Philosophy for Life and other dangerous situations MOBI ↠ Epub

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 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 techniue we can use to transform our selves and live better lives These practical techniues 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 uest for the good life

10 thoughts on “Philosophy for Life and other dangerous situations

  1. says:

    Jules has written a superb introduction to practical philosophy  This book is perhaps uite uniue 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 antiuity 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 livesI 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 antiuity were not rigidly devoted to the teachings of a single school but drew upon different traditions in uite 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 techniues 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 improvementMy 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 comments about the Stoic tradition  Jules gives a lot 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 uite 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 freuently refer to the value they place on love for mankind and gentleness even toward their enemies  Seneca wrote No school has goodness and gentleness none has love for human beings nor 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 freuently 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 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 comparisonOverall 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 uite 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 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 about the Socratic philosophical tradition Table of Contents Preface Welcome to the School of Athens1 Morning roll call Socrates and the art of street philosophy Morning Session The Warriors of Virtue 2 Epictetus and the art of maintaining control3 Musonius Rufus and the art of fieldwork4 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 contemplation7 Pythagoras and the art of memorisation and incantation8 Sceptics and the art of cultivating doubt Late Afternoon Session Politics 9 Diogenes and the art of anarchy10 Plato and the art of justice11 Plutarch and the art of heroism12 Aristotle and the art of flourishingGraduation 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 traditionsAppendix Three Socrates and Dionysus

  2. says:

    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 hereThe Tao of Pooh by Benjamin HoffThe Antidote by Oliver BurkemanThe Power of Now by Eckhart TolleAwaken the Giant Within by Anthony RobbinsDeep Work by Cal NewportPhilosophy for Life by Jules EvansHonorable 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 MuthThese 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 haveWhat 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 ie 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 distressThese ideas are expounded upon and investigated in all the books I listed and each provided perspective adds to the overall debateWhat 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 uestion your beliefs which is perfectly in tune with the Socratic method of uestioning what you think you know and realise that you harbour false beliefs which impact how you view the worldAll 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 uponYou 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

  3. says:

    A marvellous book which summarizes the major strands of classical philosophy and describes how they might be incorporated into contemporary lifeThe author writes from a position of having overcome depression and despair through finding life meaning in philosophy however at the conclusion of the book view spoilerhe explains that this was in fact preempted by a near death experience white light the whole shebang in which he became convinced that we are indeed something greater than our embodied selves Only after this ephiphany did he start investigating philosophy I'm not sure how I feel about finding that out afterwards given that I sadly reject the notion of any existence after death and that philosophy is generally concerned with defining or creating a meaningful life in this reality or sometimes acknowledging that there is no meaning hide spoiler

  4. says:

    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 uite willing to point out the flaws with Ultimately it's a little superficial which is why I'm on to the philosophers themselves now

  5. says:

    This book is about psychological roots in ancient philosophyCBTPositive Psychologyetc which I read in BlinkistcomSummary Self development is about 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 uestions of how we should live both as individuals and as a societyActionable advice Keep a journal of your own behavior updating it every eveningWhen 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 themLearn through imitationYou 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 peopleRemember life is but a flash of light in the infinite darkness of the universeYou 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 philosophyFor 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 StoicsBoth CBT and the Stoics argue that the origin of mental disorder lies not in brain chemistry but in our irrational beliefsThe 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 CBTFirst we experience an activating event A which our beliefs interpret B and which has emotional conseuences CFor example when you fail your driving test A and think you are a failure Byou may well feel worthless CBut 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 maniacSeligman 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 happyHis modern theory of Positive Psychology is inspired by Aristotle’s ancient philosophy of flourishingFlourishing is attained by engaging our highest drives to develop ourselves to the highest level like for example striving for artistic masteryJust 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 excellenceSource wwwblinkistcom

  6. says:

    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 thinkingI 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 withAlso 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 livesEvans 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 usefulFor 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 medicineneuroscience 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 philosophyThe 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 tooI 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

  7. says:

    Practical Philosophy This book uses ancient Greek and Hellenistic Philosophy to live a better life and indeed help one define the good life It focuses on Stoicism and its relationship with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how to use the common sense maxim that there is little under our total control in life save our appraisal and evaluation of the situation We can control our attitude to the slings and arrows of life and change how we react to them and respond rationally and hopefully with some euanimity This book also explores other philosophies of the Ancient Mediterranean including Epicureanism Aristotelean Philosophy The Cynics like Diogenes Plutarch and modeling heroes and Socratic uestioning Excellent practical philosophy very useful

  8. says:

    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 necessarySocrates Headmaster of School of AthensEpictetus Stoics some things are up to us and others are notEpicurus materialistPlato Pythagoras believed in reincarnationHeraclitus believed in a cosmic intelligence made of fire

  9. says:

    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 unconuerable 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 firesome she will put in chainssome she will toss naked onto the shifting seas”7 She will bring down cities drink up seas divert riversin 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

  10. says:

    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