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

Oxford University Press
57
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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 modern lives. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have. Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.
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About the author

William B. Irvine is Professor of Philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of On Desire: Why We Want What We Want.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Nov 4, 2008
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780199792627
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical
Psychology / General
Religion / Inspirational
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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William B. Irvine
Insults are part of the fabric of daily life. But why do we insult each other? Why do insults cause us such pain? Can we do anything to prevent or lessen this pain? Most importantly, how can we overcome our inclination to insult others? In A Slap in the Face, William Irvine undertakes a wide-ranging investigation of insults, their history, the role they play in social relationships, and the science behind them. He examines not just memorable zingers, such as Elizabeth Bowen's description of Aldous Huxley as "The stupid person's idea of a clever person," but subtle insults as well, such as when someone insults us by reporting the insulting things others have said about us: "I never read bad reviews about myself," wrote entertainer Oscar Levant, "because my best friends invariably tell me about them." Irvine also considers the role insults play in our society: they can be used to cement relations, as when a woman playfully teases her husband, or to enforce a social hierarchy, as when a boss publicly berates an employee. He goes on to investigate the many ways society has tried to deal with insults-by adopting codes of politeness, for example, and outlawing hate speech-but concludes that the best way to deal with insults is to immunize ourselves against them: We need to transform ourselves in the manner recommended by Stoic philosophers. We should, more precisely, become insult pacifists, trying hard not to insult others and laughing off their attempts to insult us. A rousing follow-up to A Guide to the Good Life, A Slap in the Face will interest anyone who's ever delivered an insult or felt the sting of one--in other words, everyone.
William B. Irvine
A married person falls deeply in love with someone else. A man of average income feels he cannot be truly happy unless he owns an expensive luxury car. A dieter has an irresistible craving for ice cream. Desires often come to us unbidden and unwanted, and they can have a dramatic impact, sometimes changing the course of our lives. In On Desire, William B. Irvine takes us on a wide-ranging tour of our impulses, wants, and needs, showing us where these feelings come from and how we can try to rein them in. Spicing his account with engaging observations by writers like Seneca, Tolstoy, and Freud, Irvine considers the teachings of Buddhists, Hindus, the Amish, Shakers, and Catholic saints, as well as those of ancient Greek and Roman and modern European philosophers. Irvine also looks at what modern science can tell us about desire--such as what happens in the brain when we desire something and how animals evolved particular desires--and he advances a new theory about how desire itself evolved. Irvine also suggests that at the same time that we gained the ability to desire, we were "programmed" to find some things more desirable than others. Irvine concludes that the best way to attain lasting happiness is not to change the world around us or our place in it, but to change ourselves. If we can convince ourselves to want what we already have, we can dramatically enhance our happiness. Brimming with wisdom and practical advice, On Desire offers a thoughtful approach to controlling unwanted passions and attaining a more meaningful life.
William B. Irvine
Great ideas often develop gradually after studying a problem at length--but not always. Sometimes, an insight hits like a bolt from the blue. For Archimedes, clarity struck while he was taking a bath. For Gustav Mahler, it came as the blades of his oars touched the water. And for Albert Einstein, it emerged while he was talking to a friend. Why do these moments of insight strike so suddenly? Why do they so often come to us when we are focused on something completely unrelated? And when great ideas "come to" us, where do they come from? In Aha!: The Moments of Insight that Shape Our World, philosopher William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life and On Desire, explores these epiphanies, from the minor insights that strike us all daily, to the major realizations that alter the course of history. Focusing on aha moments as they take place in five different domains--religion, morality, science, math, and art--Irvine provides case studies that shed light on the different ways epiphanies happen in the different domains, and on their differing social impact. Along the way, he describes some of the great aha moments in history, from ancient times to the present day. We like to think that our greatest thoughts are the product of our conscious mind. Irvine demonstrates, though, that it is our unconscious mind that is the source of our most significant insights, and that the role the conscious mind plays in eliciting these insights is to try, unsuccessfully, to solve certain problems. Only if the conscious mind is willing to do this--and thereby experience considerable frustration--is the unconscious mind likely to reward it with a breakthrough insight-that the conscious mind will then take credit for. Irvine explores not only the neuroscience of aha moments but also their personal and social ramifications. How does a person respond to having a breakthrough insight that goes against a dominant paradigm? And how does the world respond when she shares that insight? Irvine shows that in many cases, what is most remarkable about those who have had the great insights of human history is not their but their courage and perseverance in fighting for the world to accept those insights. Aha! is a must-read for cognitive scientists, intellectual historians, philosophers, and anyone who has ever been blown away by the ideas that enlighten us when we least expect it.
William B. Irvine
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 modern lives. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have. Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.
William B. Irvine
Great ideas often develop gradually after studying a problem at length--but not always. Sometimes, an insight hits like a bolt from the blue. For Archimedes, clarity struck while he was taking a bath. For Gustav Mahler, it came as the blades of his oars touched the water. And for Albert Einstein, it emerged while he was talking to a friend. Why do these moments of insight strike so suddenly? Why do they so often come to us when we are focused on something completely unrelated? And when great ideas "come to" us, where do they come from? In Aha!: The Moments of Insight that Shape Our World, philosopher William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life and On Desire, explores these epiphanies, from the minor insights that strike us all daily, to the major realizations that alter the course of history. Focusing on aha moments as they take place in five different domains--religion, morality, science, math, and art--Irvine provides case studies that shed light on the different ways epiphanies happen in the different domains, and on their differing social impact. Along the way, he describes some of the great aha moments in history, from ancient times to the present day. We like to think that our greatest thoughts are the product of our conscious mind. Irvine demonstrates, though, that it is our unconscious mind that is the source of our most significant insights, and that the role the conscious mind plays in eliciting these insights is to try, unsuccessfully, to solve certain problems. Only if the conscious mind is willing to do this--and thereby experience considerable frustration--is the unconscious mind likely to reward it with a breakthrough insight-that the conscious mind will then take credit for. Irvine explores not only the neuroscience of aha moments but also their personal and social ramifications. How does a person respond to having a breakthrough insight that goes against a dominant paradigm? And how does the world respond when she shares that insight? Irvine shows that in many cases, what is most remarkable about those who have had the great insights of human history is not their but their courage and perseverance in fighting for the world to accept those insights. Aha! is a must-read for cognitive scientists, intellectual historians, philosophers, and anyone who has ever been blown away by the ideas that enlighten us when we least expect it.
William B. Irvine
Insults are part of the fabric of daily life. But why do we insult each other? Why do insults cause us such pain? Can we do anything to prevent or lessen this pain? Most importantly, how can we overcome our inclination to insult others? In A Slap in the Face, William Irvine undertakes a wide-ranging investigation of insults, their history, the role they play in social relationships, and the science behind them. He examines not just memorable zingers, such as Elizabeth Bowen's description of Aldous Huxley as "The stupid person's idea of a clever person," but subtle insults as well, such as when someone insults us by reporting the insulting things others have said about us: "I never read bad reviews about myself," wrote entertainer Oscar Levant, "because my best friends invariably tell me about them." Irvine also considers the role insults play in our society: they can be used to cement relations, as when a woman playfully teases her husband, or to enforce a social hierarchy, as when a boss publicly berates an employee. He goes on to investigate the many ways society has tried to deal with insults-by adopting codes of politeness, for example, and outlawing hate speech-but concludes that the best way to deal with insults is to immunize ourselves against them: We need to transform ourselves in the manner recommended by Stoic philosophers. We should, more precisely, become insult pacifists, trying hard not to insult others and laughing off their attempts to insult us. A rousing follow-up to A Guide to the Good Life, A Slap in the Face will interest anyone who's ever delivered an insult or felt the sting of one--in other words, everyone.
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