Official Press Release: Stoic Week 2016

Official press release for Stoic Week 2016 and Stoicon.

cropped-socrates-v1-1024x239International Stoic Week is an annual week-long series of free, online events aimed at encouraging public engagement with classical Stoic philosophy and guiding participants in the practice of applying Stoic ideas and practices to the challenges of modern living.

This year, International Stoic Week is scheduled for October 17th-23rd, 2016, following the annual Stoicon Conference in New York City on October 15th. The theme will be Stoicism and Love. The organizing group, Stoicism Today, reports that participation in Stoic Week grew by 66% from 2014 to 2015. Record numbers are expected again this year, surpassing the 3,200 participants worldwide last year.

During Stoic Week, participants will have the opportunity to ‚Äúlive like a Stoic‚ÄĚ by following the Stoic Week Handbook, which contains readings, audio, video, and optional group discussions – along with daily practical exercises that combine elements of ancient Stoicism and modern psychology. The free Handbook is presented online with offline versions available in PDF, EPUB (mobile), and MBI (Kindle) formats.

Members of the Stoicism Today project (a collaborative group of philosophers, psychologists, and psychotherapists) are available to discuss Stoic philosophy, Stoic Week, and other related topics via interviews, lectures, and other appearances.

Participants are also encouraged to schedule their own Stoic Week events and share information with the Stoicism Today team for informing the wider Stoic community.

Follow Stoic Week and Stoicism Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

To support Stoic Week via donation, use their PayPal form.

Media Inquiries about Stoic Week should be directed to Donald Robertson, and inquiries about Stoicon to Massimo Pigliucci.

The Teachings of Zeno of Citium

The teachings of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, summarised and paraphrased by Henry Sedgwick.

Zeno Gem
Gem depicting Zeno of Citium, from British Museum.

Although Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, wrote many books, none of them survive today. However, there are many references to his views and some apparent quotes from his writings scattered throughout ancient secondary sources.

In his Life of Marcus Aurelius (1921), the American author Henry Dwight Sedgwick, attempted to summarise them as follows:

Ye shall not make any graven images,
Neither shall ye build temples to the Gods,
For nothing builded is worthy of the Gods;
The handiwork of artisans and carpenters
Is of little worth, neither is it sacred.

Ye shall not beautify the city,
Save with the righteousness of them that live therein.
Neither shall ye have courts of law.
Love is the god of amity and freedom,
Love is divine, he helpeth to keep the city safe,
He it is that prepareth concord.

Ye shall not live divided into cities and into townships,
Nor be kept asunder by contrary laws;
But ye shall hold all men as fellow citizens and fellow townsmen.
Ye shall have one law and one custom,
Like a flock, herded under one crook, that feedeth together.

The nature of the universe is twofold,
There is that which worketh and that which is wrought upon.
And that which is wrought upon
Is substance that hath neither shape nor form;
And that which worketh upon it
Is the word, and the word is God.
And God is everlasting
And permeateth all substance,
And thereby createth each several thing;
And from this substance proceed all created things.
And the universal whole is substance,
And that into which substance is divided is matter,
And the universal whole becometh neither greater nor less,
But each several thing becometh greater or less;
For the several parts do not remain the same always,
But they part asunder, and again they come together.

God is body, most pure,
And the beginning of all things,
And his providence pervadeth all that is.
God is ether, God is air,
God is spirit of ethereal fire;
He is diffused throughout creation
As honey through the honeycomb;
God goeth to and fro throughout all that is,
God is mind, God is soul, God is nature:
It is God that holdeth the universe together.

The artificer and disposer of the universe
Is the word, and the word is reason;
He is fate.
He is the determining cause of all things, He is Zeus.
In all things is the divine;
The law of nature is divine.
The world and the heavens are the substance of God,
And the divine power worketh in the stars,
And in the years, in the months and in the seasons.

Zeus, Hera and Vesta,
And all the gods and goddesses
Are not Gods, but names
Given to things that lack life and speech;
For Zeus is the sky, Hera the air,
Poseidon the sea, and Hephaestus fire.

Lo, the fountain of life is character.
And from it, in their order, flow forth our actions.
Behold, happiness is the smooth flow of life.
The fulfillment of a man’s life
Is to live in accord with nature;
So to live is to live in righteousness,
For nature leadeth to righteousness,
And the end of life is to live in accord with virtue.

Follow the Gods.
Man is born solely for righteousness,
For righteousness draweth to itself the souls of men
With no lure, no offerings from without,
But of its own splendor.
Virtue of itself is sufficient for happiness;
Righteousness is the sole and only good,
And nothing is evil save that which is vile and base.

Of things that are, some there are
Which are good and some which are evil,
And some which are neither good nor evil.
And the good are these: Wisdom, Sobriety, Justice and Fortitude.
And the evil are these: Folly, Intemperance, Injustice and Cowardice.
And things that are neither good nor evil are indifferent.
And things indifferent are these:
Life and death, good repute and ill repute,
Pain and pleasure, riches and poverty,
Sickness and health, and such like.

And of men there are two sorts,
The upright man and the wicked man;
And the upright man all his life
Will do the things that are right,
But the ways of the wicked are evil.

The wise man is blessed, the wise man is rich;
Only the wise, however needy they be, are rich;
Only the wise, however ill-favored, are beautiful;
For the lineaments of the soul
Are more beautiful than those of the body.
All good men are friends one to another.

Zeno of Citium, copyright the Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduced with permission.
Zeno of Citium, copyright the Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduced with permission.

(Cleomedes has provided his own edited version of these passages from Sedgwick on the Stoicism Subreddit.)

Sedgwick goes on to provide the following, additional maxims attributed to Zeno from the surviving fragments, etc.

The wise man will do all things well,
He will season his porridge wisely.

Give not thine ear unto that which is pleasant;
And take from the flatterer his freedom of speech.

Though ye are able to get sweets from your labors,
Yet ye take them from cookshops.

Sedgwick continues:

His sayings in conversation had the same individuality and vigor: “Better to trip with the feet than the tongue.” “There is nothing we need so much as time.” And he often quoted the remark of a music teacher to a young flute-player who was blowing a great blast on his flute, “Greatness does not make a thing excellent, but excellence makes a thing great.” And when some spendthrifts were excusing themselves, saying that they spent out of a large property, he answered, “So you agree with the cook who put too much salt in his dish, and said he had a great quantity left.” He defined, in accord with Aristotle, a friend as “a second self,” and asserted that a voice should be “the flower of beauty.”

Completing SMRT 2014

SMRT 2016 has now finished – thanks for taking part!

If you haven’t already done so, please read the final Postscript section. ¬†We’d also be very grateful if you just took a minute to complete our (very) brief course evaluation form online. ¬†(Many thanks to those of you who have already submitted your feedback!)

Course Evaluation Form

Some donations have already been received from participants via the PayPal button that’s been added to the site. We’re extremely grateful for even the smallest donations¬†because they¬†help to fund¬†continual development of the site and cover ongoing expenses like our web-hosting costs. You can contribute an amount of your own choosing right now by using this PayPal link. ¬†Thanks for your support!

Some quick facts and figures: Over 2,500 people registered to take part in SMRT 2016.  Over 930 comments were posted in the discussion areas by participants during the course.  Over 970 people submitted SABS questionnaire forms, allowing us to analyse their data.  75% of participants in this course were male, which is higher than some of our previous online courses.

As always, if you need any help, please feel free to contact me.

Regards,

Donald Robertson
Course Facilitator

Announcing Stoic Week 2016

Announcing International Stoic Week 2016, which takes place from Monday 17th ‚Äď Sunday 23rd October. The theme for this year will be: Stoicism and Love.

Zeno of Citium, copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.  Reproduced with permission.
Zeno of Citium, copyright the Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduced with permission.

Stoic Week is an annual event aimed at encouraging public engagement with classical Stoic philosophy, by applying Stoic ideas and practices to the challenges of modern living.  Stoic Week is an international and online event: anyone can take part.  It is now in its fifth consecutive year and has grown steadily in popularity year on year.  Stoic Week is organized by a multi-disciplinary team we call Stoicism Today.

Stoic Week 2016 will take place from Monday 17th ‚Äď Sunday 23rd October. ¬†The theme for this year will be: Stoicism and Love. ¬†It follows the Stoicon conference, which will take place in New York on Saturday 15th October. ¬†During Stoic Week, participants will have the opportunity to live like a Stoic by following our seven-day Stoic Week Handbook, which contains¬†reading, audio, video, and group discussions. ¬†It includes daily practical exercises, which combine elements of ancient Stoicism and modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). ¬†The main version of Stoic Week is an online course. ¬†However, offline versions are also made available, which can be used on mobile devices, using the PDF, EPUB, and MBI (Kindle) e-book formats.

Last year, over 3,200 people from around the world took part in Stoic Week.  We collected data from over 2,500 participants, which was published by Tim LeBon in the Stoic Week 2015 Report available online.  Since it began, Stoic Week has been covered extensively by the media around the world and features heavily in social media discussions and blog posts.  You can follow Stoic Week and Stoicism Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

SMRT Week Four: Stoic Resilience

Welcome to Week Four of SMRT 2016: Stoic Resilience

Week Four: Stoic Resilience

The big question for this week is:

What would be the pros and cons of continually remembering, when starting to feel distressed about a situation or event, that it’s not things that upset us but our judgements about things?

Please take a moment to post your thoughts about this question in the Comment section of the final page in Week Four, after doing reading for this week.

Some donations have already been received from participants via the PayPal button that’s been added to the site. We’re extremely grateful for even the smallest donations¬†because they¬†help to fund¬†continual development of the site and cover ongoing expenses like our web-hosting costs. You can contribute an amount of your own choosing right now by using this PayPal link. ¬†Thanks for your support!

As always, if you need any help, please feel free to contact me.

Regards,

Donald Robertson
Course Facilitator

Paconius Agrippinus

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus liked to present his students with examples of Stoic role models from recent Roman history.  One of his favourite moral exemplars appears to have been the Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher, Paconius Agrippinus.  Epictetus tells this anecdote in which Agrippinus exhibits a typical Stoic attitude toward justice:

When Agrippinus was governor, he used to try to persuade the persons whom he sentenced that it was proper for them to be sentenced. ¬†“For,” he would say, “it is not as an enemy or as a brigand that I record my vote against them, but as curator and guardian; just as also the physician encourages the man upon whom he is operating, and persuades him to submit to the operation.” (Epictetus, fr. 22)

Agrippinus lived during the reign of the Emperor Nero, in the middle of the 1st century AD.  He was exiled from Italy around 67 AD following the execution of the Stoic Senator Thrasea, by Nero.  He sounds like a formidable character.

For this reason it is right to praise Agrippinus, because, although he was a man of the very highest¬†worth, he never praised himself, but used to blush even if someone else praised him. ¬†His character was such, said Epictetus, that when any hardship befell him he would compose a eulogy upon it; on fever, if he had a fever; on disrepute; on exile, if he went into exile. ¬†And once, he said, when Agrippinus was preparing to take lunch, a man brought him word that Nero ordered him into exile; “Very well,” said he, “we shall take our lunch in Aricia.” (Epictetus, fr. 21)

The town of Aricia was apparently the first stop outside of Rome, for those travelling south and east. ¬†Epictetus likewise concludes the first of his Discourses, ‘On what is under our control and what is not’, with the following anecdote:

Wherefore, what was it that Agrippinus used to remark? ¬†“I am not standing in my own way.” ¬†Word was brought him,

“Your case is being tried in the Senate.”

“Good luck betide! But it is the fifth hour now” (he was in the habit of taking his exercise and then a cold bath at that hour); “let us be off and take our exercise.”

After he had finished his exercise someone came and told him,

“You have been condemned.”

“To exile,” says he, “or to death?”

“To exile.”

“What about my property?”

“It has not been confiscated.”

“Well then, let us go to Aricia and take our lunch there.”

This is what it means to have rehearsed the lessons one ought to rehearse, to have set desire and aversion free from every hindrance and made them proof against chance. ¬†I must die. ¬†If forthwith, I die; and if a little later, I will take lunch now, since the hour for lunch has come, and afterwards I will die at the appointed time. ¬†How? ¬†As becomes the man who is giving back that which was another’s. (Discourses, 1.1.28-30)

Epictetus also tells a story about Agrippinus giving advice to another Roman politician, who was swithering about whether to contribute to a festival in honour of Nero, by performing some part in a tragedy.  (Possibly Gessius Florus, the notoriously unpopular procurator of Judea.)

Wherefore, when Florus was debating whether he should enter Nero’s festival, so as to make some personal contribution to it Agrippinus said to him, “Enter.” ¬†And when Florus asked, “Why do you not enter yourself?” he replied, “I? why, I do not even raise the question.” ¬†For when a man once stoops to the consideration of such questions, I mean to estimating the value of externals, and calculates them one by one, he comes very close to those who have forgotten their proper character.

Come, what is this you ask me? ¬†“Is death or life preferable?” ¬†I answer, life. ¬†“Pain or pleasure?” ¬†I answer, pleasure. ¬†“But unless I take a part in the tragedy I shall be beheaded.” ¬†Go, then, and take a part, but I will not take a part. ¬†“Why not?” ¬†Because you regard yourself as but a single thread of all that go to make up the garment. ¬†What follows, then? ¬†This, that you¬†ought to take thought how you may resemble all other men, precisely as even the single thread wants to have no point of superiority in comparison with the other threads. ¬†But¬†I want to be the red, that small and brilliant portion which causes the rest to appear comely and beautiful. Why, then, do you say to me, “Be like the majority of people?” ¬†And if I do that, how shall I any longer be the red? ¬†(Discourses, 1.2.12-13)