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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
April 2023
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Book description

The account of the best life for humans – i.e. a happy or flourishing life – and what it might consist of was the central theme of ancient ethics. But what does it take to have a life that, if not happy, is at least worth living, compared with being dead or never having come into life? This question was also much discussed in antiquity, and David Machek's book reconstructs, for the first time, philosophical engagements with the question from Socrates to Plotinus. Machek's comprehensive book explores ancient views on a life worth living against a background of the pessimistic outlook on the human condition which was adopted by the Greek poets, and also shows the continuities and contrasts between the ancient perspective and modern philosophical debates about biomedical ethics and the ethics of procreation. His rich study of this relatively neglected theme offers a fresh and compelling narrative of ancient ethics.


‘Machek's book on ‘the life worth living' is a fascinating addition to the literature on ancient Greek and Roman ethics. It systematically investigates, with subtlety and rigor, important questions about a worthwhile life and the value of life that are peripheral to or ignored by standard studies of ancient ethical theory.'

Richard Kraut - Northwestern University

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