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Stoicism, A Philosophy for Tough Times?

Stoicism, A Philosophy for Tough Times?

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni writing in the Huffington Post describe why Stoicism is still relevant today. I selected a passage from their first reason that the philosophy was designed for tough times. I’ve read Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, so I’m familiar with Stoicism but I don’t believe endurance is enough but otherwise I admire stoicism and find its practitioners admirable.

James Pilant

Roman Emperor and Stoicism

Five Reasons Why Stoicism Matters Today

Stoicism was born in a world falling apart. Invented in Athens just a few decades after Alexander the Great’s conquests and premature death upended the Greek world, Stoicism took off because it offered security and peace in a time of warfare and crisis. The Stoic creed didn’t promise material security or a peace in the afterlife; but it did promise an unshakable happiness in this life. 

Stoicism tells us that no happiness can be secure if it’s rooted in changeable, destructible things. Our bank accounts can grow or shrink, our careers can prosper or falter, even our loved ones can be taken from us. There is only one place the world can’t touch: our inner selves, our choice at every moment to be brave, to be reasonable, to be good.

The world might take everything from us; Stoicism tells us that we all have a fortress on the inside. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who was born a slave and crippled at a young age, wrote: “Where is the good? In the will…If anyone is unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone.”

While it’s natural to cry out at pain, the Stoic works to stay indifferent to everything that happens on the outside, to stay equally happy in times of triumph and disaster. It’s a demanding way of life, but the reward it offers is freedom from passion — freedom from the emotions that so often seem to control us, when we should control them. A real Stoic isn’t unfeeling. But he or she does have a mastery of emotions, because Stoicism recognizes that fear or greed or grief only enter our minds when we willingly let them in.

A teaching like that seems designed for a world on edge, whether it’s the chaotic world of ancient Greece, or a modern financial crisis. But then, Epictetus would say that — as long as we try to place our happiness in perishable things — our worlds are always on edge.

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The Malcontent (via A Lonely Philosopher)

This is angry. This is a non-conformist, a deviant, doesn’t play well with others, etc. etc.

Fantastic, I loved every syllable. In a world where the obscenity of “emotional intelligence” is taken seriously, it’s wonderful to hear some intelligent resistance!

To the gallant author, “Write your book. I’ll buy a copy, maybe three or four and you are a philosopher in my book, any day.”

Keep up the struggle, You are not alone.

James Pilant

The Malcontent ‘If you would be free, then, do not wish to have, or avoid, things that other people control, because then you must serve as their slave.’ (Epictetus) An employer once told me that I don’t ‘sell myself’ enough, to which I replied that I don’t sell myself at all. Of practical necessity my labour is available for hire for around forty hours a week: the best hours of my life, the hours that run on to my grave. But I am most definitely not for sale. … Read More

via A Lonely Philosopher

A BOOK IN PROGRESS [PART 3]: ON STOICISM, FREE WILL & FATE (via Pandaemonium)

Zeno

I find stoicism an attractive philosophy. I suspect that has to do with the slings and arrows of an implacable fate falling with such regularity. Hanging tough may be the only thing many Americans (and all Japanese) can do.

It’s a nice essay. I hope you enjoy it. Maybe you can buy the book when it’s finished.

James Pilant

My book on the history of moral thought, due to be published next year by Atlantic, is beginning to take shape (I should hopefully have finished writing it by late summer / early autumn). Every month I am posting small sections from the book. This excerpt is from the conclusion of Chapter 3, which begins in Aristotle’s moral thought and ends in Stoicism. THE PHILOSOPHER ZENO WAS ONCE FLOGGING A SLAVE WHO HAD STOLEN SOME goods.  ‘But I was fated t … Read More

via Pandaemonium

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