Philosophy for Life Book Summary - Philosophy for Life Book explained in key points
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Philosophy for Life summary

Jules Evans

And Other Dangerous Situations

4.6 (397 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

Philosophy for Life by Jules Evans offers practical advice for applying ancient philosophy to our modern lives. It introduces readers to relevant and achievable philosophical ideas that can help them face life's challenges with wisdom and a sense of meaning.

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    Philosophy for Life
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    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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    What is Philosophy for Life about?

    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.

    Philosophy for Life Review

    Philosophy for Life (2012) by Jules Evans is a thought-provoking exploration of how ancient wisdom can help us navigate the challenges of modern life. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its fascinating blend of philosophy, psychology, and personal experiences, it offers a unique perspective on finding meaning and purpose in our lives.
    • The book provides practical techniques and exercises that can be easily incorporated into our daily routines, helping us develop resilience and improve our well-being.
    • It presents compelling case studies that demonstrate how philosophy can change lives, making it an engaging and inspiring read that definitely isn't boring.

    Who should read Philosophy for Life?

    • Anyone interested in self-development and living a good life
    • Anyone interested in learning from great thinkers like Aristotle and Plutarch
    • Anyone interested in refreshing their knowledge of philosophy
    • Anyone interested in cognitive behavioral therapy

    About the Author

    Jules Evans is a writer, journalist and blogger who also runs the Centre for the History of Emotions at the University of London. He is also the head of the London Philosophy Club, the biggest philosophy club in the world. He blogs at

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    Philosophy for Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of Philosophy for Life?

    The main message of Philosophy for Life is that ancient philosophy can provide practical guidance for modern living.

    How long does it take to read Philosophy for Life?

    The reading time for Philosophy for Life varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in around 15 minutes.

    Is Philosophy for Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Philosophy for Life is worth reading because it offers practical wisdom from ancient philosophy for navigating modern challenges.

    Who is the author of Philosophy for Life?

    Jules Evans is the author of Philosophy for Life.

    What to read after Philosophy for Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Philosophy for Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman
    • Spartan Up! by Joe de Sena
    • A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine
    • Midlife by Kieran Setiya
    • On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
    • Life Is Hard by Kieran Setiya
    • How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci
    • That One Should Disdain Hardships by Musonius Rufus
    • Not the End of the World by Hannah Ritchie
    • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday