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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Marcus Aurelius From The Virtual University (MICHAEL SUGRUE)

The 1% and the climb to the top.
Marcus Aurelius, emperor over the last generat...
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This is a lecture, the first of a series about Marcus Aurelius. I’ve read the Meditations a couple of times and I’ve read Epictetus as well. However, a good teacher can put all this in context and that is what is happening here. Unlike many You-Tube teaching videos, the sound is good and the teacher is easy to give your undivided attention to. I enjoyed the lecture. I believe there are three more. Once you are watching this one, the follow ups will be listed on the right hand side of the screen.

I personally find this philosophy compelling but I’m older and more skeptical. So, let’s see where this material takes us.

James Pilant

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Cross Stitches (via Achilles & Aristotle)

Here we are talking about Montaigne again! (I discussed another Montaigne blog post a week or so ago.) There is always an undercurrent of classicism in the United States. I have been a fan of Mortimer J. Adler and the Great Books project since I was 14 and read his masterpiece, How to Read a Book. Years later when the book was put in the discards, I bought it for a few cents and it is still a part of my library.

I like and appreciate this kind of talk, this kind of reading. Once these deep waters are explored, a person’s thoughts are never quite the same. I remember Adler talked about this and he said that after you have read great books you never need to fear boredom when you are alone. I think that’s true.

This fellow writes intelligent essays. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

James Pilant

Cross Stitches I’ve subscribed to Montaigne’s Essais on which breaks him up into comparatively bitesized chunks. Still the discovery that there are 426 daily episodes to look forward to sometimes feels a long haul. I’m up to episode 62. Some days I skim him, some days I ignore him completely. But sometimes he discusses something with himself, in his meandering way, which speaks to my own day. Whenever I’m close to cancelling my daily dose of Montai … Read More

via Achilles & Aristotle

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