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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

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12:26p
Greeks bearing rules ...
This was another “small book” (it's 116 pages) that I picked up towards the end of last year to help me get to my 72-book reading target for the year. I found this on the clearance table over at the Barnes & Nobel where I usually write these book reviews (although this weekend I'm writing from home while watching the NFL playoffs). The Ten Golden Rules: Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on Living the Good Life by M. A. Soupios & Panos Mourdoukoutas is an interesting book, with an odd origin … it started out being published in Greece as The Ten Rules of Spiritual and Professional Fulfillment, I guess being a “business strategy” sort of thing, although this is not particularly evident in the the English version. Both of the authors are long-time professors at Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus, Dr. Soupios being an expert in History and Politics, and Dr. Mourdoukoutas an expert in Economics and Business Strategy.

The authors put forth the reason of the book in the introduction:

For centuries, most discussions of spirituality in Western culture have concentrated on the precepts and practices of the Judeo-Christian tradition. For more than two thousand years, any consideration of the spiritual life fell within the privileged domain of organized religion. But the rise of modern secularism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries severely compromised the credibility of the religious path, raising a serious dilemma for the modern West – the spiritual imperatives of life continue to demand our attention at a time when traditional mechanism for addressing these needs have become increasingly dysfunctional and ineffective.
The book is structured, as one might expect, in ten chapters, one for each of the “Ten Golden Rules”. Each chapter is connected to a Greek Philosopher, with an appropriate quote, then a “story” about how the particular “Rule” worked in somebody's life, a statement summing up the rule, a discussion on the rule relating to the story, and, finally, a “Mediation Grid” featuring a handful of concepts for further consideration.

Here's how the chapters are set out:

1. - Plato - “Examine Life”
2. - Epictetus - “Worry Only About the Things You Can Control”
3. - Aristotle - “Treasure Friendship”
4. - Epicurus - “Experience True Pleasure”
5. - Epictetus - “Master Yourself”
6. - Solon - “Avoid Excess”
7. - Pythagoras - “Be a Responsible Human Being”
8. - Aeschylus - “Don't Be A Prosperous Fool”
9. - Hesiod - “Don't Do Evil to Others”
10. - Aesop - “Kindness Toward Others Tends to Be Rewarded”

{Yes, it bugs me too that Epictetus shows up twice in this!}
As is often the case, the “stories” in these are fairly lame, attempting as they do to force in a “moral teaching” in a page or so of text, but the discussion of the concepts are pretty solid, making good points in a relatively small space.

Again, I very much like the direction of The Ten Golden Rules, and the authors make a very good case for a reconsideration of Greek philosophy as a basis for a modern ethics, with these ten rules being the touchpoints for guiding one's actions. Here's a bit from the Epilogue:

Spiritual living is not an exclusive preserve of religious teaching. There are alternative paths to spiritual contentment, one of which involves the examined life afforded by reason. Among reason's many blessings are a capacity to examine life; to understand what we can and what we cannot control in life; to discriminate between false and true pleasures; to identify true friendships; to attain a properly balanced existence – all of which can contribute to a meaningful spirituality, such as that outlined by the wisdom of the ancient Greek sages.
Obviously, I'd recommend this to anybody … but, unfortunately, it looks like the specific edition that I have (which was a discount pressing, which I then got at clearance) isn't available, but the more expensive one is, with a few copies in the used channels. It's a bit steep at cover price (for such a slim volume), but it's a very worthwhile read!


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