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From Vol. 4, Issue 6, June 2022

On human fallibility


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Humans are fallible. In fact, the Stoics thought that we are so fallible that none of us ever gets to be completely virtuous. They said only a sage can be virtuous and, for all practical purposes, no one ever gets to be a sage.

Then what is the point of even trying? The Stoics suggested that you may never get to be perfect, but you can make progress. Epictetus explains it this way:

I used to be angry every day. Then every other day. Then every third,” and so on. If you manage to spend thirty days without getting angry, give thanks to God. Your habit was weakened at first and then destroyed. If you continue like this for three or four months without your passion causing you distress as it did before, believe me, you are in excellent health. - Epictetus, Discourses 2.18

You may want to see the pope and you may never get to see him. But you might be a lot happier if you made the journey to the Vatican than never leave Peoria.

The first step in working towards becoming less fallible is to identify our fallibilites. Our contributors in this issue focus on our failings and suggest how we may avoid them.


Greg Sadler points out that what you do after you fail is what really matters. Failures also provide a chance to engage in some self-reflection and analysis, which involves figuring out what mistaken assumptions, judgments, or lines of reasoning led to the failure, and what one might start replacing those with, so that one might fail a bit less in the future. And then, over time, fail even less, and begin to succeed more and more, slowly transforming into a better educated and happier human being.


Brandon Tumblin compares the stength to overcome cowardice with strength training in the gym. We could define strength as the ability to resist load. In the weight room, the load takes the form of barbells and iron plates. It is one’s strength that allows one the ability to lift more and more load. In life, the load takes the form of adversity, fear, and the fight against injustice. Strength, in this view, is the ability to handle adversity, overcome fear, and succeed in upholding justice.

Negative attitudes

Santara Gonzales and Kai Whiting remind us that Stoicism urges us to remember this: even though we may not like someone, or want to be around them, we share with them the capacity of reason. Therefore, we cannot discard or exclude them merely because of how we feel about them. Instead, we must work, within reason, towards offering them an opportunity for a productive re-entry into society (or say our family), whenever such an opportunity arises.

Focusing on what we can’t control

Of all the things we cannot control, says Piotr Stankiewicz, the past is the very one we control the least. We can’t alter the past, that’s sure. Yet, we may and we should try to shape how its manifests itself in our thoughts and actions today. This is exactly the take the Stoics advise.

articles on who decides what a vituous action is (Sharon Lebell), Cynicism as the backdrop to Stocism (Meredith Kunz), and the relationship between empaths and the Stoics (Brittany Polat).

Dr. Chuck Chakrapani, Editor