Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stoicism - Why all the Fuss?

Are you at all surprised by upsurge of interest in Stoicism? Hundreds of people attending the New York Stoicon, a third annual London Stoicon, over two thousand people “living like a Stoic for a week”, articles in the Huffington Post and new books coming out seemingly every week ….  Why all the fuss?


There are at least three good reasons why Stoicism is very much alive and well.

1  1)    Stoicism is a very practical philosophy. Stoic provides  helpful techniques - "life hacks" -  that aren’t too difficult to put into practice.  You can try these out for yourself by downloading the Stoic Week 2016 Handbook  (free, requires registration at the time of writing) or the Stoic Week 2015 Handbook  (free, no registration required).

2) Although much of the  the great Stoic works have unfortunately been lost, what has survived is of great value.  The  beautiful prose of Seneca's classic Letters  also gives  sage advice to his friend Lucillius - and also speaks to the modern reader. The Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations  gives us an insight into the mind of a very wise and thoughtful man struggling with life's challenges. Epictetus’s Handbook are essentially lecture notes, ideal for trainee Stoics of all ages.   Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus provide very different ways in to Stoicism –  part of the journey is finding out which you prefer. My favourite has always been Epictetus.

3) Stoicism isn’t just a set of practical exercises or a collection of books. It  represents a serious and systematic attempt to understand the human condition and how to respond to it.  What is in our power and what is not? What is our place in the universe?  How can we live a good life?  As I shall argue in tomorrow’s article Stoicism Made Simple  Stoicism is more than the sum of its parts. Taken together, Stoicism provides  a  framework for leading a good life.

I could go on. I could mention the empirical evidence for Stoicism being helpful or  the idea that Stoicism can help with resilience as well as well-being. If you are interested, have a look at the Stoicism Today site for a lot of free articles giving many perspectives of why people are interested in Stoicism. Perhaps the surprise is not that Stoicism is getting as much attention as it is but that it isn’t getting even more…

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