What is Stoicism? Search for a Stoicism definition on the web and you will find few results. Almost all are academic; too academic. They are strong compressed and hard to understand. The answer is actually easy.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius
The key to an easy to understand Stoicism definition is not to compress it into one sentence!
Stoicism is an old philosophical school that teaches how to live a good and tranquil life. For the Stoics a good life is a life according to nature.
They believe that two characteristics are the core of human nature.
Ability To Think Rational
The first characteristic, is the ability to think rational and to reason. They emphasize that the ability to think rational is what distinguishes us from animals. It is the core human characteristic! Thus, they concluded we should train the ability and use it as often as possible. This should lead to a live according to nature.
(For that reason the first Stoic schools, in ancient Greek, had taught logic, physics and ethics.)
Need For A Tribe
The second characteristic, is our need for a social group. The first Stoics realized that we can’t live alone. To be truly human we need others around us. Otherwise, we become savages. We need a tribe, a bonding group, family, or society. However, you want to call it. As we depend on society, we have a responsibility to serve society. Living with others isn’t easy. We need to be useful to them.
“We are members of one great body, planted by nature…. We must consider that we were born for the good of the whole” – Seneca
From Plato, and other philosophers, the Stoics learned that every emotion and character trait has a positive and negative side. Confidence is good; over-confidence is bad. Anger can be a great motivator but also very destructive. All emotions and character traits are that way! Thus, it is a good idea to channel the negative emotions into positive ones.
Stoic tranquility is the same idea applied to joy and excitement. Too much of a good thing can make you sick and addicted. Instead of joy and excitement, Stoicism teaches a calm, long-lasting joy.
Stoic tranquility is a calm joy. Or, in other words the absence of negative and destructive emotions.
(This doesn’t mean that Stoics don’t enjoy excitement and joy. They do. But, they don’t chase it like most people do.)
How to Stoicism
Now we know what Stoics do but not how they do it. Stoicism teaches also the how. That makes it a practical philosophy. It also distinguishes it from many other philosophies.
The how to is given in different forms like:
Advice; a good example are Seneca’s Moral letters to Lucilius
Practices; like expectation management
Exercises; like negative visualization
Detailed Stoicism Definition
Stoicism is an old philosophical school that teaches how to (advice, practices, exercises) live a good (according to nature) and tranquil (calm long-lasting joy) life.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius
If you want to know more about Stoicism, you should check out following articles:
- What Is The Meaning Of Deo Volente
- What Is The True Meaning Of Living According To Nature
- Why We Need A More Powerful And New Stoicism
How To Create A More Powerful And New Stoicism