More Than Happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age

More Than Happiness: Buddhist and Stoic Wisdom for a Sceptical Age

by Antonia Macaro

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‘This groundbreaking study provides a much-needed  philosophical framework for those practising mindfulness  as well as a call to recover the pragmatic and therapeutic dimensions of philosophy.’ - Stephen Batchelor, author of After Buddhism and Secular Buddhism

Modern readers tend to think of Buddhism as spending time alone meditating, searching for serenity.  Stoicism calls to mind repressing our emotions in order to help us soldier on through adversity. But how  accurate are our popular understandings of these traditions? And what can we learn from them without either buying in  wholeheartedly to their radical ideals or else transmuting them into simple self-improvement regimes that bear little  resemblance to their original aims?

How can we achieve more than happiness?

In More than Happiness, Antonia Macaro delves into both philosophies, focusing on the elements that fit with our sceptical age, and those which have the potential to make the biggest impact on how we live. From accepting that some things are beyond our control, to monitoring our emotions for unhealthy reactions, to shedding attachment to material things, there is much, she argues, that we can take and much that we’d do better to leave behind.

In this synthesis of ancient wisdom, Macaro reframes the ‘good life’, and gets us to see the world as it really is and to question the value of the things we desire. The goal is more than happiness: living ethically and placing value on the right things in life. 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

'A refreshingly different approach to self-help - the author's thoughtful and critical focus gives readers the space to assess and apply the ideas and practices that speak to them'- Stephen Batchelor, author of After Buddhism and Secular Buddhism

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785781346
Publisher: Icon Books, Ltd. UK
Publication date: 01/04/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 720,528
File size: 1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Whether or not we agree with the Stoic assessment of what is truly good or bad, it cannot be denied that we do often make the mistake of giving too much importance to things that are of little or no value. To avoid this error, we could adopt the method Chrysippus recommended for testing appearances, which involved asking two questions:

1. Is there good or bad at hand?

2. Is it appropriate to react?

You start feeling angry about someone being rude to you, for instance. You ask yourself Chrysippus' first question. For a Stoic, the answer to that would be no, because nothing external to us is truly good or bad. It then follows that the answer to the second question would also be no, it is not appropriate to react.

Challenging our perceptions of good and bad is hard. It’s particularly difficult to embrace the view that things like health, life and loved ones should all be indifferents, albeit 'preferred' ones. Some might find it impossible to agree that poverty is not an evil. An advantage of Chrysippus' exercise is that those who are struggling to let go of ‘irrational’ ideas about good and bad can concentrate on the second question. Even if their views are still flawed, they can begin to make progress by moving away from destructive behaviours that are not conducive to virtue. But, for the Stoics, in time we should move on to confronting our incorrect views of good and bad.

If we want to try out Chrysippus' exercise, then we must first question the value of what we’re getting distressed, or excited, about. Sometimes we’ll readily come to see that the issue is trivial. But even if we don’t, we could do with examining our reactions. Often we get carried away by negative emotions that lead us to react in unskilful ways. Even if on reflection we conclude that a response is in order, it’s best to consider calmly how to deal with the situation.

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