Recent essays, #8

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:

Seneca to Lucilius: 39, on healthy and unhealthy desires. According to Seneca, right at the beginning of his 39th letter to his friend Lucilius, we need both to study things in a sustained manner and to keep a handy breviarium, that is, a summary of the fundamental points. We learn by way of the first approach, and are reminded of what we know by the second. This is splendidly illustrated by the two works by Epictetus (well, actually, by his brilliant student, Arrian, based on Epictetus’ lectures): the Discourses, of which we have unfortunately lost four of the original eight volumes (together with a biography of Epictetus, also written by Arrian), are the meat that sustains our main course of study. The Enchiridion, or Manual, is the little thing we carry with us as a refresher always at hand. And what sort of things should we be reminded of, according to Seneca? (continue to read)

What Would a Stoic Do? I met a sophist, and it didn’t go well.

Damn. Recently I had the perfect opportunity to practice my Stoicism, in the quiet of my home, surrounded by friends, and I blew it. Big time. Let me tell you what happened, as a learning lesson for myself and as a warning to other practicing Stoics. I invited over for dinner a good friend of mine and her recently anointed new boy friend. My daughter (who has been asked by her professor of philosophy to do an in-class presentation about Stoicism!) was there too. I invited the sophist — we shall call him Hippias— to come over and discuss a documentary on the 2008 financial collapse over dinner and a good scotch (I promised at the least a 15 years old, turned out to be 18). (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.