Living for Pleasure.

By Emily A Austin

Printed: 2023

Publisher: Oxford University Press.

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 14 × 19 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 14 x 19 x 3

Condition: As new  (See explanation of ratings)

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In the original dustsheet. Black cloth binding with silver title on the spine.

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If we all want happiness and pleasure so much, then why are we so bad at getting it? Pleasure feels amazing! Anxiety, however, does not. The Ancient Greek Philosopher Epicurus rolled these two strikingly intuitive claims into a simple formula for happiness and well-being–pursue pleasure without causing yourself anxiety. But wait, is that even possible? Can humans achieve lasting pleasure without suffering anxiety about failure and loss? Epicurus thinks we can, at least once we learn to pursue pleasure thoughtfully. In Living for Pleasure, philosopher Emily Austin offers a lively, jargon-free tour of Epicurean strategies for diminishing anxiety, achieving satisfaction, and relishing joys. Epicurean science was famously far ahead of its time, and Austin shows that so was its ethics and psychology. Epicureanism can help us make and keep good friends, prepare for suffering, combat imposter syndrome, build trust, recognize personal limitations, value truth, cultivate healthy attitudes towards money and success, manage political anxiety, develop gratitude, savor food, and face death. Readers will walk away knowing more about an important school of philosophy, but moreover understanding how to get what they want in life–happiness–without the anxiety of striving for it.

Review: This is the book I wish I’d had when I discovered Epicurus. The author is quite knowledgeable about and sympathetic to the philosophy of Epicurus and writes in a style very accessible to the layman. Better still, the book is a thorough and practical overview of Epicurean ethics, along with a bit of the physics. Before this book was published, most of the available books were either written by lay people and missing some key concepts or written by academics and not particularly well organized as an overview. For those interested there are plenty of footnotes to the pertinent texts and related books and articles.

I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the desires and of pleasure. These topics are often misunderstood in such a way that they either make Epicurus seem like a raging hedonist or an ascetic, but they are well presented here in a way that not only makes them understandable, but practical.

I’ve been studying Epicurus for a few years, and the manner in which the ideas are presented (particularly the discussion of gratitude) connected some of the dots for me in a way that I’m able to put to use improving my well-being significantly. Which, after all, is the point of Hellenistic philosophy!

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