Stoic advice: my girlfriend complains about unimportant things

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org.]

“I am writing on behalf of a good friend of mine, let’s call him D. He does not know about Stoicism, though I’ve directed him to your blog. He has a long standing relationship with his girlfriend, and he has been studying away from his home for the last four years, and this time has been especially rough for he and his girlfriend. She obsesses about Facebook stuff (you liked this, you shared that, you don’t like the things I share) and she doesn’t seem to fully appreciate the things he’s going through, that it has not been easy for him to be away from home. He’s doing what he considers best for his (and his girlfriend’s) future, and his time away ends in one year.”

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Posidonius on the science and art of divination

Recently I’ve been asked to write a review of a fascinating book by Peter T. Struck: Divination and Human Nature, A Cognitive History of Intuition in Classical Antiquity. While the full book is worth reading for anyone interested in ancient Greco-Roman culture, as well as in the early development of science, there is a whole chapter on Posidonius, one of the major figures of the so-called Middle Stoa, the period during which Stoicism transitioned from its original home in Athens to Rome. Posidonius is a fascinating figure in his own right, and he is often not written about because all we have by him are fragments and indirect sources (as opposed to, say the wealth of stuff by Seneca). Divination is also rarely commented on in Stoic circles, because it is automatically relegated to the category of superstition, something the Stoics were wrong about and that we just don’t need to be concerned with nowadays. But the story is not that simple.

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Stoic advice column: I lost my parents and people tell me that things happen for a reason

Fortuna is blind

[To submit a question to the Stoic advice column send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org.]

D. wrote: “I stumbled across Stoicism a few months ago when researching cognitive behavioral therapy, I suffer from social anxiety and over the years I have bought numerous ‘positive thinking’ books and searched in vain for the ‘magical cure.’ I have never latched onto anything which I believed would be able to help in the long run, but from what I’ve learnt from Stoicism and what I’ve put into practice so far, I believe it is the first thing of substance that could really make a difference. However, there is one area of Stoicism which I am currently struggling to process, the idea of fate.”

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Stoic advice column: I’m rich, is that a problem?

Rich people[Stoicism is a practical philosophy, as Epictetus often reminds his students: “If you didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did you learn them for?” (Discourses I, 29.35) Accordingly, here is my “Stoic advice” column, a philosophically informed, hopefully useful, version of the classic ones run by a number of newspapers across the world. If you wish to submit a question to the Stoic advice column, please send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please be mindful that the advice given in this column is strictly based on personal opinion and reflects my own, possibly incorrect, understanding of Stoic philosophy.]

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The Stoic Pledge

keep calmStoicism is a philosophy of life aimed — like all Hellenistic philosophies, but also Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and a number of others — at providing both a general framework and specific guidance on how to live. During the past two and a half years I’ve taken it pretty seriously, both in terms of studying ancient and modern authors, and especially in terms of practice. After all, as Epictetus puts it: “If you didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did you learn them for?” (Discourses I, 29.35)

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Stoic advice column: should I worry about A.I. and automation?

artificial intelligence[Stoicism is a practical philosophy, as Epictetus often reminds his students: “If you didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did you learn them for?” (Discourses I, 29.35) Accordingly, here is my “Stoic advice” column, a philosophically informed, hopefully useful, version of the classic ones run by a number of newspapers across the world. If you wish to submit a question to the Stoic advice column, please send an email to massimo at howtobeastoic dot org. Please be mindful that the advice given in this column is strictly based on personal opinion and reflects my own, possibly incorrect, understanding of Stoic philosophy.]

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Seneca on anger: part III

Athena stops Achilles from killing Agamemnon in anger
Athena stops Achilles from killing Agamemnon in anger

I’m going to wrap up my extended commentary of Seneca’s pivotal essay, On Anger, which is one of the most important Stoic texts you’ll ever read. Not to mention one of the most useful. (Part I is here; part II here.)

Book III opens up with Seneca telling his friend Novatus that it is now time to turn to the practical issue of how to drive anger away: “This may sometimes be done openly and without concealment, when we are only suffering from a slight attack of this mischief, and at other times it must be done secretly, when our anger is excessively hot, and when every obstacle thrown in its way increases it and makes it blaze higher.”

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