What the philosopher Marcus Aurelius believed about masculinity
Over the past few decades, there’s been a resurgence of interest in Stoicism. People often confuse stoicism (lower-case), a coping style that involves suppressing or concealing emotions, also called having a “stiff upper-lip,” with Stoicism (capitalized), the ancient Graeco-Roman school of philosophy. Some crudely equate “manliness” with being tough and unemotional (lower-case “stoicism”). I think there’s a more nuanced way to understand how Stoic philosophy might inform a modern man’s conception of his role in society.
I’m delighted to announce that the print quality version of the poster for my forthcoming graphic novel on the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius is now available. The artist Ze Nuno Fraga has created something you can print out and put on your wall, or you can use the web version as a background on your phone.
I get a lot of enquiries from people asking “When is your book coming out in…?” So here’s the current list of translations. There may be more coming, though, this list is just how things stand at the moment.
Donald Robertson, author and psychotherapist, and John Sellars, professor of philosophy at the university of London, will be discussing how ancient Stoic philosophy, which originated in Athens, can help you live a more fulfilling life today.
Everyone is welcome to attend free of charge, to learn more about Stoicism in modern life. The talks will be in English. No need to register, just come along.
Donald Robertson will also be hosting a free “coffee and Stoicism” meeting on Friday 27th September at 1pm in the Vascobelo coffee shop, inside the Scheltema book store, in Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome…
I’ve just arrived in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, where I’ll be staying from 23rd to 28th September to promote the Dutch translation of my latest book on Stoicism, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius or, as it’s known in Dutch, Leer Denken als een Romeinse Keizer. Afterwards, I’m travelling to Athens where I’ll be organizing Stoicon, the Modern Stoicism conference. However, I’ll also be in Belgium for a few days in November, where I’m speaking at the Night of the Freethinker festival in Ghent, on Saturday 9th November.
With the help of my Dutch publisher, Ten Have, I’ll be organizing some talks and interviews, etc. On Friday 27th Sep, I’m planning a free talk about Stoicism in the evening, venue details to be confirmed shortly. However, there will definitely be an informal coffee and Stoicism meetup at the Vascobelo coffee shop in the Scheltema book store in Amsterdam, at 1pm on Friday 27th — everyone is welcome. (See our Facebook event page and click “going” to help us track numbers.)
There’s already been an article with seven tips from Marcus Aurelius, based on the book, in the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. I recently also did an interview about Stoicism with Stefanie Van den Broeck for the Belgian news magazine Knack. While in Amsterdam, I’ll also be doing interviews with the newspaper NRC and the Belgian management magazine MT. I’m also booked as a guest on the Living without Stress with Patrick Kicken.
I recently republished an article I wrote about the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, comparing the therapeutic aspect of his philosophy to modern cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Although Spinoza didn’t acknowledge his own debt to Stoicism, Leibniz described him as pioneering “the sect of the new Stoics”, and the similarities between Spinozism and Stoicism are obvious to most readers. Indeed, I opened How to Think Like a Roman Emperor with the following quote:
I thus perceived that I was in a state of great peril, and I compelled myself to seek with all my strength for a remedy, however uncertain it might be; as a sick man struggling with a deadly disease, when he sees that death will surely be upon him […] is compelled to seek such a remedy with all his strength, inasmuch as his whole hope lies therein. (Spinoza, De Intellectus Emendatione, 4–5)
Aaron T. Beck, quoted Spinoza, alongside the Stoics, in Cognitive Therapy & the Emotional Disorders (1976), the very first book on his cognitive therapy approach:
I saw that all the things I feared, and which feared me had nothing good or bad in them save insofar as the mind was affected by them. (Spinoza, quoted in Beck, 1976:156)
I’m therefore looking forward to visiting the monument to Spinoza in Amsterdam, and also taking a trip to the house where he lived, in Rijnsburg, which is now a museum dedicated to his life and philosophy.
Please feel free to get in touch if you’re based in or near Amsterdam. I know there are quite a variety of people interested in Stoicism in the Netherlands already. For example, a few years ago a group of students at Hermann Wesselink College in Amstelveen participated in Stoic Week, and wrote about the experience. There’s also an Amsterdam Stoics Meetup group, if you’re interested.
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Just be one! — Meditations, 10.16
There’s been a resurgence of interest in Stoicism over the past few decades. The emerging community of modern Stoics naturally divides into several distinct groups, although there’s presumably some overlap between them. One of those consists of guys who are interested in masculinity and often, but not always, the Men’s Movement.
People often confuse stoicism (lower-case), a coping style that involves suppressing or concealing emotions (having a “stiff upper-lip”) with Stoicism (capitalized), the ancient Graeco-Roman school of philosophy. Some crudely equate manliness with being tough and unemotional (lower-case “stoicism”) but I think many others do have a more nuanced understanding of how Stoic philosophy might inform a modern man’s conception of his role in society.
By D. Robertson and T. Codd, originally published in The Behavior Therapist, vol. 42, no. 2, Feb 2019
Abstract: Stoicism provides the clearest example of a system of psychotherapy in ancient Greek or Roman philosophy. Albert Ellis acknowledged that some of the central principles of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy were “originally discovered and stated” by the Stoics and Beck that “the philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers.” However, the emphasis on mindfulness and living in accord with values in Stoicism was largely ignored by them and unknown to the third-wave psychotherapists who followed them. This article highlights Stoicism’s similarities to modern mindfulness and acceptance-based CBT and its potential as an approach to building emotional resilience.