Stoic Books

Compiled by Massimo Pigliucci
See Massimo's original compilation on his site here

Classic Texts:

Delphi Complete Works of Seneca the Younger. The leading Stoic philosopher of the Silver Age of Latin literature, as well as tutor to the infamous Nero, Seneca was also an accomplished dramatist, whose ground-breaking tragedies changed the course of theatre writing. The Ancient Classics series provides readers with the wisdom of the Classical world, with both English translations and the original Latin texts. For the first time in publishing history, readers can enjoy the complete works of Seneca the Younger in a single volume, with beautiful illustrations, informative introductions and the usual Delphi bonus material.

Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius, translated by M. Graver and A.A. Long. The Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca recorded his moral philosophy and reflections on life as a highly original kind of correspondence. Letters on Ethics includes vivid descriptions of town and country life in Nero’s Italy, discussions of poetry and oratory, and philosophical training for Seneca’s friend Lucilius. This volume, the first complete English translation in nearly a century, makes the Letters more accessible than ever before. Seneca uses the informal format of the letter to present the central ideas of Stoicism, for centuries the most influential philosophical system in the Mediterranean world. His lively and at times humorous expositions have made the Letters his most popular work and an enduring classic.

Discourses and Selected Writings, by Epictetus. Epictetus, a Greek Stoic and freed slave, ran a thriving philosophy school in Nicropolis in the early second century CE. His animated discussions were celebrated for their rhetorical wizardry and were written down by Arrian, his most famous pupil. Together with the Enchiridion, a manual of his main ideas, and the fragments collected in this book, The Discourses argue that happiness lies in learning to perceive exactly what is in our power to change and what is not, and in embracing our fate to live in harmony with god and nature. In this personal, practical guide to the ethics of stoicism and moral self-improvement, Epictetus tackles questions of freedom and imprisonment, illness and fear, family, friendship and love, and leaves an intriguing document of daily life in the classical world.

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. One measure, perhaps, of a book’s worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated and introduced by Gregory Hays, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation — as a self-help book — is not only valid, but may be close to the author’s intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a “haphazard set of notes,” is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is “expected to provide a ‘design for living.'” And it does, both aphoristically (“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly.”) and rhetorically (“What is it in ourselves that we should prize?”). Hays’s introduction, which sketches the life of Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) as well as the basic tenets of stoicism, is accessible and jaunty.

Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings. Musonius Rufus (c. AD 30–100) was one of the four great Roman Stoic philosophers, the other three being Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Musonius’ pupil Epictetus. During his life, Musonius’ Stoicism was put to the test, most notably during an exile to Gyaros, a barren island in the Aegean Sea. Because Stoicism was, for Musonius, not merely a philosophy but a prescription for daily living, he has been called “the Roman Socrates.”

Modern Perspectives:

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William B. Irvine. One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness – Ancient Tips For Modern Challenges, by Donald Robertson. This new guide to finding a happier way of life draws on the ancient wisdom of the stoics to reveal lasting truths and proven strategies for enhanced wellbeing. By learning what stoicism is, you can revolutionise your life, learning how to – properly – ‘seize the day’, how to cope in the face of adversity, and how to come to terms with whatever situation you’re in.

A New Stoicism, by Lawrence C. Becker. What would Stoic ethics be like today if stoicism had survived as a systematic approach to ethical theory, if it had coped successfully with the challenges of modern philosophy and experimental science? A New Stoicism proposes an answer to that question, offered from within the Stoic tradition but without the metaphysical and psychological assumptions that modern philosophy and science have abandoned. Lawrence Becker argues that a secular version of the Stoic ethical project, based on contemporary cosmology and developmental psychology, provides the basis for a sophisticated form of ethical naturalism, in which virtually all the hard doctrines of the ancient Stoics can be clearly restated and defended.

The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics, edited by Brad Inwood. This unique volume offers an odyssey through the ideas of the Stoics in three particular ways: first, through the historical trajectory of the school itself and its influence; second, through the recovery of the history of Stoic thought; third, through the ongoing confrontation with Stoicism, showing how it refines philosophical traditions, challenges the imagination, and ultimately defines the kind of life one chooses to lead.

Stoicism Today, edited by Patrick Ussher. From Stoic ethics to emotions, from Stoic mayors and mindfulness to practical philosophy, parenting, psychotherapy and prisons, from Star Trek and Socrates to Stoic lawyers, literature and living in general, this book brings together a wide-ranging collection of reflections on living the Stoic life today. You’ll read advice on coping with adversity, reflections on happiness and the good life and powerful personal testimonies of putting Stoicism into practise. But you’ll also read about the links between Stoicism and psychotherapy, Stoicism and mindfulness meditation and the unexpected places Stoicism can pop up in modern culture.

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The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates, by René Brouwer. After Plato and Aristotle, the Stoics, from the 3rd century BCE onwards, developed the third great classical conception of wisdom. This book offers a reconstruction of this pivotal notion in Stoicism, starting out from the two extant Stoic definitions, ‘knowledge of human and divine matters’ and ‘fitting expertise’. It focuses not only on the question of what they understood by wisdom, but also on how wisdom can be achieved, how difficult it is to become a sage, and how this difficulty can be explained.