From Socrates to Thoreau, most philosophers, moralists, and religious leaders have seen frugality as a virtue and have associated simple living with wisdom, integrity, and happiness. But why? And are they right? Is a taste for luxury fundamentally misguided? If one has the means to be a spendthrift, is it foolish or reprehensible to be extravagant?
In this book, Emrys Westacott examines why, for more than two millennia, so many philosophers and people with a reputation for wisdom have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life. He also looks at why most people have ignored them, but argues that, in a world facing environmental crisis, it may finally be time to listen to the advocates of a simpler way of life.
The Wisdom of Frugality explores what simplicity means, why it's supposed to make us better and happier, and why, despite its benefits, it has always been such a hard sell. The book looks not only at the arguments in favor of living frugally and simply, but also at the case that can be made for luxury and extravagance, including the idea that modern economies require lots of getting and spending.
A philosophically informed reflection rather than a polemic, The Wisdom of Frugality ultimately argues that we will be better off—as individuals and as a society—if we move away from the materialistic individualism that currently rules.
Emrys Westacott is professor of philosophy at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, and the author of The Virtues of Our Vices (Princeton). His work has been featured in the New York Times and has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Philosopher's Magazine, Philosophy Now, and many other publications.
"[A] pleasant intellectual tour that usefully blows a layer of dust off of old writings."--Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic
"Westacott's philosophically informed polemic argues that if we rise above our material individualism, we will be better off, both as a society and as an individual."--Wan Lixin, Shanghai Daily
"A sprightly and authoritative romp through the history of the philosophical advice on the issues."--Martin Cohen, Times Higher Education
"The path to sanity is most likely to lie not in redistributionist programs of dubious merit, but in the course that Westacott models for the better part of The Wisdom of Frugality: a thoughtful willingness to resist the siren calls of the shopping malls and online bazaars for the sake of our mental health, and that of the world in which live."--James Williams, PopMatters
"In his calm, measured and wise analysis of the virtues and vices of simplicity, Westacott asks why, if almost every sage in history has praised frugal simplicity, we haven't all embraced it."--Julian Baggini, Financial Times
"[The Wisdom of Frugality is] not primarily an attempt to retrieve the ancient philosophical art of living (and writing) simply. It's an attempt to evaluate that tradition, and its contemporary echoes and amendments, at a time when life has arguably never been so complicated, distracted, and encumbered. . . . [Westacott] articulates and examines every argument you can think of, and numerous others that never would have occurred to you, for a frugal, materially minimal life. And in careful counterpoint throughout this book, he sets forth just about every conceivable objection to seeking such a life."--Lawrence Klepp, Weekly Standard
"[The Wisdom of Frugality] brings a rigorous treatment of an important question within the reach of an informed reader who is not necessarily a philosopher per se."--Choice
Table of Contents:
1 What Is Simplicity? 9
2 Why Simple Living Is Supposed to Improve Us 40
3 Why Simple Living Is Thought to Make Us Happier 73
4 Why the Philosophy of Frugality Is a Hard Sell 136
5 The Pros and Cons of Extravagance 163
6 The Philosophy of Frugality in a Modern Economy 200
7 The Environmentalist Case for Simple Living 249
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Emrys Westacott: