Today's guest is Donald Robertson, renowned expert on stoicism.I was looking forward to this chat for a long time, and it does not disappoint. Stoics are mainly concerned with their wisdom and their character, and therefore process events that happen to them according to the effect of the event on their wisdom and character, first and foremost. This is an extremely powerful tool for dealing with life's hardships, including the pandemic.Donald is a writer, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapist and trainer. He’s a specialist in teaching evidence-based psychological skills, and known as an expert on the relationship between modern psychotherapy (CBT) and classical Greek and Roman philosophy. His therapy practice specialized for many years in helping clients with social anxiety and self-confidence issues. He is also the author of six books and many articles on philosophy, psychotherapy, and psychological skills training. His latest book How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius was #1 best seller in philosophy, and he's also edited and written the introduction to Capstone Classics' new edition of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.In Part 1, we discuss:What is stoicism?How stoicism deals with anger and our blind spotsDo people do wrong because they're fundamentally bad?Moral blindness is a more severe disability than physical blindnessRehab and reform those who wrong vs. punishing themLies of omissionThe ideal stoic: someone mainly concerned about their wisdom or characterHow stoicism is growing in popularity, especially during the pandemicHow Greek tragedies would have been very different with wiser charactersHow blessings can be a curse and curses can be a blessingIs venting emotions healthy, or should we not let them bother us?The difference between grief and pathological depressionThere's nothing anger can do that can't be done better with love and compassionCognitive distancing and the ability to consider multiple perspectivesThe four thoughts of wisdomInstagram: @mo_gawdatFacebook: @mo.gawdat.officialTwitter: @mgawdatLinkedIn: /in/mogawdatConnect with Donald Robertson on Instagram @howtothinklikearomanemperor, Facebook @robertsontraining, on Twitter @DonJRobertson, and on his website, donaldrobertson.nameDon't forget to subscribe to Slo Mo for new episodes every Monday and Thursday. Only with your help can we reach One Billion Happy #onebillionhappy.
I have applied Stoicism to contemporary and contentious problems (climate change, vegetarianism, immigration, economic inequality) that challenge us in the 21st century.
My unique selling point is that I have combined my philosophical and engineering/applied science expertise, to give readers a more in-depth understanding of the complexity of the problems and their potential solutions from a Stoic perspective. (website)
Quotes from others:
The Stoicism and sustainability lecturer and researcher Kai Whiting’s work centers around applying ancient wisdom to these challenges, how the “life well-lived” translates into something bigger than our personal endeavors – Daily Stoic
“Of the talks I liked this morning, particularly liked the one on “Stoicism and sustainability”. He made a very clear talk. My eldest son is an environmental scientist, I was thinking “I wish he was here” – Stoicon 2018, audience member
“The one that really inspired me is the sustainability [talk]. Stoicism has always been about myself, not necessarily about the wider world… but that’s given me a bit of a different perspective on it” Stoicon 2018, audience member
Topics I Cover
(The brackets are just so you can see, where the expertise comes from)
Kleomenes III and Sphaerus’ Stoic social and land reforms in Sparta (Chapter 7)
Stoicism and progressive education (Chapter 7, academic paper and chapter)
Stoicism and unjust Economic Inequality (Chapter 5)
The contemporary sage (various podcasts)
Stoic God (Chapter 8, various academic papers)
Stoicism and Islam (Chapter 8)
Environment, climate change (various)
Stoicism and politics (chat with Greg Sadler)
Stoicism and immigration (Chapter 6)
Stoicism and fate (Chapter 4, the cylinder and the dog to the cart)
The story of the REAL connection between Stoicism and Sparta
How Stoicism offers solutions to educators
Stoicism is not indifferent to politics and certain types of activism (Cato, Cicero, Julius Caesar etc)
Stoicism for a better world: The missing component of self-help
The immigration stories in Stoicism (Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus)
Taking Stoicism Beyond the Self: The Power To Change Society
Why do you say that Stoicism is anything but a “dead white man” philosophy?
“Silicon Valley Stoicism” focuses on corporate exploits, but your book says Stoicism is much more community based than that – where have they got it wrong?
You state that self-help shouldn’t be only about the self. Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction in terms?
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy but yet your book talks about climate breakdown, the civil rights movement and economic inequality. How can you say that ancient wisdom has something to say about modern life?
Stoicism and Sparta are often linked by male lifehackers because of a perceived sense of toughness but your book talks about a Spartan Queen and land reforms! Why is the popularity perception and historic reality so different?
In your book, you tell the story of Muslims bridging the gap between themselves and the local English community through the building of an eco-mosque. Why do you say that is a good “Stoic” example? Is Islam and Stoicism the same?
How can Stoicism help us build community and cope with COVID?
Freud was not the first psychotherapist. Thousands of years ago, in Greece and Rome, a great many books and poems were written about techniques of psychological therapy. Among the most explicitly therapeutic philosophies were the two great rival Hellenistic schools of Stoicism and Epicureanism.
It is curious to note both the differences and similarities between ancient and modern psychotherapy. One striking difference is that the ancients tended to focus their therapeutic endeavours on different maladies than the ones with which therapists are nowadays are concerned. One cannot read the Stoics, e.g., without noticing that they think of anger as being a much more significant problem than anxiety or depression. However, it is to another, far graver, preoccupation of the ancient philosopher-therapists that we now turn: the treatment of pathological love.
Tomorrow, Saturday 17th Oct, is Stoicon 2020, the 8th international Modern Stoicism conference. We originally had a limit of 1,000 attendees but have managed to extend our capacity by creating an overflow feature. So we’re now anticipating over 1,500 attendees, making this the largest Stoicism conference ever.
Ticket price is by donation – you choose the amount. We have 24 speakers in total, including some well-known authors and academics. See the event listing for full program details. Our keynote this year is from William B. Irvine, author of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy.
Don’t worry if you’re in a different time zone or can’t make the whole event for some other reason. All presentations will be recorded and available afterwards to registered attendees to watch at your leisure.
Book now to avoid missing out. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!
I’ve been immersed in writing a graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius for the past couple of years now. I get lots of questions about the project so I’ve decided to finally break my silence and write about the whole experience of creating Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. From what I’ve learned, people approach writing comics and graphic novels in lots of different ways. This article is about how we went about things and what our experience has been like so far.
The book will be available in roughly a year’s time, published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s going to be about 250 pages, full colour. The illustrator, Ze Nuno Fraga, has just started inking and colouring the pages. So I figured it was a good time to pause and reflect on the experience as we’ve reached a crucial stage.
Holiday and Hanselman are well-known to many as the authors of the bestselling The Daily Stoic. Holiday is also the author of a trilogy of successful books inspired, among other things, by his interest in Stoic philosophy: The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and Stillness is the Key.
Lives of the Stoics is due for publication in the US on September 29th, by Penguin Random House, and will be available in audiobook and ebook as well as hardback format. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy. I’m an author myself and so I receive a lot of new books to review but I can honestly say this is the one I was most looking forward to reading.
If thou would’st master care and pain, Unfold this book and read and read again Its blessed leaves, whereby thou soon shalt see The past, the present, and the days to be With opened eyes; and all delight, all grief, Shall be like smoke, as empty and as brief.
This epigram is found at the end of a Vatican manuscript of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, one of the most widely-read spiritual and philosophical classics of all time. Readers of The Meditations are usually aware that Marcus was a Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. However, they often don’t realize how much more we know about him.
Marcus studied rhetoric under Fronto for many years, and learned certain techniques from him that appear to have shaped the writing of The Meditations.
In my recent book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, I drew upon the surviving evidence to make connections between Marcus’ life and thought. We have three main contemporary biographical sources: The Historia Augusta, Cassius Dio’s Historia Romana, and Herodian’s History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus.
In addition to these, one of our most important sources is a cache of letters belonging to Marcus’ family friend and rhetoric tutor Marcus Cornelius Fronto. These were discovered in the early 19th century by the Italian scholar Angelo Mai. They give us a remarkable window into the private life of the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher.
We learn, for instance, that Marcus was, in private, an exceptionally warm and affectionate man. He also shows evidence of being adept at diplomacy and at resolving conflicts between his friends. As we’ll see, Marcus studied rhetoric under Fronto for many years, and learned certain techniques from him that appear to have shaped the writing of The Meditations.
“It is that I learn from you to speak the truth. That matter (of speaking the truth) is precisely what is so hard for gods and men…” — Marcus