Sophia Park's Reviews > A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine
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May 23, 2012

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Read in May, 2012

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 me here, it's just an exploration of an unfortunately forgotten philosophy. And in ch.20, the author basically goes to war with the entirety of modern psychology and politics, and becomes an old man instead of a guide.

It's a bit repetitive by the end, but it's clear, and it explains Stoicism well. It's probably a better introduction than reading the primary texts themselves.

I also disagree with the author's stress that "we might mislive" - I don't really think you can mislive. Life was made to be lived, and regardless of how you reach the end, there's no real right path.
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03/28/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Htb2050 Yep. There is no wrong or right way of living. Only thing that matters is you live.


Ashray Just read this. Enjoyed it and agree 100% with what you said about it being repetitive. I think mis live is a proxy for, you might have regrets.


Esther ditto.


message 4: by Shawn (new)

Shawn I've just had the same eery Stoicism realization and I wondered if it might be some conditioned behavioural survival mechanism. Have you figured out why Stoicism came naturally to you?


message 5: by David (new) - added it

David Greenberg You might be shocked at the amount of anti-stoic views are in the philosophic community. It is not viewed in the highest esteem in most circles, which is depressing. You would think intellectuals would not be aggressive towards certain ideas, but they really are aggressive in their distaste for stoicism.


message 6: by Arghavan (new)

Arghavan I think you can mislive and I have seen many people who wasted their lives and at the end of life they stated this. But yes there are many paths in life. And none of them is perfect. But the stoic path is a good one.


message 7: by Ren (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ren I appreciate your review. The book was an introduction to stoicism for me and I soaked it up. I too have been practicing some of these principles already without realizing. I don't think he was defensive at all. I felt he was very neutral. And I think one can waste their life and later on wonder if they have lived as Thoreau puts it. But that again depends on one's philosophy of "greater good". If that doesn't mean anything to a person, than I guess there's nothing to waste. :)


message 8: by Tove (new) - added it

Tove Selenius I really appreciate this review, thank you!


Artjom Aroutounjan Mislive here means not living according to your nature, which is good, free, reasonable and rational.The author puts the perspective according to a stoic way of living.


message 10: by Chuck (new) - added it

Chuck Chakrapani Loved your review. You are right on target about Irvine arguing with invisible people and eventually becoming polemical. And one more thing. He also distorts Stoicism by making it more like Epicureanism. Now i will look for your other reviews


message 11: by Vaishak (new) - added it

Vaishak Muralidharan I'm quite new to Philosophy and I'm in the process of reading this book. I've read the part where he speaks of misliving. Perhaps, since Stoicism comes naturally to you, it might be hard for you to conceive. But haven't you come across people who regret how they'd squandered their lives only to realise that perhaps they could've lived better and it's a bit late in the day? According to you, what would your opinion be? Please note this is a genuine doubt and not a counter-argument to your review. I want to know your opinion.


Samuel Daigle I work in the medical field and saw many "dying" people. Trust me, lots of people have so many regrets having mislived and chased wrong goals during their lives.


message 13: by Andrej (new) - added it

Andrej Although I agree that the book goes on about the same topics again and again. I found it very useful as an introduction to stoicism. Same ideas presented multiple times with different wording is a lot like having someone explain it verbally. it helps digest and most importantly digest and internalise the stoic ideas.


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