The Art of Losing Control (Canongate: 2017)

Humans have always sought ecstatic experiences – moments where they go beyond their ordinary self and feel connected to something greater than them. Such moments are fundamental to human flourishing, but they can also be dangerous.

Beginning around the Enlightenment, western intellectual culture has written off ecstasy as ignorance or delusion. But philosopher Jules Evans argues that this diminishes our reality and denies us the healing, connection and meaning that ecstasy can bring.

He sets out to discover how people find ecstasy in a post-religious culture, how it can be good for us, and also harmful. Along the way, he explores the growing science of ecstasy, to help the reader – and himself – learn the art of losing control.

Jules’ exploration of ecstasy is an intellectual and emotional odyssey balancing personal experience, interviews and readings from ancient and modern philosophers that will change the way you think about how you feel. From Aristotle and Plato, via the Bishop of London and Sister Bliss, radical jihadis and Silicon Valley transhumanists, The Art of Losing Control is a funny and life-enhancing journey through under-explored terrain.

‘A captivating exploration of humanity’s journey to self-transcendence’. Prospect magazine

‘A wild, wondrous, wide-eyed journey.’ The Psychologist magazine

Compelling…Evans’ skill as a story-teller, like his sensitivity as a thinker, is never in doubt’. The Guardian

Evans is a natural story-teller and his honesty about his own experience is      refreshing and disarming. He takes his subject matter seriously but delivers his investigations in an endlessly amusing and eye-opening manner.’ The Big Issue

‘An original and outstanding investigation into a poorly understood but central experience in all our lives. Jules Evans is brave, honest and wise – a great companion and guide on a fascinating journey.’ Caspar Henderson, author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations (Rider Books: 2012)

When philosophy helped me through an emotional crisis in my late teens and early twenties, I became fascinated by how ideas invented over 2,000 years ago can still save lives today. I set out on a five-year journey to find out how people from all walks of life are using ancient philosophy to withstand crises, overcome adversity and build better lives.

Along the way, I interviewed the founders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, and learned how they had been inspired by ancient philosophy and turned it into an evidence-based science. I met the director of the US Army’s ambitious new resilience programme, which uses techniques from philosophy to teach every American soldier inner strength. I met cops, gangsters, politicians, anarchists and astronauts, and heard how philosophy transformed their lives.

And I traveled to modern philosophical communities built around millennia-old ideas: Epicurean communes, Stoic gatherings, Sceptic summer camps, Cynic occupations, even a Platonic sect whose members include the actor Hugh Jackman. I looked at the challenges of trying to build strong ethical communities without them turning into cults.

I also explored how classical ideas of the good life are at the heart of a new ‘politics of well-being’, in which governments try to guide their citizens towards happiness and fulfilment. In the book, I warn against trying to fit an entire society into one philosophy of the good life, arguing instead that Socrates and his descendants didn’t come up with one definition of the good life, but several.

Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations is so far published in 19 countries.  It has been #1 in Amazon.co.uk’s philosophy chart, a Guardian Books bestseller, and a Times book of the year.  It presently has a 4.1 rating on Good Reads after 1245 votes, and a 4.7 rating on Amazon.co.uk after 137 reviews. The book helped to inspire the Radio 4 series, My Life As A Philosopher, which I co-presented.

‘This book saved my life.’ Adrian Edmondson

‘A revelation’. The Observer

“Instructive and thought-provoking…shows philosophy is not just for stuffy classrooms” Financial Times

“This wonderful book shows how modern psychology is consistent with the best that was thought and known in the Ancient World…also beautifully written” Lord Richard Layard, author, Happiness: Lessons From A New Science

“A revelation” Alexander Linklater Observer

“Witty and accessible…Highly recommended.” The Psychologist magazine

“A brilliant and timely book.” Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to Be Free

 

Other books and reports I’ve written or contributed to: 

The Politics of Well-Being: Theory, Policy and Practice, Edited by Ian Bache and Karen Scott (London: Routledge, 2018). You can read my chapter here. 

Stoicism Today, selected writing, Volume I and II. Edited by Patrick Ussher. (London: Amazon Press 2014)

AHRC: Philosophical Communities. 2014 report I wrote for the AHRC on the history and contemporary growth of philosophy clubs, and their role in community well-being

RSA: Spiritualize: Revitalizing Spirituality to Address 21st Century Concerns. I organized the seminars that fed into this 2013 report, written by Jonathan Rowson.

WHO: Beyond Bias: Exploring the Cultural Contexts of Health and Well-Being. I wrote this report for the World Health Organisation, summarising a two-day seminar discussing the cultural contexts of health as part of an ongoing research project.