We need a more powerful and new stoicism! That insight leads us to following question: How do we create the new modern-day stoicism? Simple! We answer the same questions as the old Stoics with our modern-day knowledge.
Ancient Philosophy vs Modern-day Philosophy
If you ask today what philosophy is, almost everybody will tell you it’s the search for truth. But, the first philosophic schools in ancient Greek taught something else. Cynicism, Epicureanism, Skepticism, Stoicism and many other schools taught how to live a good life.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius
They tried to answer the question, how to live a good life.
A Virtuous Life is a Good Life
But, what do Stoics mean with by virtuous life? The Stoics thought that we live virtuous, if we live according to our nature.
Now, what does living according to nature mean? What distinguishes us humans from animals is the ability to think rational. We are designed to be reasonable.
(This is one of the reasons why Greek stoicism emphasized and taught logic, physics and ethics.)
We are also designed to be social creatures. We live in a society. Thus, we should serve society.
Those 2 ideas are core maxims of stoicism.
“All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.” – Immanuel Kant
The Stoics tried to answer the questions, how to think/act (more) rational, and how to best serve society.
The Romans emphasized Tranquility
Stoic Tranquility is the absence of negative emotions like anger, anxiety and the presence of positive emotions like confidence.
(It’s strange that society today thinks of Stoics as people who show no emotions at all.)
For the Roman Stoics a virtuous life led to tranquility and vice versa.
We can see that correlation best at work. We enjoy working on tasks we’re good at and hate working on tasks we’re bad at.
“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” – Marcus Aurelius
The (Roman) Stoics tried to answer the question, how to achieve tranquility.
When life gives you lemons …
Before we can summarize all the questions the new stoicism needs to answer we have to explain one last fundamental insight.
We can’t control the world. We can’t control every situation. We can’t control random events.
Life will put obstacles in our ways and we can’t do anything about it. Life’s a b***h!
But, what we can control is how we react to those obstacles.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
Will we make lemonade or give up? That is up to us?
The Stoics tried to answer the question, how to cope with the obstacles, problems and setbacks life throws at us.
A More Powerful And New Stoicism Must Teach
How to live a good life
How to think/act (more) rational
How to best serve society
How to achieve tranquility
How to cope with the obstacles, problems and setbacks life throws at us
Now we have the questions, stoicism tried to answer. To create a new modern stoicism we should answer the questions with our modern-day knowledge. We also need to apply our context and our world-view, not the ancient one.
An example is my article on Pro-Con lists. Benjamin Franklin invented them a long time after the closing of all stoic schools. Pro-Con lists help us to make better decisions. They make us more rational. Thus, they are part of the StoicMindset.
Let’s use our modern-day knowledge to create a new stoicism! You can find my contributions under StoicMindset.
What do you think should be part of the new stoicism, StoicMindeset? Please tell us your ideas in the comments.
Gaius Wolf, Munich 1.July.2016
P.S. Under the category StoicMindset I write about topics, that I think should be part of the new stoicism.