Clinton Pavlovic

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Stoicism

2020-09-07

I've been interested in stoic philosophy since reading William Irvine's "Guide to the Good Life" in 2016. I've since read a lot of books on the subject. I do find the philosophy useful in daily life, but I wouldn't call myself a practicing stoic.

According to Wikipedia:

[Stoicism] is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

The Stoics are especially known for teaching that virtue is the only good for human beings, and that external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves (adiaphora), but have value as material for virtue to act upon. Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to virtue ethics.

I credit my interest in stoicism for sparking my interest in philosophy and ancient history, particularly Greek and Roman history.

This is a transcript of some notes that I took from different sources in the past, which I've found useful to revisit. It's not intended as a guide, but serves as a reminder of the main principles.

Stoic system

Stoic virtues and stoic disciplines are two different ways to explain and practice stoic philosophy.

For example, Epictetus teaches according to the different disciplines (see 3 of his discourses).

Stoic virtues

Stoic disciplines (practice)

Stoic theory


Stoic canon

The primary sources of stoic philosophy are the writings of Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. These authors should be the starting point for anyone interesting in exploring the primary texts

I've marked the must-read writings on stoicism with an asterix*

Aristotle (322 bce)

The Nicomachean Ethics, by Aristotle, isn't a stoic text, but it does form a good basis of ethical thought.

Early fragments

Early stoic texts have been lost in time. Sections of the lost texts are, however, referred to and quoted in surviving texts.

These early fragments are collected in The Stoics Reader, by Inwood and Gershon.

Cicero (43 bce)

Seneca (65 ce)

All of Seneca's writings on stoicism should be read. However, as a start, Seneca's letters to lucilius are excellent. You can also consider reading Seneca's many plays.

Musonius Rufus (101 ce)

Epictetus (135 ce)

Marcus Aurelius (180 ce)

Cleomedes (371 ce)


Modern stoic websites

I've linked to some interesting stoic philosophy websites in my 2018 daily reading list.

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