Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian and Psychoanalytic Ethics

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Can philosophy enable us to lead better lives through a systematic understanding of our human nature? John Cottingham's thought-provoking 1998 study examines the contrasting approaches to this problem found in three major phases of Western philosophy. Starting with the attempts of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics and Epicureans to cope with the recalcitrant forces of the passions, he moves on to examine the fascinating and hitherto little-studied moral psychology of Descartes, and his effort to integrate the physical and emotional aspects of our humanity into a rational blueprint for fulfilment. He concludes by analysing the insights of modern psychoanalytic theory into the human predicament, arguing that philosophy neglects them at its peril if it hopes to come to terms with the complex relationship between reason and the emotions. Lucid in exposition and unusually wide-ranging in scope, Philosophy and the Good Life provides a challenging perspective on moral philosophy and psychology for students and specialists alike.