Stoicism changed this in my life (so far)

reflectingI started studying and practicing Stoicism as an experiment on improving my quality of life on October 4th, 2014 (I know because that’s the first entry in my evening meditation journal). A year later, it seems like a good time to reflect on how the experiment has so far played out, and decide whether to continue it.

First, a straightforward answer to the second question: yes, I will continue studying and practicing for the foreseeable future. Not only I now have a contract (with Basic Books, the publisher of my Answers for Aristotle) to write a book not at all coincidentally entitled “How to Be a Stoic,” but the experiment has had a number of signifiant positive outcomes so far, as I’ll explain in a moment, so why quit something that seems to be working?

My interest in Stoicism is both theoretical and practical, as obvious from the entries of this blog. On the theoretical side, you will find my comments on ancient sources, for instance book VI of Marcus’ Meditations, or Epictetus’ Handbook, as well as on modern ones, like Irvine’s take on Stoic psychological techniques, or Becker’s comprehensive attempt to modernize Stoicism. But I have also written about mundane or practical matters, including movie reviews from a Stoical perspective, and my ongoing “What Would a Stoic Do?” series.

I have made clear, I think, that I am not treating Stoicism as a religion (which it was never meant to be, despite occasional statements to the contrary by some modern commentators), but rather as an open philosophical system, meaning a framework based on some general ideas and insights advanced by the ancient Greco-Romans, updated to the 21st century, in light of intervening advancements in both science and philosophy.

As Seneca put it, remarking on future knowledge and understanding: “Let us be satisfied with what we have discovered, and leave a little truth for our descendants to find out” (Natural Questions, VII.26). Although, of course such “updating” needs to be organic and sufficiently respectful of the original version of Stoicism  that the modern one can reasonably be considered to have a family resemblance with the older one, otherwise there would be no point in call it “Stoicism.”

To begin with, why was I attracted to Stoicism a bit more than a year ago, enough to give it a serious try for a sustained period of time? I have written elsewhere about my personal philosophical journey, so I will not repeat the details here. Fundamentally, though, I was looking for something that smelled — philosophically speaking — a lot like Buddhism, and yet was more in resonance with the Western cultural tradition I grew up and matured with. Stoicism turned out to be by far the closest option available.

Okay, so during this past year I have certainly learned (or re-learned) a lot about Epictetus, Marcus, Seneca and the other ancient Stoics. I’ve also had the pleasure of reading modern authors like Robertson, Irvine, Becker and so forth. Not to mention a superb biography of Seneca by James Romm, and a number of other assorted sources on Stoicism, virtue ethics and hellenistic philosophy. But did it make a difference in my personal life, which — after all — was the whole point of the exercise to begin with?

The answer is yes, on a number of levels. Specifically, in no particular order:

  • Stoic practice has made me more mindful of the moral dimension of my economic choices (for instance, where I bank, what I buy, and so forth). This was already the case to some extent, the result of my turn to virtue ethics more broadly construed over the past several years. But reflecting on the Stoic virtue of justice and the associated discipline of action has reinforced my attitude in this respect.
  • Similarly, I have redoubled my efforts to engage in ethical eating, which for practical purposes means that I behave like a pescatarian. Again, this was something that had started before my Stoic turn (so to speak), but has further benefited from it.
  • Another attitude that was present to an extent and got reinforced by Stoicism is my very moderate consumerism. Generally speaking, I like a minimalist life style, and while I do not deny myself an iPhone (though I don’t have the latest model), it very often happens that I go to a shopping district (thankfully, there are very few of those ghastly features of the American landscape known as “shopping malls” in New York City), look amused at what is on offer for purchase, and walk away with the same amount of cash in my pocket as when I entered. Irvine has commented on a similar development in his own life, which he also attributes at the least in part to his practice of Stoicism. I guess Stoics aren’t good for global capitalism…
  • An important area of improvement — as I see it — is that I’ve become more conscious of the need to keep good company and engage in meaningful conversation. I’ve never been a party animal, but now even less so than ever before. I’d rather spend my social time with a few friends with whom I can talk at the least from time to time about matters both personal and of general importance, rather than, as Epictetus would put it (Enchiridion 33.2), of “banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink.”
  • Even when it comes to my choices of entertainment and how to spend my free time — aside from the social occasions just mentioned — meditating about the impermanence of life has focused me on the need to profit (in a spiritual, not monetary manner) from most of what I do. As Marcus says: “Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good” (Meditations IV.17).
  • I have had, shall we say a rather varied history of personal relationships over the years, but I am now in what increasingly looks like a stable one — fate permitting, of course. Meditating on my and the general human condition from a Stoic point of view has contributed to make me even more resolute about working with my partner to overcome whatever problems couples normally have, with a mindful eye toward what I would miss if I stopped having what I have. Then again, I also constantly remind myself of what Epictetus says about attachment to people or things: “Under no circumstances ever say ‘I have lost something,’ only ‘I returned it.’” (Enchiridion 11).
  • One of the things I have attempted to do is to provide some of the tools of Stoicism to my daughter, who has been going through a tough time with her mother (with whom she grew up), and now has just began to face the challenges of college. I wish I had done this far earlier, while she was growing up, but better late than never, right? One of the things I’ve learned in talking to her (and to other close friends and relatives) about Stoicism, though, is a lesson that Irvine also imparts at the end of his book, A Guide to the Good Life: Stoicism is best practiced in a quiet mode (he even uses the word “stealth,” which I don’t actually think is sustainable, nor necessarily desirable, especially given its connotation of somehow deceiving others). What I mean is that one doesn’t “preach” Stoicism (again, it’s not a religion!), one shows others by example, complemented — when appropriate, and with due caution — by occasional theoretical explanations of principles. The results so far have been encouraging: my daughter isn’t a practicing Stoic, but she has developed an interest for the idea (and for philosophy more generally), and a few maxims from Epictetus or Marcus (duly paraphrased by me) have actually been of comfort to her during some tough moments.
  • Finally, practicing Stoicism has made me more temperate during interactions with others, including family, friends and even strangers over the Internet. Seneca’s comments on anger have been particularly helpful here, of course, though this is what Epictetus says on the subject: “If you don’t want to be cantankerous, don’t feed your temper, or multiply incidents of anger. Suppress the first impulse to be angry, then begin to count the days on which you don’t get mad” (Discourses II.18:12). And here is what the ultimate goal looks like: “Show me someone untroubled with disturbing thoughts about illness, danger, death, exile or loss of reputation. By all the gods, I want to see a Stoic!” (Discourses II.19:24)

You might have noticed a striking thing while perusing the above list: often I used words like “[Stoicism] has reinforced…,” meaning that my practice seems to have strengthened certain positive attitudes I already had, at the same time that it has helped me control some negative ones I already wanted to keep under check.

Again, this reminds me of a comment by Irvine, who says that Stoicism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, while some people may be temperamentally predisposed to the philosophy. That doesn’t mean that even those not so predisposed cannot potentially reap benefits from Stoic practice, just like plenty of people respond to a therapeutic approach that is related to Stoicism, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Besides, you may not know that you have an inner Stoic until you give it an opportunity to come out of the closet, so to speak. More broadly, though, I agree with Irvine that the important thing is to adopt, or adapt, a coherent philosophy of life in order to live a more eudaimonic existence. Whether that happens to be Stoicism, Epicureanism, or Buddhism matters much less, if at all.

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25 thoughts on “Stoicism changed this in my life (so far)

  1. Massimo, I applaud the things you’ve learned and the adjustments you have made. Here is the one downside – the more we pursue the virtuous life, the more we see how far short of it we fall. But is this really a downside?

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  2. Thanks for these observations, Massimo. Your steps along the Stoic path remind me of mine in secular Buddhism, which isn’t a surprise since the paths are so similar.

    I enjoy pointing out those similarities, and another occurs to me here: Epictetus counsels against idle chatter about “banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink.” Similarly, the Buddha enjoined against “engaging in various kinds of pointless talk, that is: talk about kings, thieves, and ministers of state; talk about armies, perils, and wars; talk about food, drink, garments, and beds; talk about garlands and scents; talk about relatives, vehicles, villages, towns, cities, and countries; talk about women and talk about heroes; street talk and talk by the well; talk about the departed; miscellaneous talk; speculation about the world and the sea; talk about becoming this or that.” (E.g., Aṅguttara Nikāya 10.69).

    Although the list is rather more exhaustive than Epictetus’s, perhaps being intended for monastics rather than laypeople, I think it points to the same concern for avoiding pointless talk. This is reflected in the recommendation for “Right Speech” as part of the Eightfold Path that enjoins against gossip, malicious, and harsh speech. (Easier said than done in a lay context, but one does one’s best).

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  3. Massimo, a quick shout-out: I followed Rationally Speaking closely for several years (remember ‘mufi’?), and then Scientia Salon not so much, but now I look forward to every new entry on this blog and read each one with interest. (I’m also currently in the middle of Irvine’s book.) Keep up the great work!

    PS: As I maintain my daily Buddhist-based mindfulness routine, I wonder if a Stoic-Buddhist hybrid is possible. In any case, I recommend Chris Beckwith’s book, The Greek Buddha, which entertains a possible early historical link between the two (in ethics, not metaphysics or epistemology), which runs through Pyrrho of Ellis: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10500.html

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  4. I think the distinction moderns make between “philosophy as a way of life” and “religion” is a modern conceit. One, you have the incredibly religious character to writings like the Discourses and Meditations; it can’t be discounted off-handedly without significant argumentation. Two, training and practice of philosophical exercises is as or more rigorous than that of many religions. Three, there are core axioms, beliefs, and practices which can be used both descriptively and prescriptively to measure who is or isn’t a practicing Stoic.

    Is that a religion? Maybe, I don’t know. But it also doesn’t matter.

    It seems almost anti-philosophical to get hung up on that word, “religion.” Look at the thing for what it is, and do what needs to be done. Our philosophical school is valuable one, and derailing the focus on such a debate isn’t helpful to the school or the prokoptontes.

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  5. Douglass,

    “Although the list is rather more exhaustive than Epictetus’s, perhaps being intended for monastics rather than laypeople, I think it points to the same concern for avoiding pointless talk”

    Indeed. But remember also that Epictetus was the most “Cynic-like” of the Stoics on record (compare him, for instance, to Seneca). I do worry that the above list is a bit too strict, and that if actually followed would take much out of the joy of social life. That’s why I try to be a moderate Stoic. (Or is it a Stoic, meaning a moderate Cynic?)

    Jason,

    “now I look forward to every new entry on this blog and read each one with interest. (I’m also currently in the middle of Irvine’s book.) Keep up the great work!”

    Thanks very much for the kind words! I realize that this blog (unlike my more general Platofootnote.org) is for a small audience only. But I’m learning, and I like to share what I learn…

    “I recommend Chris Beckwith’s book, The Greek Buddha”

    It’s on my iPad as we speak, though 4-5 books behind current readings…

    K.L.

    “you have the incredibly religious character to writings like the Discourses and Meditations”

    I’m not sure what you mean. Certainly Epictetus, and less so Marcus, were religious. But other Stoics much less so, and it seems clear to me that they did *not* see Stoicism as a religion.

    “training and practice of philosophical exercises is as or more rigorous than that of many religions”

    Agreed.

    “there are core axioms, beliefs, and practices which can be used both descriptively and prescriptively to measure who is or isn’t a practicing Stoic”

    Again, agreed. But philosophy is often prescriptive (e.g., in ethics, or epistemology) without amounting to a religion.

    “But it also doesn’t matter.”

    No, it doesn’t, so long as one doesn’t start having mandated rituals, priests and sacred scriptures that cannot be criticized.

    “It seems almost anti-philosophical to get hung up on that word, “religion.””

    I disagree, see my previous comment: I’m concerned with priests and dogmas.

    Daniel,

    “Separating religion from philosophy is like separating H2O from water”

    With all due respect: not even close.

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  6. Massimo, thank you for sharing the annual report of early results drawn from your personal data. It is very generous of you to be so open in this forum, to share your own stories and perspectives. I hope you will also share the experiences you have at “Stoicon” next month, and I am looking forward to your books on this topic as well.

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  7. Massimo: Thank you for your writings. They provide a clear guide to some of the issues involved in trying to adapt Stoicism to the modern world and I have found them to be personally valuable. So thank you for that.

    I do wonder about the distinction you draw between Stoicism and religion. This seems to me to be based on defining religion as a particular set of dogmas about the nature of transcendental reality, rather than an open philosophical system.

    It seems to me that one could equally well say that many forms of Buddhism are not religion, and in fact some people (Comte-Sponville, for example, in The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality) have said they don’t regard Buddhism as a religion.

    But religion can also be viewed as simply an attempt to adopt a philosophy of life, but to do so in a community context, with regular group rituals/words/songs to inspire people to hold true to the ethical principles, and to encourage them in spiritual practices that embody these ethical principles.

    I am a lifelong Unitarian Universalist. Certainly many UUs would define religion as an open search for truth and meaning, which seems compatible with the notion of an open philosophical system.

    In this context, it is interesting to note that some UUs, both currently and historically, have been very inspired by Stoicism. For example, David Breeden, the senior minister at one of the most humanist UU churches in Minneapolis, seems to be regularly providing his own poetic translations of the Stoics: http://wayofoneness.com/author/dbreeden/

    And going back a ways, Ralph Waldo Emerson was clearly inspired by the Stoics, and thought that religion should be reorganized around the moral sentiment. See, for example, his essay “The Sovereignity of Ethics” . http://www.bartleby.com/90/1007.html

    This essay includes the following line: “It is true that Stoicism, always attractive to the intellectual and cultivated, has now no temples, no academy, no commanding Zeno or Antoninus. It accuses us that it has none: that pure ethics is not now formulated and concreted into a cultus. a fraternity with assemblings and holy-days, with song and book, with brick and stone.”

    So apparently Emerson, at least, thought that both religion and ethics could benefit from some merging of a purer ethical purpose with some community support.

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  8. Bravo!

    The other change I have noted is that you have embraced intellectual virtue.

    something that smelled — philosophically speaking — a lot like Buddhism, and yet was more in resonance with the Western cultural tradition

    Western and Eastern beliefs seem to differ fundamentally on the question of how to handle challenging circumstances. Eastern beliefs encourage one to adapt oneself to the circumstances while Western beliefs encourage one to actively change the circumstances. Stoicism seems to sit astride this divide and perhaps this accounts for its intuitive appeal to you.

    my daughter isn’t a practicing Stoic, but she has developed an interest for the idea (and for philosophy more generally)

    Your interaction with your daughter is fascinating. You will discover, as I have, that one’s children become friends of a very special kind. My daughter recently said “Dad, you are my best friend. There is no one else I can talk to like this”. And so it seems, after all my mistakes I have discovered a new connection with my children. I think you are doing the same. I have discovered a new maxim: live in such a way that my children will be proud of me. If they remember me with love, gratitude and pride after my death then I will be immortal.

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  9. Great write up Massimo.

    I agree that attempts to make Stoicism into a religion is just bad philosophy.

    The distinction, to me, between a religion and a philosophy, is that a religion makes claims about reality without evidence or argument. It simply asserts them. Usually via “Tradition” or “Appeals to Authority.” That’s NOT philosophy. How anyone who would deem themselves a ‘lover of wisdom’ and think of themselves as part of lineage that runs from Socrates himself, it’s beyond me.

    Keep up the good work, look forward to your book. Hopes to shake your hand in 2016 either at Stoic Camp NYC or Stoic Week in the UK.

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  10. timbartik,

    “This seems to me to be based on defining religion as a particular set of dogmas about the nature of transcendental reality, rather than an open philosophical system”

    Yes, I take religion to be the former, not the latter. If not, then there is no distinction between religion and philosophy, which would surprise the hell out of most people, including pretty much every faculty in religion and philosophy departments I know of.

    “It seems to me that one could equally well say that many forms of Buddhism are not religion”

    Correct, but that doesn’t change the main point.

    “some people (Comte-Sponville, for example, in The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality) have said they don’t regard Buddhism as a religion.”

    I think *some* version of Buddhism are clearly not religious. But some are. Any of the ones that includes worshiping gods at temples.

    ” religion can also be viewed as simply an attempt to adopt a philosophy of life, but to do so in a community context, with regular group rituals/words/songs to inspire people”

    One can, but that description doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. Every time I go to church I get the really strong feeling that it isn’t *just* about community/rituals etc.. It also very much is about claims of a transcendental reality, about the ultimate meaning in life, about the grounding of morals, and about survival beyond death.

    “Certainly many UUs would define religion as an open search for truth and meaning”

    Yes, but UU barely qualifies as a religion 😉 I have friends in there too, and yes, that’s a borderline case, in which in my view veers more toward a philosophy than a religion. Or take Ethical Culture: they actually consider themselves a religion, but they are clearly a philosophy + community. No gods, no fixed rituals, no sacred books, no priests.

    “David Breeden, the senior minister at one of the most humanist UU churches in Minneapolis, seems to be regularly providing his own poetic translations of the Stoics”

    I did not know that, thanks!

    “It is true that Stoicism, always attractive to the intellectual and cultivated, has now no temples, no academy, no commanding Zeno or Antoninus. It accuses us that it has none: that pure ethics is not now formulated and concreted into a cultus. a fraternity with assemblings and holy-days, with song and book, with brick and stone.”

    Well, he says a pure ethics, not a pure religion…

    labnut,

    “Stoicism seems to sit astride this divide and perhaps this accounts for its intuitive appeal to you”

    Indeed, I think you hit the nail on the head, so to speak!

    “live in such a way that my children will be proud of me. If they remember me with love, gratitude and pride after my death then I will be immortal”

    Indeed.

    Jaycel,

    “The distinction, to me, between a religion and a philosophy, is that a religion makes claims about reality without evidence or argument. It simply asserts them.”

    Exactly. Which is very un-Stoic, by the way!

    “Hopes to shake your hand in 2016 either at Stoic Camp NYC or Stoic Week in the UK”

    I’ll definitely be at the latter in a month or so! And we’re working on Stoic Camp 2016…

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  11. I like it when readers point out my typos. It’s better in several ways. So let me suggest that in: “Stoicism is best practiced in a quite mode”, it is “quiet” which is meant.

    Right. Yet, one should not abuse of the quietness. If all too quiet, stoicism would not tie us up together again, it won’t be a religion (re-ligare). There would be no fun in numbers, and the warm communality of the (stoic) tribe (exchanging compliments and encouragements). I don’t mean by this that stoicism is a superstitious religion. Obviously not: stoicism is all too down-to-earth, practical, and pragmatic, to be superstitious (some versions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hedonism, let alone the cult of the Republic, are not superstitious either…).

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  12. Massimo,
    so during this past year I have certainly learned (or re-learned) a lot about Epictetus, Marcus, Seneca and the other ancient Stoics. I’ve also had the pleasure of reading modern authors like Robertson, Irvine, Becker and so forth. Not to mention a superb biography of Seneca by James Romm, and a number of other assorted sources on Stoicism, virtue ethics and hellenistic philosophy.

    Your embrace of Stoicism has taken you on an enriching intellectual journey. That in itself is a significant, positive outcome. I think that the act of questioning value, meaning and purpose in life, and then attempting to resolve all the questions they raise, sharpens intellectual enquiry, motivating richer, deeper intellectual exploration.

    Some questions:

    1. Is there a single incident that stands out in your mind, as the starting point in your journey to Stoicism?

    2. Looking back on your path of the last year, is there anything you would have done differently?

    3. What did you discover that was unexpected or especially valuable?

    4. Were there difficulties or obstacles that hindered your progress on the Stoic path?

    5. What is the most important single piece of advice you would give to a would-be Stoic?

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  13. Patrice,

    ah, yes, thanks for noticing the typo!

    “I don’t mean by this that stoicism is a superstitious religion”

    As I have explained, I don’t think it’s a religion at all.

    labnut,

    “Is there a single incident that stands out in your mind, as the starting point in your journey to Stoicism?”

    No, it happened gradually, as a result of my increasing interest in philosophy first, and ethics later.

    “Looking back on your path of the last year, is there anything you would have done differently?”

    Learned Greek when I was younger…

    “What did you discover that was unexpected or especially valuable?”

    That people had pretty much the same problems 2000 years ago as they do today, regardless of the availability of smart phones. Seriously, that’s why ancient philosophies are still relevant.

    “Were there difficulties or obstacles that hindered your progress on the Stoic path?”

    It’s a relatively tough philosophy to practice, though not as much as Cynicism. But I’m working on it…

    “What is the most important single piece of advice you would give to a would-be Stoic?”

    Read the ancient texts, not just books on modern Stoicism.

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  14. Jaycel, There are only two problems with your statement: “The distinction, to me, between a religion and a philosophy, is that a religion makes claims about reality without evidence or argument.”

    1. You have no evidence for the existence of virtue, ala Stoicism.
    2. (I’m assuming that you equate “religion” with a belief in the supernatural) You have no evidence that religion is without evidence.

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  15. Hi Daniel Mann.

    1. I do have evidence for the existence of virtue via trans-cultural studies (as evidenced in the CSV) and the work of various scientists such as Paul Bloom on ‘moral babies’. Never mind my own personal experience, daily….fate permitting. If you can offer evidence on par with that, I would interested in reading it.

    2. I equate religion with belief in things without argument or evidence. That usually means the supernatural, given there is are no arguments or evidence for the supernatural. A better word is ‘dogmatism’ where the burden of proof shifts in a curious way. Like you just did in your statement, a classic Russell’s teapot.

    If your farts or rocks outside your door being conscious serves as a foundation for your ethical actions, go for it. Just don’t expect others to be obligated to follow suit, for the privilege of referring to themselves as Stoics.

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  16. Daniel,

    “You have no evidence for the existence of virtue, ala Stoicism”

    Besides what Jaycel said, it’s a bit weird to ask for “evidence” of virtue. Seems to me to be a category mistake. We don’t say that virtue has existence of human minds and practices (and in *that* sense Jaycel’s comments are right on the mark), so I’m baffled by what the question could possibly mean.

    “You have no evidence that religion is without evidence”

    That’s a complicated issue. I think people like Jaycel and myself feel that the arguments and evidence that have historically been brought forth in favor of specific religious-metaphysical claims is woefully inadequate. Obviously, you feel different, and I respect that. But I think our position deserves at the least as much respect, no?

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  17. Jaycel and Massimo,

    “I do have evidence for the existence of virtue via trans-cultural studies (as evidenced in the CSV) and the work of various scientists such as Paul Bloom on ‘moral babies’.”

    While I agree with you that our moral impulses, judgments, and response are largely grounded in biology (and therefore universal), virtue (what ought to be) is not the same thing as a bio-chemical reaction (what is). Instead, we sense that that our impulses are signaling something objective, beyond our own reactions, like the fire alarm that alerts us to a real objective, external reality.

    If the fire-alarm is no more than an alarm and it does not signal an actual and external fire, why then bother to listen to it? It is no more than an annoyance that should be silenced.

    Of course, the moral impulse is more than a fire alarm. There are benefits in living in accord with this impulse, but there are also benefits by cutting corners, and why not!

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  18. Massimo,
    I have mentioned before Viktor Frankl’s theory of three drives, the will to meaning, the will to power and the will to pleasure. He maintains that the will to meaning is the most important and I see this emerging very clearly in the way you describe the benefits to yourself of Stoic practice. Would I be correct in saying that you have discovered(created?) clear meaning for yourself in your Stoic practices? And that perhaps what drove you towards Stoic practices was a strong desire(inchoate?) to discover/clarify meaning in your life?

    I can see that family is an important part of this(you have mentioned your daughter several times in this and other posts) and this prompted me to repeat my belief ‘live in such a way that one’s children will be proud of one‘.

    This brings to mind the quote from Joe Biden, which perfectly complements my own above: “My dad’s definition of success is when you look at your son or daughter and realize they turned out better than you” . That is so powerful.

    We are also all subject to the drives of the will to power and the will to pleasure. These are drives that need to be restrained and directed to good ends. In the case of the will to pleasure I see this in your choices of ethical eating, frugal consumption and thoughtful social discourse. I see one instance of the ethical use of the will to power, your use of economic choices for ethical ends.

    Jaycel,
    I equate religion with belief in things without argument or evidence.

    I am sorry to have to say this but your statement shows ignorance of the deep and thoughtful tradition of Catholic philosophy.

    This is not the time and place to argue the point . This post is about Massimo’s experience of Stoicism and we really should confine our remarks to the subject. I am fascinated by the subject, and as a devout Catholic find that it is entirely compatible with my beliefs and indeed it powerfully complements them. I have resolved to adopt Stoic practices as a means of enhancing my religious practices(thanks Massimo, for your influence!).

    I have noted again and again that atheists drag side swipes at religion into the commentary on every possible occasion. This newly minted would-be Stoic has resolved to absorb the blows, discounting thoughtless and uninformed remarks. It is after all exactly what we expect.

    Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake” Matthew 5:11 “But all these things will they do to you for my name’s sake” John 15:21

    These are also Stoic sentiments.

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  19. Daniel,

    “virtue (what ought to be) is not the same thing as a bio-chemical reaction (what is)”

    Virtue isn’t defined as “what ought to be.” It indicates a set of pro-social behaviors that some people think are a good idea to practice.

    “we sense that that our impulses are signaling something objective, beyond our own reactions”

    Not the Stoics. We think that virtue is a human construct, which some modern Stoics (like Becker) conceive in terms of the perfection of agency within a social environment.

    labnut,

    “Would I be correct in saying that you have discovered(created?) clear meaning for yourself in your Stoic practices?”

    Not entirely, Stoic practice has so far been a way of perfecting and putting into sharper focus something I had been working on for years before discovering Stoicism.

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