Reading List

This is a list of books and articles that I've found useful and interesting in terms of personal philosophy and becoming a better person.

William Irvine: A Guide to the Good Life

This is a modern, well paced introduction to Stoicism. I think Irvine overthinks things sometimes, but it's as good a starting place as any.

Epictetus: Discourses incl The Enchiridion

This is a link to the George Long translation, which is the one I like the most. It can be a challenging read at times, as much for the concepts as phrasing. It's a very concise and hardline approach to Stoicism, and I love it.

Seneca: Letters from a Stoic

Letters from a Stoic is interesting both for the concepts and the voyeristic look at the private conversations of one of the most influential Stoic thinkers. Because these are private letters, at times they meander along and get side tracked, but there is some pure gold here.

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

I'm yet to get very far into Meditations, although other people have rated it highly. It was the first ancient Stoic text I tried, and I put it down fairly quickly and moved to the much more enjoyable Enchiridion. I look forward to coming back to it with an increased understanding of Stocism.


The Enchiridion - Part 53

To close out this excellent collection of wisdom, Epictetus leaves us with 3 quotes that presumably help him maintain his Stoic focus. I'll let them stand on their own:

In every thing (circumstance) we should hold these maxims ready to hand:

"Lead me, O Zeus, and thou O Destiny, The way that I am bid by you to go: To follow I am ready. If I choose not, I make myself a wretch, and still must follow."

"But whoso nobly yields unto necessity, We hold him wise, and skill'd in things divine."

And the third also:

"O Crito, if so it pleases the gods, so let it be; Anytus and Melitus are able indeed to kill me, but they cannot harm me."


The Enchiridion - Part 52

The first and most necessary place (part) in philosophy is the use of theorems (precepts), for instance, that we must not lie: the second part is that of demonstrations, for instance, How is it proved that we ought not to lie: the third is that which is confirmatory of these two and explanatory, for example, How is this a demonstration? For what is demonstration, what is consequence, what is contradiction, what is truth, what is falsehood? The third part (topic) is necessary on account of the second, and the second on account of the first; but the most necessary and that on which we ought to rest is the first. But we do the contrary. For we spend our time on the third topic, and all our earnestness is about it: but we entirely neglect the first. Therefore we lie; but the demonstration that we ought not to lie we have ready to hand.

A fitting way to (just about) close out a practical philosophy book is to warn of the tendancy for the study of philosohpy to move away from the practical. Echoing part 49, the usefulness of knowledge is in its application, not simply in its attainment.