Review of More Than Happiness

I’m both the target audience directly and also not so much it for this book at the same time. I’m highly interested and involved with Buddhism and also a reader of Classical Philosophy, especially Stoicism. The latter has been an ongoing interest for a number of years now. The only reason that I’m not the exact audience is that this is a fairly introductory work.

More than Happiness” by Antonia Macaro presents an introduction to Buddhist thought, in the form one finds it within the Pali Canon as presented by Richard Gombrich and other UK Buddhist scholars or practitioners, and then it compares and contrasts it against Stoic thought, largely as presented in the surviving material from the Roman Stoics like Seneca and Epictetus. Macaro looks at the commonalities in the approaches to life, views of the world and human virtue, and practices (such as various meditative techniques) between these two schools of thought. This is all done at a fairly high level so it is a series of short chapters as follows:

  1. Setting the Scene
  2. Dukkha Happens: We Suffer
  3. Maladies of the Soul: Why We Suffer
  4. How to Be Saved 1: Nirvana
  5. How to Be Saved 2: Living in Accordance with Nature
  6. More Than Happiness
  7. Removing the Dust from Our Eyes
  8. The Sage and the Buddha: Models for Living
  9. Spiritual Practice: Beyond Theory
  10. Meditations for a Better Life

I found myself basically enjoying the book but being dissatisfied at the same time. Macaro would dig a bit into thing, such as suffering or models for living, have a somewhat intelligent overview and discussion, but then move on when it got interesting from my point of view. Fundamentally, this is an introductory work. If you’re already familiar with the basis of Buddhist thought, such as the Four Noble Truths, Impermanence, etc. and you’ve read even a bit of Seneca or Epictetus, you’ll be nodding along as he touches on things but you’re not going to learn anything new.

The me of twelve or so years ago would probably have thought this was somewhat eye opening in how it showed some commonalities in thought, as well as differences, but I’ve done a lot of reading and reflecting since that time. If you want a point by point overview of the book. I suggest this review over on modernstoicism.com where Gregory Sadler digs in a bit. Otherwise, I think this would be a good book to give to your friends who have some interest in both topics or philosophy and Buddhism but not a lot of grounding in either of these. If they’ve read a bit in either, they might find it a bit too introductory though.