear what the doctrines of Stoicism were in relation to compassion for mankind, or individuals, and they probably differed among parts of the school.  However, in their own lives, the famous Stoics of history clearly engaged with society and generally appear to have valued close friendships.  For example, Marcus Aurelius spends the entire first chapter of his Meditations praising his friends and family at some length, and recounting their virtues with great admiration and affection.  Marcus says that the ideal Stoic Sage is “full of love”, for the universe and mankind, but free from irrational fear and craving (“passion”, in the Stoic technical sense).  I doubt any Stoic would literally believe that we “need” each other but rather that we have a natural affinity for other people and therefore benefit from healthy relationships when we exercise wisdom in them.  The Stoics frequently refer to the value they place on love for mankind and gentleness even toward their enemies.  Seneca wrote:



No school has more goodness and gentleness, none has more love for human beings, nor more attention to the common good.   The goal which it assigns to us is to be useful, to help others, and to take care, not only of ourselves, but of everyone in general and of each one in particular.


The scholar Pierre Hadot notes that the Christian doctrine of “loving one’s neighbour as oneself” was prefigured in Stoicism, centuries before the supposed birth of Christ.  Indeed, arguably Stoicism is a philosophy of love.  Love of wisdom, as the name “philosophy” literally states, the wisdom to know the difference between good, bad, and indifferent things.  It is also therefore, by implication, the love of both human nature and the nature of the universe, through understanding which we grasp what is good and beneficial for ourselves and for mankind in general.  I’m not suggesting that Green Berets, etc., don’t value brotherly love but that the military analogies so common in Stoic literature often emphasise resilience in the sense of mental “toughness” and perhaps sometimes obscure the gentle and compassionate side of Stoicism, which it shares to a large extent with the Christian tradition.  This is a difficulty with Stoic texts in general, though, and Jules frequently helps to redress misconceptions about Stoicism by pointing out, for instance, that the Stoics developed a sophisticated grasp of the psychology of emotion rather than simply being the utterly dispassionate “cold fish” they’re often portrayed as being.  Indeed, the Stoics repeatedly extol positive, rational and healthy emotions such as courage, generosity, compassion, love, friendship, and even joy, insofar as these do not interfere with one’s exercise of practical wisdom.  On the other hand, it’s true that the Stoics did sometimes make remarks that appear to paint a more solitary and austere picture of their philosophical practices.  It’s therefore important that contrasting ways of life such as those of the Epicureans and Aristotelians are there for comparison.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It’s certainly one I will recommend to others and I’ve already found myself referring other people to it as an introduction to both Stoicism and practical philosophy, the Socratic art of living, in general.  As noted above, the style of the book is quite different from most others on ancient philosophy, although it might be compared to ancient biographical accounts of philosophers, but written in very modern prose and well-suited to today’s readers, whether or not they have any experience of philosophy.  It will be particularly good as the “first book” to read for people interested in finding out more about classical philosophy and how it relates to modern approaches to therapy, wellbeing and personal improvement.  Jules has achieved a lot and I’m sure a great many people will benefit from reading his work, which will inspire them to philosophise in their daily lives and to find out more about the Socratic philosophical tradition.


Table of Contents

Preface: Welcome to the School of Athens


1. Morning roll call: Socrates and the art of street philosophy


Morning Session: The Warriors of Virtue


2. Epictetus and the art of maintaining control


3. Musonius Rufus and the art of fieldwork


4. Seneca and the art of managing expectations


Lunch: Philosophy Buffet


5. Lunchtime lesson: Epicurus and the art of savouring the moment


Early Afternoon Session: Mystics & Sceptics


6. Heraclitus and the art of cosmic contemplation


7. Pythagoras and the art of memorisation and incantation


8. Sceptics and the art of cultivating doubt


Late Afternoon Session: Politics


9. Diogenes and the art of anarchy


10. Plato and the art of justice


11. Plutarch and the art of heroism


12. Aristotle and the art of flourishing


Graduation: Socrates and the art of departure


Extra-Curricular Appendix


Appendix One: Is Socrates over-optimistic about human reason?


Appendix Two: The Socratic tradition and non-Western philosophical traditions


Appendix Three: Socrates and Dionysus

Profile Image for Nicolay Hvidsten.
147 reviews35 followers
January 23, 2018
I'm not sure whether it is the particular order in which I read the following books that caused the profound cumulative effect they had on me, or if they can be read in any order and still have the same effect, or indeed if they possibly can have the same effect on another person, but for the mere chance that they might, I'm listing them here:

The Tao of Pooh - by Benjamin Hoff
The Antidote - by Oliver Burkeman
The Power of Now - by Eckhart Tolle
Awaken the Giant Within - by Anthony Robbins
Deep Work - by Cal Newport
Philosophy for Life - by Jules Evans

(Honorable mentions to The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, and Zen Shorts by Jon Muth)

These books changed the way I view the world, as well as how I respond to its circumstances, and in my opinion this is the highest achievement a book can ever aspire to. Fiction books have certainly provided moments of introspection and even near ecstacy (caused by, but not limited to, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke, The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, East of Eden by Steinbeck, Lord of the Flies by Golding, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway), but they have never profoundly changed the way I view the world in the way that these books of non-fiction have.

What also strikes me about these books are the astounding similarities between the ideas taught by each of them. I think it's amazing how similar, for instance, the stoic tradition is to zen Buddhism, whether concerning the idea of a logos (i.e. a cosmic intelligence that we are all part of), or that it is your reaction to external events rather than the events themselves that cause you distress.

These ideas are expounded upon and investigated in all the books I listed, and each provided perspective adds to the overall debate.

What makes Philosophy for Life such an influential book in my particular case is that Evans summarises the similarities between all the various Greek schools of philosophy (stoicism, skepticism, cynicism, epecuritanism et. al.) which is what allowed me to realise the corresponding parallels in the philosophical works that I personally have read (like for instance the similarity between Tolle's insistence of being present and not create a victim mentality and the stoic tradition, or how Anthony Robbins declares that you must "question your beliefs" which is perfectly in tune with the Socratic method of questioning what you think you know, and realise that you harbour false beliefs which impact how you view the world).

All in all this book might be a perfect introduction to Greek philosophy (as well as a tool to practically implement whichever philosophy appeals to you) - it certainly gave me a solid introduction to cynicism and epecuritanism which I had never encountered before - but, most importantly in my particular case, it can also solidify your previous encounters with philosophical ideas (gleamed perhaps from Buddhism, as in my case) and show you the common ground these all build upon.

You might not necessarily need to read all the books I listed initially to gleam this insight (you might already be aware of it for all I know), but I genuinely think that if you should only pick one of them, make it this one.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,172 reviews1,027 followers
October 5, 2012
A marvellous book which summarizes the major strands of classical philosophy and describes how they might be incorporated into contemporary life.

The author writes from a position of having overcome depression and despair through finding life-meaning in philosophy, however at the conclusion of the book

I do think Evans misrepresents Stoicism by leaving out the sheer joy in life which a Stoic approach brings. It is entirely strange that in popular culture stoicism has come to mean not exhibiting any emotion, rather than not being overwhelmed and driven by negative emotion when bad things happen. It is a truly happy way to live.

However, as a primer in Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Sceptics, and the entire Socratic tradition, this is a great book: I'd suggest it's a must-read for every thinking human.



Profile Image for Marius.
233 reviews
July 15, 2017
Importantă carte de popularizare a filosofiei antice - în principal grecești. Am citit-o prima oară pe Kindle în engleză. Credeam în mod eronat că e o lucrare self-help de duzină așa cum le place vesticilor și nu merita să-i fac loc în bibliotecă.

Este scrisă într-un limbaj accesibil, fără nici un jargon filosofic. Autorul nu vorbește despre filosofie ca de la catedră ci caută să vadă cum poate fi aplicată vieții de zi cu zi. El însuși a folosit filosofia pentru a controla anxietatea și depresia. Prezintă oameni simpli care își conduc viața pe baza uneia sau alteia dintre filosofiile prezentate: stoicismul, epicurismul, cinismul, platonismul ș.a.

Presupun că acestea sunt motivele pentru care cartea a avut succes: a coborât filosofia din școli și universități (unde se dogmatizase) înapoi în mijlocul oamenilor obișnuiți. A făcut-o accesibilă și prietenoasă. A refăcut-o practică. Acest fenomen este un trend pe care trebuie să-l aplaud (alt promotor al filosofiei în rândul oamenilor obișnuiți fiind Alain de Botton )

Este deci o carte pentru tineri și neinițiați scrisă de un tânăr. Pentru „jupâni” în materie recomand Exercitii spirituale si filosofie antica de Pierre Hadot. Demersul său este similar: coborârea Filosofiei din mediul academic unde s-a osificat și folosirea ei ca în antichitate. Atunci filosofia era mai mult practică, scopul ei fiind acela de a ne îmbunătăți viața și de a ne pregăti pentru moarte.
Profile Image for Blair.
Author 2 books43 followers
November 10, 2013
Jules Evans enters Alain De Botton territory here as he gives a populist take on Ancient Greek philosophers and how their ideas can be used as therapy. I thought he was going to focus mainly on the Stoics, but he covers a fair bit of ground. It might have been better just to stick to the Stoics, though. He finds links with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and interviews a lot of people who have applied the ideas of the philosophers in their own lives. What I do like is his level-headed critical approach to things like positive psychology which he admires in theory but is quite willing to point out the flaws with. Ultimately it's a little superficial, which is why I'm on to the philosophers themselves now...
Profile Image for jade.
489 reviews276 followers
January 5, 2016
Philosophy for Life is a brief overview of the philosophical ideas and thoughts of twelve of the most famous (ancient Greek) philosophers – from Epictetus and Pythagoras to Diogenes and Socrates. Writer and teacher Jules Evans not only explores the brilliant insights of these ancient philosophers, but also tries to examine how to apply their ideas to our own everyday lives. In doing so, he uses real life case examples of people who have implemented philosophy in their lives and way of thinking.

I have to admit, this was a difficult book for me to get through. It reeks a bit of pretentious self-help guides that lack any real accuracy because the core ideas aren’t sufficiently explored. Though some of the most well-known and influential Greek philosophies are listed and introduced, the exploration of these philosophies remains a bit shallow. Not to mention that Evans is very royal with his own personal opinion on things – which I didn’t always agree with.

Also, though the book claims to help people apply philosophical ideas to their own lives, the only way in which Evans attempts to do this is (1) using case examples of other people to whom philosophy has been important in their lives at one point, and (2) showing examples of applied philosophy or schools of thought gone horribly wrong in modern day. And these examples are never followed up with an explanation or analysis on how to let the reader implement certain philosophies in their own personal lives.

Evans also discusses psychology a lot in relation to philosophy. I commend him for criticising the Positive Psychology movement as something that twists both philosophical ideas and the concept of positivity and happiness, and is not supported scientifically or empirically. And yet, though he is on mark with that, his other opinions on psychology come across as so terribly misinformed – he speaks of psychologists glorifying and supporting Freudian psychoanalysis (which I was taught at university to be dated, harmful, and generally useless), and neuroscience being far too focused on medicine and physicality to be useful.

For Evans, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the true saviour and the only good thing psychology has to contribute, but it never truly becomes clear why. CBT is based on ancient Greek philosophy and apparently saved Evans from his own psychological troubles, but why would that make it the only good form of therapy to exist?

Psychological problems are a complex interplay of behaviour, emotions, thoughts, physicality, trauma, and a patient’s history – which is why CBT, other types of therapy, and medicine/neuroscience are often combined to help patients out. There isn’t just one miracle therapy, even though Evans presents CBT as such (and the entire field of psychology as something dated and backwards that should just move on to CBT and philosophy).

The influence of philosophical schools of thought on modern philosophy and communities is also analysed by Evans – who soon concludes that it tends to lead to the forming of cult-like groups with horrendous groupthink to the point of abuse and devastating sexism. And if any one of the philosophies on how to live your life should be imposed on a population by its government, it would soon turn into a totalitarian regime. Evans agrees that those are all generally bad things – and yet he still advocates creating modern schools of thought, without ever addressing how to avoid having those turn to harmful groupthink, too.

I suppose this could be a nice 101 introduction to ancient Greek philosophy (because heaven forbid we should include anyone else than the Greeks), though ultimately it doesn’t truly teach you how to apply philosophy in your daily life nor is it a very analytic take. It feels a bit like Evans standing around shouting: “Philosophy saves lives, as does cognitive behavioural therapy! Just look at my own experiences and those of all these other people!”.

It’s definitely a populist approach, not a deep exploration of what philosophy is and what it means for us in this day and age.
Profile Image for Moh. Nasiri.
291 reviews100 followers
April 7, 2019
This book is about psychological roots in ancient philosophy(CBT,Positive Psychology,etc.) which I read in Blinkist.com
Summary:

-Self-development is about more than just reading a few books (or blinks) on the topic. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers show us it is a way of life – a daily practice – which involves asking the difficult questions of how we should live, both as individuals and as a society.

Actionable advice:

Keep a journal of your own behavior, updating it every evening.

When you wake up the next day you’ll be able to review your faults and accomplishments and try to improve further on them during the course of the day. This will not only keep you on a path of continuous improvement, but you may also start to notice patterns in your behavior and find root causes for them.

Learn through imitation.

You should surround yourself with people you find admirable and inspiring. Before you know it, you’ll start to develop the same character traits that you admire in those people.

Remember: life is but a flash of light in the infinite darkness of the universe.

You should therefore never forget the importance of the present moment. Each breath, each conversation and each bite of food could potentially be your last, so savor it.

-Ancient philosophy and the modern science of happiness use many of the same principles.
Ancient wisdom is being revived and integrated into our modern knowledge of psychology. Indeed, much of the modern science of happiness is inspired by Greek and Roman philosophy.

For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a modern, science-based psychotherapy, is inspired by ancient philosophy, and especially by the disciples of Socrates known as the Stoics.

Both CBT and the Stoics argue that the origin of mental disorder lies not in brain chemistry but in our irrational beliefs.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus summed this up by saying: “Men are not disturbed by things, but by their opinions about them.”

This sentence inspired one of the founders of CBT, Albert Ellis, to create his ABC model, the foundation of CBT:

First we experience an activating event (A), which our beliefs interpret (B), and which has emotional consequences (C).

For example, when you fail your driving test (A), and think you are a failure (B),you may well feel worthless (C).

But the Stoics and CBT argue that if we change our beliefs (B), we change our emotions. By reconceiving failure not as a fault of character but as an opportunity to learn, we can avoid mental disorders like depression. Embrace your failure and, empowered with the knowledge of your weaknesses, practice that parking maneuver like a maniac.

Seligman, a student of another founder of CBT, Aaron Beck, aims to apply CBT not only to curing mental disorder, but also to helping people be happy.

His modern theory of Positive Psychology is inspired by Aristotle’s ancient philosophy of flourishing.

Flourishing is attained by engaging our highest drives to develop ourselves to the highest level, like, for example, striving for artistic mastery.

Just like Aristotle before him, Seligman concentrates on cultivating excellence of character. The expression of our character’s strengths and virtues – such as the courage to speak out despite opposition and self-control to work towards our dreams – are the daily steps we take towards fulfilling our best selves.

-The Stoics teach us the art of self-control, the daily training of our minds and the acceptance of reality as it is.

-The Epicureans teach us to savor pleasure, be present in the moment and allow ourselves to be happy.
-The Pythagoreans advocate distancing yourself from your daily troubles and using mantras to change irrational beliefs.
-Plutarch shows us the importance of role models.
-Aristotle teaches us that the good life lies in the communal cultivation of excellence.

Source: www.blinkist.com
Profile Image for Noush.
77 reviews34 followers
July 19, 2014
الكتاب ده رغم إنه فلسفي بس اللي كاتبه "جولز إيفانز" صحفي أسلوبه بسيط وخفيف وممتع، دخل عالم الفلسفة من الجانب الممتع له..
كان في البداية عنده مشاكل حاول يحلها بشكل فعال مع مجموعة بتطبيق قواعد التنمية البشرية اللي أغلبنا بقى يحسها مجرد تمثيل، بس جانب برمجة التصرفات.. ولفت إنتباهه إن الحاجات اللي فعلا نفعت معاه مستوحاة من الفلسفة الإغريقية القديمة..
إتشد جداً للفكرة وقرر يدوّر وراها، وورا الجانب الحقيقي اللي فيها، وبالتالي بمروره على الأكاديميين واكتشافه قد إيه الفلسفة بالنسبالهم نظريات وأكل عيش، دوّر على الناس اللي حقيقي بتطبق الفلسفة وفرقت في حياتها..
ويمكن أكتر ناس علمت معايا كانت واحدة من الجيش الأمريكي تعرضت لتعذيب رهيب ومع ذلك قدرت تخرج من التجربة مش مشوهة نفسياً، وواحد كان بلطجي للمافيا واتسجن، وقرأ كتب فلسفة في السجن وغيرته جداً لدرجة إنه كان سارق كتاب وهو جوا السجن، ورجعه من تأنيب الضمير..
قابل ناس جميلة وأمثلة ملهمة.. وجذبه أكتر من المؤلفين النظريين، المجموعات اللي بتتقابل في مقاهي وأماكن غير رسمية للتناقش وتمرين عضلات عقلهم وفتح أرواحهم للتجربة
الكتاب لمس الفلسفة من جانب حقيقي جداً وخلاني كل يوم وأنا باقراه أحس بالتفاؤل والقوة
وأنصح بيه لكل الناس مش لمحبي الفلسفة بس
Profile Image for wenshuren.
47 reviews5 followers
July 31, 2012
It was an interesting read. My first glimpse to the world of phlosophy. I didn't know there is a connection between philosophy and psychology beside they come with the same first alphabet 'P'. Definitely will re-read and make reference whenever is necessary.

Socrates - Headmaster of School of Athens
Epictetus - Stoics, some things are up to us, and others are not
Epicurus - materialist
Plato / Pythagoras - believed in reincarnation
Heraclitus - believed in a cosmic intelligence made of fire
Profile Image for Beth.
236 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2021
I noted so many passages in this book with my post-it colored tabs it looked like a neon rainbow was exploding out of the pages. A creatively constructed seminar in the modern application of the ancient (Western-tradition) philosophers, Evans take us from PTSD, to technology overload, and from stoicism to Dionysus. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading. While it felt a little like a survey class in philosophy, it also felt like you were taking it with one of the most engaging professors around.

From the opposite perspective of the academic, at times Evans is touting philosophy as a way of improving your life, almost as self-help for over-thinkers. “We can lead people to the well of philosophy, but we can’t force them to think,” he quips. But he does tackle some conflicts about the challenges that a thinking life is not necessarily a happier life. And perhaps happiness is not the ultimate virtue we should be chasing, after all. I’m not totally sold on the pursuit of happiness as the path for everyone. After all, “Dionysus is great for the party, but he’s never there to pick up the bill.” The roller coaster from a focus on physically-pleasing experiences (food, sex, indulgences) that isn’t balanced with self-control and self-reflection does not end well for most humans who pursue it.

And, of course, the decision to create communities and societies brings with it natural curtailment of certain individual experiences in the name of the greater good. Or eschewing those communities limits your ability to create experiences, and in the modern world this practice of self-removal from community is most often taken up by those individuals who have catastrophized beyond any scope of rational thought.

Perhaps the authors experience on the Camino de Santiago best sums up for me how our interactions with others, and building relationships, is key to determining a workable philosophy for life. He says, “To go on pilgrimage is to make yourself vulnerable, to put yourself at the mercy of others. You learn to accept the gift of others’ help, and to accept your own dependency.” In that acceptance, there is a certain amount of peace to be found. A surrendering to our own humanness. I found a similar experience with my own Camino pilgrimage, and once you find it, I think it becomes a key tool in your philosopher’s tool box. We are not alone, and in our miserableness or our happiness, the key is that both are better when they are shared. It is why, if we are lucky, we grieve in groups, and have a loved one or good friend to call when we get good news or bad.
Profile Image for Bruno Vinhas.
58 reviews6 followers
May 20, 2014
Sempre que leio um livro sobre filosofia clássica fico abismado como homens à mais de 2000 anos atrás tinham ideias que ainda hoje são máximas para nos ajudar a viver melhor.
Jules Evans conseguiu reunir num livro várias correntes filosóficas clássicas, como: o estoicismo, o epicurismo, o cepticismo e as filosofias de Platão, Sócrates, Aristóteles. Diógenes e Plutarco, para mostrar como se pode viver melhor com os ensinamentos destes mestres. E não só fez um livro de bases teóricas, como foi à procura de exemplos de pessoas que passaram a viver melhor, com a aplicação prática dos conhecimentos dos mestres filósofos da Grécia antiga. Isso faz com que seja muito fácil para o leitor retirar aquilo que é mais proveitoso das ideias destes filósofos e em que situações é que se pode aplicar cada um dos conceitos filosóficos tratados no livro. Pelo menos para mim foi fácil filtrar aquilo que é importante e pode ser aplicado daquilo que não é. Na minha opinião estes filósofos defendiam tão aguerridamente os seus ideais, que por vezes estes caíam no exagero. E como é sabido, a dose faz o remédio e o veneno. Se estas ideias forem consumidos com moderação de certeza que a vida de quem os segue melhorará.
Resumindo - um excelente trabalho de Jules Evans, leiam que de certeza conseguirão viver melhor e mais felizes com a aplicação destes ensinamentos antigos.
Profile Image for Ciprian.
27 reviews3 followers
June 2, 2016
Stoics try to make a clear-eyed appraisal of the world we live in so its blows are not unexpected. We live, Seneca writes, in the realm of Fortune, and “her rule is harsh and unconquerable, and at her whim we will endure suffering deserved and undeserved. She will waste our bodies by violent, cruel and insulting means: some she will burn with fire…some she will put in chains…some she will toss naked onto the shifting seas…”7 She will bring down cities, drink up seas, divert rivers…in fact, she destroys whole planets and galaxies, sucked up into black holes then spat forth again, until eventually, the whole universe will be consumed in one great conflagration (so the Stoics believed anyway), only to be born again, so that the whole fraught process can be gone through again. And in the middle of this chaos stands man. “What is man? A weak and fragile body, naked, in its natural state without defense, in need of another’s assistance, exposed to all the insults of Fortune, and once it has given its muscles a good exercise, food for the first wild beast.” If this doesn’t sound very enticing, too bad. This is simply the way things are, say the Stoics, and getting furious about it is as pointless as losing your temper with the rain.
Profile Image for Richard Cox.
92 reviews
November 28, 2015
Before reading this book, I never realized there was a connection between Stoic philosophy and the modern counseling practice of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). But philosophy was the psychological self-help of its time in ancient Greece and Rome. This book walks you through several schools of philosophy, explaining their origins and introducing you to contemporary practitioners of each. It's an interesting read and, if nothing else, a good review of ancient philosophy. For me, it's kindled an interest in Stoicism.
Profile Image for Noor AlGadheb.
11 reviews2 followers
July 23, 2013
I liked the first part of the book the most, later on the writer mentioned too many names and too many stories which made the book a little bit boring.
Profile Image for Jon Stout.
273 reviews56 followers
December 18, 2019
When I first heard of Jules Evans’ book, it seemed like a good survey of the “life style” philosophers, the post-Socratics with an attitude, namely the Stoics, the Cynics, the Epicureans, and the Skeptics. It also promised to relate their attitudes to contemporary life, which seemed like a bonus. The book delivered on these promises, but not in a way that I found very satisfying. Most of the philosophies were put in a nutshell of a sentence or two, with little detailed attention, and then a present-day story would be told revolving around the nutshell.

For example, I have been interested in Stoicism because it interacted with early Christianity. Paul Tillich wrote (in a historical context) that “it is the only real alternative to Christianity in the Western World.” But the Evans book seems to encapsulate Stoicism as the simple idea of being detached from the pains and misfortunes of life. And then it goes on to describe the training of soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how helpful it was cultivate this detachment as a way of preventing PTSD.

Perhaps I am too dismissive. The book does describe particular soldiers reading Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius and describing the emotional support it gave them. There are snippets about the lives of the various post-Socratics that are interesting. I lost patience with the discussion of the various study groups, schools, sects and movements in contemporary society which have attempted to use the classic philosophers as their point of departure, not because they aren’t real or in earnest, but because they taught me little about the philosophers themselves.

Evans offers some critical commentary, as when he discusses Werner Erhard’s EST as taking a departure from Skepticism. Evans acknowledges that creating a cult-like atmosphere is a long way from philosophical questioning. He discusses the School for Economic Science (London, 1937 to the present), which among other things “combined Platonic and Neoplatonic mysticism with Eastern Vedic Philosophy.” He concludes that, “aspects of the school’s history also show how such communities can become dogmatic in their devotion to a charismatic leader, and how careful one must be in imposing one’s philosophy on one’s children.”

Evans is an advocate of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which he likens to the Socratic tradition: “humans can know themselves, change themselves, and create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting.” While I am suspicious of cashing out philosophy for self-help, I can hear Socrates asking, ”Are you not ashamed that you care nothing for truth, or wisdom, or the improvement of your soul?”
Profile Image for Steve Greenleaf.
219 reviews63 followers
January 9, 2014
Serendipity once again rode to my rescue in a chaotic Indian bookstore (actually, the pretty good Modern Book Centre here in Trivandrum). I spied Philosophy for Life, by an author unknown to me. A quick perusal of the TOC revealed that it addressed Stoicism, Epicureanism, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Skepticism, Cynicism, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, and of course, the godfather of them all, Socrates. One can surmise from the all-star cast that it couldn’t help but to prove worthwhile. It did.

Evans tells an interesting story. His book isn’t just an exposition of ancient wisdom (for wisdom is the purpose of these philosophies and philosophers), but it relates each tradition to our world through his own story and those of others. Evans reports that as a young man he was plagued with anxiety and depression until he discovered Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), developed by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. Put simply, CBT attacks “stinkin’ thinkin’” (a term of art I borrow from elsewhere). Indeed, CBT, as Evans discovered, draws from the tradition of Stoicism. Stoicism addresses the veracity of our beliefs and the fundamental choices that we have about our emotional reactions to those beliefs (and the events that trigger those beliefs). The help that Evans received from CBT drew him into the world of ancient philosophy and an exploration of the way in which philosophy can become a way of life. Each chapter address a particular thinker or tradition, weaving together contemporary practitioners within that tradition with the original, helping to bring to life the value of each.

Evans not only provides very sound expositions of the basic tenants of each tradition and the contemporary manifestations of each, but he also provides sound critiques. Indeed, after going through this buffet of a book (and based on some earlier reading that I’ll detail below), one might want to treat each of these traditions as a course at a meal: each dish appropriate to a particular moment in life. Stoicism helps arm us against life’s tribulations, defeats, and losses. But should we remain a Stoic all of the time? It seems too harsh. Even the warriors who often draw upon it must need some break from its implicit asceticism. Epicureanism, on the other hand, with its appreciation of pleasure and desire to avoid pain and anxiety, seems the attitude to take when enjoying a glass of wine and a fine meal--savoring the moment, as Evans dubs it. It also counsels us not to worry about that which we cannot control.

Heraclitus teaches us to appreciate the flux of life; Protagoras the benefit of reminding ourselves of ideals through memorization and incantation. Skeptics teach us to question and doubt—what I might call the Missouri method: “Show me. I’m not buyin’ until you do.” Diogenes and the Cynics, surely the most far out of the traditions, teach us the value of street theatre and radical questioning.

Evans moves on to the Big Three of Ancient Philosophy: Plato, his student Aristotle, and the master of the whole tradition (and Plato’s teacher), Socrates. Plato compels us to consider justice and the proper order of things, while his more earthly student Aristotle teaches us about friendship, politics, and all manner of earthly (and metaphysical) concerns. Aristotle serves as an antidote the Epicurean and Stoic tendency to retreat from the public space. Finally, Socrates teaches us about the value of questioning and facing death.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to this ancient tradition. Evans’ critiques are thoughtful and balanced. He looks to take the fruit of that lies within rather than rejecting the whole because of any surface imperfection. Evans touches upon the tradition’s relationship with Buddhism and the Chinese traditions, something, especially concerning Buddhism, that I’d like to see further developed. (The similarities between Buddhism and Stoicism seem to me almost patent. Nassim Taleb touches on the issue in a footnote in Antifragile: “For those readers who wonder about the difference between Buddhism and Stoicism, I have a simple answer: A Stoic is a Buddhist with attitude, one who says “f*** you” to fate”. (153). I think that this is a bit too simple, but it’s making the connection.)

Evans gratefully acknowledges those scholars whose work he draws upon for his examination of the ancient traditions. Some of them I’ve read and can recommend if you want to dig deeper: Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life (and anything else by Hadot); Martha Nussbaum’s The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics and Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of the Emotions (her effort at an improved and expanded appreciation of the Stoic view of the emotions); Alain de Botton’s Consolations of the Philosophy (not limited to the ancients); and Richard Sorabji’s Gifford Lectures, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation.

Finally, Evans’ website http://www.philosophyforlife.org/ is an excellent resource for further exploration of these issues.
Profile Image for Fabrizio Valenza.
Author 43 books30 followers
May 12, 2019
Qualche ideuccia filosofica da sottomettere a una logica pseudo-scientifica del benessere.
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,183 reviews253 followers
October 21, 2020
I'm fascinated by ancient philosophy, particularly Stoicism, and consequently tend to read a book like this one every few months. Philosophy for Life: And Other Dangerous Situations is one of the best. It combines clear explanations of different philosophical schools with examples of how each is applicable to modern life. Jules Evans incorporates interviews with soldiers, psychologists, gangsters, astronauts, and anarchists to illustrate how the thinking and practices of the ancients can provide practical help. It's written in an easy, discursive style and is a book I shall return to as it's so inspiring and informative.

4/5




68 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2016
Quite poor. It was good when he was actually outlining what the particular philosopher believed, but this was very rare, I think he did it with two of the philosophers in the entire book, the rest of the time he spent ranting about something or other at best tangentially related.

It's also very Greco-centric, that is, it's entirely based around a smattering of ancient Greek philosophers, completely ignoring the huge array of philosophies and philosophers from other places and locales.

He also doesn't show how these philosophies can be used for every day life, he occasionally gives an example of someone using one of these philosophies, but rarely in a very practical way, it's usually in a very extreme way which is difficult to apply to everyday life. He also talks a lot about CBT as if it's a practical use of philosophy, it is not, CBT is a psychiatric treatment, it's not a philosophy or an approach to philosophy, even if it was inspired by Socrates (which it only was to a small degree, it was also inspired by numerous other factors, not least of which was an empirical approach to psychiatry, which the author of this book rarely mentions).

Overall the book is not rigourous, not informative, not focused and not practical.
Profile Image for Htb2050.
244 reviews
February 6, 2017
This book doesn't go into detail into any single philosophy. Its just a collection of various Greek philosophies but in the end you are more confused then ever.

The author tells in the first few pages that his life was saved due to this but what he essentially got was a few CBT techniques to deal with his anxiety. I wouldn't call that a philosophy of life.

Moreover, in the end he reveals that he had a near death experience which caused him to reconsider his life choices and gave him a clear perspective on life. And that might have been the thing that he had always been looking for.

Where do the common folk like us go looking for near death experiences to get a new perspective on life so that we could write books and tell other people about them?
Profile Image for Jake.
18 reviews31 followers
October 27, 2014
Great introduction to practical philosophy and how it ties into more modern practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Jules also does a great job weaving in stories of people using philosophy to help them overcome depression, social anxiety, PTSD, etc.
Profile Image for Vikas Datta.
2,178 reviews126 followers
November 30, 2013
Simply wonderful... very well presented account of how the teachings of the old philosophers are still relevant today, along with some necessary caveats.
Profile Image for Wandi Suhendi.
168 reviews13 followers
October 26, 2020
Filosofi Untuk Hidup Bertahan dari Situasi Berbahaya Lainnya. Judul bukunya cukup panjang, persis seperti buku aslinya yang berjudul “Philosofy for Life and other dangerous situation” Karya Jules Evans yang di sebut-sebut sebagai Pendiri dari “The London Philosophy Club”. dengan ini tentu sudah sangat mencerminkan bahwa penulis merupakan pakar di bidang Filsafat

Sejujurnya saya kurang tertarik dengan Filsafat karna bahasannya suka berat-berat dan tak sedikit pula dengan filsafat kadang membuat kita jadi berpikir yang seharusnya tidak harus dipikirkan. Namun saya tertarik dengan buku ini hanya karena dua alasan. Pertama. Covernya yang menarik, Ilustrasinya kaya si Nobita yang sudah dewasa dan sedang berjuang dalam menjalani beratnya beban hidup yang hampir-hampir terjatuh dalam jurang kegagalan. Kedua. adalah Sinopsis yang berada di Belakang bukunya. Di situ Membahas mengenai Psikoterapi-CBT dan pentingnya dalam menangani permasalahan hidup yang umumnya terjadi di abad modern ini seperti kecemasan, depresi bahkan traumatik jika tidak dihadapi dengan penuh ketenangan batin. Tentu ini menarik sekali tatkala Psikoterapi-CBT di bahas dalam sudut pandang filosofis.

Benar demikian ternyata, Konsep bahasannya cukup menarik. Yaitu menghimpun pemikiran dari para filosof ternama dalam daftar isinya yang kemudian diambil sisi pelajarannya bagaimana mereka menjalani kehidupan. seperti kita belajar dari kaum Stoa bagaimana agar menjadi tangguh dalam menjalani kesulitan hidup, belajar dari kaum Epicurean dalam menemukan kenikmatan hidup sejati, belajar dari Phytagoras dalam mendisiplinkan mental serta belajar dari kaum Skeptis cara untuk tidak mudah dibohongi. Karena salah satu filosof mengatakan bahwa Filsafat mengajarkan kita untuk menjadi ‘Dokter’ bagi diri kita sendiri

Lalu di mana letak bahasan tentang Psikoterapi CBT-Nya? Well… yang saya ingat, bahasannya hanya di Bab-Bab Awal saja, selebihnya adalah kisah-kisah. Tetapi itu sudah benar-benar cukup informatif saya kira. CBT Merupakan salah satu pendekatan Psikoterapi yang menekankan terhadap kelogisan berfikir, dunia memang tak bisa dirubah, tetapi sudut pandang tentang dunia, sudah sangat bisa untuk di rubah, ini konsep dasarnya, tidak hanya bersifat teoritis belaka, dalam buku ini, sang penulis juga menjelaskan bukti ilmiahnya dari segi presentase tingkat kesembuhan yang cukup tinggi dengan Psikoterapi CBT dalam Menghadapi Problematika Hidup.

Selama sesi Psikoterapi CBT, kita tidak hanya berbaring di Sofa lalu bermonolog tentang masa kecil (Seperti Psikoterapi Klasik Pada Umumnya), malah kita duduk dan terlibat dialog dengan psikoterapis yang berusaha membantu mengungkap prinsip bawah sadarmu, melihat semua pengaruh semua itu terhadap emosimu, kemudian mempertanyakan prinsip tersebut untuk mengetahui sisi logisnya. Kita belajar menjadi Socrates bagi diri sendiri, supaya ketika Emosi negatif menyerang, kamu dapat bertanya, bijaksanakah reaksiku? Apakah reaksi ini wajar?, bisakah aku bereaksi lebih bijak? Lalu, kemampuan Socrates ini melekat selama hidupmu. (Hal:9). Pesan Optimistis yang diajarkan oleh Socrates ini adalah bahwa kita punya daya untuk menyembuhkan diri sendiri. Kita dapat menguji Prinsip, Memilih untuk mengubahnya, dan ini akan mengubah Emosi kita juga. Dan kekuatan tersebut ada dalam diri kita.

Jujur Saja, untuk Kisah-Kisah yang di sajikan, banyak sekali yang saya tidak pahami, Tetapi untuk bagian kisah dari pengalaman sang Penulis, benar-benar banyak pelajaran yang di dapat. Dalam pengalamannya, Jules Evans berpendapat bahwa ada tiga hal yang umumnya jarang diajarkan dalam dunia Pendidikan, sekolah maupun perkuliahan yaitu: Cara Mengendalikan Emosi, Cara Terjun Ke Masyarakat, Serta Cara dalam Menjalani Hidup.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,503 reviews92 followers
September 1, 2015
For most, philosophy is a subject that screams impotent academic prattle, the practice of strange individuals who are clearly paid too much to gaze into their navels and pontificate on the Meaning of Lint. That reputation is a modern one, achieved only in the last century, for most of western history philosophy was the common fount of all knowledge and artistic endeavor. It guided not only men’s thoughts about how the world was, but how they should act within it. The streets of ancient Athens were alive with debate on how man should live. Philosophers' answers were not uniform; names mentioned together in survey courses now, then disagreed with one another vehemently. In Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, author Jules Evans introduces the principles and practices of several Greek schools which, while at loggerheads on many issues, were united by some core convictions: namely, that the world was rational, that man could be happy within it, and that he could use his rationality to achieve that happiness.

Evans covers a wide variety of Greek schools, some more than others. The schools are sampled in one-chapter lessons, and the author presents them as though the reader is visiting a day-seminar. (Lunch, naturally, is taken with the Epicureans.) Some schools of thought receive more attention than others; the Stoics, for instance, run across three chapters in the early morning, with Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, and Seneca all providing distinct skills. Some of the lessons provide mental tricks, like using mottoes to remember principles. Underlying many of the schools, however, is the principle of mindfulness. A dark night of the soul brought Evans to Athens in the first place; in a period of crisis, he was introduced to therapeutic techniques borrowed from Stoicism. Learning to be aware of his emotions, to realize he had the ability to step away from them, allowed Evans to climb out of a mental pit. He developed mental habits like auditing his thoughts and learned to stop dwelling on the negative. Our misery is often self-inflicted; as Marcus Aurelius wrote, we are more troubled by our reactions about things than the things in themselves. Although Epicureanism has a much different basis than Stoicism, both work to effect a calm, contented mental state amid life's troubles. Stoicism is martial and trains the soul to be immune to the worse that may come, at its most intense calling for a person to retreat into a citadel of the mind. Epicureanism calls for a retreat, too, a kind of detachment from the cares of the world; but instead of being impervious to all care and stolidly devoted to the pursuit of virtue, the Epicurean seeks to focus on a few key ingredients: community, self-reliance, and mindful simplicity. The true Epicurean seeks to be the master of pleasure, by downshifting his expectations so as to manufacture a feast out of a little cup of cheese. The pervasive theme throughout is mindfulness, even extending to the final chapter on dying well. Though moderns close our eyes to Charon, pushing off our arrival at his boat through medicine and miracle-working machines, death is inescapable. The boatman waits for us all; we must truly seize the day.

Philosophy for Life is an important book to consider, for the problems it sought to remedy are universal. Misfortune and unhappiness did not vanish simply because we are 'modern'; knowledge and technology have not conquered the human heart. When we are inundated with material wealth - literal lifetimes of entertainment at our fingertips, grocery stores and online markets offering goods to feed every taste and appetite -- we stand in danger of being overwhelmed and addicted, constantly chasing after new and increasingly intense hits, like a victim of drugs. Epicurus has the answer. Similarly, as our brain misfires trying to make sense of the world, imposing purpose when there is none -- growing wrathful at a car that pulls out in front of us as if they meant to frustrate our travel -- the Stoa stands as a relief. Similarly, when the news is so utterly discouraging, constantly placing the worse of our behavior on display, it is helpful to follow Plutarch's example and deliberately consider the lives of the good and the heroic; to take inspiration from their example.

There are limits to Philosophy for Life, chiefly in its emphasis on the individual as the sole actor in achieving his happiness. The Stoics believe that people were members of a community; not simply individual units within a collective, but members-- distinct, purposeful in relation to one another. The Epicureans, too, stressed the need for companionship. These suggest that there is wisdom in traditions like Buddhism and Christianity which stress the need to die to the self, rather than ruled by it; we live not just for ourselves. Religions which emphasize communal ties are frequently the subject of dismissal for Evans, chiefly Christianity. This aside, however, the variety of thought, and the satisfying practicality of it all, recommend Evans to readers interested in living wisely.

Related:

"Humanist Spirituality", an introduction to the basics of Cynicism, Skepticism, and Stoicism, with the author (a Unitarian Univeralist minister) arguing that Stoicism has the most promise as a rational-yet- introspective path for an increasingly secular world.
http://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/Essays/h...

Plato's Podcasts: The Ancients' Guide to Modern Living, Mark Vernon. Though not quite as serious, this was produced first and made numerous connections to various movments which have realized the same principles as the Stoics, Epicureans, etc.
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....


The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius; a modern translation is The Emperor's Handbook.
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton.
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

Letters from a Stoic, Dialogues and Essays, Seneca;
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William Irvine
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

Discourses, Epictetus ; The Art of Joy, Sharon Lebell. (Modern interpretation of Epictetus.)
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....

American Mania, Peter Whybrow, on the psychology of consumerism and addiction
http://thisweekatthelibrary.blogspot....
Profile Image for Oeystein Hanssen.
39 reviews13 followers
July 22, 2019
In Philosophy for life, Jules Evans provides a superb and actionable introduction to ancient/Greek philosophy and proves that it’s still very applicable today. Much of this ancient knowledge is actually used by western psychologists today through e.g. Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (CBT) with very good results.

Evans argues all the Greek schools of thought follows the same first 3 steps in accordance with the Socratic model for living the good life:
1. We can know ourselves
2. We can change ourselves
3. We can create new habits of thinking, feeling and behaving (If you want a very actionable introduction for changing your habits, I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear)

They differ, however, at the final step, where the good life and how we should apply it is defined, as well as our role in relation to the society and/or God.

We meet the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Skeptics, the Cynics, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras etc., which all have different views of what a good life entails and how we should live it. For me, Evans introduce these schools not as an either/or ways of thinking and living, but a both/and. For instance, I’m very intrigued by the Stoic mindset of enduring hardship and attaining self-control through incredible tough situations, but equally intrigued by the Epicurean’s focus in living (pleasurably) in this moment, as well as the Cynic’s motive of living in accordance with nature, rejecting the conventional desires for wealth, power and fame (and likes).

I believe living the good life is not necessarily done by following a particular school of thought. I think it’s a very subjective thing, nevertheless with a common goal: to live in accordance with your own (hopefully very though-out and endlessly questioned) set of values, or core beliefs. It is in the creation and/or change of these core beliefs I believe the Greek philisophers offer their real value.
Profile Image for Lidia Calamia.
155 reviews2 followers
August 23, 2018
Perché scomodare guru e santoni per i nostri momenti d'instabilità emotiva, quando possiamo ritornare ai nostri preziosi filosofi antichi?
Ciò che ci capita potrebbe non essere colpa nostra, ma quello che pensiamo è sotto la nostra responsabilità. La vita pone tutti di fronte a difficoltà e dolori difficili da affrontare e superare, ma l'unica arma che possediamo è la nostra forza emotiva. Inutile cercare risposte esterne a ciò che ci attanaglia e ci fa vacillare, bisogna introiettare lo sguardo e passare dalla strada della fatica e dell'impegno. Utile la pedagogia dell'exemplum, modelli che funzionino da sprone per la nostra ripresa. Insomma la filosofia greca (stoica, epicurea, cinica, platonica, pitagorica) ci offre non un unico modello di vita buona, bensì diversi. E tutti i modelli seguono questi punti:
1) possiamo conoscere noi stessi
2) possiamo cambiare noi stessi
3) possiamo creare nuove abitudini di pensiero, sentimento e comportamento
4) la filosofia può aiutarci a vivere meglio.
Profile Image for Eveline.
98 reviews19 followers
November 22, 2020
Insightful, practical, funny, clear writing style and scope.
Written by a journalist who did research and interviewed people and mentions the organisations and other concrete references of people who base their way of (good) living on a classical philosophy.

Topics discussed include (in random order) questioning beliefs in a structural way, religion, friendship, magic and shamanism, politics, war, cosmos, suicide, parties, anger, logic, nature, books.

Recommendable to anyone interested in self development, self analysis, history (and how classical ideas are put into practice throughout history), such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Not sure why I'm not giving it 4 stars, haha.
Profile Image for Lee.
53 reviews2 followers
September 22, 2015
First, the negatives. The authors bias comes through as the book progresses. He used CBT (cognitive behavioural psychology) after having issues when he was younger, and it seems that the whole books is based on those CBT principles backed out in to their philosophical origins. While this isn't a problem in itself, I definitely sensed his bias towards those things that complied with CBT, and rejection of those against it.


Positives / Core takeaways and quotes...

1 - Socrates and Street Philosophy

In order that philosophy is effective, first we must bring out automatic believed in to consciousness and decide if they are rational. Then we must take out new philosophical insights, and repeat until they become automatic habits.

The Socratic method to self improvement: 1) Use reason to examine our thoughts and beliefs, 2) Take action to change our beliefs and actions, 3) Repeat until our new beliefs become habitual.


2 - Epictetus and Self-Control

Humans often make 2 key mistakes...

1) We try to exert control over external events which we cantonal control, and become down when we fail to control them.
2) We don't take responsibility for things within our control, and instead issue blame on others and feel bad.

We have control over our beliefs so this is where we should focus our efforts, rather than on external happenstance.


3 - Musonius Rufus and Fieldwork

TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

The ancients took the same approach to their philosophical practice, keeping track of their thoughts , moods and actions, to see if they were making progress.

"At the end of each day, the philosopher journals how they spent their day, what was done well, and what cold have been done better.

Setting goals & watching our progress towards those goals motivates us to carry on the struggle during touch times. SPORT is most valuable in this respect -we learn to train our character, push through pain, resist discomfort, face setbacks with dignity, and (in team sports) learn to serve others.


4 - Seneca and Expectations

"There is a moment, right at the beginning of an emotional episode, when we have a choice. Anger arises from a judgement we made about a situation.

SHORT_TERM FIXES FOR ANGER
1) Know your weak spots ahead of time and plan to avoid/minimze
2) Wait, take a deep breath, remove yourself from the situation
3) Smile

LONG_TERM FIX
Continually challenge yourself on the "point" of anger, cementing that it serves little purpose and is rarely the optimal mindset of a situation.

THE MAIN FALLACY THAT LEADS TO ANGER IS AN EXCESSIVELY OPTIMISTIC EXPECTATION OF HOW THINGS WILL TURN OUT. We think about what the world owes us, rather than what we are lucky to have.


5 - Epicurus and Savor the Moment

We're only on this planet for a few years before we disappear, and while we're here there is nothing we have to do, no one we have to please. We can simply choose to enjoy ourselves, rather than finding reasons to be miserable.
The fewer and simpler our desires...
The easier it is to meet them....
The less you have to work...
The more time we have to enjoy ourselves, work on our own endeavours spend time with friends and family.
Epicurus poses that all we need for happiness is our health, our friends, and our reason.


6 - Heraclitus and Cosmic Contemplation

KEEP YOUR CONTRAST

Contemplating the stars elevates our spirits, and makes our day-to-day concerns seem insignificant. The author suggests that this is the reason for the rise in popularity of modern astronomy: it widens our perspective and soothes our emotions.

* Use with caution - Over contemplation of our cosmic relevance may lead to despondence and disengagement at the irrelevance of it all!


7 - Pythagoras and Memorisation

Philosophical reasoning it not enough....

We must FORCE philosophical insights INTO THE BRAIN and nervous system through maxims, songs, symbols and imagery.

Repeat your philosophical insights until they become automatic self-talk


8 - The Sceptics and Doubt

THE IMPORTANCE OF UNBIASED TRUTH....

Scepticism is really just science - a scientific way of thinking, beginning from doubt and looking for testable evidence which we use to try and make the world a better place.


9 - Diogenes and Anarchy

As a species, we are caught up in civilization and social convention, overly concerned about our impressions on other people.

"We are terrified of making a bad impression on others. We spend our energy trying to look good to strangers, wearing a mask of civility, hiding anything from public view that might seem rude or inappropriate."

Solution
Each time we challenge our fears successfully, we lessen their hold over us.

But
The cynics weren't fully independent, as they required an audience. While they were free from public approval, they were less free from public attention.


10 - Plutarch and Heroism

FIND AND COPY ROLE MODELS

"Most human behavior is learned observationally through modelling" - We are what we what we watch.

Actions: Read autobiographies, Get mentors, Spend your time with good people


11 - Aristotle and Flourishing

Eudamonia - fulfilling what is our highest potential. This is the source of true happiness - through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, connecting with others and working on common projects.


12 - Socrates and Departure

ONE SHOULD SHOW OTHERS HOW TO LIVE NOT BY FORCING A CHANGE IN THEIR BELIEFS, BUT THROUGH LIVING BY EXAMPLE.
Profile Image for Nikita Nautiyal.
121 reviews21 followers
August 1, 2022
4.5- The book gives an insight into different schools of thought in western philosophy .
It also examines the practical application of philosophy in dealing with difficult situations in our lives. It is filled with nuggets of wisdom to help you transform your life for the better .
I would say this book serves as a good starting point to pique your interest in philosophy so that you can deep dive into it . Recommended read !
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