M - The long hot spell's Reviews > A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
98681744
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: philosophy-religion

The book has an old-fashioned feel that I’ve felt before while reading books on Buddhism. Stoicism is a philosophy from Greek and Roman times though Irvine is a modern writer and is writing for people who want to try practicing Stoicism today. Irvine has carved out a Stoic philosophy of life that has been helpful to him and the book at one point addressed the fact that sticklers for the ‘old’ ways of Stoicism may question changes to it. Irvine quotes Seneca, however, to remind readers that he does not feel bound “to some particular one of the stoic masters; I, too have the right to form an opinion.” In other words, there is room for adjustments.

By far the most helpful section to me was the psychological techniques which included negative visualisation, the dichotomy/trichotomy of control, fatalism, self-denial and meditation. They are practical tools that would be helpful for anyone interested in practicing them. Interestingly, negative visualisation is something I have done naturally in my life and I’ve had people try to tell me it’s a very negative way to go about life. It’s not the same as being pessimistic, though. I don’t see, or feel, it that way at all and I think this book goes a good way to explaining why pondering the negative things that ‘could’ happen to us can lead to more enjoyment and calm in life.

Stoicism focuses on finding tranquility - something that I can relate to. Irvine gives some great advice on preparing mentally for old age and beginning the techniques one at a time (to master one before going on to another), to understanding the importance of having a life philosophy so you know what you’re aiming for.

There are sections on the early Stoics, a brief history of Stoicism and of its decline. Finally, there is a plan of attack (you might say) for those who would like to practice it, even if you’re just a trial to see if Stoicism is a good fit for you.

I was interested to know what Stoicism was about, since my only understanding was it’s ‘something to do with Greek and Roman philosophy’ and that to say someone is stoic means ‘they remain strong in the face of negative emotions’. Not a very deep understanding, but this book made a good introduction. The text is repetitious in making some points, but overall it has some helpful ideas for training yourself, and reframing the way you think, to achieve more peace.
12 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Guide to the Good Life.
Sign In »

Quotes M Liked

William B. Irvine
“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.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“Your primary desire, says Epictetus, should be your desire not to be frustrated by forming desires you won’t be able to fulfill.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“the easiest way for us to gain happiness is to learn how to want the things we already have.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“if we seek social status, we give other people power over us: We have to do things calculated to make them admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“If you consider yourself a victim, you are not going to have a good life; if, however, you refuse to think of yourself as a victim—if you refuse to let your inner self be conquered by your external circumstances—you are likely to have a good life, no matter what turn your external circumstances take. (In particular, the Stoics thought it possible for a person to retain his tranquility despite being punished for attempting to reform the society in which he lived.)”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“It is, after all, hard to know what to choose when you aren’t really sure what you want.”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine
“We are social creatures; we will be miserable if we try to cut off contact with other people. Therefore, if what we seek is tranquility, we should form and maintain relations with others. In doing so, though, we should be careful about whom we befriend. We should also, to the extent possible, avoid people whose values are corrupt, for fear that their values will contaminate ours. •”
William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


Reading Progress

June 25, 2019 – Shelved
June 26, 2019 – Started Reading
July 14, 2019 –
page 105
32.21%
July 14, 2019 –
page 105
32.21%
October 2, 2019 –
page 127
38.96%
October 7, 2019 –
page 153
46.93%
October 11, 2019 –
page 183
56.13%
October 11, 2019 –
page 209
64.11%
October 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.