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Mama warned me about roaming around dodgy neighborhoods, but I didn’t heed her advice. Old enough to prefer seeking most of my knowledge from physical books and other print sources, I decided to enlarge my world by poking around the internet to read some discussions in assorted self-described Stoic forums around the world.
Stoicism is famous for its paradoxes. The tradition of intellectual provocation goes way back, and it’s quite well embedded in the Stoic modus operandi. One of the most seminal examples of it is a discussion of the dichotomy of control.
Can I trust my team if they’re working from home? Can I empower someone without me losing some of my power? These are some of the questions that managers have been asking me to help them think about recently.
We label people on the basis of very little information. We’re prejudiced. Oh, he’s a teacher. Oh, she’s a woman. Oh, look at those shoes he’s wearing. We judge others constantly. We find flaws in others as if it’s a game. It’s not really that we always want to judge them. It happens automatically, these judgments pop up almost magically in our minds.
Stoic Thoughts for Every Day of the Month.
The history of the relationship between Stoicism and Christianity is rich and complex. My focus here is on comparing and contrasting the two frameworks on two central points: ethics, especially interpersonal ethics, and the question of the grounding of ethical principles.
Stoics as Epicurean Fellow Travellers
Many years ago, when I first studied philosophy as a student, there were two books that I came across on my own that really caught my attention: the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and On the Nature of Things by Lucretius. They seemed to share something in common, I thought at the time, especially when compared to the ancient philosophers I was studying, which was primarily Plato. Both Marcus and Lucretius offered naturalistic accounts of the physical world and saw human beings as tiny parts within an ever-changing Nature.
Stripped of cultural and metaphysical differences and boiled down to bare essentials, Stoicism and Buddhism can seem strikingly similar. While those important differences should not be denied, it can be useful to focus on the common perspectives, which we can borrow whether or not we agree with the wider philosophies. In this article I will highlight the main points that both schools want us to truly get and put into action.
Biblical Judaism—arguably the world’s oldest monotheistic religion— preceded the development of Stoicism by well over a thousand years. In comparing and contrasting Talmudic Judaism with Stoicism, we can analyze two quite different frames of reference: (1) metaphysics and theology; and (2) ethics, psychology, and character.
People often ask me whether there’s any relationship between Stoic philosophy and Islam. The writings of arab Muslim scholar Al-Kindi may provide the best example of a more direct link between Islam and Stoicism.
Confucianism, like Stoicism, urges us to practice a set of virtues. In Stoicism the four cardinal virtues (practical wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance) are highly interdependent, basically four different aspects of the same underlying virtue (wisdom in the broad sense). Confucians, by contrast, rank their virtues according to their scope and importance. The two most crucial virtues in Confucianism are benevolence and righteousness.
Is journaling a useful Stoic practice? Some modern Stoics have certainly found it to be helpful. They’ve often taken inspiration from Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations was effectively his own private journal in which he reflected on issues on his own life. What can a modern Stoic learn from Marcus’s journaling practices?
Practice self-sufficiency. Don’t remain a dependent malleable patient: Become your own soul’s doctor. These lines, inspired by Epictetus, are from my book The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.
This is one of my favourite Stoic ideas:
Starting with things of little value—a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine—repeat to yourself: ‘For such a small price I buy tranquility and peace of mind.’ – Epictetus, Enchiridion 12
“There is no actual tomorrow.” My daughter said this to me as we talked about the way people experience time. It’s true: We’re always living in the right now, today. And we always seem to imagine that tomorrow will be just the same as today.