• Bret Bernhoft
    216
    At the recommendation of others, I recently dove head-first into the world of Stoicism. And I'm shocked at what I am discovering. The quality and (above almost all else) practicality of the lessons and dialogues is stunning.

    Stoicism reminds me of Buddhism in many ways, especially in terms of framing desire, suffering and what is optimal for growth. Also in terms of the asceticism, and simplicity.

    Has anyone else here researched or even practiced Stoicism? What was your experience with this particular philosophy? I ask, because I am interested in being pointed in the correct direction when it comes to furthering my understanding of Stoicism.

    Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe there is a dark side to Stoicism that I'm not appreciating. Which is exactly why I'm starting this thread; to peek behind the veil.
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe there is a dark side to Stoicism that I'm not appreciating. Which is exactly why I'm starting this thread; to peek behind the veil.Bret Bernhoft

    Back in the ancient days of Greece and Rome, there was nowhere near the need to be vigilant and active in daily life as there is today. One of the important features of stoicism is a term called, 'apatheia' or more commonly known as apathy. I guess being apathetic is natural for a stoic; but, is hard to reconcile with modern day life.

    That's one negative I have encountered with actually living out stoicism. Another issue is the conflict with managing what is under ones control. There are many things one must constantly harass oneself with being proactive nowadays in maintaining what one has control over. It's a dismal state of constantly checking and maintaining control over all these trifle issues. Hence, more often than not I have appealed to cynicism to nullify the need or rather desire to control what little I actually have control over.

    Edit:
    There's also one other irreconcilable difference between modern day life and ancient Greece or Rome for example. Namely the life in the polis and the brotherhood and unity of the stoic philosophy and the individualism of modern day life. The atomic unit of the family in modern day living is at odds with the unity and brother/sisterhood of ancient stoicism. In other words, you're stuck in your shell.
  • Tzeentch
    3.2k
    I don't think you're missing anything.

    It's a very level-headed way of living life, sticking to living in the moment rather than worrying about all the things that might be. Very Buddhist-like indeed. The two may have even influenced each other. (Especially the Greeks being influenced by traveling eastern sages)
  • Ciceronianus
    2.9k
    Stoic "apatheia" is freedom from emotional disturbance, not "apathy" as currently defined. Tranquility was valued, as was equanimity. The period of Roman Stoicism was, in fact, a fairly turbulent one in the Empire, including trouble with the Germanic tribes which kept Marcus Aurelius away from Rome for many years, trouble with Parthia, the onset of Christianity and failure of traditional religion, the rise of the mystery religions; the Bar Kochba rebellion in Palestine. Stoicism had a broad appeal, and its most significant Roman adherents included an emperor and a slave.
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    Stoic "apatheia" is freedom from emotional disturbance, not "apathy" as currently defined.Ciceronianus

    So, why isn't the current use of apatheia, not consistent with the ancient use of it? Was there some magical reification of it or did external circumstances change so much that apathy has no bearing on the ancient use of the term?

    The period of Roman Stoicism was, in fact, a fairly turbulent one in the Empire, including trouble with the Germanic tribes which kept Marcus Aurelius away from Rome for many years, trouble with Parthia, the onset of Christianity and failure of traditional religion, the rise of the mystery religions; the Bar Kochba rebellion in Palestine.Ciceronianus

    All the more reason to admire Marcus Aurelius as a Roman stoic.
  • Paine
    1.9k
    Was there some magical reification of it or did external circumstances change so much that apathy has no bearing on the ancient use of the term?Shawn

    Pardon me for butting into the conversation but I think the quality relates to the modern idea that one is a slave if one agrees to be one. Epictetus was a militant in many ways.
  • Bret Bernhoft
    216
    The two books that cemented my interest in Stoicism are "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor" by Donald J. Robertson and "The Beginner's Guide to Stoicism" by Matthew Van Natta. Especially the first book mentioned.

    What makes Stoicism so interesting to me, is how natural it feels, personally speaking. I seem to passively gravitate towards the teachings of Stoicism. Which I am grateful for.

    I intend to seek out and mature/nurture my understanding of Stoicism, if only to be a more well-rounded person. Which seems to be a common thread running throughout many of the lives said to embody the Stoic image.
  • Gnomon
    3.5k
    Maybe I'm missing something? Maybe there is a dark side to Stoicism that I'm not appreciating. Which is exactly why I'm starting this thread; to peek behind the veil.Bret Bernhoft
    I don't "practice" Stoicism or Buddhism in any doctrinal sense, but my personal philosophy could be characterized as "stoic", in a general sense. The only "dark side" I'm aware of is a tendency toward Fatalism. Most ancient Greeks, culturally, were fatalists : submissive toward the divine Fates, and compliant toward the fickle fortunes of human destiny (like the oppressed proletariat of most cultures). But they also applauded the few romantic heroes who defied Fate against all hope, and accepted the inevitable consequences, as in Homer's Odyssey.

    So, if you believe in human Free Will (heroically denying Determinism), to deliberately practice passive Stoicism might cause you to adopt an attitude of resignation, and a slide into personal apathy, angst and homelessness. On the other hand, Stoicism, with a touch of Optimism, could allow you to enjoy the benefits of Apatheia (freedom from worry or anxiety), while following your dreams. :smile:

    Stoic Fatalism — Is it Bad? :
    The original Stoics were indeed fatalists in the deterministic sense. In other words, they thought that all actions were predetermined by nature. According to Jordan (1987), the Stoics thought that “God, who is Nature, knows the whole system of interrelated causes and ‘what every future event will be,’ including every event in the life of each person. Any freedom of the human will is therefore, on the face of it, out of the question” .
    https://chadebrack.com/stoic-fatalism-is-it-bad/
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    I prefer primary sources on Stoic philosophy such as

    Letters from a Stoic: Seneca's Moral Letters to Lucilius by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (transl. R. Gummere)

    Discourses, Fragments, Handbook (Oxford World's Classics) by Epictetus

    which are saturated with the social and political contexts of the turbulent, early Roman Empire in which they were written.
  • Paine
    1.9k
    Discourses, Fragments, Handbook (Oxford World's Classics) by Epictetus180 Proof

    That is the best textual reference. I still like my translations that refer to a 'manual'. How to set up a tent. What to do when the fire conks out. Etcetera.
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    I think I may be more of an Epicurean, but Stoicism is massively popular these days - podcasts, books, YouTube, TikTok. It has significantly influenced a number of approaches to psychology and interpersonal counselling (RET later CBT) from the 1950's and on.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    But not relevant to your practice?
  • Tom Storm
    8.1k
    I was talking about my personal life. Yes, CBT is useful.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    It is useful to me as well.
    If I understand your work life correctly, then the matter relates to what you do as well.
    I am just curious, not trying to challenge you.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    I think I may be more of an Epicurean ...Tom Storm
    :up:

    CBT is useful.Tom Storm
    :100:
  • god must be atheist
    5.1k
    Stoicism is an underappreciated philosophical treasure. It's also one of the most overrated ones.

    If you give full validity to the social applicability of the evolutionary theory, then you must admit that both Stoicism and Buddhism are ridiculously false and illegitimate philosophies, as well as the philosophies of most modern religions, if not of all religions.

    Yes, I admit they are much more romantic, likeable, and attractive, Stoicism et al, compared to scientific materialism. But philosophers are supposed to be loving the the truth, not an attractive, illusionary and artistically falsified version of it.
  • Bret Bernhoft
    216
    ..are saturated with the social and political contexts of the turbulent, early Roman Empire in which they were written.180 Proof

    Thank you for the recommendations. I agree, that getting as close to the original writings as possible is wise. I'm still feeling my way around in the world of Stoicism at the moment. And to examine thoughts from such a period of time is especially interesting.

    I feel like I'm not very knowledgeable about the subject, so I'm reading books that are more general and user-friendly. But I do aspire to enjoy those firsthand sources.
  • Bret Bernhoft
    216
    I deeply appreciate all of the responses to this post. I get the feeling that there is more to Stoicism than I understand at the moment. But I do sense that I'm on the right trail to understanding this philosophy and set of lifestyle choices.

    Stoicism is interesting to me and I will continue my studies, gradually, over time. I have so many other subjects that I'm studying right now, that it doesn't make sense to dedicate all of my intellectual efforts to just one subject.

    As I progress in my appreciation and "gnosis" for/of Stoicism, I would enjoy having another conversation with everyone here about the subject. It seems there are some exceptionally knowledgeable people herein, that have pointed me in some exciting directions for further research.
  • Athena
    2.9k
    ..are saturated with the social and political contexts of the turbulent, early Roman Empire in which they were written.180 Proof

    Stoicism originated in Athens as part of Athens's thinking about virtues and ethics.

    Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BCE. It is a philosophy of personal virtue ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world, asserting that the practice of virtue is both necessary and sufficient to achieve eudaimonia (happiness, lit. 'good spiritedness'): one flourishes by living an ethical life. The Stoics identified the path to eudaimonia with a life spent practicing the cardinal virtues and living in accordance with nature.Wikipedia

    However, your comment is supported by this explanation of Brits appearing very stoic. It begins with the French Revolution.

    “It was a moment that views coalesced around. The revolution had looked like a great triumph of humanist Republican politics, but quickly turned very nasty and very violent,” Dixon told me. “It reinforced this idea that passions were dangerous, mad and should be resisted.”

    Within four years, the two nations were at war as France took on the remaining powerful European monarchies during the Revolutionary Wars. While the stiff-upper-lip concept in its most extreme form was still some way off, it was here that British sensibilities began to tighten. The radical social revolution that had overtaken France threatened the status quo, and this “madness” had to be matched with restraint.
    Olivier Guiberteau
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    Stoicism originated in Athens as part of Athens's thinking about virtues and ethics.Athena
    Yes, I know, Zeno of Citium et al. However, I recommended Roman Stoics because their writings I've found best epitomize classical stoicism.
  • Athena
    2.9k
    Yes, I know, Zeno of Citium et al. However, I'd recommended Roman Stoics because their writings I've found best epitomize classical stoicism.180 Proof

    I think what is important to know about Stoicism is its place in the Athenian attempt to define the good life and how it is achieved.

    I think saying the Roman writers epitomize classical stoicism is like saying that Roman Christianity epitomizes the Christian movement. That might be true but the truth has been radically changed. But then I speak in ignorance. I do not know what the Romans added or took away from the Athenian effort and I am curious about that change. Why does Roman writing set our understanding of classical stoicism?
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    I'm not aware of any writings by Greek Stoics. I'm mostly familiar with Seneca, Epictetus & Marcus Aurelius as well as those stoic influences on early Christianity, medieval Jewish philosophy, Spinoza et al. Please recommend any primary sources of Greek Stoicism you've read (I'm familiar with some extant tertiary summaries).
  • Paine
    1.9k
    Why does Roman writing set our understanding of classical stoicism?Athena

    I think a lot of that can be credited to the destruction of texts from the closing of the Hellenistic time where we can see many sources are referred to but are now lost.

    One of the last to view the Platonic legacy in regard to Stoicism was Plotinus. He wrote polemics challenging Stoics in the Enneads but also included elements that recognized many previous arguments,

    This essay by Gerson does a good job of contrasting Plotinus from the 'classical' thinkers: Plotinus On Happiness.

    I take issue with his view of a Platonism 'beyond Socrates' but the stuff about Aristotle was helpful to me.
  • Athena
    2.9k
    I think a lot of that can be credited to the destruction of texts from the closing of the Hellenistic time where we can see many sources are referred to but are now lost.

    One of the last to view the Platonic legacy in regard to Stoicism was Plotinus. He wrote polemics challenging Stoics in the Enneads but also included elements that recognized many previous arguments,

    This essay by Gerson does a good job of contrasting Plotinus from the 'classical' thinkers: Plotinus On Happiness.

    I take issue with his view of a Platonism 'beyond Socrates' but the stuff about Aristotle was helpful to me.
    Paine

    Your link demands some thinking. My first thought is Aristotle didn't deal with Christians who definitely use the Bible for comfort, and how they make themselves feel happy with a fantasy of knowing God and trusting God helps them in all things even though they may be racist bigots.

    Neither did Aristotle deal with today's people programmed for PowerPoint presentations and very focused on crass worldly things, like a Roman, not like an Athenian. We might think of the career-focused young as Rome on steroids and far from the more metaphysical and abstractly inclined Athenian,

    I can appreciate Aristotle's notion of happiness being the feeling of high morale that we have when we believe we are doing the right thing but this is a refined appreciation of the virtuous life, It is not the human norm. This subject of happiness is pretty tangled up with materialism. Aristotle defined real as something that exists. Piety is real but it is not matter. Piety is of the mind but does not require a lot of intellect. Or what the heck, we can just be practical and go for money and power and enjoy a lot of happiness.

    What do you find helpful about Aristotle? I am listing to lectures about his ethics and may have something more intelligent to say in a few days. I am actually fascinated by virtues and how they can improve our lives. I think Stoicism has much to offer. That fascination goes with also being fascinated by how aging changes our thinking. There was a time in Athens when there wasn't much effort to educate those below 30 years of age. The older I get the more I have a sense of meaning and the ability to see the bigger picture.
  • Athena
    2.9k
    ↪Athena I'm not aware of any writings by Greek Stoics. I'm mostly familiar with Seneca, Epictetus & Marcus Aurelius as well as those stoic influences on early Christianity, medieval Jewish philosophy, Spinoza et al. Please recommend any primary sources of Greek Stoicism you've read (I'm familiar with some extant tertiary summaries).
    a day ago
    180 Proof

    I love Spinoza and would like to know about him.

    Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BCE. It is a philosophy of personal virtue ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world, asserting that the practice of virtue is both necessary and sufficient to achieve eudaimonia (happiness, lit. 'good spiritedness'): one flourishes by living an ethical life. The Stoics identified the path to eudaimonia with a life spent practicing the cardinal virtues and living in accordance with nature.Wikipedia

    Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who lived in Rome. His thoughts are not so different from Aristotle's thinking and contemplating the golden mean.
  • Paine
    1.9k

    If for no other reason, Plotinus is interesting because he would have been the first to object to Augustine co-opting him as the 'best Platonist'. Plotinus saw himself as carrying forward the best interpretation he could make in his circumstances. If somebody told him he was better than Plato, he probably would have lapsed into a coma.

    Before looking at Athens as an ideal not attainable to the Romans, consider that slavery was a big part of both societies. Aristotle took it for granted that society was hierarchical. I don't say that to erase differences. There are many. But I am reluctant to invoke Golden Ages after Plato did such a good job of making fun of them.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who lived in Rome.Athena
    :up: I stand corrected. It was my impression that Epictetus, along with Seneca, primarily influenced late Roman thinkers and mores.
  • Ciceronianus
    2.9k
    I do not know what the Romans added or took away from the Athenian effort and I am curious about that change. Why does Roman writing set our understanding of classical stoicism?Athena

    There are some fragments of the writings of the Greek Stoics available, but as far as I know we're aware of them only because they're referred to by others. In addition to Zeno, we have some information regarding Cleanthes (Zeno's successor as leader of the Stoa) and Chrysippus, his successor, and quotes from them. You can find the Hymn of Cleanthes easily enough on the Web. Chrysippus is credited with defending Stoicism against its early critics.

    The Roman Stoics are generally believed to have "softened" Stoicism and making it more human, less committed to the perfection of the ideal Stoic Sage. Also, at least compared to Chrysippus whose focus was on epistemology and logic, and the theory underlying Stoicism, the Roman Stoics emphasized ethics and practical wisdom. That emphasis makes it more sympathetic to most.
  • 180 Proof
    13.8k
    the Roman Stoics emphasized ethics and practical wisdom.Ciceronianus
    :up:
  • Amity
    4.6k
    The Roman Stoics are generally believed to have "softened" Stoicism and making it more human, less committed to the perfection of the ideal Stoic Sage. Also, at least compared to Chrysippus whose focus was on epistemology and logic, and the theory underlying Stoicism, the Roman Stoics emphasized ethics and practical wisdom. That emphasis makes it more sympathetic to most.Ciceronianus

    Yes. Thanks for spelling it out so clearly :clap:
  • Athena
    2.9k
    ↪Athena

    If for no other reason, Plotinus is interesting because he would have been the first to object to Augustine co-opting him as the 'best Platonist'. Plotinus saw himself as carrying forward the best interpretation he could make in his circumstances. If somebody told him he was better than Plato, he probably would have lapsed into a coma.

    Before looking at Athens as an ideal not attainable to the Romans, consider that slavery was a big part of both societies. Aristotle took it for granted that society was hierarchical. I don't say that to erase differences. There are many. But I am reluctant to invoke Golden Ages after Plato did such a good job of making fun of them.
    Paine

    I love talk of Athens because I have realized I don't really learn anything unless I am working with the ideas I want to know. Like being virtuous depends on taking action, so does learning anything.

    I have no idea why Rome could not achieve everything Athens achieved. I think the Athenian legacy was stronger in Roman controlled Constantinople, but why? Why did Islam pick up the learning that spread from Athens and Christian Rome throw us into the dark age by destroying the places of learning?

    Not only did Athens have slaves, but they were patriarchal and sexist! :rage: :lol: Anyone want to open that can of worms? I think I would have preferred to be a Spartan woman than a Athenian one.

    Speaking of Sparta, Aristotle thought Spartan authoritarianism was superior to Athens whisy-whasy liberal ways. Socrates was discussed with Athens since it lost the war with Sparta, and then comes Plato's republic and then Aristotle. I don't think Aristotle would have thought highly of Pericles' funeral speech about how being generalist and comparatively lacking direction was a good thing. It would be super fine to have a symposium with Pericles and Aristotle as the main speakers. That is my idea of heaven. :lol:

    I would not claim Athens had a golden age, but it distinctly gave the world a whole new way of thinking about reality and mans' place in it. Maybe some day I will know enough to develop the story of moments that changed human consciousness in a big way. Athens changed human consciousness and separated the west from the east. Do you want to argue that point?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.