Recent essays, #12

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:

The Stoics vs Ayn Rand. A reader sent me a link to an article on Stoicism published by the Ayn Rand Institute… I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it’s true. The article in question is actually the transcript of a lecture made available through the ARI’s campus branch, and it is the quintessential mischaracterization of Stoicism. As such, it is well worth examining in some detail. [Full disclosure: I have a very low opinion of Ayn Rand and her Objectivist “philosophy,” as can be seen here, here, here, and here. So take the following with a grain of salt. I am not an unbiased observer in this case!] (continue to read)

Seneca to Lucilius: 41, the god within us.

“You are doing what is best and most beneficial for you if, as your letter says, you persevere in moving toward excellence of mind. How silly it is to pray for that! It is a wish you yourself can grant. You need not raise your hands to heaven; you need not beg the temple keeper for privileged access, as if a near approach to the cult image would give us a better hearing. The god is near you—with you—inside you.” (XCI.1)

So begins Seneca’s 41st letter to his friend Lucilius, where he advises him to take his life, and specifically his project of pursuing virtue, in his own hands. We don’t need to pray to gods, or go to priests, in order to becoming better human beings; that is completely within our own powers. Clearly, the Stoics here would disagree with many 12-step organizations, which are religiously based, and where members are asked to give themselves to god in order to find the strength to deal with their problems. (continue to read)

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Massimo

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