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Philosophy for Life

And Other Dangerous Situations

By Jules Evans
  • Read in 15 minutes
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Philosophy for Life by Jules Evans

These blinks will teach you the ancient wisdom that inspired the modern science of well-being. Your teachers are the greatest ancient philosophers, and each lesson reveals questions and techniques that can help you on your path to leading a good life. Philosophy for Life has been published in 19 countries and was selected as a Times book of the year 2013.

Key idea 1 of 9

Ancient philosophy and the modern science of happiness use many of the same principles.   

Ancient wisdom is being revived and integrated into our modern knowledge of psychology. Indeed, much of the modern science of happiness is inspired by Greek and Roman philosophy.

For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a modern, science-based psychotherapy, is inspired by ancient philosophy, and especially by the disciples of Socrates known as the Stoics.

Both CBT and the Stoics argue that the origin of mental disorder lies not in brain chemistry but in our irrational beliefs.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus summed this up by saying: “Men are not disturbed by things, but by their opinions about them.”

This sentence inspired one of the founders of CBT, Albert Ellis, to create his ABC model, the foundation of CBT:

First we experience an activating event (A), which our beliefs interpret (B), and which has emotional consequences (C).

For example, when you fail your driving test (A), and think you are a failure (B),you may well feel worthless (C).

But the Stoics and CBT argue that if we change our beliefs (B), we change our emotions. By reconceiving failure not as a fault of character but as an opportunity to learn, we can avoid mental disorders like depression. Embrace your failure and, empowered with the knowledge of your weaknesses, practice that parking maneuver like a maniac.

Seligman, a student of another founder of CBT, Aaron Beck, aims to apply CBT not only to curing mental disorder, but also to helping people be happy.

His modern theory of Positive Psychology is inspired by Aristotle’s ancient philosophy of flourishing.

Flourishing is attained by engaging our highest drives to develop ourselves to the highest level, like, for example, striving for artistic mastery.

Just like Aristotle before him, Seligman concentrates on cultivating excellence of character. The expression of our character’s strengths and virtues – such as the courage to speak out despite opposition and self-control to work towards our dreams – are the daily steps we take towards fulfilling our best selves.

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