I’m interested in therapeutic practices from ancient philosophies and wisdom traditions, how individuals and organisations use them today, and how they inform public policy ideas about well-being, ethical resilience, flourishing and transcendence.
My first book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations, explored how people are rediscovering ancient Greek and Roman philosophies and how Greek philosophy (partiularly Stoicism) inspired Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It’s since been published in 19 countries and was a Times book of the year.
My research on well-being, resilience and practical philosophy has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I’m also involved in the Modern Stoicism and Stoic Week project , which has received press coverage everywhere from Newsweek to the New York Times, and has helped to instigate the revival of Stoic philosophy in modern culture.
I am now researching the history, philosophy and psychology of ecstasy and ecstatic experiences in modern culture. This includes looking at the role of ecstasy and altered states in modern popular religion, in politics, and also in the arts, particularly music and cinema. I’m interested in the role of non-rational or altered states of consciousness in emotional and physical healing. I recently worked with the RSA on its Spirituality project.
Media, key-note and public engagement work
I teach workshops and give key-notes on mental resilience, well-being, ethics and flourishing, which combine ideas from wisdom traditions with insights from modern psychotherapy. Partners include the Escape the City School, Arsenal FC , Saracens rugby club, the Civil Service, HMP Low Moss, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Deloitte, and Mind.
My practical wisdom approach combines the teaching of evidence-based well-being techniques from ancient philosophies, with open group discussions about ethics and values. I embrace a pluralist and eclectic approach – participants are encouraged to bring in their own opinions and experiences and to explore different ways of thinking about flourishing. You can find out about a pilot course I did on practical philosophy in prisons, mental health charities and sports clubs here.
I have talked about philosophy on BBC 2’s Newsnight, the Culture Show, on BBC Radio 3 and 4, RTE-1 and ABC Australia; and am a BBC New Generation Thinker. I’ve written for publications including the Financial Times, The Times, the Guardian, the Spectator and WIRED. I run the Centre’s blog, and also my own blog, which has 25,000 visitors a month. I’ve spoken at events including How The Light Gets In, the Month of Philosophy in Amsterdam, the Hay-On-Wye festival, the Galway Arts Festival, the Faculty of Public Health, Latitude, the School of Life, the Sunday Assembly, the British Museum and the RSA.
I help to run the London Philosophy Club, which is the biggest philosophy club in the world, with 6,000 members.
Click here to listen to a Radio 4 programme I made on Aristotle’s idea of flourishing and how it influences modern politics.