Endure and Renounce

A new e-booklet has just been published by my personal imprint, so to speak, Figs In Winter. The title, “Endure and Renounce,” comes from a well known passage by Epictetus: “There were two vices much blacker and more serious than the rest: lack of persistence and lack of self-control … Endure and Renounce. (Fragments 10)

The e-booklet is a collection from the first year of my (now archived) blog, How To Be A Stoic. The first post came out on 3 March 2015, and ever since I have used that blog (and now Figs In Winter) as a sort of public diary tracking my explorations of Stoicism, both the ancient philosophy and its developing modern descendant, in terms of theory but especially of practice, which is what makes Stoicism so distinctive in the philosophical landscape.

“Endure and Renounce” collects the best 84 of the essays published from the beginning of the blog through December 2015, and features the following table of contents:

Part I: The historical perspective

A brief history of Stoicism
On the decline of (ancient) Stoicism
Ancient vs modern ethics: a comparison

Part II: Epictetus

Beginning the Discourses
On steadfastness
From Epictetus to Naso
How to do philosophy
Against the Academics and the Epicureans
Of love and friendship
On Cynicism
Epictetus, a bit of an anti-intellectual?
The Fragments
The Handbook

Part III: Marcus

Meditations, Book I
Meditations, Book II
Meditations, Book III
Meditations, Book IV
Meditations, Book V
Meditations, Book VI
Meditations, Book VII
Meditations, Book VIII
Meditations, Book IX
Meditations, Book X
Meditations, Book XI
Meditations, Book XII

Part IV: Ancient writings about the Stoics

Cicero’s De Finibus and the nature of Stoic philosophy, part I
Cicero’s De Finibus and the nature of Stoic philosophy, part II
Why Plato’s Euthydemus is relevant to Stoics
Diogenes Laertius on the Stoics, I: Zeno
Diogenes Laertius on the Stoics, II: Cleanthes
Diogenes Laertius on the Stoics, III: Chrysippus

Part V: Stoic theory

The three Stoic disciplines
Stoic epistemology
Stoic logic
Stoic natural philosophy
Stoic theology
Stoic determinism
Stoic cosmopolitanism and the problem of unmet friends
Stoic virtue ethics, part I
Stoic virtue ethics, part II
(more on) Stoic ethics
Stoic moral psychology
Apatheia vs Ataraxia: what’s the difference?

Part VI: Modern Stoicism

Is belief in God necessary to practice Stoicism?
The three pillars of Stoicism
Negative visualization
The dichotomy of control
The Rise of Stoicism
Stoic Psychological Techniques
Stoic self discomfort and control exercises
Stoic practical advice, I: duty and social relations
Stoic practical advice, II: on insults
Stoic practical advice, III: grief
Stoic practical advice, IV: anger
Stoicism and personal values: fame
Stoicism and personal values: on luxurious living
On surviving a change of place
Stoic old age
On becoming a Stoic
Stoicism reconsidered
On the effects of practicing Stoicism
Atoms vs Providence? Both, really
Don’t judge others, but don’t keep bad company
A New Stoicism, part I
A New Stoicism, part II
A New Stoicism, part III
A New Stoicism, part IV
A New Stoicism, part V
Virtue, Forrest Gump, and Wittgenstein
What Would a Stoic Do? Presidential candidates
What Would a Stoic Do? On terrorism
What Would a Stoic Do? I met a sophist, and it didn’t go well
What Would a Stoic Do? The Stoic’s decision making algorithm
The Stoics vs Ayn Rand
Kant vs Cato
Epictetus was right: modern cognitive science supports the Stoics’ conception of emotions

Part VII: Stoicism and other philosophies

Revisiting the similarities among Stoicism, Epicureanism and Buddhism
Neo-Stoicism and the relationship between Stoicism and Christianity

Part VIII: Stoicism and popular culture

Stoic movie review: Amy
Stoic movie review: The Martian
Stoic movie review: Bridge of Spies
Stoic movie review: Trumbo
What Would a Stoic Do? On entertainment
What Would a Stoic Do? Twitter edition


Recent Stoic Meditations, #16

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

We are in love with our vices; we uphold them and prefer to make excuses for them rather than shake them off. The reason is unwillingness, the excuse, inability. (listen here)

External goods like fine clothing, gourmet food, and nice houses ought to be regarded as the playthings of children, not the shackles of adults. (listen here)

Nature has not given us such a generous and free-handed space of time that we can have the leisure to waste any of it. (listen here)

The Stoic concept of preferred and dispreferred indifferents always gets people confused or, the other common human response to lack of understanding, scoffing. (listen here)

Recent essays, #16

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: on tranquillity of mind. One of Seneca’s best essays is on the topic of peace of mind,  which was a major goal especially of Roman Stoicism (as opposed to an  exclusive emphasis on the cultivation of virtues in Greek Stoicism), and which remains something we all aspire in this turbulent 21st century. The essay begins with a letter to Seneca by his friend Serenus,  asking for advice. Serenus feels that he has a good handle on some of  his “vices,” but not other, deeper ones, and he says that as a result of  this his mind is not at peace. He is “neither ill nor well,” and he realizes that his judgment about his own affairs is skewed by personal bias. “I am well aware that these oscillations of mind are not perilous and that they threaten me with no serious disorder: to express what I complain of by an exact simile, I am not suffering from a storm, but from sea-sickness. Take from me, then, this evil, whatever it may be, and help one who is in distress within sight of land.” (continue to read)

The Stoic god is untenable in the light of modern science. Stoicism is a philosophy of life that has been around for 23  centuries, and in the past several years has seen a resurgence of  interest throughout the world. Like any philosophy of life (or, for that matter, religion), it has two  fundamental components: a metaphysics (i.e., an account of how the  world works); and an ethics (i.e., an account of how we should behave in  the world). There is very little disagreement among modern Stoics concerning the  ethics, which is the crucial, most practical part of the philosophy. The fundamental aspects of it can be summarized rather succinctly… (continue to read)

Stoic Q&A: why do Stoics emphasize leading a virtuous life as opposed to answering how to lead a happy life? A follower on Twitter posted this excellent question, which really gets at the core of Stoic philosophy and, for that matter, of any philosophy of life or religion. In order to answer it, though, we need to begin by clarifying what we mean by those two key terms: “virtue” and “happiness.” Starting from the latter, what we definitely don’t mean is a temporary feeling of elation, as in “I’m happy to finally be on vacation.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with that sort of happiness, but it isn’t the kind of thing philosophies of life (or religions) are in the business of fostering. Moreover, psychologically speaking, happiness-as-elation is not sustainable by human beings, it is necessarily temporary. Of course, a Stoic (or a Christian, or a Buddhist) can certainly be “happy” in that sense, but that isn’t the goal of their practice. (continue to read)

Meetup: Epic battles in practical ethics – Stoicism vs Epicureanism

Okay, folks, time to take on our cousins, the Epicureans! This meeting will explore the differences between Stoicism (Zeno there on the left in the photo) and Epicureanism (Epicurus on the right).

We’ll explore the two schools’ take on metaphysics (how the world hangs together, epistemology (theory of knowledge), and — of course — ethics (how to live in the world). I’ll be really disappointed if by the end of the discussion you will turn Epicurean, but of course I have no control over that, and it’s a dispreferred indifferent to me…

Suggested reading here, RSVP here.

When: Monday, July 29, at 6pm.

Suggested readings, #16

Here are some interesting articles I’ve come across recently, for your consideration:

Pandora’s Vox: thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks anticipated robots and artificial intelligence—and they didn’t trust them. (Foreign Policy)

In search of lost time: on the current role and future tasks of philosophy. (Eurozine)

Tainted by association: would you carve a roast with a knife that had been used in a murder? Why not? And what does this tell us about ethics? (Aeon)

The problem with HR: for 30 years, we’ve trusted human-resources departments to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment. How’s that working out? (The Atlantic)

Aristotle and the good ruler: what politicians can learn from Aristotle’s Politics. (Philosophy Now)

Recent Stoic Meditations, #15

When Fortuna allows, I publish a short morning meditation based on a short quote from a Stoic writer, seeking to apply that ancient wisdom to life in the 21st century. Here are the most recent entries:

We have become alternately merchants and merchandise, and we ask, not what a thing truly is, but what it costs. (listen here)

One of the major differences between Stoics and Aristotelians has always been the treatment of disruptive emotions, such as anger and fear. They are helpful, in small measure, for Aristotle, but definitely to avoid for the Stoics. (listen here)

Do you find yourself in the thralls of fear, jealousy, or anger? Do you act inconsistently in life? Then you ain’t wise yet. (listen here)

From the point of view of someone who has managed to overcome his attachment for externals, people going after riches and luxuries look like fools. Are you one of them? (listen here)

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)