The philosopher Socrates once asked why all men praise liberty but so many neglect to acquire self-discipline. Without the virtue of temperance, he reasoned, none of us can truly become wise or free, as we’re bound to be misled and enslaved by our own passions. It was the Stoic school of philosophy, though, founded a century after Socrates’ death, which turned this simple insight into a whole way of life. Socrates taught that in order to attain wisdom, we must free ourselves from violent passions, such as greed and anger.
Today, although we cherish our freedoms more than ever, we’ve largely forgotten that they’re meaningless without the strength of character to make use of them well. For Stoics, the uncomplaining endurance required in Greek military training provided an obvious means of learning discipline. Perhaps for that reason, many of the greatest philosophers of antiquity were soldiers.
2 replies on “Should the Military Teach Stoicism?”
Stoic Warriors Nancy Sherman
Dear Donald, Thank You for your Great Articles,
Being a retired Air Force Officer, I believe that Stoicism is a huge Citadel against the institutional pressures to compromise to get ahead, or even prolong one’s career.
A Military Officer will often be put in compromising and difficult situations throughout their career. The ability to have as Seneca calls it “allegiance to virtue” is supreme.
In my estimation the number one Virtue of a Military Officer is Selflessness to Virtue.
“Stoicism like its Christian Counterparts Puritanism and Calvinism produced men of Courage, Saintliness, Integrity, and Goodwill” Admiral Stockdale
“It is Virtue alone that elevates a man, and raises him superior to what mortals hold dear ” Seneca
“The Gladiator may lower his Weapon and test the pity of the people,
but you will neither lower your Weapon nor beg for life; you must live and die unyielding”