Friday, July 11, 2014

Alain de Botton on the Stoics

Link to article: The Great Philosophers 2: The Stoics
‘Stoicism’ was a philosophy that flourished for some 400 years in Ancient Greece and Rome, gaining widespread support among all classes of society. It had one overwhelming and highly practical ambition: to teach people how to be calm and brave in the face of overwhelming anxiety and pain. 
We still honour this school whenever we call someone ‘stoic’ or plain ‘philosophical’ when fate turns against them: when they lose their keys, are humiliated at work, rejected in love or disgraced in society. Of all philosophies, Stoicism remains perhaps the most immediately relevant and useful for our uncertain and panicky times. 
Many hundreds of philosophers practiced Stoicism but two figures stand out as our best guides to it: the Roman politician, writer and tutor to Nero, Seneca [AD 4-65]; and the kind and magnanimous Roman Emperor (who philosophised in his spare time while fighting the Germanic hordes on the edges of the Empire), Marcus Aurelius [AD 121 to 180]. Their works remain highly readable and deeply consoling, ideal for sleepless nights, those breeding grounds for runaway terrors and paranoia.

Related previous post: Stoicism quotes, thoughts, and readings

Related books (Stoicism-related):

William Irvine: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (or Kindle format

Epictetus: Enchiridion (or Kindle format)

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations (or Kindle format)

Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings (or Kindle format)

Arthur Schopenhauer: Essays and Aphorisms (or Kindle format)

Viktor Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning (or Kindle format)

On the fiction side of things, Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full (or Kindle format)