cover image Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living

Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living

David Fideler. Norton, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-53166-4

Ancient Roman stoic philosopher Seneca was “a profound thinker who possessed a much deeper and more satisfying vision of human life than we are encouraged to hold by society today,” writes StoicInsights blogger Fideler (Restoring the Soul of the World) in this comprehensive guide to the philosopher’s ideas. He first gives an overview of Stoicism as a school of thought, dispelling notions that it has anything to do with the modern word stoic, or with bottling up emotions; rather, it’s about learning to transform extreme emotions through understanding. Fideler breaks down the eight core teachings of Stoicism, which include living in agreement with nature and accepting virtue as the only true good, and then digs into Seneca’s approach specifically. There’s an overview of his thoughts on anxiety (live in the present moment to counter it), anger (which, to Seneca, is the “worst human emotion”), and grief (which must be given its due). More tangible concerns are addressed, as well, such as relationships (friendships are crucial in life) and money (a stoic would suggest people must get over the “fear of poverty”). Fideler keeps things accessible and offers plenty of real-world examples for applying philosophy to one’s life, making for a great crash course. Philosophy newbies will find this a fine introduction. Agent: Giles Anderson, the Anderson Literary Agency. (Dec.)