Stoicism is a Hellenistic philosophy school founded in Athens by Zeno de Cítio in the early third century BC The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom and the belief that it is virtuous maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is under nature. Because of this, the Stoics presented their philosophy as a way of life and thought that the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person says, but how that person behaves. To live a good life, it was necessary to understand the rules of the natural order, since they taught that everything was rooted in nature. (Wikipedia)
Marco Aurélio is enjoying immense popularity, two thousand years after his life and reign. In the last two weeks alone, I received four emails with stoic articles and meditations, in English and Portuguese, in addition to invitations to book launches on the topic. It is the philosophy of choice for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, celebrities, football stars, etc. There is a multitude of sites that promote stoicism as a philosophy for the modern world, including “Daily Stoic”, “How to Be a Stoic”, “Modern Stoicism” and “Traditional Stoicism”.
All of this led me to question: what is there in stoicism to inspire and help with changes in modern times?
After my readings and research, I understood that the modern human being is in a constant search for knowledge to have a peaceful and harmonious life, which is not based on beliefs or dogmas. Perhaps this stoic perspective of “good living”, which asks us to consider reason and examine everything that occurs to us daily, helps its followers to answer questions about life and experience it in a fuller and happier way.
Stoic thinkers like Marco Aurélio and Sêneca are becoming the best-selling authors in the world. This is largely due to the self-help industry, which “rediscovered” stoicism as a type of “self-help philosophy”. This rediscovery sells stoicism as a philosophy of “action”, for busy people who don’t have time to think about philosophical puzzles about life.
Together we will learn a little more about this school of philosophy and how to implement it in our current life.
Stoic philosophers originally met under the Painted Portico (in Greek: Στοά Ποικίλη). The Stoics advocated the cultivation of temperance in the face of pain and the hardships of life.
Stoicism flourished in Greece, with Cleanthes de Assos and Crispo de Solis, being taken to Rome in 155 BC by Diogenes of Babylon. There, Marco Aurélio, Seneca, Epictetus, and Lucano continued the teachings.
Stoicism survived the Roman Empire until all philosophical schools were banned in 529 AD by order of Emperor Justinian, due to their pagan characteristics.
The Stoics presented a unified view of the world consisting of formal logic, non-dualistic physics, and naturalistic ethics. They believe that we all have only one job on planet Earth: to be a good human being.
CHARACTERISTICS OF STOICISM
Virtue is the only good and path to happiness;
The individual must deny external feelings;
The Universe is governed by a universal natural reason.
INSPIRATIONS AND MEDITATIONS
Marco Aurélio’s routine inspires us to incorporate stoicism into our daily lives. He kept a diary, his meditations. He believed that the practice of recording in a personal diary allows us to obtain information about our thoughts, feelings, and decision-making processes.
The wisdom accumulated in this exercise is also exclusively applicable to learning, relationships, and leadership. “What is an obstacle on this road helps us to walk.” We must train our minds to see obstacles as opportunities, to learn about the world and how to live in it. Much of the focus of Marco Aurélio’s meditations was how the individual should interact in his community.
THE PHILOSOPHY THAT MAY BECOME A LIFESTYLE
Stoic thinkers in ancient Greece developed a theory of the universe, a system of logic and questioning. The very basic lesson of stoicism is: to live a satisfying life is to ask yourself questions about what it is to be a human being.
It is often said that philosophy is an attempt to answer the question “how should I live?” To try to answer that question, it is necessary to have a reasonable understanding of the world and its relationship to it.
It is not necessarily a matter of finding a “supreme truth”, but of finding the driving reason for the walk when so many other people are doing the same out there.
“The happiness of life depends on the quality of our thoughts.” — Marco Aurelio
Knowing yourself and your place in the world will allow you to consider how you should live and make sure you are fulfilling the values you have set for yourself.
Meditation experts generally give the following advice: if you are “too busy” to meditate for ten minutes a day, you should meditate for an hour a day.
“Everything that happens, happens as it should, and if you look carefully, you’ll find that this is how it should be.”
If the universe is composed of different aspects of a divine, everything must be perfect. Stoics believed that all events are predetermined (“determinism” in philosophy) and that you have no control or very little control over circumstances. Everything is doomed. Many Stoics believed in methods of divination, astrology, and cartomancy, because everything, however insignificant it may be, is linked to destiny. Followers of the Roman Stoic Marcus Manillus claim that astrological principles come from philosophical teachings. There was a conference in 2008, held by Columbia University in New York, called “Forgotten Stars: Rediscovering Manillus Astronomy”, to revive astrology as a subject worthy of academic attention.
Modern stoicism is an intellectual and popular movement started in the late twentieth century, intending to revive the practice of stoicism. The term “modern stoicism” encompasses both a revival of interest in stoic philosophy and philosophical efforts to adjust ancient stoicism to the language and conceptual framework of the present. The rise of modern stoicism has been receiving attention from the international media since November 2012, when the first annual Stoic Week event was organized.
DIFFERENCES AND CONTRADICTIONS IN MODERN STOICISM
Perhaps the most obvious difference between ancient stoicism and its modern form is related to their respective attitudes towards money and power.
Some scholars have pointed out a contradiction: Stoicism — both in its ancient form and in its modern form — has a crucial contradiction that stoicism promoters tend not to notice or at least not mention: is that it emphasizes dealing with problems instead to solve them. This view generally tends to discourage the idea of correcting problems.
Of course, there are some problems that we really can’t do anything but deal with. With these problems, stoicism can be useful and beneficial. However, there are many others, which we must and can learn to solve. Even some defenders of modern stoicism seem to notice and question this. In a New York Times article describing the pros and cons of this modern philosophy, the author exemplifies a video of Andrew Kirby’s vlog, a defender of modern stoicism, where he argues about this contradiction. It is worth checking and evaluating.
IS STOICISM USEFUL FOR CURRENT REALITY?
Well, it depends on what you are looking for, what form of stoicism you choose, and how seriously you plan to implement it. Like all philosophy, stoicism has strengths and weaknesses, positive and negative. It is up to us to find a point of BALANCE and decide how to continue with these teachings in our daily lives.
By the way, the fact that so many people belong to this community today, whatever happens to philosophy in its modern iterations, its old calling will always remain alive and vibrant.
Finally, a stoic quote:
“If you’re not sure, don’t do it; if it’s not true, don’t say.”
Simple, timeless, and universal advice. Be sincere and do what is right. May Marco Aurélio and his Meditations serve as inspiration for each of us, modern humans, who have the option of exercising reason and self-control daily.
SOURCE — readings and research
These Were the Greeks — Chester Springs
A History of Western Ethics — Lawrence Becker
Stoicism — John Sellars
The Daily Stoic — Ryan Holyday
Meditations — Marcus Aurelius