A great share of Stoicism amounts to the study of externals: what they are, how we misjudge them, and the ways that they tend to enslave us. An “external” can be defined as something outside ourselves or outside our power. Later chapters will talk about specific examples, such as money, fame, and calamity. Before we reach those cases, though, this chapter considers two sets of Stoic teachings about externals as such.
First, a principal aim of the Stoic is to regard externals without attachment. This has consequences, first, for the decisions and developments that one spends energy fussing about. If Stoics are distinguished by one policy as an everyday matter, it is a refusal to worry about things beyond their control or to otherwise get worked up about them. Detachment also means not letting happiness depend on getting or avoiding externals– wealth, for example, or the good opinion of others.
Now a qualification: of course everyone will have preferences about those externals just mentioned and many others. The Stoic would rather have wealth than not have it, and would prefer to do without adversity. But we have to distinguish between preferences and attachments. The difference between them can be seen most easily by comparing how you feel when they aren’t satisfied. Imagine wanting one thing more than another and not getting it, but not being too upset as a result. That sort of wish is what we might call a (mere) preference. Having what you prefer is pleasing, and not having it is a disappointment, but it’s no threat to your equanimity. And the same can be said when something happens that you would have preferred not happen. It is just spilled milk, and Stoics try to look at all things they can’t control in roughly that way. An attachment is different because it makes your happiness depend on the object of it. It pushes and pulls you. This distinction will be discussed more in later chapters. For now, we can just say that Stoics try for an equilibrium based on the quality of their thinking and their actions– one that doesn’t depend on anything beyond their control.
The second general Stoic teaching about externals is that we have a hard time seeing them accurately. Externals fool us, or we fool ourselves about them. Stoicism offers some ways to get past those deceits, as by taking a literal view of an external that seems exciting or scary, or by breaking it down into parts that one can see more clearly than the whole. Stoics look this way at objects but also at people, whose reputation or wealth (or lack thereof) can cloud our judgments of them. The Stoic tries to see things as they are.
The teachings of the first chapter can be linked to the teachings of this one. The first chapter was about things that are up to us. This chapter is about things that are not up to us. To say it a little more fully: Chapter 1 showed the claim that we are affected by our judgments about events, not by events themselves. We therefore have more control than we think over what we experience. This chapter is the other side of the coin. We attach ourselves to externals that we imagine we can control but really can’t, and deceive ourselves about them routinely– habits that make us unhappy and unfree. So in effect these first chapters suggest a reversal. We waste our energy on things that aren’t up to us, and are barely conscious of the things that are up to us. Stoicism is the effort to turn that around and to move one’s center of gravity to a more useful location.
1. Things not up to The Stoics all have their specialties. This chapter belongs first to Epictetus, whose most constant refrain was the urgency of renouncing desires and fears that depend on externals.
There are things up to us and things not up to us. Things up to us are our opinions, desires, aversions, and, in short, whatever is our own doing. Things not up to us are our bodies, possessions, reputations, offices, or, in short, whatever is not our own doing.
There is only one road to happiness– let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night: stay detached from things that are not up to you.
Man’s perplexity is all about externals; his impotence about externals. What will I do? how will it take place? how will it turn out? Let this not happen, or that! These are all the cries of people worried about things that aren’t up to them. For who says, “How can I avoid agreeing to what is false? How can I not turn away from what is true?” If there is anyone whose nature is so fine that he is anxious about those things, I’ll just remind him– “Why are you distressed? Rest assured, it’s up to you.”
What do we admire? Externals. What do we spend our energies on? Externals. Is it any wonder, then, that we are in fear and distress? How else could it be, when we regard the events that are coming as evil? We can’t fail to be afraid, we can’t fail to be distressed. Then we say, “Lord God, let me not be distressed.” Moron, don’t you have hands? Didn’t God make them for you? So are you going to sit down and pray that your nose will stop running? Better to wipe your nose and stop praying. What, then– has he given you nothing to help with your situation? Hasn’t he given you endurance, hasn’t he given you greatness of spirit, hasn’t he given you courage?
An aside for those who share my interest in the etymology of insults: “moron” comes from Greek, where the word (transliterated into English) was “mōros.” It was an adjective, but Epictetus uses it as a noun, as one might do in English by saying “Now listen, stupid– ” Returning to our theme, via Seneca:
A man reaches the heights if he knows what makes him joyful, if he has not made his happiness depend on things not in his power. He will be troubled and unsure of himself so long as it is the hope of anything that spurs him on– even if it is not difficult to get, and even if his hopes have never disappointed him.
Consider those things outside your control that you regard as good or bad. When the bad things happen, or the good ones don’t, you inevitably will blame the gods and hate the people responsible (or who are suspected of it). We do great injustice through our disputes about these things. But if we judge as good and bad only what is in our power, there is no occasion left to accuse God or take a fighting stance toward men.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Some related comments:
Not being able to govern events, I govern myself, and if they will not adapt to me, I adapt to them.
Montaigne, Of Presumption (
The fountain of content must spring up in the mind.... He, who has so little knowledge of human nature, as to seek happiness by changing any thing, but his own dispositions, will waste his life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he purposes to remove.
Johnson, The Rambler no.
The ordinary man places his life’s happiness in things external to him, in property, rank, wife and children, friends, society, and the like, so that when he loses them or finds them disappointing, the foundation of his happiness is destroyed. In other words, his center of gravity is not in himself; it is constantly changing its place, with every wish and whim.
Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life (
2. Good and The Stoic analysis of externals implies an adjustment of what we call good and evil. The Stoics hold that those properties lie only in what is up to us– our use of judgment, as discussed in Chapter Things and events, then, aren’t good or evil. Our minds are.
Let us say that the happy man is he who recognizes no good and evil other than a good and an evil mind.
Seneca, On the Happy Life
Where is the good? In our choices. Where is the evil? In our choices. Where is neither of them? In those things we do not choose.
The meaning of good and evil to the Stoic will become clearer in the course of the book. Generally the Stoics identify the good with the rightful use of reason, which in turn leads them to a life led for the benefit of the whole– that is, for others. More immediately it means avoiding vices such as greed, dishonesty, and excess. Those are viewed as errors that result from attachment to externals, and from treatment of externals as themselves good and evil. So dropping those attachments, in the way our authors have just suggested, is regarded by the Stoic as an essential first step toward virtue. Said differently, things in the world are (as the Stoics sometimes put it) “indifferent.” We turn them to good or evil with our choices.
“Is health good, and disease evil?” No, you can do better than that. “What then?” To use health well is good, to use it badly is evil.
We speak of a “sunny” room when the same room is perfectly dark at night. Day fills it with light; night takes it away. So it is with those things we term “indifferent” or “middle,” such as riches, strength, beauty, reputation, sovereignty– or their opposites: death, exile, ill-heath, pain, and all the others that we find more or less terrifying. It is wickedness or virtue that gives them the name of good or evil. By itself a lump of metal is neither hot nor cold: thrown into the furnace it gets hot, put back in the water it is cold.
This position allows Seneca an answer to the old question of why bad things happen to good people: they don’t. Genuinely bad things occur only in the mind, and the mind of the good person is free from them.
“But why does God sometimes allow evil to befall good men?” Assuredly he does not. Evil of every sort he keeps far from them– shameful acts and crimes, evil counsel and schemes for greed, blind lust and avarice intent on another’s goods. The good man himself he protects and delivers. Does anyone require of God that he should also guard the good man’s luggage? No, the good man himself relieves God of this concern; he despises externals.
Seneca, On Providence
Marcus Aurelius turned that idea around and made it a test: nothing is good or evil if it can happen as easily to a good person as a bad one.
Both death and life, honor and dishonor, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty– all these things happen equally to good men and bad, being neither noble nor shameful. Therefore they are neither good nor evil.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Epictetus also discussed more directly what things we should consider good and therefore regard as sources of delight. Again, he discourages excitement about externals; we should be delighted, or not, with the quality of our understanding, not with the properties of things that aren’t up to us.
Don’t be elated by a superiority that belongs to another. If the horse in its elation were to say “I am beautiful,” one could endure it. But when you in your elation say, “I have a beautiful horse,” be aware that you are elated by the good of the horse. What then is yours? Your way of handling impressions. When you are handing them in accordance with nature, that’s when to be elated. For then you will be elated about a good of your own.
3. Externals and Epictetus had been a slave. He and other Stoics often spoke of dependence on externals as itself a variety of slavery. Someone attached to externals is enslaved to whoever controls them; Stoic philosophy thus is a way to liberation. Epictetus regarded volition, or will, as one’s true self, and as the only part of us that is free.
Whoever then wishes to be free, let him neither wish for anything nor flee from anything that depends on others: otherwise he must be a slave.
If you gape after externals, you will inevitably be forced up and down according to the will of your master. And who is your master? Whoever has power over the things you are trying to gain or avoid.
Man is not the master of man, but death and life and pleasure and pain. Bring me Cæsar without these things and you’ll see how calm I am. But when he comes with them, amid thunder and lightning, and I am afraid of them, what else do I do but acknowledge my master, like a runaway slave? So long as I have only a sort of truce with these things, I’m like a runaway slave standing in a theater; I bathe, I drink, I sing, I do everything in fear and suffering. But if I free myself from these slave-masters– that is, from those things by which these masters are fearsome– what more trouble do I have, what more master?
It was a lively feature of Epictetus’s classroom style that those who worried or complained about externals would customarily be denounced as slaves.
No good man grieves or groans, no one wails, no one turns pale and trembles and says, “How will he receive me, how will he listen to me?” Slave, he will act as he sees fit. Why do you care about other people’s business?
In short, if you hear him say, “Wretched me, the things I have to endure!” call him a slave. If you see him wailing, or complaining, or in misery, call him a slave– a slave in a toga with purple trim.
A toga with a purple border was the attire of Roman senators.
When you see someone groveling before another man, or flattering him contrary to his own opinion, you can confidently say he is not free. And not only if he does this for a mere dinner, but also if it is for the sake of a prefecture or consulship. People who do these things for petty ends you can call petty slaves, while those who do them for grand purposes can be called mega slaves, as they deserve.
Seneca saw all of us as slaves in something like this way.
I was pleased to hear, through those who come from you, that you live on familiar terms with your slaves. This befits a sensible and well-educated man like yourself. “They are slaves.” Nay, men. “They are slaves.” No, comrades. “They are slaves.” No, they are lowly friends. “They are slaves.” No, they are rather our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has the same rights over them and over us.
Show me who is not a slave. One is a slave to lust, another to avarice, another to ambition, and all are slaves to fear. I will name you an ex-consul who is slave to a little old woman, a millionaire who is slave to a serving-maid; I will show you youths of the noblest birth in serfdom to pantomime players! No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed.
Pantomime players were not silent mimes. They were troops of singers and dancers who would enact scenes from myth and legend. It was a popular form of entertainment in Rome, and the most successful of the players were celebrities.
If you would attain real freedom, you must be the slave of philosophy.
Epicurus, quoted in Seneca, Epistles
True and effective servitude is only a concern of those who willingly submit to it and those who try to acquire honor and wealth from the labors of others. One who is content to sit by the fireplace, and who knows how to manage a household without falling into quarrels and lawsuits, is as free as a Duke of Venice.
Montaigne, Of the Inequality Amongst Us (
4. Adding nothing to This chapter has been devoted so far mostly to a single Stoic aim: letting go of attachment to externals. A related set of teachings involves the problem of viewing externals clearly. We have trouble resisting externals because they seem appealing or frightening or otherwise impressive; but they seem that way because we haven’t learned to see them as they are. Seneca thought it worthwhile to look at our reactions the way we do at the reactions of children. The point as applied to externals we like:
How contemptible are the things we admire– like children who regard every toy as a thing of value, who prefer a necklace bought for a few pennies to their own parents or their brothers. What, then, as Aristo says, is the difference between us and them, except that we elders go crazy over paintings and sculpture, making our folly more expensive?
Aristo of Chios was one of the early Greek Stoic philosophers, and a colleague of Zeno of Citium– the founder of the Stoic school. The same point as applied to externals we fear:
So remember this above all, to strip away the disorder of things and to see what is in each of them: you will learn that nothing in them is frightening but the fear itself. What you see happening to boys, happens to us too (slightly bigger boys). Their friends– the ones they are accustomed to and play with– if they see them wearing masks, they are terrified. The mask needs to be removed not just from people but from things, and the true appearance of each restored.
To help with this removal of the mask, the Stoics offer two techniques general enough to discuss here (more specific advice will come in later chapters). First is the practice of adding nothing when an external presents itself. As soon as an event happens, we are quick to assign it a meaning. It is tagged as good news or bad news, as a reason for excitement or outrage, and so on. Or we give it a place in a story that we tell ourselves, long-running or new. Then we react to those labels and narratives and imaginings. Stoicism regards this process as a trap. The assignments of value or meaning that we attach to things are usually half-conscious, borrowed from convention, and false or unhelpful. They nevertheless determine how we feel and what we think and do next. So the Stoics say that our thinking should be slowed down, and imagination should be viewed with distrust– not imagination in its creative capacity, but imagination as “the enemy of men, the father of all terrors,” as Joseph Conrad once called it. When confronted with a report or an event or an object, in short, the Stoic tries to just see it as it is. Any additions are made with care.
“His ship is lost.” What has happened? His ship is lost. “He has been led off to prison.” What has happened? He has been led off to prison. The notion that he fares badly, each man adds on his own.
“I have a headache.” Do not add “Alas!” “I have an earache.” Do not add “Alas!” I’m not saying that you cannot groan, but don’t groan inside.
Say nothing more to yourself than what first appearances report. Suppose it is reported that a certain person is saying terrible things about you. This much is reported; but it is not reported that you have been hurt. I see that my child is sick. I see that much; but that he is in danger, I do not see. So always stay with first appearances, and add nothing from within yourself– nothing happens to you. Or rather add something, but do it like someone who knows of all that happens in the world.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Guillaume du Vair noted a particular snare when interpreting events: creating false metaphors to describe them, and making other kinds of alarming and misleading comparisons.
Our opinions torment us more than things themselves, and are formed by the words we use when something surprising occurs; for we call one thing by the name of another, and imagine it to be like that other thing, and the image and idea stay there in our minds.
du Vair, The Moral Philosophy of the Stoics (
Another Stoic technique involves subtraction. It is used for externals that are already known to us, and that we have trouble seeing clearly because they are covered already with conventional meanings. One has to chip away at the romance or horror or other story that has been overlaid onto the thing, and to distinguish between what it is and what it is called. This is really a variation of the process shown a moment ago: seeing things as they are, not as we have been told they are, or as everyone pretends they are, or as we tell ourselves they are. But rather than adding nothing, one takes off what is already there.
A favorite Stoic method for the purpose involves viewing a subject in the most literal way possible, or breaking it down into parts that dissolve the formidable appearance it might have, whether of desirability or the reverse.
With everything that is beguiling, or useful, or that you love, remember to say also what sort it starting with the smallest things. If you love a piece of pottery, say “it is a pot that I love”– and when it is shattered you will not be upset.
The thought might occur to us, when eating fancy foods, that “this one is the corpse of a fish, this one the corpse of a bird or a pig”; or again, that “this fancy wine is the dribble of a bunch of grapes, and this purple robe is sheep hair dyed with shellfish blood”; or, about copulation, that “this is the rubbing of a little piece of entrail and, along with some convulsion, an excretion of mucus.” Impressions like these are the ones that penetrate to the heart of things themselves and let us see what they really are. We should do the same in all areas of life, and, whenever things appear too highly valued, we should lay them bare in our minds, perceive their cheapness, and strip off the prestige they have traditionally been assigned.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
You will disdain lovely singing and dancing, and martial arts, if you will cut up the musical phrase into separate notes, then ask yourself, about each one, if you are unable to resist it. You won’t know how to answer. Do the same with dancing, for each movement or position; the same even with martial arts. To sum up: apart from virtue and the things that stem from it, remember to go over things piece by piece, and by separating them come to look down on them; and carry this over to your whole life.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
By “martial arts” he was referring to pankration, which was roughly what we would now call ultimate fighting or mixed martial arts. It was an Olympic event.
5. Judging others. The events and worldly goods just considered are the simplest and commonest examples of externals. But other people also amount to externals for Stoic purposes; we have as much trouble seeing them clearly as we do anything else. Again, Stoics try to strip away their disguises.
Just as the eyesight can be sharpened and cleared up by certain drugs, if we are willing to free our spiritual vision from impediments, we will be able to perceive virtue even when it is hidden within the body, even with poverty as an obstacle, even where insignificance and disgrace stand in the way. We shall see that beauty, I say, however much it may be covered in filth. Conversely, we will be able to perceive evil, and the sluggishness of a wretched mind, however much the view may be blocked by gleaming riches, or however strongly a false light– here of rank and position, there of great power– beats down on the beholder.
None of those who have been raised to a lofty height by riches and honors is really great. Why then does he seem great? Because you are measuring the pedestal along with the man. A dwarf is not tall, though he stands on a mountain; a Colossus will maintain its size even when standing in a well. This is the error under which we labor, and how we are deceived; we value no man by what he is, but add the trappings in which he is adorned.
The pedestal is no part of the statue. Measure him without his stilts; let him lay aside his wealth and his titles; let him present himself in his undershirt. Is his body healthy, active, and able to perform its functions? What sort of soul does he have? Is it beautiful and capable, and fortunate enough to have all of its parts intact? Is the soul rich in what is its own or rich in what it has borrowed? Has luck had nothing to do with it? Can it face the drawing of swords without flinching? Is it indifferent between a death by the expiration of breath or the slitting of the throat? Is it calm, unflustered, and content? This is what we must see; that is how the great differences between us should be judged.
Montaigne, Of the Inequality Amongst Us (
And the same analysis might be turned on oneself.
Do you see that king of Scythia or Sarmatia, his head elegant with the badge of his office? If you wish to see what he amounts to, and to know his full worth, take off his headband; much evil lurks beneath it. But why do I speak of others? If you want to take your own measure, put aside your money, your estates, your honors, and look inside yourself. At present you are taking the word of others for what you are.
Scythia and Sarmatia were territories lying in the steppes north and east of the Black Sea. They were often at war with the Roman Empire, and their peoples were regarded by the Romans and Greeks as barbarians.
We saw in the previous section that Stoics sometimes look at worldly objects in a literal way; it is a technique for seeing things as they are and without romance or fear. The same general idea can be applied to people.
What are they like when they’re eating, sleeping, copulating, defecating, and so on? What are they like when they’re being imperious and arrogant, or angrily scolding others from some position of superiority? A little while ago they were slaves, and doing all those things just named; and soon they will be again.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
6. Knowing the The first question that Stoics typically ask about any apparent problem or prospect is whether it is up to them. If not, they don’t agonize about it, because it wouldn’t help if they did. Stoics therefore are very attentive to the difference between things within and beyond their control.
Right from the start, then, practice saying to every harsh appearance, “You are just an appearance, and not at all what you appear.” Then examine it, and test it by those rules you have– and by this first one especially, whether it has to do with things that are up to us or things that are not up to us. And if it has to do with something not up to us, let the thought be close at hand that “It is nothing to me.”
Of course there are mixed cases: situations where we have control over some aspects of a problem but not others, or the power to control it but perhaps not the right or responsibility. Those cases may call for hard analysis, and the Stoics do not spend as much time on them as one might have wished. But the basic approach is set forth by Epictetus.
It is difficult to combine and bring together those things– the carefulness of one devoted to material things, and the steadiness of one who is indifferent to them– but it is not impossible; otherwise happiness would be impossible. It is like planning a sea voyage. What can I do? I can choose the captain, the sailors, the day, the right moment. Then a storm comes upon us. At this point, what concern is it of mine? My part is done. The problem belongs to another– the captain.
Detachment from externals should not be confused with withdrawal from the world. As the last part of Chapter 11 will illustrate, Stoicism calls for involvement in public life, not retreat from it. But in all circumstances one can draw lines between the decisions that are up to us and the ones that aren’t.
Material things are indifferent; how we use them is not. How then may a man maintain not only steadiness and calm, but also the state of mind that is careful and neither reckless nor negligent? He can act like people playing a board game. The game pieces are neither good nor bad, nor are the dice. How can I know what the next throw of the dice will be? But to use the throw carefully and skillfully, this belongs to me. In life, too, then, the principal task is this: to distinguish and separate things, and say: “Externals are outside my power: my choices are within my power. Where shall I seek the good and the bad? Within, in the things that are my own.” But in what depends on others, call nothing either good or bad, benefit or harm, or anything else of the kind. “What then? Does this mean we shouldn’t care how we use them?” By no means. That would be a wrongful use of our faculty of choice, and so contrary to nature. External things should be used with care, because their use can be good or bad. But at the same time you should keep your composure and your calm, because the things themselves are neither good nor bad.
The comparison to dice is anticipated in Book 10 of Plato’s Republic Adam Smith elaborated on the Stoic comparison to the play of a game, and his account provides a good note on which to conclude this discussion.
Human life the Stoics appear to have considered as a game of great skill; in which, however, there was a mixture of chance, or of what is vulgarly understood to be chance.... If we placed our happiness in winning the stake, we placed it in what depended upon causes beyond our power, and out of our direction. We necessarily exposed ourselves to perpetual fear and uneasiness, and frequently to grievous and mortifying disappointments. If we placed it in playing well, in playing fairly, in playing wisely and skillfully; in the propriety of our own conduct in short; we placed it in what, by proper discipline, education, and attention, might be altogether in our own power, and under our own direction. Our happiness was perfectly secure, and beyond the reach of fortune.
Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (
What is the practicing Stoic summary? ›
The Stoics believe that our experience of the world depends on our judgements about externals rather than on the externals themselves. We don't react to the externals themselves, we react to our thoughts about them. We can't control the externals but we can control our judgements and opinions about them.What are some quotes from the practicing Stoic? ›
“Men are disturbed not by the things that happen but by their opinions about those things.” “Stoic needs a good sense of humor.” “For you also came into existence not when you chose, but when the world had need of you.” “What I will teach you is the ability to become rich as speedily as possible.What is the Stoic response to cheating? ›
So what does Stoicism have to say about infidelity? "While open relationships are perfectly permissible, if consensual, a Stoic perspective tells us that infidelity — which involves betrayal — is not. The Stoics believe that a good life is one in which we try to become better human beings."What is the Stoic point of view on divorce? ›
Clearly, following Stoic philosophy can help parties in a divorce case by focusing only on what is within one's control, by controlling reactions and emotions, by being prepared for negativity, and by thinking before acting. Following these teachings will result in divorce being less stressful for the parties.What is the lesson from Stoic? ›
On making 'good' choices rather than 'bad' choices in the face of adversity. They also recognise that you should only focus on what's in your control and not get distracted by investing energy in what's out of your control. Stoics love capturing thoughts, ideas and feeling on a daily basis.What is Stoic philosophy summary? ›
Stoicism is a philosophy that teaches us how to control our emotions and maintain emotional balance in all things. It is the practice of being able to achieve this state of emotional balance by training the mind to be objective, calm, and rational. The three core principles of stoicism are perception, action and will.What is a Stoic quote about thinking? ›
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” “When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love…” “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”What is an example of Stoic philosophy? ›
EXAMPLES OF STOICISM. | Focusing on the present moment and avoid emotional suffering for the past or the future. | Concern yourself with thoughts, avoiding dependence on external things.What is the Stoic quote truth? ›
Rather than remain in a comfortable bubble, seek the truth. “If anyone can refute me—show me I'm making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective—I'll gladly change. It's the truth I'm after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”What are the 4 Stoic sins? ›
There's foolishness opposed by wisdom, injustice opposed by justice, cowardice opposed by courage, and intemperance opposed by moderation.
Why Stoic is bad? ›
The problem with stoicism is that it talks about focussing only on what we can control like thoughts and actions. But we are living in a dynamic world which is full of chaos. Stoicism might not be the right philosophy for our modern world.What is the best Stoic quote on relationships? ›
“Whoever then understands what is good, can also know how to love; but he who cannot distinguish good from bad, and things which are neither good nor bad from both, can he possess the power of loving? To love, then, is only in the power of the wise.”What do Stoic think on heartbreak? ›
Accept what happened and change your wish that it had not happened. Stoicism calls this the “art of acquiescence”—to accept rather than fight what happens. And the most practiced Stoics take it a step further. Instead of simply accepting what happens, they urge us to actually enjoy what has happened—whatever it is.What emotion is Stoic? ›
To the uninitiated, this vibrant, action-oriented way of life has become shorthand for “emotionless”. In actuality, Stoicism is a means of choosing what we feel. We free our emotions from the control of the external world. It is a human routine to react to circumstance.What are Stoic views on love? ›
We all want to be loved, but according to the Stoics that's a profound mistake, because other people's feelings, judgments, and actions are not within our control. So we should focus instead on being the most lovable person possible for our companion. Whether he returns the favor or not, it's up to him.What are Stoicism 3 morals? ›
It influenced the development of Christian morality and theology, and also modern philosophy. Stoicism can be epitomized by three essential beliefs: (1) that virtue is sufficient for happiness, (2) that other so-called goods should be regarded with indifference, and (3) that the world is providentially ordered by God.What is the Stoic understanding of God? ›
The Stoic God is not a transcendent omniscient being standing outside nature, but rather it is immanent—the divine element is immersed in nature itself. God orders the world for the good, and every element of the world contains a portion of the divine element that accounts for its behaviour.Is Stoic good or bad? ›
The practice of Stoicism is not aimed at happiness (though happiness may very well be a side-effect of it) it is aimed at doing what's right. And it is by doing what's right that we may become more resilient to the inevitable changes and obstacles that life throws at us.Do Stoics believe in Jesus? ›
Stoicism is not connected to Christianity. Although Stoicism refers to gods, it is a philosophical doctrine without religion. Q: What do Stoics believe? Stoicism holds that we can only rely on our responses to outside events, while the events themselves we cannot control.What is the Stoic purpose of life? ›
Most modern Stoics would hold the idea that the goal of human life is to align ourselves with reason and virtue. This means using reason to understand the universe and to make decisions that are in accordance with virtue.
How do I know if I am Stoic? ›
Stoical people show fortitude, but they neither perceive nor express much emotion. Their feelings are difficult to read. They are generally “strong, silent types”. Difficulties: People find it hard to know them or get close to them.What is Stoic person? ›
stoic • \STOH-ik\ • noun. : one apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain.What are the 4 wisdoms of Stoicism? ›
“No one confines his unhappiness to the present” – if we continually work to bring your thoughts to the present moment, increase our mindfulness; we will find unhappiness and anxiety are impossibilities.What is Stoicism in simple words? ›
In short, Stoicism is a tool set that helps us direct our thoughts and actions in an unpredictable world. We don't control and cannot rely on external events, but we can (to a certain extent) control our mind and choose our behavior. In the end, it's not what happens to us but our reactions to it that matter.What is Stoicism for everyday life? ›
The Stoic life centred around habits and routines — practices in which they engaged daily, from their waking moments until going to sleep, that provided the structure necessary for a day lived well. These practices can provide a blueprint for us, to help us to lead good and happy lives.What is an example of Stoic attitude? ›
The adjective stoic describes any person, action, or thing that seems emotionless and almost blank. Mr. Spock, from the oldest Star Trek show, was a great example of a stoic person: he tried to never show his feelings. Someone yelling, crying, laughing, or glaring is not stoic.What is the best quote from Daily Stoic? ›
- “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ...
- “If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you'd be furious. ...
- “What we desire makes us vulnerable.”
Stoicism is like the “elimination” diet of thought, it offers to solve problems by shutting off the feeling part. The problem is that feeling part never shuts off fully (except for psychopaths), so stoicism can often slip into just another version of mental avoidance when trying to apply it to all of life.What religion is stoic? ›
In its traditional form, Stoicism was a personal religion where “the fundamental doctrines of the Stoa were such as to create a kind of spirituality and to raise men's souls toward the cosmic God.” However, most modern popularizers of Stoicism are themselves atheists or agnostics.
What is a stoic in the Bible? ›
Easton's Bible Dictionary - Stoics
They were trained to bear evils with indifference, and so to be independent of externals. Materialism, pantheism, fatalism, and pride were the leading features of this philosophy.
Stoicism is a selfish philosophy, not caring about the common well-being. It is true that the Stoic's first concern is his own balance, and that love of people does not occupy the philosophy's first place. However, this selfishness is relative because the Stoic remains a Man, and the Man is sociable by nature.Do Stoic people get angry? ›
To the Stoics, anger is an emotion that erodes the fabric of who we are, causing us to behave in ways that do not align with our values, morals and beliefs, and in doing so pushes us away from the person we want to be and the life we want to lead.Is being Stoic good for mental health? ›
Academics have proven that taking part in the ancient philosophy of stoicism does reduce negative emotions, with 94% of participants who took part in the annual Stoic Week event, run by Royal Holloway, University of London, saying they feel better about their lives.What is the stoic view on marriage? ›
They show awareness of the Stoic view that marriage is a duty that fits within a range of correct actions that the wise man should perform. Moreover, they seem to fill a lacuna in the earlier texts by discussing the dynamic of the relationship between husband and wife.Do Stoics love themselves? ›
In terms of relationships, the Stoics believed the only “true” relationship we have is with ourselves. This is the blueprint from which all other relationships are based on. So take it easy, be kind to yourself!Can a Stoic be in love? ›
However, Stoics can love. In fact, they can express the full range of emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. For the Stoics, love is an essential part of eudaimonic life—a life that is meaningful and virtuous, free from greed and passion.What is Stoic mindset to death? ›
Stoicism, Death and Control:
Death is one of life's events that we have no control over. While we may be able to delay it through good health and the avoidance of danger, it will ultimately find us whether we are ready for it or not. Therefore to the Stoics, death is not something to fear, avoid, lament or hate.
Abstract. The Stoic sage is a cold, heartless being who would not grieve over the loss of a beloved companion or child.What makes a Stoic happy? ›
Stoicism holds that the key to a good, happy life is the cultivation of an excellent mental state, which the Stoics identified with virtue and being rational. The ideal life is one that is in harmony with Nature, of which we are all part, and an attitude of calm indifference towards external events.
Are Stoic people calm? ›
3 — They remain calm in the face of chaos.
Unsure how to respond to unforeseen circumstances. But a Stoic remains calm when things go sideways. They know that getting upset will not do anything to help a bad situation. So they remain at ease, accept things as they are, and get to work on a solution.
The empathetic stoic is able to understand why someone might have a different answer than them to this question. For example, even though the empathetic stoic doesn't see the glass as half empty, they are able to understand how someone else might. Being more persuasive. Empathetic stoicism is not easy.How do Stoics deal with negativity? ›
The goal of Stoic thought isn't to minimize negative feelings, but see the world as it is and cultivate virtue. Ward Farnsworth notes this in The Practicing Stoic: View the Stoics not as against feeling or emotion but as in favor of seeing the world accurately, living by reason, and staying detached from externals.Do Stoics get jealous? ›
When it comes to Stoics and romantic relationships, jealousy is an emotion that may rear its head. It is seen as a negative emotion by Stoics because it is based on the belief that external things such as possessions or relationships are necessary for happiness.How do Stoic men love? ›
A stoic man puts those he loves above himself
A stoic man comes from a place of care and responsibility. That goes first and foremost to his family and loved ones. A man who is at home in his masculine energy will be putting the needs of his loved ones ahead of himself out of a sense of duty to them.
“Moreover, not men alone, but women too, have a natural inclination toward virtue and the capacity for acquiring it, and it is the nature of women no less than men to be pleased by good and just acts and to reject the opposite of these.”What does it mean to be a practicing Stoic? ›
Stoicism is a philosophical school that helps us control negative emotions and be grateful for everything we have now (be present). The scope of this flow includes acceptance of the circumstances that we cannot change, changing what we can change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.What are the 4 lessons of Stoicism? ›
The four virtues of Stoicism are wisdom, justice, courage and temperance.How do you practice Stoic? ›
- Develop An Internal Locus Of Control. ...
- Guard Your Time. ...
- Don't Outsource Your Happiness. ...
- Stay Focused When Confronted With Distractions. ...
- Toss Away Ego And Vanity. ...
- Consolidate Your Thoughts In Writing. ...
- Stand Your Ground. ...
- Imagine The Worst That Could Happen.
The Stoics elaborated a detailed taxonomy of virtue, dividing virtue into four main types: wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. Wisdom is subdivided into good sense, good calculation, quick-wittedness, discretion, and resourcefulness. Justice is subdivided into piety, honesty, equity, and fair dealing.
What is a stoic mindset? ›
The Stoic Mindset
In some sense, Stoicism is a mindset based on a set of observations about how the mind (and world) works. The Stoics argued that: Your thoughts and beliefs create the world you inhabit, not external circumstances, so you ought to take responsibility for your mind.
The word stoic, in its modern usage, refers to a person who is indifferent to pleasure, joy, as well as sorrow or pain.What are examples of being stoic? ›
For example, a stoic would not desire to win a lottery or celebrate winning it but would view it as a challenge to be faced with virtue such as using the money to help people.What are 2 beliefs of Stoicism? ›
Stoicism can be epitomized by three essential beliefs: (1) that virtue is sufficient for happiness, (2) that other so-called goods should be regarded with indifference, and (3) that the world is providentially ordered by God.What is the most important Stoic lesson? ›
1. Focus on what you can change and don't worry about the things you can't. This is the most important and most practical of the Stoic practices. You can think of this as the 'circle of influence' concept.What are the 3 principles of Stoicism? ›
- The first discipline is the discipline of perception. ...
- The second discipline, action, deals with our relationships with others. ...
- The third discipline, the discipline of will, encompasses our attitude to things that are not within our control.
- Don't focus on outcomes. 'The first thing to keep in mind is the dichotomy of control – the notion that certain things are up to you and other things are not. ...
- Redirect emotions. 'Suppressing emotions doesn't work physiologically. ...
- Accept sacrifice.
These virtues came to be represented by four corresponding animals in the traditional symbol known as the tetramorph: the man of wisdom, eagle of justice, lion of fortitude, and ox or bull of temperance.What is the most important virtue in Stoicism? ›
As we saw, wisdom is often considered to be the primary value in the four virtues of Stoicism, under which all the others sit. Justice is wisdom in social life, courage is wisdom under pressure, temperance is wisdom in decision making.Who is the most famous Stoic? ›
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, born nearly two millennia ago is perhaps the best known Stoic leader in history. He was born in a prominent family but nobody at the time would have predicted that he would one day be Emperor of the Empire.