Learning More about Stoicism

This isn’t a course on the history or theory of Stoic philosophy or a general introduction to the subject.  It assumes no prior knowledge but it focuses on a specific handful of key Stoic practices.  You don’t need to know anything else about Stoicism to take part.  However, it will probably help if you do want to find out more. Although it’s not essential, therefore, doing some additional reading about Stoicism may help you to better understand their philosophy and practices and to get more benefit out of this training.

For example, one of the most common misconceptions about Stoicism is that it requires us to be completely unemotional.  That’s not really what the Stoics meant, though.  Instead, they taught that we should aim to overcome irrational, unhealthy, or excessive fears and desires, etc.  In fact, Marcus Aurelius went so far as to describe the goal of Stoicism as being “free from irrational passions and yet full of love” or natural (philanthropic) affection for the rest of mankind.

[q_question text=”There are many good books available. We’d encourage you to begin with a modern introduction and then read some of the classic texts themselves.”]

  • The Stoic Week 2015 Handbook provides a more details introduction to Stoic practice.
  • Books like William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life or my own Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness are intended to be easy to read introductions to Stoic theory and practice for non-academics.
  • The most popular Stoic text that survives from ancient times is the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, so you may want to read that before looking at other ancient sources.
  • The Handbook of Epictetus is also a good starting point, as it provides a concise summary of the key sayings of a famous Stoic teacher.

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If you’re able to do so, we’d like you to post a quick review of your favourite book on Stoicism to the comments section below, as soon as you get a chance.  It doesn’t need to be longer than a couple of paragraphs.

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108 thoughts on “Learning More about Stoicism”

  1. the daily stoic, ryan holiday

    daily quotes out of the three main sources of stoicism added with comments and examples of the author. a good way to start and end the day.

  2. I highly value Irwines book on stoicism, because he makes a good introduction to the ancient time and the different stoic philosophers of these times. Also he points out the major contributors as well as the lesser known (for laymen, that is). Irwines introduction led me to read important texts of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, of which I prefer the latter.

  3. I just have a little tidbit to mention in regard to my favorite stoic literature, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which has always helped me as I try to practice stoicism. He stresses a lot in his writing the fact that it is very important to temper unproductive emotions stemming from things outside of our control. He uses the anecdote with the dog tied to the cart to express that if life is moving a certain way, outside of your control, it does no good to struggle and fight the inevitable…it’s better to just focus on cultivating peace of mind however you can. However, he also teaches the lesson that if something is unsettling you, and it is within your power to change, then act swiftly and rightly because to continue lamenting and not trying to change anything is to miss an opportunity to practice virtue.

  4. In ‘A Guide to the Good Life’, I first learned about what was called ‘the dichotomy of control’, and it has been helping me greatly ever since, as I feel empowered and focused on what is chiefly within my own control.

  5. I read often the Meditations. It’s something amazing: a 1.700 years old text is so actual in our days.
    I’m not always agree with MA: sometimes I find him a bit passive. But afterall is not a religious dogma that should be accepted for complete. Following the stoic principles since 8 months, I became more performing on work and in personal relations, I quite smoking and stay concentrated on the moment, always present to myself. Ever I became less agressive and more emphatic. Stoic principles made my life easier and more pealasant.

  6. Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. Penned from the hand of an emperor, it speaks to master and slave alike, explaining how we each are two fingers on the same hand.

  7. Epictetus’ Discourses and Handbook (trans. by Robin Hard) continue to be my main wellspring. I have also really enjoyed Marcus Aurelius and Seneca (I own the complete letters, but honestly, the various abridged editions cover everything you need).