The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics

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Overview

The Epicureans, Skeptics, and Stoics practiced philosophy not as a detached intellectual discipline, but as a worldly art of grappling with issues of daily and urgent human significance: the fear of death, love and sexuality, anger and aggression. Like medicine, philosophy to them was a rigorous science aimed both at understanding and at producing the flourishing of human life. In this engaging book, Martha Nussbaum examines texts of philosophers committed to a therapeutic paradigm--including Epicurus, Lucretius, Sextus Empiricus, Chrysippus, and Seneca--and recovers a valuable source for our moral and political thought today. This edition features a new introduction by Nussbaum, in which she revisits the themes of this now classic work.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
[E]ven while she admires the seriousness and subtlety with which these philosophers analyze the passions, [Nussbaum] allows that there is an unresolveable conflict between the detachment and the intense engagement entailed by their philosophies. The sense that these philosophers still matter, that we can wrangle with them and learn from them, is invigorating.
— Richard Jenkyns
Times Literary Supplement
Nussbaum adventurously straddles boundaries conventionally drawn between philosophy and its own history, between philosophy and literature, and between scholarship and the social sciences. . . . Few modern books have done as much as this one promises to do in raising the profile of Hellenistic philosophy. It is constantly gripping and absorbing, written with rare eloquence and containing long stretches of almost lyrical intensity. A literary as well as a philosophical tour de force.
— David Sedley
New Republic
By turns wise and witty, silly and Socratic, critical and compassionate, Nussbaum proves to be an extraordinarily addictive literary companion. . . . This is a book to live with.
— Peter Green
Metapsychology Online Reviews
[T]his is a wonderful book, of interest to scholars of ancient philosophy, but also to those interested in medical philosophy and philosophy of mind. It would also be of great interest to those interested in the conception of philosophy as therapy that has grown from studies on Wittgenstein. I can heartily recommend it.
— Michael Gillan Peckitt
New York Times Book Review - Richard Jenkyns
[E]ven while she admires the seriousness and subtlety with which these philosophers analyze the passions, [Nussbaum] allows that there is an unresolveable conflict between the detachment and the intense engagement entailed by their philosophies. The sense that these philosophers still matter, that we can wrangle with them and learn from them, is invigorating.
Times Literary Supplement - David Sedley
Nussbaum adventurously straddles boundaries conventionally drawn between philosophy and its own history, between philosophy and literature, and between scholarship and the social sciences. . . . Few modern books have done as much as this one promises to do in raising the profile of Hellenistic philosophy. It is constantly gripping and absorbing, written with rare eloquence and containing long stretches of almost lyrical intensity. A literary as well as a philosophical tour de force.
New Republic - Peter Green
By turns wise and witty, silly and Socratic, critical and compassionate, Nussbaum proves to be an extraordinarily addictive literary companion. . . . This is a book to live with.
Metapsychology Online Reviews - Michael Gillan Peckitt
[T]his is a wonderful book, of interest to scholars of ancient philosophy, but also to those interested in medical philosophy and philosophy of mind. It would also be of great interest to those interested in the conception of philosophy as therapy that has grown from studies on Wittgenstein. I can heartily recommend it.
From the Publisher

"[E]ven while she admires the seriousness and subtlety with which these philosophers analyze the passions, [Nussbaum] allows that there is an unresolveable conflict between the detachment and the intense engagement entailed by their philosophies. The sense that these philosophers still matter, that we can wrangle with them and learn from them, is invigorating."--Richard Jenkyns, New York Times Book Review

"Nussbaum adventurously straddles boundaries conventionally drawn between philosophy and its own history, between philosophy and literature, and between scholarship and the social sciences. . . . Few modern books have done as much as this one promises to do in raising the profile of Hellenistic philosophy. It is constantly gripping and absorbing, written with rare eloquence and containing long stretches of almost lyrical intensity. A literary as well as a philosophical tour de force."--David Sedley, Times Literary Supplement

"By turns wise and witty, silly and Socratic, critical and compassionate, Nussbaum proves to be an extraordinarily addictive literary companion. . . . This is a book to live with."--Peter Green, New Republic

"[T]his is a wonderful book, of interest to scholars of ancient philosophy, but also to those interested in medical philosophy and philosophy of mind. It would also be of great interest to those interested in the conception of philosophy as therapy that has grown from studies on Wittgenstein. I can heartily recommend it."--Michael Gillan Peckitt, Metapsychology Online Reviews

Times Literary Supplement
Nussbaum adventurously straddles boundaries conventionally drawn between philosophy and its own history, between philosophy and literature, and between scholarship and the social sciences. . . . Few modern books have done as much as this one promises to do in raising the profile of Hellenistic philosophy. It is constantly gripping and absorbing, written with rare eloquence and containing long stretches of almost lyrical intensity. A literary as well as a philosophical tour de force.
— David Sedley
Library Journal
In recent years, several books have appeared whose central thrust was to demonstrate that the methodology of philosophical thought and analysis has practical application. Here, Nussbaum (philosophy, classics, and comparative literature, Brown) has concentrated on Hellenistic ethics--i.e., those of the Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics--arguing that these schools have been ignored in traditional historical accounts, particularly with regard to their treatment of emotion. She analyzes texts by such writers as Aristotle, Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus, and Plutarch to show that their concerns regarding emotion are no different from ours and could be applied to the psychological problems, both private and public, we currently face. Nussbaum's criticisms and analyses of each writer are carefully worked out. Some professional (read ``technical'') philosophers may object to her approach, but it is encouraging to see philosopy viewed as having practical consequences. Recommended for all academic libraries and for public libraries with substantial philosophy collections.-- Terry Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691141312
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Pages: 600
  • Sales rank: 695,256
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, and holds appointments in the Law School, Philosophy Department, and Divinity School. She is the author of many books, including "Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law".
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
Introduction 3
Ch. 1 Therapeutic Arguments 13
Ch. 2 Medical Dialectic: Aristotle on Theory and Practice 48
Ch. 3 Aristotle on Emotions and Ethical Health 78
Ch. 4 Epicurean Surgery: Argument and Empty Desire 102
Ch. 5 Beyond Obsession and Disgust: Lucretius on the Therapy of Love 140
Ch. 6 Mortal Immortals: Lucretius on Death and the Voice of Nature 192
Ch. 7 "By Words, Not Arms": Lucretius on Anger and Aggression 239
Ch. 8 Skeptic Purgatives: Disturbance and the Life without Belief 280
Ch. 9 Stoic Tonics: Philosophy and the Self-Government of the Soul 316
Ch. 10 The Stoics on the Extirpation of the Passions 359
Ch. 11 Seneca on Anger in Public Life 402
Ch. 12 Serpents in the Soul: A Reading of Seneca's Medea 439
Ch. 13 The Therapy of Desire 484
List of Philosophers and Schools 511
Bibliography 517
Index Locorum 531
General Index 550
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