Recent essays, #19

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 Club: The Inner Citadel, 9, Marcus Aurelius — the man himself. Well, it took a while, but we finally got to the end of Pierre Hadot’s The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. It’s a long and difficult book, but it’s a crucial entry in the modern Stoic literature, which is why I spent so much time — and really put to the test my readers’ patience, I’m afraid — with this series. In this last post I will skip the short chapter 9, on “Virtue and Joy,” and focus on selected passages of the very long chapter 10, “Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations,” where Hadot does his best to glean the character of the man behind the philosophy. However, this isn’t just a biographical chapter, as Marcus’ character, life, and philosophy are deeply intertwined. Which means we are just as likely to learn about the man from his philosophy and life as we are about the philosophy by looking at how this extraordinary man attempted to put it into practice throughout his life. (continue to read)

Here you will find a full list of the essays concerning Pierre Hadot’s The Inner Citadel.

Book Club: The Art of Living, 1, The Skeptics don’t believe in the art of living. Or do they? John Sellars’ The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy is one of the best books I’ve read recently about philosophy understood as a way of life, as distinct from (perhaps even opposed to?) a specialized academic discipline. Here is how the publisher described the book: Ancient philosophy was conceived as a way of life or an art of living, but if ancient philosophers did think that philosophy should transform an individual’s way of life, then what conception of philosophy stands behind this claim? John Sellars explores this question through a detailed account of ancient Stoic ideas about the nature and function of philosophy. He considers the Socratic background to Stoic thinking about philosophy and Skeptical objections raised by Sextus Empiricus, and offers readings of late Stoic texts by Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Sellars argues that the conception of philosophy as an “art of living,” inaugurated by Socrates and developed by the Stoics, has persisted since antiquity and remains a living alternative to modern attempts to assimilate philosophy to the natural sciences. (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.