Book Review: A Guide to the Good Life


A Guide to the Good Life (the ancient art of stoic joy) by William B. Irvine

For anyone interested in a book, which helps us to understand the philosophical underpinning of todays CBH, this book is a fascinating and engaging read. Irvine explains not only the historical
perspective as it originates with the ancient Greek Stoics in the third century BC, including Epictetus who is commonly acknowledged as being Albert Ellis’s inspiration in the foundation of REBT, but he evaluates the philosophy in the context of twenty-first century living and offers clear and helpful advice on how to achieve the ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ that the Stoics valued.

‘Tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ for the ancient Greeks didn’t refer to a new age or pseudo spiritual state, but instead had a very practical meaning which leads us to a modern day understanding of something akin to mental or emotional health.

The ancient Greeks also had a different understanding for the concept of ‘virtue’ than we do today. Today the word virtue is loaded down with religious and moralistic associations, but for the Stoics, living a virtuous life meant living in accordance with the observable design for all human beings. Consequently, all human beings have an appetite for food, therefore it is ‘virtuous’ to eat well, but not to over eat.

The book gives us a very helpful and easy-to-read perspective on the historical context and philosophy that underpins modern-day CBT and CBH. It is also very practical and helpful offering suggestions that help us to develop our own strategies for living a ‘virtuous’ life and achieve both ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’.

By Ian Martin

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