Stoicism

When I was in grad school, the Stoics were roundly ignored by my professors, and never mentioned by my fellow students. I had run across Epictetus at one point — a Roman slave whose handbook on how to live a good life harbors such uplifting gems as:

Never say of anything, “I have lost it”; but, “I have returned it.” Is your child dead? It is returned. Is your wife dead? She is returned. Is your estate taken away? Well, and is not that likewise returned? “But he who took it away is a bad man.” What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it; but don’t view it as your own, just as travelers view a hotel.

I thought at the time that Epictetus’ Handbook was a better reflection of his own psychology than it was a useful aid to achieving a good life. I also, frankly, thought it was rather depressing, and I thought no more about it for a long time.

But revisiting the Stoics recently was an interesting exercise, and I think, after all, that they are a underappreciated bunch.

To get a sense of what they were about, I refer you to this excellent lecture on the subject, by Philip Hansten. (It’s in three parts, but the whole thing is only about 45 minutes in total.)

Any fans or disciples of Stoicism out there? Let us know how you got into it and whether or not Stoicism is a good set of guides for living your life…

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