fbpx
Categories
Stoicism

This article was about the Stoics’ disagreement with Peterson, though, and whereas he says we…

This article was about the Stoics’ disagreement with Peterson, though, and whereas he says we should channel our anger in a more “righteous” direction, the Stoics pointed out (correctly) that saying that sort of thing ignores the fact that anger is cognitively mediated, i.e., based on certain underlying values and beliefs. The Stoics think we should try to identify what those are and critically evaluate them because they’re usually based on faulty irrational assumptions about events.

Categories
Stoicism

Stoicism in Gladiator 2

The Sequel to the Russell Crowe Movie

The Sequel to the Russell Crowe Movie

“The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor.” — Commodus, Gladiator

Update. Ridley Scott stated in a Nov 2021 interview with Collider:

Oh, it’s been written. It’s already been written. We have a good footprint, a good, logical place to go. You can’t just do another Gladiator type movie. You’ve got to follow… there’s enough components from the first one to pick up the ball and continue it.

Deadline recently announced that Paramount Pictures have green-lit a sequel to the hugely successful sword-and-sandals action movie, Gladiator (2000). Gladiator 2 will be directed, like its forerunner, by Ridley Scott. Back in 2006, the musician Nick Cave wrote a fairly surreal script for Gladiator 2 that was perhaps bound to be rejected by the studio. This time it’s been announced that Peter Craig, who worked on two of the Hunger Games films, is writing a new script.

It’s been reported that Gladiator 2 will continue the story of Lucius Verus II, the young son of Lucilla and grandson of Marcus Aurelius in the original movie.

Of course, Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character, dies at the end of Gladiator. So how can there be a sequel? Well, it’s been reported that Gladiator 2 will continue the story of Lucius Verus II, the young son of Lucilla and grandson of Marcus Aurelius in the original movie. In reality, although Lucilla and her husband Lucius Verus did have a son called Lucius Aurelius Verus, he died young unlike the corresponding character in the movie. Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, is described in the movie as Lucius’ uncle.

Producer Walter F. Parkes has confirmed “It picks up the story 30 years later… 25 years later.” Lucius was a child of about twelve years old in the original, so we can probably expect to see him in his late thirties or early forties. Given that Gladiator was set in 180 AD, it seems the sequel will be set around 205/210 AD. In the real world, this would be during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus.

Will I be known as the philosopher, the warrior, the tyrant. — Marcus Aurelius, Gladiator

Maximus in Gladiator

There’s obviously a fair amount about Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus in Gladiator. It’s not, of course, meant to be entirely historically accurate. Much of the the story is fictional, although many details do correspond with real aspects of Roman history. For example, Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus Decimus Meridius, isn’t real. However, he does bear some resemblance to the real Marcus Aurelius’ senior general during the Marcomannic Wars, Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus.

Seemingly like Crowe’s character, Pompeianus rose from from humble origins to become the most highly regarded general on the northern frontier and a trusted advisor to Marcus Aurelius. Whereas Crowe’s character seems romantically linked with Marcus’ daughter Lucilla, in real life Pompeianus actually married her. Marcus reputedly asked Pompeianus to keep an eye on Commodus after he died but the young emperor abandoned the military camps and returned to Rome, leaving Pompeianus behind. Moreover, like Crowe’s Maximus, Pompeianus was reputedly asked by Marcus to serve as his interim successor, as emperor, not to restore the republic, as in the film, but until Commodus was mature enough to assume the throne. For some reason unknown, Pompeianus refused — like Crowe’s character, perhaps, he was reluctant to assume this kind of power.

In his youth, Marcus Aurelius was also friends with an older Roman general, a Stoic, called Claudius Maximus, who became a mentor to him. Marcus remembers him as being a highly self-disciplined, focused, plain-spoken, and down-to-earth man. Some of his traits appear relevant to Crowe’s similarly-named character:

[I learned from Maximus:] to be master of oneself, and never waver in one’s resolve… to set to work on the task at hand without complaint. And the confidence he inspired in everyone that what he was saying was just what he thought… never to be surprised or discontented; and never to act in haste, or hang back, or be at a loss, or be downcast, and never to fawn on others… To give the impression of being someone who never deviates from what is right rather than one who has to be kept on the right path; and how nobody would ever have imagined that Maximus looked down on him, or yet have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus… — Meditations, 1.15

In an ancient novel called The Golden Ass by Apuleius, a contemporary of Marcus Aurelius, the same Maximus is described as a highly disciplined Roman statesman and general, with extensive military experience, committed to the Stoic philosophy of life.

Perhaps this was unintentional, but Crowe’s Maximus character seems like a hybrid of these two real-life Roman generals, Pompeianus and Claudius Maximus, combining some aspects of the former’s life with some of the character traits attributed by Marcus to the latter.

Stoicism in Gladiator

The original script for Gladiator reputedly wasn’t very good. In recent interview, Russell Crowe said that among other changes he fought to have some philosophical themes from The Meditations incorporated.

I also remember talking about Marcus Aurelius and what a goldmine he would be in terms of thematics. And everybody else in the room, apart from Rid [Ridley Scott], was like, “What the fuck is he talking about?” They didn’t know that Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher. So I bought every one of ’em a copy of Meditations.

Crowe adds:

I still have a quote from it on the wall in my office: ‘Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear.’ Every piece of shit that was thrown at me, every challenge on that set, I would refer myself to that quote [laughs]. — Russell Crowe, Empire, June 2020

There are references in Gladiator to Marcus Aurelius being a philosopher.

My father spent all his time at study, reading books, learning his philosophy. — Commodus, Gladiator

Stoicism, unfortunately, is never mentioned by name. Nevertheless, at one point Maximus does recite the “Nothing happens to anybody…” quote above, from The Meditations (5.18). We can probably discern three additional references to Stoic philosophy in the script. The first is a sort of negative allusion, where Commodus is talking about the virtues he lacks:

You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues — wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance. As I read the list I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, Father… But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn’t want me for your son. — Commodus, Gladiator

Anyone familiar with Greek philosophy will recognize these as the four “cardinal virtues” associated with the Socratic tradition, especially Stoicism. Notice that Commodus says that Marcus wrote to him of these virtues, which he actually wrote of many times in The Meditations.

In a 2003 article about Gladiator and Stoicism, the philosopher John Sellars has argued that the most Stoic character in the film is actually Proximo, portrayed by the late Oliver Reed. While training his gladiators, Proximo says:

Ultimately, we’re all dead men, sadly we cannot choose how, but we can decide how we meet that end in order that we are remembered as men. — Proximo, Gladiator

Apart perhaps from the concern with how they are remembered, this sounds very much like typical Stoicism. We should accept our own death as natural and inevitable, placing more importance on how we choose to meet it than upon the event befalling us itself.

He also says to Maximus:

Marcus Aurelius is dead. We mortals are but shadows and dust, shadows and dust, Maximus. — Proximo, Gladiator

Proximo later repeats the phrase “shadows and dust” to himself as he meets his own demise, being encircled and executed by Commodus’ guards. It might remind us of passages such as the following:

Let your thoughts constantly dwell on those who have been greatly aggrieved at something that came to pass, and those who have achieved the heights of fame, or affliction, or enmity, or any other kind of fortune; and then ask yourself, ‘What has become of all that?’ Smoke and ashes and merely a tale, or not even so much as a tale. — Meditations, 12.27

Shadows and dust; smoke and ashes… Finally, toward the end of the movie, Maximus laughs as he says to Commodus:

I knew a man once who said, death smiles at us all. All that man can do is smile back. — Maximus, Gladiator

Commodus sneers “I wonder. Did your friend smile at his own death?”, to which Maximus replies “You must know. He was your father”, thereby attributing the saying to Marcus Aurelius. There are no direct quotations from The Meditations in Gladiator but some commentators have seen this line as resembling a loose paraphrase of the book’s final sentence:

So make your departure with a good grace, as he who is releasing you shows a good grace. — Meditations, 12.36

It’s also been compared to a passage near the start of the book, which concludes:

[Seek to die not] with complaints on your lips, but with a truly cheerful mind and grateful to the gods with all your heart. — Meditations, 2.3

In any case, although phrased somewhat differently it’s fair to say that Maximus’ line in the movie about smiling back at death captures a typical idea from The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus and Stoicism in Gladiator 2

We know very little as yet about the sequel to Gladiator. However, I’m hopeful that we may see a few more traces of Stoicism in the movie for the following reasons. First of all, it would seem only natural for the character of Lucius to make allusions to his deified grandfather, the emperor Marcus Aurelius, much as the characters of Maximus and Proximo did in the original film.

At the end of Gladiator, both Commodus and Maximus are dead. Lucius Verus, Marcus’ son-in-law, adoptive brother, and the father of the boy Lucius Verus II had already passed away before the start of the movie. So it’s not clear where that leaves things regarding the succession. Perhaps, as Marcus requested before he died, Rome will return to being a republic, although that might be too much at odds with the real history of events. Perhaps the boy Lucius is perceived as the rightful heir to the throne, although during this period, at roughly twelve, he’d probably have been considered too young to actually assume the position of emperor. Perhaps, therefore, someone steps in and seizes power, becoming either emperor or dictator of Rome — that would seem the most likely scenario to me. It would make sense dramatically because it would leave Lucius disenfranchised from the imperial succession, most certainly placing his life in danger because he’d be perceived as having a rival claim to the throne. He’d probably be forced into exile, if that’s the case.

Lucius’ mother Lucilla was still alive at the end of Gladiator. By the time of the sequel, she would be aged roughly 55–60. Unless she’s passed away between times, we’d naturally expect to see her and it would be surprising if she didn’t at least mention her famous father, especially as the events surrounding his death presumably set the stage, in part, for this episode in the story. So it seems likely to me that Marcus Aurelius will at least be mentioned in the new movie and if they’re going to do that, as in Gladiator, it’s arguably a good opportunity to throw in some more hints of the philosophy for which he was famous.

I recently wrote a book called How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. In fact, I’m currently working on a graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, due for publication by St. Martin’s when it’s complete. So I’m eager to see Gladiator 2 when it’s released because I’m very interested in this part of history. Although it only really hinted at ideas from Stoic philosophy, I know the first Gladiator movie did encourage a great many people to learn more about Marcus Aurelius and The Meditations. So perhaps the sequel might also have a similar effect.

Categories
Stoicism Uncategorized

Medium: Stoicism in Gladiator 2

“The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor.” — Commodus, Gladiator

Deadline recently announced that Paramount Pictures have green-lit a sequel to the hugely successful sword-and-sandals action movie, Gladiator (2000). Gladiator 2 will be directed, like its forerunner, by Ridley Scott. Back in 2006, the musician Nick Cave wrote a fairly surreal script for Gladiator 2 that was perhaps bound to be rejected by the studio. This time it’s been announced that Peter Craig, who worked on two of the Hunger Games films, is writing a new script.

Of course, Maximus, Russell Crowe’s character, dies at the end of Gladiator. So how can there be a sequel? Well, it’s been reported that Gladiator 2 will continue the story of Lucius Verus II, the young son of Lucilla and grandson of Marcus Aurelius in the original movie. In reality, although Lucilla and her husband Lucius Verus did have a son called Lucius Aurelius Verus, he died young unlike the corresponding character in the movie. Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, is described in the movie as Lucius’ uncle.

Producer Walter F. Parkes has confirmed “It picks up the story 30 years later… 25 years later.” Lucius was a child of about twelve years old in the original, so we can probably expect to see him in his late thirties or early forties. Given that Gladiator was set in 180 AD, it seems the sequel will be set around 205/210 AD. In the real world, this would be during the reign of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus.

Will I be known as the philosopher, the warrior, the tyrant. — Marcus Aurelius, Gladiator

Read the rest of this article free of charge on Medium.

Categories
Stoicism

“Lastly, it was simply my observation that you were biased.

Well, for what it’s worth, as I already mentioned, my opinion is that when you accuse someone of bias, in this way, you’re committing the…

“Lastly, it was simply my observation that you were biased. If I’m wrong then of course I will adjust accordingly.”

Well, for what it’s worth, as I already mentioned, my opinion is that when you accuse someone of bias, in this way, you’re committing the ad hominem fallacy and it’s very important to point that out because it derails rational debate. That’s generally understood in disciplines such as philosophy.

In other words, I don’t think I’m biased and you think I do but so what? It’s neither here nor there — it’s just a diversion from the substance of the argument. Whether or not someone is biased the arguments they provide and evidence they cite still have to be answered in the same way. Moreover, it’s a claim you’re making without knowing me or having any means of supporting. It’s pointless and simply acts as an obstacle to having a conversation that approaches the question objectively and properly evaluates the claims being made by Peterson in his book.

Categories
Stoicism

Well, the short answer is that we have huge volumes of evidence on the effects of training in CBT…

Well, the short answer is that we have huge volumes of evidence on the effects of training in CBT, which is based on a premise derived from Stoicism, as discussed in this article. So arguably that provides at least some indirect evidence of the general feasibility of training in Stoicism. We also have several studies conducted by Modern Stoicism from which data have been published showing the effects of training in Stoicism to be of benefit to the majority of participants.

Categories
Stoicism

He certainly doesn’t say that about the observation we’re talking about in the article, though.

He certainly doesn’t say that about the observation we’re talking about in the article, though. And it would clash with most other people’s clinical experience, I think. So he’d have to make a pretty strong case for that to justify using it as evidence in support of his claims.

Categories
Stoicism

You start off by criticizing the motives of someone in order to justify your criticisms of their…

I said that Peterson doesn’t provide any justification for his generalizations because… he doesn’t. If it’s based on his clinical…

You start off by criticizing the motives of someone in order to justify your criticisms of their statements. That’s what we call the ad hominem fallacy in philosophy. I disagreed with what Peterson said about anger, and provided my reasoning for doing so. It wasn’t my intention simply to critique him for the sake of it but even if that were true it wouldn’t make any difference to the validity of the points I’ve made.

I said that Peterson doesn’t provide any justification for his generalizations because… he doesn’t. If it’s based on his clinical experience (which I doubt) he doesn’t say so. I have thousands of hours of clinical experience as well and it conflicts with my observations. The fact remains that he makes these generalizations without substantiating them.

I understand that you don’t like what I’ve written but you would have to back that up by providing some sort of justification for your opinions otherwise it’s not really relevant to anyone else.

Categories
Stoicism

Book Review: The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

A Philosophical User’s Manual

A Philosophical User’s Manual

The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual is a new book by Ward Farnsworth. Farnsworth is Dean of the University of Texas School of Law. He has previously written books on rhetoric, one specifically about the use of metaphor. This book struck me first and foremost as having been written with exceptional verbal clarity and precision. Perhaps that’s due in part to the author’s knowledge of rhetoric and his interest in the law.

I really enjoyed the book. It’s a valuable and well-written addition to the growing body of literature on Stoicism. In addition to being very nicely written, it’s also very well-organized and it includes many quotes from ancient Stoics and related thinkers that will probably be unfamiliar to most readers interested in Stoicism. So it definitely adds something — it’s not just another beginner’s guide to Stoicism.

The content consists of quotations from various relevant authors — from Epictetus and Cicero to Montaigne and Schopenhauer. Some of these were taken from existing translations and some are new. They’re organized thematically in chapters about the topics of judgement, externals, perspective, death, desire, wealth and pleasure, what others think, valuation, emotion, adversity, virtue, and learning. Farnsworth includes his own commentary, which I found insightful, original, and therefore quite valuable.

He concludes with a chapter called Stoicism and its Critics which cites important objections made by other authors against Stoic philosophy. These are addressed and, again, this is worth reading because it dispels several common misconceptions about Stoicism such as the idea that Stoics are cold-hearted, unemotional, or lacking compassion.

I particularly liked his point that the goal of Stoicism resembles the sort of emotional response we’d expect someone to have to distressing events if they could have lived much longer and experienced them enough times to become used to them. He explains the Stoic attitude to consoling grieving friends as follows…

Your attitude might resemble that of a doctor — a very good one let’s say — who has had a long career of working with dying patients and their families. In the best doctor of that sort we would find kindness, warmth, and compassion. There would be feeling. But emotion [passion] would be unlikely. You would sympathize but you would not go through mourning of your own. You would have seen it all too many times for that.

In conclusion, I’d definitely encourage others interested in Stoicism to read this book. It’s probably one of the best books on the subject that I’ve read recently. As I mentioned above, it’s very well-written, using admirably precise language, and the selection and organization of quotes from the primary sources was very well done.

Those of you who have read some books on Stoicism already will definitely find this a fresh take on things and I’d also think that newcomers to the subject would enjoy it and find it accessible.

Categories
Stoicism

Books on Philosophy and Psychotherapy

Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson

I often get asked about books I’ve written or edited, or to which I’ve contributed. So this post is intended to provide some brief comments on each of them.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (2019)

This is a deluxe hardback edition of The Meditations. I was invited to update the classic George Long translation from Victorian English to modern English for the Capstone Classics series, an imprint of Wiley & Sons. I also contributed the introduction about Marcus Aurelius’ life, philosophy, and writing. I consulted the original Greek as well as several popular English translations to update the text the goal being to make Long’s words more accessible to modern readers.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (2019)

This is my most popular book to date, published by St. Martin’s, part of Macmillan. It combines anecdotes about the life of Marcus Aurelius with commentary on his use of Stoic philosophy and how that might be compared to modern evidence-based psychological skills, of the sort used in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). The most popular version has proven to be the audiobook, which I narrated myself at a recording studio in Toronto.

The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy (2010/2019)

This was my first book on philosophy and psychotherapy. It was intended for academics and psychotherapists but turned out to be more popular with the general public. It’s recently been published in a revised second edition, which contains hundreds of small changes plus a whole new chapter on third-wave CBT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT) and Stoicism.

Teach Yourself: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013/2019)

This is a general introduction to Stoicism as a form of self-help. I was invited to write a book on Stoicism for Hodder’s popular Teach Yourself series. Like Build your Resilience, this follows a pretty specific series format with lots of bullet points and information boxes, designed to help people learn ideas and practices and remember them. A revised second edition was recently published which contains hundreds of small changes and a whole new chapter on Stoicism and death.

The Routledge Handbook of the Stoic Tradition (2017)

John Sellars, the editor, invited me to contribute a chapter on Stoicism and modern psychotherapy for this Routledge anthology on the history of Stoic philosophy.

The Beginners’ Guide to Counselling and Psychotherapy (2015)

Prof. Stephen Palmer, the editor, invited me to contribute a chapter on cognitive-behavioural approaches to hypnotherapy for the second edition of this Sage anthology on different styles of psychotherapy.

Teach Yourself: Build Your Resilience (2012)

I was asked by Hodder to write a book on emotional-resilience building for their popular Teach Yourself series. It follows a very specific format, including information boxes and bullet point lists, etc. This book is based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and research on resilience building in general. It’s designed as a self-help guide for the general public.

The Practice of Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy: A Manual for Evidence-Based Clinical Hypnosis (2013)

This is a comprehensive clinical textbook on evidence-based, cognitive-behavioural approaches to clinical hypnosis. It provides reviews of the relevant research and a detailed account of assessment and treatment that combines hypnotherapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) practices with a research-based cognitive-behavioural theory of hypnosis.

The Discovery of Hypnosis: The Complete Writings of James Braid, the Father of Hypnotherapy (2013)

This was my first book. I edited the complete writings of my fellow Scot, James Braid, the founder of hypnotherapy. Braid was a skeptic who dedicated his life to debunking spiritualism and pseudoscience. He developed hypnotism as an alternative to Mesmerism, based on the Scottish common sense realist philosophical psychology, which was popular during his day. I argue that Braid’s approach is an important precursor to modern skeptical to cognitive-behavioural theories of hypnosis.

Categories
Stoicism

The same point is made in my article.

The same point is made in my article. The Stoics recognized that anger results from fear. It’s a simple concept.