Recent essays, #4

Most of my original writings now appear over at Figs In Winter, my Patreon site devoted to practical philosophy. The most recent posts are behind a paywall (monthly subscription levels at $1, $3, and $5), but the majority of the material is free to read. Here are some of the most recent entries:

Book Review: John Sellars’ Stoicism, a no-nonsense guide to the ancient philosophy. Pretty much the only thing to object to in John Sellars’ Stoicismis the cover (over which, likely, he had little say). It features “pseudo-Seneca” instead of the actual Seneca. Other than that, it’s one of the best, most clear and concise introductions to ancient Stoicism currently available. Originally published in 2006 and consisting of little above 200 pages, it is organized around six chapters. The first one is, unfortunately, simply titled “Introduction,” and so it is likely to be skipped by several readers. Do yourself a favor and read it. It includes a concise definition of Stoicism, a brief history of the philosophy from Zeno of Citium to Marcus Aurelius, and a section on the kind of historical sources from which we actually know about Stoicism, including Cicero, Plutarch, and Galen. (continue to read)

David Brooks and the five lies culture tells us. Readers who have followed several incarnations of my blogs (like this one, and this one, and this one) will have easily figured out that, politically speaking, I lean left, though with a number of qualifications and caveats. But I make a point of reading conservative authors and columnists, for a couple of reasons: first, to keep up with what they say and how they think (so to sharpen my own opinions and arguments), and second because they too, at least some of the times, have something interesting or constructive to say. A recent example is David Brooks, a regular New York Times columnist, who is defined by Wikipedia as a Canadian-born American conservative political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times. On April 15, he has published a column for said newspaper entitled “Five lies our culture tells us.” I’d like to examine each of the lies in turn, in order to stimulate a discussion that may help us all see why such lies contribute to (or even, as Brooks argues, are at the root of) our political problems. (continue to read)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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