7 Matching Annotations
  1. Nov 2018
    1. The Modern Stoicism movement traces its roots to Victor Frankl’s (Sahakian 1979) logotherapy, as well as to early versions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for instance in the work of Albert Ellis (Robertson 2010). But Stoicism is a philosophy, not a therapy, and it is in the works of philosophers such as William Irvine (2008), John Sellars (2003), and Lawrence Becker (1997) that we find articulations of 21st century Stoicism, though the more self-help oriented contribution by CBT therapist Donald Robertson (2013) is also worthy of note. All of these authors attempt to distance the philosophical meaning of "Stoic"—even in a modern setting—from the common English word "stoic," indicating someone who goes through life with a stiff upper lip, so to speak. While there are commonalities between "Stoic" and "stoic," for instance the emphasis on endurance, the latter is a diminutive version of the former, and the two should accordingly be kept distinct.
  2. Oct 2017
    1. I do think it is a philosophy for everyone, and I am convinced that the world would be a better place if more people prioritized their moral development over the acquisition of external goods. That said, there are clearly people for whom Stoicism immediately “clicks,” it comes natural, and others for whom it doesn’t. Then again, Stoicism isn’t the only positive philosophy of life. Buddhism is an excellent alternative, if it speaks more clearly to one’s personality or cultural background. What the world needs is more compassion (love in the broad sense, as you were saying earlier) and use of practical reason to solve human problems.
    2. But you do have a point: the “Dionysian” aspect of life is in the background for the Stoic, since the primary concern is to live a moral life. But that hardly seems a misplaced priority to me. We still live in a world of such gross injustice and inequality, that only privileged people like ourselves can afford to think of eros and art as top concerns in life. They are important, for sure, but I think it’s high time to shift priorities around, away from selfish indulgence, and toward more concern for the wellbeing of so many others who suffer atrocities, injustice, and famine, all over the planet.
    3. “Socrates did not blush to play with little boys, Cato used to refresh his mind with wine after he had wearied it with application to affairs of state, and Scipio would move his triumphal and soldierly limbs to the sound of music…It does good also to take walks out of doors, that our spirits may be raised and refreshed by the open air and fresh breeze: sometimes we gain strength by driving in a carriage, by travel, by change of air, or by social meals and a more generous allowance of wine: at times we ought to drink even to intoxication, not so as to drown, but merely to dip ourselves in wine: for wine washes away troubles and dislodges them from the depths of the mind, and acts as a remedy to sorrow as it does to some diseases.”
    4. “Fate permitting” is a standard Stoic phrase meant to remind ourselves that planning things is up to us, but the ultimate outcomes are not under our control. It helps us to develop an attitude of equanimity toward the universe. We should very much try to change things for the better, that’s the whole point of the Stoic discipline of action, as I was saying earlier, and that discipline is connected to the virtue of justice. But we should also be rational about it, and understand that sometimes things go our way, and at other times they don’t.
    5. But if you truly cannot do anything about something, then why on earth would you want to make things even worse for you by falling into despair? It seems like adding a self-inflicting injury to the already existing one. I’m reminded of the recent movie Bridge of Spies, where one of the main characters risks the death penalty. His lawyer notices that the fellow doesn’t seem to be worried or upset at the prospect, and asks him why. The man replies: “would it help?”
    6. I also find some of the Stoic techniques to be very useful. For instance, the evening philosophical diary, in which I interrogate myself about the difficult parts of my day, reflecting on what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I could do better the next time around. Or the exercises in mild self-denial, like occasional fasting, or even taking a cold shower. They remind me of just how good my life normally is, when I can count on things like hot water and a nice meal, which are definitely not a given for everyone on the planet. Think of them as exercises in gratitude, but in practice, not just words.