Stoicism: A Brief Initiation



I have been meaning to write an opening piece on Stoicism for some time as I believe its essential teachings are of crucial importance for the development of man’s character. I have attempted to lay out some elementary morals from Stoic Philosophy that will serve as an adequate basis for the succeeding writings on this theme.

Stoicism was a school of philosophy that originated in Athens in the primitive third century BC. The whole philosophy largely revolves around a code of ethics that is grounded in a structure of rationality and a sensible attitude towards nature. The ensuing sections will give you further insight into the moral code of the Stoics and their various outlooks on Morality and Life. Stoicism, as a doctrine, firmly finds its basis in nature, its whole adage is founded upon the notion that when the will is in line with the fundamental course of events, there is no opposition between your will and the course of nature and thus, you do not come to be a slave of circumstance. Rather, you come to accept the natural course as it was intended by the gods without suffering unnecessarily. Needless to say, Stoic Philosophy is quite red-pill with respect to the development of man and his exceptional qualities; dignity, integrity, persistence and restraint, as these make up the essential temperament of the upright man whose values and strong points move in pleasant harmony.

What is Within and Outside your Will

Reason is one of the most distinctive faculties, for it has the capacity to assess and observe itself, its ability and value apart from discerning and analysing others. Reason, furthermore, measures the utility of things and when is the suitable time to make use of them. The faculty of reason, therefore, is the most significant and productive facility we have been armed with, to make the fine use of judgement and impression. No other facility can replace it, the gods provided us with the single most sublime faculty, so long as it is exercised properly and comprehended with the utmost care. In spite of that, with the supposed knowledge of knowing there is but one faculty you can care for and commit yourself to, you instead decide to attach yourself with things that you do not own, such as your body (your physical vehicle), belongings, family and friends. Everything outside you is already in accordance with nature, there is no necessity for controlling the ungovernable whatsoever. Your commitment should be to make the finest use of your faculty of reason and everything outside your power with a position of complete assurance and trust in nature.

The understanding of what is yours and what is not, what you can carry out and what you can’t, is of great importance with regards to your attitude towards death, suffering and pleasure. You ought to die one day, but must you die enslaved by your suffering? In other words, is there something obstructing your position to approach torment with a smile in a cool and collected manner? It is your judgement of death and hardship that determines your frame of mind and attitude in the face of them. Your will is unconquerable, thus whether you’re chained by your leg or imprisoned, it is your strength of character that decides whether it grows to be a casualty of events or remain immutable to external factors, however severe they may be. Such is the position of the wise, then, it is their cultivated discernment of what is in their power and what is not that determines their purpose and attitude towards externals. You should inquire into these thoughts and put your policy into practice.

Content and Fulfilment

In the same way, an obedient citizen complies with the regulations of the state, so does the rational and clever person, after careful deliberation resolves to submit his faculty of will to nature, or shall I say; God. Freedom is not contingent upon external conditions, it’s having the river of life move in harmony with your will without opposition. Liberty is certainly precious and virtuous, but to capriciously engage in the wishful thinking of what you deem most suitable to happen to you is not noble, it is shameful. A significant part of becoming informed is becoming aware of bringing your will in accordance with the natural course of events, with the natural flow of the world.

Most people who, for instance, are held captive, are imprisoned against their will and thus are locked up both inwardly and outwardly. Conversely, when Socrates was imprisoned, he was not locked up, only his external vehicle was, his will remained unchanged and released. For, his will was not contingent upon what is outside its power, it was wholly centred around its own property. You should become aware that you occupy a minute space within the totality. Within reason, though, you do not surrender to anyone, neither to divinity because rationality is not quantified in dimensions but through the faculty of sense; perception. Furthermore, you are unfortunate, generally speaking, for being unaware and ignorant of your capacity for forbearance to manage the “problems” of life. You tend to neglect your untapped strong points, even when difficulties that said qualities can be in charge of coming to light, and their support could intelligibly be put to use.

There is something remarkable to acknowledge that the gods have made you strong enough to outlive what is outside your control and uniquely responsible for what is in your power. You are not wholly responsible for your parents, brothers and sisters, your property, death and fear. You are, however, completely responsible for making the right employment of impressions and accurately distinguish between the just and unjust. To carry your burden properly means to take full responsibility of what is in your control, and be assured and poised in everything that you can’t.

Dealing with Anger

You might ponder that we should dispose of degenerates and robbers, but you shall consider asking the question in a different way; Don’t you think we should dispose of people who are misled on what is of supreme importance, imperceptive people who lack the noble competence to discern the just from the unjust? If deprivation of the most valuable property necessitates the most injury and a person is impoverished of his most vital faculty which is his moral posture, annoyance should not be attached in response. Rather than being influenced by people’s shortcomings, exhibit an understanding of the inadequacy instead of scorn them. After all, you are not so intellectually superior that you ought to go in all directions rectifying and scolding people’s errors. Even if you were remarkably intelligent, you would have sufficient sense to understand the intricacies of how ill-informed your actions are. Therefore, let people voluntarily figure out what they ought to figure out, don’t be a nuisance.

If you don’t cling to your possessions, you will not grow passionate and vexed if you get burgled. With matters of women, don’t make your spouse’s surface allure her principal appeal and you will not grow irate with her unfaithfulness. Neither the burglar nor the disloyal person can obstruct what is truly yours, they can only obstruct what is common possession that is not within your power to regulate. Deprivation and sadness are only conceivable with regards to what is really your own. People can chain your leg or put you in handcuffs, but they will neither chain nor handcuff your will because it remains unhindered by external affairs. This is the underlying grounds for that worn saying; ‘know yourself’. To know yourself means to identify and refine your most valuable faculty, without concerning yourself or clinging to what you can’t control. Hold yourself accountable, if you have a sore head, exercise a lack of profanity. Stop yourself from engaging in profanity over trivialities, it is not so much that you can’t protest or grumble, simply do not protest with your entire existence as if your life depended on it.

Stand and walk honourably and independently, having confidence and faith in the fortitude of your ethical positions, not in the power of your physique. You are absolutely indestructible and dauntless if nothing outside your power can unsettle your integrity. The mind’s essence is as such; it will consent to the truth, turn down what is false and adjourn evaluation in irresolute affairs. In the words of Plato, ‘Every soul is deprived of the truth against its will.’ Thus, when someone accedes to a faithless hypothesis, you can be definite that he didn’t intend to entrust his agreement but simply misinterpreted the true for the untrue. People, by and large, have little to none apart from their own abstractions of good and bad to direct them. Your actions are largely all dictated by your depiction and judgement of them, whether be just or unjust. If your judgement is accurate, then, you are guiltless, but if it is mistaken, you pay the price yourself since it is unreasonable that another person ought to be punished for your blunder. For man, what amounts to good and bad could be unearthed in promptly those facets where we deviate from animals. If man’s exceptional qualities, therefore, are preserved and guarded and he does not deprive himself of his honour, integrity and intelligence, the man is delivered. Remember: no man is defeated by people’s behaviour and actions, ever. It is, rather, that you submit to your passions and whimper over a woman, for instance, that you stray from the reality that you were there for battle not love. When fair judgements are corrupt and destabilized, thoughts are weakened and sabotaged.

Reason Investigating Reason

Do you ever ponder for what purpose nature provided you with the faculty of reason? It is to have the capacity to make accurate employment of judgement. Reason is much like a hoard of characteristic judgements, thus it affects dissection and fractionation of itself. The goodness of wisdom claims to analyse the just, the unjust and the commonplace. Wisdom is virtuous, ignorance inferior. Accordingly, it is typical and inherent of wisdom to inquire into itself and its antithesis. Juxtapose your outlook in going stone-blind with being cognitively inferior, that is a conjecture of how apathetic you are towards virtue and vice and how solemn you are towards indifferent things. That juxtaposition is adequate to recognise how unfitting and incongruous your values might be. After all, the quintessence of virtue is the right use of judgement, if your discernment lacks lucidity and reasoning, you have a lack of knowledge and moral bearing that is likened to ignorance.

Further Reading

  1. Letters from a Stoic
  2. The Enchiridion
  3. Discourses and Selected Writings
  4. Meditations
  5. Art of Living
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