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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
City of Saints: Stoicism, Catholicism & Practical Ethics for the 21st Century is a nonfiction religion/philosophy book written by Robert Harrison Woolston. Woolston’s intensive studies of ancient Greek philosophy, particularly Stoicism, have given him insights into the parallel development of Christianity's ethics and Neostoicism. He introduces his subject with a survey of the ancient Stoics, beginning with Diogenes of Sinope in 336 BC, whose anecdotal meeting with Alexander the Great leaves the world leader seriously considering the wisdom of a man clothed in tatters and living with wild dogs and acknowledging him as an intellectual peer. Woolston travels even further back to the Cynics, a precursor philosophical tradition of the Stoics, in the person of Antisthenes, who was a student of Socrates, and Zeno, who has been considered to be the actual founder of Stoicism. Most well-known of the Stoics, however, is the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who has been referred to as the last of the Ancient Stoics.
Woolston goes on to show how the teachings of Jesus Christ and the instructions he gave to his apostles reflect their own adoption of a form of Stoicism. He then presents a survey of the Christian philosophers, highlighting first of all St. Augustine of Hippo whose work The City of God became a permanent fixture of the Christian theological canon. He follows that with a look at St. Thomas Aquinas and the role of the Church during the Dark Ages. Woolston concludes his study with a look at two modern-day individuals who were able to turn their lives around through the adoption of Neostoic principles, particularly the concepts of fearlessness and inner strength.
City of Saints: Stoicism, Catholicism & Practical Ethics for the 21st Century is a well-written and fascinating comparative philosophy work. I particularly enjoyed that portion of the book that detailed the development of Stoicism in ancient Greece, and found the arguments Woolston makes to mesh those ancient tenets with that of Catholicism to be well-reasoned and persuasive. Woolston has the gift of imparting the results of his philosophical studies in a manner that allows them to be accessed by laypersons without overlong and complicated explanations. His presentation is fluid and easy to follow, and the examples he offers in each section of his book go a long way towards making his approach work so well. I’ve long been interested in the ancient Stoics and Stoic philosophy, and I found this work to be both enlightening and informative. City of Saints: Stoicism, Catholicism & Practical Ethics for the 21st Century is most highly recommended.