Recent essays, #1

Most of my original writings now appear over at Figs In Winter, my Patreon site devoted to practical philosophy. The most recent posts are behind a paywall (monthly subscription levels at $1, $3, and $5), but the majority of the material is free to read. Here are some of the most recent entries:

Stoic epistemology 101: Zeno and the metaphor of the hand movement. If we don’t understand, at least approximately, how the world works, we are likely to mislive our lives. This was a cardinal assumption of pretty much all the Hellenistic philosophies. The Cynics, the Cyrenaics, the Epicureans, the Skeptics, and the Stoics all thought that we should live “according to Nature,” though they cashed out that phrase in different ways. For the Epicureans, for instance, it was in accordance to nature to seek pleasure and, especially, to avoid pain. For the Stoics, following nature meant to take seriously the fact that we are social animals capable of reason. And so forth. (continue to read)

Theater review: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, tyranny, and the Stoicism of Brutus. The other day I went to see “The tragedy of Julius Caesar,” by William Shakespeare, in the Polonsky Shakespeare Center (Brooklyn, NY) production, directed by Shana Cooper. The New York Times’ Alexi Soloski really disliked it, but I’ll explain in the postscriptum to this article why Soloski — in my perhaps not too humble opinion — completely missed the point. (continue to read)

Another attack on western philosophy, because, sex. “I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic.” No, that’s not me. Except for the academic part. I am, as some of my readers know, a man. Heterosexual. The phrase in quotes is found right at the beginning of an article by Victoria Brooks entitled “Why we need a new philosophy of sex,” published at The Conversation. (continue to read)

Book Club: The Inner Citadel, 7, The discipline of desire, or amor fati. Right at the beginning of the chapter Hadot provides a good summary of what the discipline of desire is all about: what we feel vs what we should feel, which will struck non-Stoics as bizarre. What do you mean what I shouldfeel?? If by “feeling” we mean what the Stoics called proto-emotions, i.e., automatic, instinctive reactions to events, then they are what they are, and they are not going to change. But the focus here is on the “passions,” in Stoic lingo, i.e., on the fully formed emotions, which have a cognitive component, as confirmed by modern psychological research. And if they have a cognitive component, then we can change them by altering that component. It is the same principle as cognitive behavioral therapy: change the way you think and that will change (over time, with repetition and effort) the way you feel. (continue to read)

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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