From Vol. 3, Issue 12, December 2021
Some aspects of Stoic philosophy can be blindingly obvious. For instance, who could possibly take issue with the basic tenet of Stoicism that some things in our life are up to us and others are not? And yet there are other aspects that are obscure, paradoxical, and even confusing. A true Stoic needs to wade through the muddy waters of paradox and contradiction to make the philosophy coherent and meaningful. This issue of THE STOIC deals with hidden and obvious Stoic values.
Ancient Stoics believed we are all equipped to grow toward virtue, and our natural instincts will push us in this direction if nothing gets in the way. Well if our natural instincts are to go towards virtue and by nature we are equipped to grow towards it, why aren’t most of us vituous? (Page 11 )
Stoicism promises eudeimonia or the good life, irrespective of the conditions in your life. In fact, the conditions of your life are irrelevant to achieving eudeimonia. In modern parlance “life is what you make of it.” If this is true why do we feel trapped by our life’s conditions, such as our job, for example? How does a Stoic handle being in a dead-end job? (Page 10 )
Whether we are Stoics or not, we all face dark times. As we flounder, we wonder “what is one good thing I could do that would make a positive difference for myself, for another person, for the world?” It could be a very small act. But if we do it, a little light pierces the darkness. Goodness multiplies and forms an incipient narrative through line. Chaos begins to recede. Order ascends. Meaningfulness prevails. (Page 13 )
We all have our aversions. Such averions can range all the way from aversion to broccoli to aversion to illness, poverty, and old age. Aversion fuels our anxiety and fear and prevents us from enjoying our life as it unfolds. What special skills do Stoics need to overcome their aversions and fears? (Page 4 )
For Stoics it was never important where they lived. Your nationality is an accident of your birth. If you are exiled all it means is that you are living in a different place. In fact, wherever Stoics lived they were a part of the world, a part of the cosmos. This Stoic value is exemplified by Hierocles’ circles. (Page 8)
Another important Stoic value is living in accordance with Nature. What does it really mean to a Stoic? Piotr Stankiewicz believes that Nature represents what is beyond human control. (Page 14)
Such exploration of Stoic values – both obvious and non-obvious is really necessary if we are to pursue Stoicism in good times and bad. It is so easy to lose sight of our values when faced with difficulties.
But Stoicism is about rationality, about what works, what doesn’t, and why. Just as in religion you are asked to keep your faith alive, Stoicism asks us to keep our reason alive. It asks us to work through its paradoxes and contradictions. The main purpose of Stoicism is to set us free from our self-made prison. But our escape requires our knowing the way.
Chuck Chakrapani, Editor