'Excellent' – Oliver Burkeman, Guardian
'Highly readable, written in clear and accessible prose, and illuminated with anecdotes of both a personal and an historical nature' – Washington Independent Review of Books
'How to be a Stoic proves many things: that the ancient school of Stoicism is superbly relevant to our times; that profound wisdom can be delivered in lively, breezy prose; and that Massimo Pigliucci is uniquely gifted at translating philosophy into terms helpful for alleviating and elevating the lives of many – Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex
How to be a Stoic
Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
In a world fraught with difficult moral issues, Stoicism may be our best path forward for structuring our life, achieving tranquility of mind and maintaining our personal integrity – in other words, for shaping a life well lived.
Whether we are secular or religious, at some point we all find ourselves facing the question of how to live. How should we handle life’s challenges and vicissitudes? How should we conduct ourselves in the world? How should we treat others? And the ultimate question: how do we best prepare for the final test of our character, when we die?
When he turned 50, the philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci found himself, like others before him, facing his own mortality and reflecting on the big questions: who am I and what am I doing? A trained scientist, a self-professed moderate atheist and a native of Rome, Pigliucci embraced his cultural roots as well as his experimental nature – he became a Stoic.
In How to be a Stoic, Pigliucci combines his experiment in Stoic living with a brisk and illuminating guide to this timely philosophy. Developed by Zeno of Citium in the early third century BC, Stoicism counts Seneca and Marcus Aurelius among its best known practitioners, but is today associated more with grim endurance than with living a good life. As Pigliucci reveals, however, Stoicism is fundamentally a practical philosophy, with a core practice of meditation, mindfulness and focus on virtue. And although for centuries it was eclipsed by Christian thought in the mainstream, Stoic influences appear in unexpected places: the Serenity Prayer, the underlying principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. Pigliucci finds in Stoicism a rational, science-friendly philosophy that also allows room for a spiritual metaphysics: that is, a practical philosophy eminently open to revision – in stark contrast to so much of the dogma we face today.
In practising Stoicism, Pigliucci offers a reconsideration of this ancient philosophy for modern life and reveals why its popularity is now on the rise.