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:
How to square the circle: Stoicism as personal philosophy vs issues of social justice. Here is a conundrum I have been pondering for a while now. On the one hand, Stoicism is a personal philosophy, meant to help us to excel (in the ethical sense, not by becoming celebrities or making a lot of money) as human beings. On the other hand, the Stoics talk of the virtue of justice, which is other-regarding, and we have plenty of historical evidence of Stoic proficientes fighting against injustice.
The two aspects of Stoic philosophy seem at odds with each other. Take the concept of virtue, for instance. Even on Stoic fora I often read something along the lines of “action (or stance) X is virtuous / unvirtuous.” Where X may be concern for the environment, or for equality, and so forth. But, strictly speaking, that can’t be right, because virtues are not properties of actions or stances, they are character propensities of individual agents. It may, or may not, be virtuous for me — given my specific situation — to participate to a march in favor of action on climate change. But the action is not virtuous per se, without reference to both the specific circumstances and the motivation and other characteristics of the agent. If I go to the march not out of genuine concern for the environment, say, but because I want to impress my friends, then I am not acting virtuously. (continue to read)
Learning Stoicism from non-Stoics.
I have been practicing Stoicism seriously for five years now, I know a lot about the theory, I’ve read pretty much all the available ancient texts and a good number of the modern ones. And I’ve written two books about it. Oh, and of course I practice every day.
Nevertheless, recently I’ve learned something importantly Stoic from a non-Stoic acquaintance of mine. In fact, twice, from two different people. I’m trying my best to implement their advice, which in both cases is perfectly consistent with this quote from Epictetus, unknown, so far as I can tell, to both people in question:
“Everything has two handles: one by which it may be borne, another by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, do not lay hold on the affair by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be borne, but rather by the opposite — that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it as it is to be borne.” (Enchiridion 43) (continue to read)