Stoicism: A Philosophy for Warriors

We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural

Marcus Aurelius

What is Stoicism?

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC.

It teaches that the path to happiness is to accept the things you cannot control and focus on living a virtuous life.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Stoics believe that virtue is the only true good, and that everything else, such as wealth, health, and reputation, is indifferent.

WHO IS A STOIC?

Rules of Stoicism

There are no hard and fast rules of Stoicism, but there are some key principles that Stoics try to follow:

  • Virtue is the only true good: Stoics believe that the only thing that is truly good is to live a virtuous life. This means being wise, courageous, just, and temperate.
  • Accept the things you cannot control: Stoics believe that it is important to accept the things that are outside of your control, such as the weather, the actions of others, and your own death. Trying to control these things will only lead to suffering.
  • Focus on what you can control: Instead of trying to control the things that are outside of your control, Stoics focus on the things that they can control, such as their own thoughts, actions, and attitudes.

Myths about Stoicism

There are a few common myths about Stoicism that it is important to dispel:

  • Stoics are emotionless robots: This is simply not true. Stoics are just as capable of feeling emotions as anyone else. However, they believe that we should not let our emotions control us. Instead, we should learn to manage our emotions in a healthy way.
  • Stoics are fatalistic and apathetic: Stoics do not believe that everything is predetermined and that there is no point in trying to make a difference in the world. In fact, Stoics are often very active and engaged in their communities. However, they believe that we should not get too attached to the outcome of our actions, or we will set ourselves up for disappointment.
  • Stoicism is only for the elite: Stoicism is a philosophy for everyone. It is a practical way to live a good and happy life, regardless of your social status, wealth, or education.

Comparison of Stoicism with other philosophies

Stoicism can be compared to other philosophies in a number of ways.

For example:

Stoics vs Buddhists

  • Stoics and Buddhists both believe that the path to peace is to accept the things that cannot be controlled and focus on living a virtuous life.
  • However, Stoics place a greater emphasis on reason and self-control, while Buddhists place a greater emphasis on compassion and meditation.

Stoics vs Epicureans

  • Stoicism can also be compared to Epicureanism, another ancient Greek philosophy. Epicureans believe that the key to happiness is to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
  • However, Stoics believe that happiness is found in virtue, not pleasure.

Stoics vs Aristotelianism vs Utilitarianism

  • Stoicism can also be compared to Western philosophies such as Aristotelianism and utilitarianism.
  • Aristotelianism teaches that the good life is a life of virtue, and utilitarianism teaches that the good life is a life that maximizes happiness.
  • Stoicism agrees with both of these philosophies that virtue and happiness are important, but it also emphasizes the importance of resilience and equanimity in the face of adversity.

Factors to consider when comparing Stoicism with other philosophies:

  • Metaphysics: How do the two philosophies view the nature of reality?
  • Epistemology: How do the two philosophies view the nature of knowledge?
  • Ethics: How do the two philosophies view the nature of good and evil?
  • Political philosophy: What do the two philosophies have to say about government and society?

Metaphysics: How do the two philosophies view the nature of reality?

  • Stoics believe that the universe is material and deterministic.
  • Buddhists believe in the law of karma and the cycle of reincarnation.
  • Epicureans believe that the universe is made up of atoms and that events are random.
  • Taoists believe that the universe is in a constant state of flux and that there is no such thing as good or evil.
  • Aristotelians believe that the universe is made up of four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and that there is a hierarchy of beings.
  • Utilitarians believe that the universe is material and that the only thing that matters is the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Epistemology: How do the two philosophies view the nature of knowledge?

  • Stoics believe that knowledge can be gained through reason and observation.
  • Buddhists believe that knowledge can be gained through meditation and introspection.
  • Epicureans believe that knowledge can be gained through sensory experience.
  • Taoists believe that knowledge can be gained through intuition and living in harmony with the Tao.
  • Aristotelians believe that knowledge can be gained through reason and experience.
  • Utilitarians believe that knowledge can be gained through experience and calculation.

Ethics

  • Stoics believe that the goal of ethics is to live a virtuous life.
  • Buddhists believe that the goal of ethics is to achieve enlightenment and end suffering.
  • Epicureans believe that the goal of ethics is to achieve pleasure and avoid pain.
  • Taoists believe that the goal of ethics is to live in harmony with the Tao.
  • Aristotelians believe that the goal of ethics is to achieve eudaimonia, or human flourishing.
  • Utilitarians believe that the goal of ethics is to maximize happiness and minimize suffering.

Political philosophy

  • Stoics believe in a cosmopolitan society where everyone is equal.
  • Buddhists believe in a monastic society where people renounce worldly possessions and attachments.
  • Epicureans believe in an individualistic society where people are free to pursue their own pleasures.
  • Taoists believe in an anarchistic society where people are free to live in harmony with the Tao.
  • Aristotelians believe in a constitutional monarchy where the government is ruled by a wise and virtuous king.
  • Utilitarians believe in a democracy where the government is ruled by the majority.

Note: It is important to note that these are just generalizations, and there is a great deal of variation within each philosophy. For example, there are some Stoics who believe in a more active role in government, and there are some Buddhists who believe in living in the world.

Shortcomings or drawbacks of Stoicism

  1. Difficult to practice
  2. Requires a great deal of self-discipline and control to accept the things that cannot be controlled.
  3. Can lead to a sense of indifference
  4. Accepting Everything even if they could control that: Stoics focus too much on accepting the things that cannot be controlled, they may start to become indifferent to the suffering of others.

For whom is Stoicism suitable?

Stoicism is suitable for anyone who is looking for a philosophy that can help them to live a more virtuous and happy life. It is particularly well-suited for people who are facing challenges or difficulties in their lives.

Conclusion

Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that can offer a great deal of guidance and wisdom for living a good life. It teaches us to accept the things we cannot control and focus on living a virtuous life. While Stoicism can be difficult to practice, it is a worthwhile philosophy to pursue.

References

  • Irvine, William B. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Robertson, Donald. How to Think Like a Roman: Stoic Philosophy for Everyone. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019.
  • Seneca. Moral Letters to Lucilius. Translated by Robin Campbell. Penguin Classics, 2015.
  • Epictetus. Enchiridion. Translated by Robin Hard. Penguin Classics, 2011.
  • Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Translated by Gregory Hays.

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