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A Field Guide to a Happy and Peaceful Life: Massimo Pigliucci


Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. Massimo has written, or edited more than thirteen book, co-hosted of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and was the editor-in-chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon. He will talk with Sara Jamshidi about Stoicism: a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and more wise–and as a result, better people.


A Field Guide to  a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living 

By Massimo Pigliucci


A Field Guide to a Happy Life

With its lessons for resilience in the face of hardship, ancient Stoicism is beginning to seem like a very modern philosophy. As Massimo Pigliucci, a leading scholar and practical philosopher, puts it in his forthcoming book, A Field Guide to a Happy Life: “One thing that hasn’t changed much is human nature itself, which is why the words written for and by people who lived two millennia ago still resonate so clearly with us today. Those people did not have smartphones and social media, airplanes, and atomic weapons. But they loved, hoped, feared, lived, and died pretty much like we do today.”

While Stoicism has much to offer modern readers, Modern Stoics have struggled with some of the philosophy’s stranger claims. Should we really be indifferent to the death of a loved one, or to our own demise? Is it truly unacceptable to care about one’s work? In A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Breif Lessons for Living,  Pigliucci brings the classic epitome of ancient Stoicism, Epictetus’ Handbook, up to date.

The key to modern Stoicism, Pigliucci shows, is an emphasis on resilience and equanimity in the face of challenges and setbacks. In his hands, Stoicism isn’t about cultivating indifference to our social and emotional lives. It’s about learning to endure life’s hardships without being overwhelmed, while enjoying life’s pleasures with “humility and wisdom as our guides.” If we start with the “four cardinal virtues” (Practical Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance), we will grow into more honest, courageous, fair, and mindful individuals. In A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living,  Pigliucci shows how cultivating a Stoic mindset can help us navigate these uncertain times.


 Topics in the field guide of Happy Life include:


  • It is not change itself that disturbs us, but our judgments about what change means. The more we see change as natural and a collective experience, the better we’ll be able to handle it.
  • Shift goals from external to internal: Focus not on getting the job promotion, but rather, on becoming the best candidate for it. The latter is under your control, the former isn’t.
  • Base self-esteem on doing your best, not on material acquisitions: A fancy car, big house, or the latest technology might be desirable, but having them (or not) doesn’t determine your value as a person.
  • It is better to not be well regarded, then to lose your serenity and your self-worth. Practical application: Don’t twist yourself into knots trying to show off on social media.
  • Focus on factors in your control: You can’t decide whether you’ll become sick or suffer heartbreak, but it is up to you how you react to those situations. For example: if you get sick, you have the resources within you to bear the situation, and you can still act properly by being grateful to the people who nurse you and treat them kindly. If your partner leaves you, you can turn the setback into an occasion to reflect on where you may have gone wrong, as well as a reminder that while you are worthy of companionship, you are also an independent person. You can and will go on.

Offering what Pigliucci calls “Stoicism 2.0”, A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living shows that Stoicism is a philosophy for everyone, and its goal is to make us better and happier human beings.

About the Author:

Massimo Pigliucci is the K. D. Irani Professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. The author or editor of thirteen books, he has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Philosophy Now, and the Philosophers’ Magazine, among others. He lives in New York City.


About the Book:

A FIELD GUIDE TO A HAPPY LIFE: 53 Brief Lessons for Living

By Massimo Pigliucci

Published by Basic Books

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781541646933 | $20.00 US | $26.00 CAN | Hardcover | 160 pages



Amazon books:

For more than two thousand years, Stoicism has offered a message of resilience in the face of hardship. Little wonder, then, that it is having such a revival in our own troubled times. But there is no denying how weird it can be: Is it really the case that we shouldn’t care about our work, our loved ones, or our own lives? According to the old Stoics, yes.
In A Field Guide to a Happy Life, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a renewed Stoicism that reflects modern science and sensibilities. Pigliucci embraces the joyful bonds of affection, the satisfactions of a job well done, and the grief that attends loss. In his hands, Stoicism isn’t about feats of indifference, but about enduring pain without being overwhelmed, while enjoying pleasures without losing our heads. In short, he makes Stoicism into a philosophy all of us — whether committed Stoics or simply seekers — can use to live better.






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