Here is a capsule review of William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life:
- Well written, but overly repetitive and intellectually tame: how to extract maximum value out of life is presented as a sort of dispassionate project planning exercise where you are not attached to any milestones
- Stoicism is oblivious to the larger question of life, such as, in particular, its meaning, or lack thereof — the very essence, it seems to me, of a bona fide philosophy!
- The focus on joy seems ridiculous in this day and age, or even back then, with Nero offing every Stoic in sight!
- Irvine’s adaptation of a philosophy based on an underlying belief in Zeus to one based on “psychological evolution” is unconvincing
- In conclusion, Stoicism as presented seems to be an extremely small bore philosophy: no intellectual risks of any sort are taken here, and much of the text suffers from obviousness.
For someone who, like me, is an existentialist, postmodern nihilist (of the Camus/Sartre, not early 20th Century Russian variety), the book is trivial: Life is reduced to the pursuit of tranquility and having the ability to not fall apart when the shit hits the fan.
Recommended for expat boomers with golden retirement parachutes and a nice summer home somewhere in Provence whose interest in the good life has been sublimated into put putting around the garden in their BCBG mum green wellies.
Not recommended for indigent writers with dangerous katzenjammer predilections.