Most of my original writings now appear over at Figs In Winter, both on Patreon and Medium. The most recent posts are behind a paywall (monthly subscription at $3 for Patreon, $5 for Medium, but the latter comes with access to additional authors as well). The majority of the material is free to read. Here are some of the most recent entries:
How to deal with insults, the Stoic way. “Remember that it is we who torment, we who make difficulties for ourselves — that is, our opinions do. What, for instance, does it mean to be insulted? Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?” (Discourses I, 25.28-29)
There has been a lively discussion of late, in Stoic circles, about insults and how to deal with them. A discussion, I believe, that has implications far outside of Stoic philosophy, affecting pretty much anyone who has ever felt insulted at some point or another in their life. Which means almost every human being who ever lived.
The quote above from Epictetus makes it crystal clear what the Stoic advice is concerning insults: ignore them. This is a direct consequence of the fundamental Epictetean notion that there is a sharp distinction between facts and opinions. Facts are objective descriptions of things or events. Opinions are value judgments about those things or events. Facts are independent of the existence of human minds, opinions are generated exclusively by human minds. (continue to read on Patreon, Medium)
Book Club: The Art of Living, 2, The concept of spiritual philosophical exercises. Let’s continue our reading of John Sellars’ The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy. Last time we began with chapter 4 (I’m skipping around a bit), dedicated to the debate between Stoics and Skeptics on the nature of knowledge, and we learned that, in the end, the two schools converged toward similar practical positions: the Skeptics had to agree that even if human knowledge is impossible, some opinions are more likely to be correct than others, which makes action possible and not random. On their part, the Stoics had to agree that even if human knowledge is possible, it is a rare feat, reserved for the sage. The rest of us are left pretty much in the same predicament that the Skeptics attribute to all humankind.
Here I want to explore the fifth chapter in the book, which focuses on the concept of philosophical exercises, and which is therefore eminently practical in nature. As usual, it all goes back to Socrates. As John says right at the beginning of the chapter, we find Socrates, in the Gorgias, arguing that mastering principles is necessary but not sufficient, one also needs some kind of practical training. In other words, philosophy conceived as the art of living involves both theory and practice, and it is the latter that turns those who make progress into sages. At least once in a long while, since sages are exceedingly rare. (continue to read on Patreon, Medium)