cover image Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Portfolio, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-54187-5

Holiday and Hanselman (coauthors of The Daily Stoic) explain in this stellar work the implications of Stoic dedications to truth, wisdom, resilience, and character. The authors present the work as a series of biographies of philosophers and ground each of the 26 profiles in the virtues of courage, temperance, justice, and wisdom that Stoics believes necessary to living a happy life. They distinguish “pen and ink philosophers” (more concerned with writing than living) from the Stoics, whose central tenet is summed up best by Marcus Aurelius’s: “Do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” Including profiles of Stoics who were boxers, slaves, failed merchants, Roman senators, and occasionally “iron” women, each chapter provides a brief historical context before exploring the challenges of seeking a humble life in the Stoic fashion. Rather than offering prescriptive practices, the authors believe one can “learn more from the Stoics’ lived experiences (their works) than we can from their philosophical writings (their words)”: Cynic philosopher Crates of Thebes taught Zeno to learn from humiliation; Cleanthes of Assos, a middle-aged water boy, preached stoicism at night in the streets; Chrysippius, a long-distance runner, stressed the value of meritocracy over the misjudgments of social position. This illuminating collection of biographies makes great use of Stoic wisdom to demonstrate the tradition’s values for any reader interested in ancient philosophy. (Sept.)