Recent essays, #15

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 advice: what’s the Stoic attitude toward virtual reality? LT asked me the simple question that gives the title to this essay. It’s a good question, and its simplicity is deceiving. To begin with, as I’ve written in the past, it is a bit misleading to ask a general question along the lines of “is X Stoic?” The reason being that Stoicism is a type of virtue ethics, as distinct from the other two major frameworks in moral philosophy: Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism. Unlike the other two, in virtue ethics the focus is on the character and intentions of the individual, and the goal is not to seek universal answers, because situations are different, and so are people. (continue to read)

Can virtue be taught?

Is virtue — in the Greco-Roman sense of the term — the sort of thing  that can be taught? Short answers: no, though it’s complicated  (Socrates). Yes, though it’s tough (the Stoics). Since the idea that  virtue can be learned is central to Stoic teachings, and since the  Stoics very clearly thought themselves as the intellectual heirs of  Socrates, the issue deserves some further discussion. Luckily, I found a lively paper by Hugh Mercer Curtler at Southwest  State University who presents a very accessible treatment of the issue  of learning virtue, from which I will draw for the following notes. (The  paper appeared in Humanitas in 1994, the full version is here.) (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.