What Next after Week One?

You’ve made it.  You’ve finished the lesson for this week.  Now it’s time to start putting things into practice!

Remember, one of the most common mistakes people make is just to read self-help material without testing it out in practice.  The ancient Stoics constantly warn us against becoming lazy armchair philosophers.  There’s no better time to start changing things than right now.  The Stoic gauntlet has been thrown down before us.  It’s up to us whether we choose to pick it up or just stand and look at it.  It’s time for you to start engaging with the material, interacting with the rest of the community, and testing what you’ve been reading out in practice – in the laboratory of your own experience.

Your first step should be to visit the Comments section below, as soon as you’re ready, and post your thoughts on the question for this week:

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

As you read this, think it over, and type your responses… do it with greater attention to the present moment and observe your own character, attitude, and actions.  What’s “up to you” about this training and what’s not?  What would it mean to approach the course itself with a more “philosophical” attitude and to make use of it wisely?

Here’s a second question for you to consider, and discuss, if you want:

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

Go to the Comments section below now and post your response.  If there’s anything whatsoever you could use help with, either technical stuff or the course content, please don’t hesitate to contact the course facilitator.

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153 replies on “What Next after Week One?”

I hesitate to declare myself to anything, other than what I’m doing, or thinking right now. I like to leave room for accepting other ways of thought, etc. That’s why I’m looking further into stoicism. Most people use the word “stoic” to mean they can put up with a difficult situation. Maybe that’s part of it. A world where we do that though doesn’t allow for dissent.

The modern world is very split between humanity and nature (animals,etc.). It’s almost like a mind/body split. I just heard someone say on the radio, “if we can’t even talk to the deer how can we think we are the most intelligent beings in the Universe…”

I think Marcus Aurelius said we are no different from the four legged creatures, except we have reason and they do not. In any case, we humans think about this stuff and we need all the help we can get. Animals do just fine with their non-reason minds.

Cons:

It might make one not enjoy good Fortune while it lasts seeing it as an accident and knowing it can change to bad in an instant.

I lost a dog recently to whom I was very attached for 11 years. Had I been a more experienced Stoic would I have not gotten as close to my dog since her life and death aren’t under my control? Should I have been indifferent to her death without any grief or mourning as part of Nature?

From what I read about Stoicism, especially Seneca on Death, I was able to see that my having my dog, learning about love from her, and overall having 11 good years with her was an accident of Fortune I had no reason to expect and was simply very lucky to have had. In that light, wishing for even more is to begrudge what I was lucky to have and asking to always be dealt aces. But that didn’t come right away as she got ill, or the day she died, or the day after. It took months.

-Does a Stoic sage get to that point as soon as his dog dies, the very moment? Do they mourn at all?
-Is it misdirection to indulge in happy memories because they are in the past, that is just memories with no reality any more?
-When the feeling of sadness and loss surfaces, is that to be regarded as an unhelpful emotion(passion) to be reasoned away by focusing on the present? Might there not be something to be learned?

I had a second question, this about risk. No action is guaranteed to have the result we intend but doesn’t it still make sense to be prudent? We are advised not to get attached to property as it is merely a loan from fortune callable at any moment. If my house is robbed, I should be indifferent to the loss and move on. Do I lock my door? Do I give thought to such a question, deciding on a secure lock or one easy to defeat? Do I invest in elaborate alarms? Is that a waste of time and not an activity worthy of a Stoic? Why bother to try to minimize any risk when Fortune decides anyway? Is there a concept of not tempting Fate in Stoicism?

The pros are that you’ll have a more significant life. I can’t see the cons, since the cons I see are from a dead (or almost dead) worldview. Correct me if I’m wrong, Stoicism can be lived in any kind of society, but certainly will change lifestyle of practioners.

For Pros, I would think that having a better understanding of myself, and a better method of holding myself accountable to the vices I no longer want.

For Cons, For those around me they may believe that something might be wrong with me not responding in the ways I used to. They may take my new practices as me trying to become “Better” than them if taken out of context.

Stoicism can be adapted to help more people live a little more stress free. With climate change, and political non-sense going on. They can find it in themselves the actions that they can take in accordance to their values, to maybe better the Climate, and enact change on the political scene.

pros: having a happy like cons: dettachment from the rest of society, as the life today for everybody else goes around in something quite the opossite of virtue;

dont know how it could be adapted, but seems to me that modern life actually should be adapted for the main stoic idea

Pros
– Your quality of life will be within your control. This is because the only thing you truly value are your attitude toward life. You are not affected by external events. Instead of wishing things to happen as you wish them to happen, you wish things to happens as they are and you remain calm.

You will be better in decision making because you are less moved by your initial judgement/impression

Cons

Sometimes I think Stoic brings their ideas to the extreme (Not as extreme as the Cynics, though). For instance, Epictetus once advised his students to keep repeating this sentence if you want to practice Stoic.

“Say to your children every night, you are going to die”

It gives me the chill.

You cannot engage with your own emotion fully because you are always on your “Stoic Mode”. Sure, it is beneficial to detach yourself under bad circumstance. But, when you want to feel happy in good situation it is just difficult because your mind keeps on telling yourself, “This is a mere impression, anything but virtues are indiferent”.

On telling your children they’re going to die:
It doesn’t have to mean scaring your kids every night. I was raised saying prayers every night before bed. Along with asking god to bless and keep safe my family and friends, and expressing gratitude to god for all of the blessings I enjoyed, part of those prayers was to contemplate that this life is finite. It encouraged my awareness of how lucky I was to have each day and to be grateful, and also the importance of choosing to spend my life well.
Maybe Epictetus meant something more along those lines.

On the idea that Stoicism might impede enjoying feeling happy, my interpretation is that as every emotion, bad or good is thought of as a mere impression, we can control bad emotions by standing back from them and observing them, before we decide how to act.
Similarly, when you feel happy, you can choose to enjoy that feeling, knowing that it owes you nothing in the future. Just enjoy it with gratitude while it’s here. The key is that you have a choice of how to act by being aware of your emotions and choosing to steer your own ship instead of letting your emotions steer you.

For me the pro’s iro taking “excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good” would be consistency and accordingly control (perhaps this is a paradox). I would not feel anxious about anything that might happen – as nothing that could happen would be more important than “virtue”. As a con, perhaps seeing others struggling with “things” in their lives would be more difficult as I would know that it isn’t necessary to struggle.
I do not know enough about Stoicism to answer the second question. If I just take the statement in the first question, I would think that Stoicism does not need to adapt to modern times. “Virtue” / “wisdom” would automatically expand to include modern life, thus causing an automatic “change”.

Pros. A calmer approach to everyday life which wd hopefully rub off on others I know or meet like a pebble in a pool. Making space to be more human. Cons. The learning process could make one too self aware ie forgetting or ignoring those around you.

Pro: Quiet of mind, better sleep ☺ probably. Not being drawn into other people’s emotions
Con: Feeling less connected to the people around me.

For today’s live, I doubt any lifestyle or philosophy can fit in there.

Pros: Calm. Control. Greater sense of existing in the real world.
Cons: Can´t think of any really, except some people might be driven insane by your attitude… @wiseguyblogger: I have interpreted it rather as something to say to yourself – for example to remind you that the time you have with your loved ones is limited, sometimes more so than we care to think about… @carlosgap5: Sort of a paradox there, stoicism calls on us to be a part of community, but what if you were living in a society – purely hypothetically, obviously 🙂 – driving itself straight into the ground…?

1st Q:
Con: The possibility of turning indifference towards externals into a lack of engagement with solving the problems of the world. Or put differently, the risk of self-awareness becoming self-absorption.

Pro: The prospect of cultivating more constructive self-talk and of challenging any tendency towards self-condemnation, therefore becoming more internally resilient, less self-absorbed, and as a consequence a better husband, father, colleague, boss and friend to those who have been placed in my life.

2nd Q:
One of the most signal features of our 21st C. world is the bombardment of our minds by multi-media distractions, cheap emotionalism, glib value judgments, & incessant sensory stimuli. Stoicism offers a pathway to discrimination, by voluntarily choosing what to engage with, and what to disregard or critique. Ancient Stoicism was a response to adversity in a world falling apart, whereas we in the West are the most fortunate generation ever to have lived. How then can Stoicism be a good fit for us today? Well, Stoicism offers a way of responding if our world does fall apart (climate change, economic collapse, war, terrorism etc). But more immediately, it can be applied to finding our individual pathways amongst all the false imperatives which stand in our way.

Pro: Because we have control over our own excellence of character, we would exude more confidence in daily life as we dealt with difficult people and difficult circumstances. The center of our being would be at peace and we would feel in control at all times without having to fight for it. We would not have to fight for status, money, or the good regard of others in order to feel confident and at peace.
Con: Possibly not moving forward in cultivating excellence of character and pushing boundaries to do so because of the feeling of peace and too much detachment from others and circumstances life brings us.

Pros: Your status in life in terms of wealth, security, health etc would not be counted as value of a good life. Meaning that everybody can have a good life as long as they work hard at being virtuous.

Cons: You run the risk of alienating friends, relationships due to the schism that a Stoic lifestyle might bring forth. Hard for other people who do not have a conscious life plan to understand the need for one since they already know what has intrinsic value and other views are either cultish or religious.

By being progressive and open minded about peoples views and adaption to its nuances as long as they try to adhere to the core principle of virtue. Some things work for some, others not, the goal should still be the same.

Pros. Independence, huge resilience and most likely joyful meaningful life. Cons. I don’t know.

I don’t think that people and situations they face have changed much. So I don’t see any reason to somehow specifically adapt it to suit our modern world-view and way of life. (Except for physics of stoicism).

The Pros would be adopting a more responsive way to communicate as opposed to reactive. Also better use of time, that is to say not wasting time on regrets in the past and speculation on the future. Not feeling always at the mercy of things I can’t control

Cons might be having to completely overhaul my mental processes because it seems to me that til now I have lived the life of the anti-stoic. Also would my nearest and dearest still be my nearest and dearest

Q1

Pro:

Seeing virtue as the only good thing places the key to happiness and a good life solely in my own hands.

Con:

It might be very difficult to completey embrace this concept and eschew non-virtuous actions. I could alienate myself from friends and family and fail to continue to live virtuously because of this. Furthermore, this could mean that I would be neither virtuous nor content.

Q2

Stoicism can be used in these times to learn how to be content and happy with what you have, and not need anything else. It can also be useful to learn to be true to yourself and your convictions, and resist the peer pressure to give in to things you don’t like but do because you want to belong to a group.

Pro: Self-sufficiency. It seems to me very important to have a source of good in one’s life that is beyond the vicissitudes of time and chance.

Con: This actually relates to the second question as well. I find the sole value of virtue very difficult to reconcile with a modern naturalistic (s0me might say ‘scientistic’) world view.

Pro – Less stress and anger.

Con – May appear to be uncaring and cold.

Stocisim could be introduced to the school system, and made widely available to the masses via means such as SMRT and Stoic Week. Whether or not the masses are ready and receptive to it’s teachings remains to be seen.

The pros: less anxiety, a clear mind and contentment. The cons also seem to be pros, but not as easy to live with: responsibility for my own reactions. No blaming of others.

Both pros and cons depend on what counts as virtue. Or rather, what the virtues are, and how they get organized and integrated into virtue-in-the-singular. By definition, they are all forms of excellence. But different forms of excellence compete for attention, and there are potential conflicts – for example between kindness and justice. So I need to know more.

Pros: Less anxiety, increased detachment from results, more objectivity, improved focus in life as a consequence of disregarding that which does not accord with the primary goal.

Con: Perhaps some people in your life may not understand the change in your values, causing them to drift away from you. Even so, that’s not under your control, is it?

-PROs: You will become more self sufficient, and able to give meaning to your life aside of being or not being in a context that otherwise you could take as good. You will get less socially anxious.

-I don’t know if this counts as a CON but is a possible obstacle, what about confirmation bias? I mean, maybe I believe I’m following virtue, but I’m just labeling as “virtuous” my usual choices and overlooking my usual vices…

-To adapt Stoicism to our modern world, I gess that we need to test it and feed it with modern science, to aproach to it critically and with scientific skepticism. Also, can be interesting to take it in a comparative approach with other philosophies like Epicureanism or even Buddhism and Taoism. Surely this is being done in the academic world by specialist, but those philosophies were developed as ways of living and not just as objects of study. Maybe they differ in their core principles, or maybe not, and then they have a lot to offer to each other and to offer to ourselves.

I have a question, does creativity comes from a wandering mind? Will not mindfulness be an impediment for creativity as you ground your mind to the here and now?

(Sorry for my poor English!)

Question 1
Pros – peace of mind.
Cons – I am thinking about it but nothing that is a clear cut con has come up yet

Question 2
People spend too much time worrying about material things or how they fit in society and they can be anxious and stressed over them. Stoicism would reduce anxiety and stress.

Q1

Pros: to become what you wish to become

Cons: to become different from what others might want you to be. Of course, consistently applying a stoic attitude implies that this cons is not really something “bad” per se, as it relates to something external. However, Stoicisms, like philosophy in general if understood as a way of living, demands a full personal transformation, and this yields a variety of serious consequences.

Q2

In brief. Stoicism needs to be integrated with today science. This entails two main things. First, Stoicisms needs to be grounded in today physics (and it can be done without too much effort, I believe, as the consequences for ethics would be minor if not non-existent). Second, Stoicisms needs to embrace evidence from psychology. This second point might stir some conflict, as today we know that cultivating relationship with others is a key-determinant of happiness; I see here a potential tension with the core stoic idea that happiness depends on you–although this might be resolved by further characterising the differences between our concept of “happiness” and the Stoics’ conception of “eudaemonia”.

Pro: It would provide a direction and justification for the way to live one’s life.
Con: It assumes there are no alternatives, one-size fits all, that Stoic virtue is second to nothing.

Pro: I would finally have respect for myself in all live situations.
Cons: It would mean often a negative response from my family & friends.

I am looking at stoic principles to help me gain a base level of self respect and confidence. I am constantly ruminating in very unhealthy thoughts which tear myself down and lead to irrational behavior and patterns. I am hoping that the practice of a mindful reflection before those thought patterns occur will lead to a great appreciation and enjoyment of the current moment, and eventually leading me to trust in myself more to make healthier choices and thoughts.

I also don’t know think applying stoic principles to you own life necessarily means you will receive a negative response from your family. There are ways to implement these practices on a stealthy level (without being outwardly preachy) to the point where people wouldn’t even know that you are applying them. However, you family who are closest to you may notice changes in you and I feel that this is a situation where someone might be concerned or react differently. Sometimes the people closest to you don’t like for you to change because they are used to referencing you however you were before, even if it means you are becoming a healthier happier person. My goal is to apply these principles quietly and consistently in my life and hopefully all my family will see is a positive change in my happiness and control of my anger or anxiety. However, I am preparing myself for my mother’s negative comments because the reality is my mother hates when other people are happy because she is not so herself.

Pros – a more serene and wise way of dealing with the ups and downs of life

Cons – less drama and passion

How to adapt an ancient philosophy of life to today? I suppose the question is, how do systems of belief spread? Not sure of the answer to that – through groups of committed people perhaps

“What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?”

I think that the major pro of focusing on excellence of character is that you would have a way to live your life that is objective and independent from the whims of society or the corrupting influence of others.

I think one of the cons (which could be considered a positive) is that it could set you apart from others (most) in society that do not hold the same primacy of virtue. If this were Epicureanism, this would not be a problem, but since the Stoics encourage engagement in society, this could become problematic. But then again, I guess it would just provide you with more opportunity to practice your stoic virtue!

I’m a bit confused about the Epictetus quote at the beginning of today. This bit… “Do you not realise that when once you let your mind go wandering, it is no longer in your power to recall it?” I understand that there’s a small ‘gap’ between the impression arising and then being carried away with it, into which we have to insert reason in order to be mindful. But I also thought prosoche/Stoic mindfulness was about being able to redirect the mind back from running away with ‘impressions’ or ‘unhealthy passions’, but this implies that once you’ve started down that path in the mind that you can’t apply prosoche and pull yourself back to reason. Any thoughts?

I think he just means that once you’ve forgotten to be mindful your thoughts will tend to run away for a while, and you can’t snap yourself out of that until you notice it’s happening. You can’t stop your mind wandering until you notice that it’s wandering, and by definition that’s no longer under your control because you’re not even aware that it’s going on. You’ll obviously regain self-awareness at some point but you can’t be sure when.

Pro: A happier, more meaningful life for individuals.

Con: Trying not to make value judgements here, but it has the potential to be a license for some very bad behaviour. Suicide bombers probably derive self actualisation and personal significance from their acts. Also, the meeting bad fortune with equanimity and serenity. Aren’t some things worth fighting for/against whether you have a chance or not?

How to adapt stoicism for the current world. I’m not sure for 2 reasons. 1. There is a massive variety in world views i.e me versus some one fighting for IS, who is probably chucking a gay person off a tower block as I write. 2. I don’t know enough about stoicism yet.

I think I’ll find myself letting some of my friendships and acquaintances go.
One reason will be that some people will not understand the changes in my approach to life and find fault in my Stoic indifference. While I will know that I have compassion for people who suffer in the world, my friends will see my reactions to world injustice etc as less emotionally charged. I will learn to treat the various injustices in the world as “indifferent”, and therefore beyond my direct control. I believe that my Stoic commitment to being mindful of my own actions is how I can impact the world in a positive way.

Pro: Get wiser each day and be a patient and understanding person. Be more self confident and not to be afraid to sound “stupid” in public.
Con: to appear indifferent and without emotions.

Pros: Independence of mind, but also a sense of connection to the world. Self-reflection, leading perhaps to better self-control.

Cons: Danger of certain failure patterns, such as

Holding oneself to some preconceived notion of virtue, instead of subjecting that preconceived notion to constant reflection and perhaps improvement.
Forgetting that “intrinsically good” means “good, in a certain specific sense”. The notion of “preferred indifferent” still allows for external things to be very very important. You are still justified in putting tremendous effort into preserving important external things. It’s just that you should never let yourself be carried away by your attachment to these externals. (Would being carried really help you to preserve anything important? Probably not. At any rate, being carried away would leave you unequipped to judge whether being carried away is actually helping.)

Pro: peace of mind, resistance to stress and adversity, clarity of perception, and more logical and decisive decision making

Con: potential for self-centeredness, aloofness, apathy, disconnection from important others

In the modern world, Stoicism and its values will need to be carefully and repeatedly defined. Words such as virtue, wisdom, excellence, etc. can easily to coopted, adapted, manipulated in many different ways. “Excellence” can lead to elitism, and “wisdom” is usually defined by the content of ideas and judged on the basis of accordance with particular ideologies. Stoicism also needs to be carefully distinguished from the innumerable self-help fads which come and go, and from pop psychology in general.

Pros: Being more successful since focusing on things that are more under my direct control, and cultivating myself allows me to use any externals I may have in more beneficial ways

Cons: May “give up too easily” on externals, accepting things where I could have in fact excelled externally.

Pro: Have a more detached perspective, more resilience and live in congruence with virtue and your own values.
Cons: I think it’s difficult to live in accordance with stoic principles, primarily because the general state of our society.

How to adapt an ancient philosophy of life today? I don’t see much problem with this, besides the obvious adaptations that goes with time and cultures. It’s more difficult for us to adapt ourselves to the requirements of stoicism.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros:
* Discourages obsession with status, material wealth, etc.
* De-emphasises concerns over what others think or do, negative social mores
* Focuses attention on our own choices and behaviour, over which we have control, thus decreasing resentment and a sense of entitlement towards the world around us and the other people in it

Con:
* Could encourage a certain aura of detachment from the material world that, while not intrinsically bad, could alienate others (much advice from Epictetus on how to regard the inevitable death of one’s loved ones and how to respond to their loss, for example, while useful, is quite at odds with modern cultural values).
* If not applied carefully and correctly, a focus on one’s own virtue could twist itself into a habit of judging others for not acting similarly. Of course, that would represent a failure to live in accordance with nature and virtue, but is still a hazard to be aware of.

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

I think Stoic philosophy meshes remarkably well with modern life in general, although a few adaptations are required to make some of the extended areas such as Stoic physics mesh with a modern worldview. For example, I found Epictetus’s routine reference to God/Theos/Zeus to be a little wince-inducing as someone whose view of the universe doesn’t include a creator deity, but upon learning more about the ancient Stoic worldview and the views it encompassed, I have found myself comfortable with the notion of the universe as a whole as a wider object/entity that can be labelled as ‘god;.

This kind of problem of clashing knowledge and values was familiar even to the ancient Stoics. Zeno is said to established a logical proof that the chest and heart were the seat of consciousness, using as evidence the fact that our voice, that with which we communicated thought, came up from there.

However, only a few years later, natural philosophers — scientists as we’d now know them — established that it was in fact that brain that was the seat of thought and reason. It’s further said that the Stoics of the early Hellenic school who came after Zeno nonetheless felt compelled to support their founder’s view even in the face of evidence.

However, passing through the middle-period Stoa to the later Roman era of Ethics-dominated Stoic philosophy, that beloved-but-inconvenient inaccuracy was left by the wayside. Philosophy is not infallible, and as friends of wisdom, it falls to us to adapt any truly practical application of philosophy to the known facts of the world we occupy.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

From the perspective of my life…
Pros:
1. A change in mindset on how I approach life
2. Will allow for a more conscious decision making
3. Will unleash new possibilities that I may not have been aware of before
4. To put an stop to be a slave to compulsive negative thoughts
5. Maximize the potential to develop internal core values

Cons:
1. Might get sucked into the process of Stoicism instead of living the life
2. Have to deal with a different than usual resistance from inner self and others

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

Considering how connected we are with each other through technology, Stoicism is more important than ever in our modern world-view and way of life. In this time of social media where a single button press allows us to express our inner thoughts, emotions, and feelings to an unlimited audience, awareness can be of supreme importance. The consequences of our individual actions have significantly higher number of ways to shape our reality.

To live with only virtue as of primary importance is to disregard other factors as less relevant and even irrelevant. In our lives, we have many conflicting interests and pursuits that are impossible to all fulfill, and most of these will not bring lasting serenity. Money will only grant you peace to a point. Pleasure will grant you peace for a few seconds. Luxury will grant you happiness until you grow bored of it. But excellent of character is always with you, and will always grant you peace, no matter those other circumstances. And what is more, it will guide you on priorities in life. In our current modern world, I’ve watched people consumed by their obsession with wealth, luxury, leisure, and pleasure, with little to show for it in their souls. They are constantly pursuing more of those. And some pursue these goals at the sacrifice of their integrity.

I think that we could interchange the word “nature” for the word “Tao”. And “areté” also could be changed by “Tao” with similar meaning. Any ideas? Someone don’t agree?

As a non-scholar, I also equate Tao with nature, and also with God and/or logos. Tao is also used to describe virtue, I believe, but for me the Greco-Roman terms are easier to work with when it comes to pursuing virtue in my own life.

I often read things in writings about Stoicism and think of passages in the Tao Te Ching or Chuang Tsu. The two philosophies seem very complimentary.

Joan, Im not sure I would interchange the word ‘nature’ for something equally obscure. After reading so much about Stoicism, I still find the word nature used in the stoic sense confusing. So I replace it mentally with ‘reason’, which apparently is what it means. What I think would help adapt Stoicism to a modern world view, or at least a more democratic one, is the shedding of unnecessary jargon, only fit for the initiated.

Perhaps it’s just me but from a practical perspective the comments section feels like an awkward place to have a discussion, it’s more for, you know, comments. I fully appreciate this is a free course, and many thanks to the organisers and contributors, just some feedback.

For me the idea of directing your efforts inwards is really a fundamental shift, it feels like everything in society is telling us to chase external goals. I have notebooks full of goals going back over the years, almost all talk about external goals; getting fitter, travelling, making more more etc etc. Suddenly when I learn about Stoicism I get the feeling I’ve been chasing the wrong thing all these years! I’ve barely begun to let go of those goals! Not that there’s no importance in them, just that cultivating virtue is more important it seems.

As of the beginning of the week I make no answer to the two questions. I do already think living the Stoic life is a way to happiness and more serenity, but I have been following Stoicism Today for about two years.
I will keep a tally on my negative judgments, as suggested, but not with the full blown Mindfulness sheet. I find the sheet too cumbersome and introspective. I think the more ancient practice cleaner and sufficient to cue me to my negative thinking. If I were to have an intractable problem the detailed sheet would help to expand the parts so I could see it more clearly. This week I am wanting the more smooth and “in the world” experience of the simple daily tally.
That tally combined with the mindfulness meditation once or twice a day will help me increase my use of Stoic thinking and attitudes at all times. I will try not to forget myself at any time during the day and week.
Mindfulness can be happy!

I’m wondering, how might you make it more convenient to tally the times when you’re thinking negatively? I thought about using pen and paper, but I often might not reach into my backpack or have access to it in the moment. I thought about using my phone, but I often put it away when I’m working so that I don’t get tempted to go on social media. I thought about using my hand, but that might run out of room…

I downloaded an Android app called Counter and installed the widget. I’m finding it to be a convenient way to keep a tabulation, but that doesn’t address the social media problem :-[

Pros:
A habit that can move you forwards by acting on the event rather than the emotion of the event.
Prioritizing those things and behaviours that are ‘good’ rather than dwelling on those that are out of control.
A considered behavior or response COULD be a more fruitful action than an unconsidered action
In some ways to consider things is to also slow down and focus on fewer more important things (seems relevant today with the endless distractions in our lives)
Cons:
a stoic response/behaviour could be interpreted as a lack of feeling?? ‘why doesn’t this make you mad!’
Feels something of a rabbit hole to think too deeply. For example when is a habit a virtuous thing and when is it not. Is a habit virtuous when consciously chosen and done in moderation rather than done unconsciously. e.g. choosing to what a TV progamme you enjoy as opposed to mindlessly sitting in front of whatever the TV is projecting at you.

1) What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros would be that I would find greater peace from the turmoil of life. I would be able to react with greater precision and less emotion. My anxiety would lessened.

Cons would be potential loss of friends because they don’t understand this new mindset, attitude and approach.

Question:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

*Pros:
A better quality of life: less unhealthy desires and emotions and actions.
A better character.

*Cons:
Maybe a less relaxed life? Purchasing excellence may be distressing on its own.

Question:
How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

As a digital marketer, I believe I can’t be 100 % stoic. Because I still have to beat my competitors. But sure enough I would not use unethical tactics against moral/respectable competitors. So I guess I could be like… 90% stoic when it comes to Ethics?

Any suggestions welcome 🙂

Hi Mony-
Since you asked for thoughts :)….

In terms of striving for excellence being stressful, I don’t think it has to be. But I do “get” the concern. We will always fall short of the ideal–we’re not a Socrates, but should strive to be one (Epictetus, if memory serves). There is a lot of “forgiveness” in stoicism I think. For one thing, as soon as something is past, it’s indifferent because it is beyond our control. Similarly the future is not here yet–so we don’t control that either. Instead we focus on the “here and now” to be the best we can be in this instant.

In terms of being in a competitive industry–I don’t think that’s unstoic. Many of the renowned stoics (Seneca, marcus Aurelius) were in politics, and you don’t get much more competitive than that.

Anyway, just a couple thoughts.

Pros: Being a generally happier person, free from the negativity of our unrealistic expectations of the way the world should be and the emotional negativity we take on from others destructive behavior towards us. In other words, freedom from absorbing the bad effects of things we cannot change. For the flip side of the coin, the letting go of that negativity should give us more energy to throw into changing the things we can, allowing us to be a more positive force on the external world.

Cons: In a philosophical sense if you are doing everything right there shouldn’t be any downside to the Stoic philosophy. If you suddenly stop letting an negative relationship get to you and the person loses interest in tormenting you and breaks all ties, is that bad? What if it wasn’t a work acquaintance but a family member or a spouse? These are tougher situations but ultimately I think the answer is the same.

So I’m going to dodge the questions, if that’s okay, because many folks have posted what I was thinking about them. Instead i’d like to share an observation about the exercises for this week–focusing on the instant/mindfulness.

I’m just blown away by the power of it. I’ve been trying it out today using the “I am observing X, y, z” formulation. Brilliant. I’d tried being mindful in the past on my own but it was hard to do without this simple but effective technique.

Anyway, I have seen things today I never saw before, even though my commute is no different. There is truly wonder all around us if you really observe it. I was struck today by the beauty of the flecks of mica found on dirty stairs in the Nyc subway.

Didn’t know the world could be so stunning without being chemically induced!

This course is great.

Pros:

More self-awareness
Truly being the one who goes with the flow
More control
Better character

Cons:

Disregard for the future especially since the quote “Fortune favors the prepared” comes to mind
Risks creating an idle mind since idleness is the true enemy of man
A lot of initial reprogramming

I have my disagreements with this philosophy but pursuing the virtues is the cornerstone to feeling complete.

Hi aa223,

not sure why you think stoicism would be encouraging idleness… as for the ‘fortune favours the prepared’, there’s a stoic practice called ‘meditation on adversities’ which does exactly that. not sure whether it’s covered in the course, though…

Pros:
Creating a mindset in which one is able to realize their full potential in life, by being aware of things that ARE under one’s control and expending your energy appropriately, rather than wasting energy on things that aren’t.

Cons:
Making any change in life requires commitment, and the patience to give it whatever time it needs to work. Unfortunately, these could be things a lot of people may be lacking.

Perhaps I did not address the question as clearly as I would have liked. I found it difficult to come up with any argument to criticize the philosophy itself, so instead I chose to focus on the learning process involved.

Pros:

A strong sense of self-control and improvement. Sharper attentiveness and less distraction by invasive thoughts and worries. A more charitable approach to others and human failings. Less self-consciousness and a greater emphasis on action because of it. A better capacity to adapt to change.

Cons:

If circumstances can’t shake a Stoic, it seems like it could stop someone from making decisions in their favour: why leave a job for a new opportunity if you can tolerate the one you’re in? Why choose to leave an unfulfilling relationship if you can endure it? I think at this point I’m uncertain how virtue might be applied in some practical situations–I expect I’ll be learning more about it soon.

Stoicism oddly seems both easily adaptable and very much at odds with the modern world–I suspect it was the same during antiquity given that human nature hasn’t changed much even if culture and technology have. My life has granted me more advantages than most people ever get, yet I find myself and people around me in similar circumstances to often be anxious, worried and unhappy. Seneca the Younger painted the same picture of privileged people two thousand years ago in On the Shortness of Life.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros: Increased cognitive resources to go towards your goal of practicing a life of virtue. An enhanced self-esteem when you are able to say to yourself “I am living the good life, my life.”

Cons: I may be distancing myself away from friends who cannot understand that a virtuous life is the good life. I may not achieve wealth, social reputation, etc or any other “indifferents” as I am not pursuing them over virtue.

What is up to me about this training? Whether I put the principles into practice, whether I read and try to commit the principles to heart, whether I aim to be present, whether I aim to steer myself away from being pulled along the irrational thoughts and desire that I have… whether I decide to view stoicism as good, and whether I accept the philosophy.

What would it mean to approach the course itself with a more “philosophical” attitude and to make use of it wisely?
A “philosophical” attitude would entail contemplating the rationality of the philosophy, whether there are benefits or cons to following the stoic philosophy. In addition, it would entail being more mindful of whether I am putting the principles into practice, how I am interpreting the principles, and whether I would like to engage in a dialogue with others to ascertain what I have gotten out of the philosophy.

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life? I think Stoicism is easily adaptable to suit our modern way of life. Often, we, or at least the person typing this, are easily drawn into worries about social affairs and our reputation, whether we’re doing well in work, whether we’re going to live well, whether we’re going to get enough “likes” or “retweets”, etc. And often, that can get in the way of us accomplishing anything or being happy. If we are improve our mindfulness, and acknowledge the “early warning signals” and choose to not go along for the ride more often than not, then we’ll slowly be able to increase the tranquility and peace that we experience. Furthermore, meditation, is something that has numerous cognitive benefits, including enhanced focus, relaxation, neuroplasticity, and other benefits depending on what you are looking for. However, I am drawn to the contemplative part of Stoicism, as it allows me to take a more active role in my own life and actively think about what the areas I’m lacking in, and where I can improve but more importantly begin to praise and love myself for the little pieces of progress that I do obtain. Combining meditation to become more mindful and aware, and stoicism to center myself and think of the direction that I wish to improve in, will allow me to navigate this confusing world without feeling so confused.

“What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?”

Pros: My internal compass is simplified. It will point in only 1 easy to follow direction… ever. Everything else springs from this simple pursuit of “goodness”.

Cons: Letting go of old thought patterns is hard. But worth it.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros: My attitude would improve and zest for life return. Decrease in anxiety and nerves, which brings on over-eating and lack of exercise!!

Con: There will be a wrenching ‘transition’ period where my mind will fight the the creation of new habits, seeking to cling to the old.

Im wondering if someone could help me with a question? If the stoics goal is to live in accordance with nature and live a excellent life based on reason. Do we have to accept that some people will have the potential to live a more virtuose life than others based on biological capabilities IQ. What if a person believes he is doing right action based on this premise and cannot comprehend true right action. Could this person be a so called “sage” if he lived up to his biological capabilities? If A persons actions/thoughts are out of our control. What would a more wise stoic do with a person causing chaos in society? Is there evil/wrong action or just ignorance and how do you deal with this as a practicing stoic?

Q:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

A:
I think that this is a very reasonable view and a way to find how to live a meaningful and satisfying life, no matter the circumstances. You may or may not have a lot of enjoyable experiences, but these will not make you happy in the end because either you don’t have that fun a life, or you do, but then you will constantly adapt your preferences and want more. The focus on virtue is robust. You can always aim to be virtuous and be rationally satisfied by doing the right thing, regardless if you are a poor or wealthy person. The con is really that is is not always that easy, both from character point of view, and sometimes it is not easy to decide on what the most virtuous action is.

Q:
How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

A:
I don’t think the basic principles need much adaption. You should of course reflect on it given reliable findings of modern science and advances in mathematics and logic, but I think it is more about updating as compared to total revision.

Pros- I would be ale to have freedom from my anxieties and the patterns and behaviours that this causes. I would be able to relate to my family in a more positive constructive way, as I would be able to step back from the emotions and chaos of others and so be able to stay calm .

Cons- managing to stick to the practic especially when all buttons are being pressed or when life circumstances are challenging.also being able to step away from the way we relate to others and how they see us. Some time we want to stay where we are in life because it makes us feel safe and right in our life and depictions so to step out of that takes a lot of determination.

For me the ideas of stoicism are still completely relevant to 2016. The only thing I struggle with in the Oder texts is the way things are written, I can not always follow the meanings and so some i sometimes will avoid reading these books. I understand this program very well.

Q:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

A:
First the pros:
– Simplicity, at least in terms of having only one major focus.
– Peace of mind. Things that caused so much concern before can be seen with fresh eyes.
– A redefinition of success. A more achievable success, independent of externals.

Now the cons:
– Inertia. A lifetime of habit cannot be overcome without a lot of focused effort.
– Distractions. It’s easy to let daily life get in the way of study and practice.

Q. What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?
Pros. Very simple instructions on how to achieve tranquillity and happiness in life. To get rid of fear and anxiety. See the world as it is. More importantly for me not to waste your time on unnecessary things.
Cons. In the fast paste world it is hard to get remind yourself to do what you aim to, especially to get out of your comfort zone. You have to sacrifice certain routines that you might think is to precious to you.

Q. How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?
A. I think everything they said is up to date, expect maybe believing in higher being or absolute, since a lot of people now days, do not believe in GOD so to say and that might distance them from teaching. I strongly believe that teaching should be introduce more broadly especially to young people, beginning form high school.

Q:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

A:
My life would be more meaningful and satisfying. I would do more good and I would be more serene. I don’t see any cons in living a virtuous life, but it would not always be easy.

Q:
How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern worldview and way of life?

A:
I think the basic stoic principles are still relevant. The physics and cosmology could be updated to reflect the advances in modern science (or could be read as poetry)…

Q:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

A:
Most young people aren’t asked, ‘What is a good life?’ and most adults don’t know who they are and what they want to be. I’m 30 now and I’m trying to figure out this thing called ‘life’.

Trying to live a virtuous life lets you understand who you are and what it means to be a good person.

Q:
How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern worldview and way of life?

A:
If there was a class at school where they delivered stoic questions it would start kids young and get them intrigued on finding out ‘what is a good life?’

In business, I could see business leaders put less meaning on the profit of the company and more meaning on building a happy team and doing better work for customers and clients. Some businesses don’t need more money, they need to make more customers happy.

The greatest benefit I’ve experienced in my few years of applying stoic concepts is you truly maintain equanimity good majority of the time. I find my emotional regulation improving with each passing day. I recently moved and my new friends consistently comment on how I’m the calmest person they know. My other friends use to joke about having to calm me down.

Q:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

A:
Real freedom, as Epictetus says. The only con I can think of is being more indifferent to material comforts, which can’t really be considered a con if you agree with the Stoic that they are indifferent to your excellence of character.

Q:
How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

A:
I prefer not to modify it too much, or else it wouldn’t make sense to still call it Stoicism. There seems to be a trend where people attempt to practice some sort of enlightened hedonism and call it Stoicism.

Q: What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?
A: I literally can’t think of any cons here. I almost don’t even see this as a “Stoic idea” rather just as a truth: that this is the right way to live, because it’s based on the only control we have. In that sense there can’t be anything more empowering and we can become people who make things happen instead of things that happen making us. We get to choose the life we want by thoughtfully responding in real-time, engaging in the present moment, regulating our emotions, making decisions based on rationality and wisdom instead of deluded impulse. Focusing on our own capacity for change optimizes efficiency and minimizes frustration and unnecessary suffering.

Q: How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?
A: Well, firstly, from my perspective at least, there’s no god – but most of the Stoic writings allow for a figurative representation of the gods to just mean order, nature or the universe as it is. The universe doesn’t require intentions to be majestic, just like we don’t need to believe in some mystical interpretation of “fate” to understand that things happen beyond our understanding or control, and that’s okay. Also, I think that in the following manner it’s our modern world-view and way of life that need adapting and not Stoicism – we need to pay more attention to teaching each other how to live. We put our children through school for 12 years, and not even once do we educate them on the most important questions of all: how to live, how to observe and regulate our own mental impressions etc… The west doesn’t have this kind of wisdom built in its institutions and general popular culture, and I think in a 100 years from now we’ll look back and be horrified.

Pro: equanimity. I find on day 2 that I’m moving slower and more calmly. It’s also helpful in daily planning to think in terms of what I have control over.

Con: getting bogged down in reasoning one’s every move. But I think by developing skill in mindfulness, this can be overcome. My problem is the opposite (too hyper!) and slowing down is quite helpful. Actually something I’ve been striving for for a long time.

Adapting Stoicism for today: one way is through a course/forum like this! It’s pretty tough to read the ancient writings and perceive an actionable philosophy. The contemporary books, blogs and websites are helpful, but I find there’s still a ton to absorb. Having a group situation like this allows me to practice the philosophy, and now I can absorb the writings over time.

Pros- I think the practice of becoming more aware of value judgments and “distancing” could be very useful to a western consumer culture where many folks are sold on ideas of comfort and purpose.

Cons- The idea that “virtue is the only thing that is intrinsically good” is limited and one-dimensional.

“What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?”

This is early days as they say, so I may change my mind, but one con is this: I have my doubts that living like a Stoic is the only way to live a good life. So there could be missed opportunity from alternatives. It may also cause you to be perceived as aloof or cold or too passive.

To me Stoicism’s main attraction is that is seem to provide tools for coping with life.

“How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?”

I think Stoicism needs to be naturalized to remove or weaken what I consider to be its implausible elements (God, Zeus, ultimate purpose, what seems like essentialism and the like…again still trying to figure out what Stoicism requires).

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

This question is phrased in such a way I find it difficult to answer directly. I do not take virtue as my telos, so doing so would override all of my previous values and any basis on which I could establish whether or not it was good. Pros and cons are evaluated in the light of what is good, and this is asking what you might think if your idea of good was different.

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

Gut it of metaphysics and the notion of living in agreement with nature. We now know that the passions are in fact, things that nature has equipped us with – that doesn’t make it good, or bad, for us, but it does mean that Stoicism’s metaphysics sort of falls apart on that principle. I believe Stoicism is best used as a to focus your desires and energies, and not to limit them. It should, in my view, be taught as a module useful for any philosophical viewpoint, from Buddhism to Hedonism to Utilitarianism – everyone can be well served by learning some measure of detachment and peace of mind.

Accepting living in accord with stoic virtue as the only good, in no way negate your values. To practice stoic virtue would mean that the only really important thing is living according to your existing values. That everything else is not necessary for your happiness. It places more emphasis on your values not less. That’s my interpretation anyway. Whilst I would agree that nature have us emotions fit a reason, we don’t have to engage with them in an irrational unhelpful manner. Love for a family member is natural, and evolutionarly bennificial for our spicies. However, obsession, lust, jealousy, an inability to live without it loved one etc which could be seen as love taken to the extreme (or a passion) is rarely helpful. Nature also gave us the ability to reason to make rational decisions regarding how we respond to the emotions that do arise. That is out advantage as humans.

Pros – less regrets. If you focus on living in accord with your values as the only good then it’s unlikely you will compromise in ways you will later regret to achieve or obtain something. People are more likely to percieve you as a person of integrity. Cons – this isn’t the way modern materialistic society expected you to behave as such could result in being seen as odd and lead to greater isolation.

Pro-Leading a life of virtue could make understanding yourself less stressful.

Con-Leading a life of virtue could make living up to your expectations of yourself more stressful.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

I think if being a stoic means constantly improving your character then surely this would be a better way of living. It would mean a better way of living for yourself; but more importantly you would do better things onto others.

I am aware that my own character, attitude and actions needs developing and by hopefully doing this course they will.

The amount of practice and positive attitude and thoughts towards leading a more stoic life is up to me. What people think about my character and my attitude isn’t up to me. The course material and exercises aren’t up to me. Surely, i think, approaching this course with a more stoic attitude would be beneficial as I am training my mind to be more controlled and disciplined.

Personally, to become less anxious and worry about what people think about me is a massive personal goal for me. Hopefully this course will help.

I think there is a massive lack of character today; it is not the focus anymore, its all about how much money you can get and how high you can climb the ladder. I think young people today need more stoic ideas to be ingrained in them. So, stoic ideas would be very much benefical in modern society, in my opinion.

I find it really difficult to find cons of being a stoic. @sian1979uk “Cons – this isn’t the way modern materialistic society expected you to behave as such could result in being seen as odd and lead to greater isolation”.
I think that’s part of the point of stoicism that people should’t be afraid to living differently and not always following the crowd.

Q1: What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros: it would serve as a practical guide for live, it would urge me to articulate meaning and meaningfull acting in a complex world, it would provide inner peace
Cons: I will have to reduce my hope about what I can change in this world

Q2: How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

The metaphysical and magical stuff like divinity, references to god(s), the universe as an organism, logos mysticism and teleologic thinking seems much outdated and really not essential to the core of stoicism to me. One of the things that appeal to me about stoicism is just that its core concepts do not depend on that. If a good stoic should care about reality (or Nature) and wisdom it cannot negate ages of scientific progress. He/she should embrace what is the best knowledge about our world today without any claim that it is also the last word about it. IOW, for me trying to understand the world with the best tools available today (i.e. science, reason and critical thinking) is a part of the way to virtue in the best sense the old stoics intended.
So toss out that stuff and replace it by the idea that the universe is intelligible at least to some extent in scientific terms which we can make use of, that we depend on each other to bring about human flourishing and prevent future adversities and that therefore individual strive for virtue which inherently creates meaning on the individual level also makes us part of and partners in reality. The universe isn’t an organism, but we now know better than ever before that everything on this planet we inhabit depends on a balance and that is reason enough to care.

I totally concur with this and it is expressed really well. I am quite averse to mysticism and religiosity as I think it often separates us from truly experiencing the awe-inspiring and amazing nature of existence rather than helping us to appreciate it.

Pros: It gives life a sense of coherence to have an overarching goal (however difficult to achieve).

Cons: It’s a tough road–initially, at least, until we get into better mental habits–and might seem lonely at times.

How might Stoicism be adapted to modern times: Stoicism’s regard of health as an “external” that should have no bearing on our flourishing seems anachronistic. A good deal of modern scientific research reveals a strong connection between the mind and the body. I think the Stoics knew that, even then–Seneca used to have terrible asthma attacks that he survived by facing down in his mind. I suppose they were right that the mind has a great deal of control over the body. It’s just hard for me to imagine being in terrible pain, but still happy and virtuous. Maybe Stoicism is fine, and it’s just me that needs to be adapted to Stoicism!

Pros: Being able to look back on my life with pride and build my courage in the process. To consider what makes for a positive character and develop wisdom on a daily basis.

Adaptation to modern life: pay attention to my focus in social media and how to influences my character or distracts me from the present moment. Use it to build relationships and help others.

I would say that reality itself, ‘nature’ in all its many cosmic manifestations (that is, not ONLY the natural world of Planet Earth)is intrinsically good. And so living in accord with nature in that broader sense is to live a Stoic, virtuous life, which is also intrinsically good. The pros of putting this way of life into practice would be a far less stressful and more fulfilling existence for the practitioner and everyone who deals with her. I can’t think of any cons.

As for question 2: I believe Stoicism is already fully suited to modern life.

My thoughts about this week’s lesson

If virtue is living in harmony with nature, then we must study nature in order to know virtue. This concept seems a bit fuzzy to me and too easily skewed to mean whatever we want it to mean.

The idea that our own opinion of our actions matters more than what others think, though, is right on the mark. So is the idea of identifying what we can control versus what we cannot control.

I’m using writing as an aid to thinking about situations that tend to upset me, identifying what about them is under my control and what I cannot control. My own expectations, particularly of other people, is what upsets me most, and I can change both my expectations and what I do in those situations. By thinking about another way of responding to people when they do what upsets me, I am building tools I can use when the time comes. Just understanding that people are not going to change how they behave and that I cannot control it anyway is enough to change how I respond.

Pros
– We stop trying to please other people and live according to our values instead
– It provides a compass for how to live life which we can remind ourselves of whenever we feel lost or confused

Cons
– People will differ in the values they prioritise
– Empathy towards others is not a given in this approach

It is quite common to over-estimate the amount of attention that other people pay to our own actions and the things we say. This can often result in excessive and pointless worry about other people’s perceptions of past events which we cannot change so should treat as “indifferent”. If we are worrying about other people’s perceptions of something said or done then that indicates that we also think we may have said or done the wrong thing so it is better to cultivate a more stoic, measured approach as this will give us more confidence in the things we say and do and therefore minise pointless post evaluation.

Pros:

I’d only truly care about my own character development
I’d only worry about what I can control, and since I can control what I can control, then worry would eventually be eliminated
I’d accept fate

Cons:

How to stay motivated to pursue “mundane” goals?

Pros
It may bring peace of mind

Cons
It seems like abandoning the pursuit of real life goals. Being overwhelmed by negative emotions/obsessions may be a price to pay to improve your material well-being, so why negate them?

Pros:
Less anxiety and stress trying to maintain the pace and values of 21st Century Western culture.

Cons:
* Initially it’s added effort and something else to think about (although I hope such concerns will eventually become “indifferent”).

The risk of being perceived and different, or weird (another indifferent)

One pro I see of trying to live your life by the stoic concept so far is that you work to constantly improve your self in character and outlook; to better your best. When one aims to live and be better for themselves, that same mentality and energy tends to spread outward to their environment, to the world and people around them. That should be an ideal intended for humanity to pursue as part of this.

One of my takeaways from this lesson is that our own opinions of our actions matters so much more than what others may think, though I can also see how in some cases that outlook on life could easily look like cold-indifference to the uninitiated.

I do like that this idea/approach while classical in nature seems to still have a basis in everyday modern life. (not counting the references to Zeus, etc.) Teaching tools that all can use to cope with the ever-changing tide of life in a logical way, in a sense. So far, I see some similarities to some Buddhist principles, though my opinion on that may change as this course progresses.

One pro of living a life in which Stoic “virtue” is the only thing that’s intrinsically good is that it is very clear what to strive for.

One Con is that it makes life more challenging than just seeking less worthy goals like wealth and comfort.

The EU referendum in the UK has been a wonderful encapsulation of what is under my control, and what is not.

My vote was, the result was not.

Yet I’m finding myself having fewer negative thoughts despite things not turning out the way I’d hoped.

Good timing, guys.

A pro would be you can always know that you did good, even in difficult situations where there is no right or wrong decision to make.

A con would be possibly misinterpreting what “excellence” or “virtue” is when making a decision (especially for new practitioners) and realizing later that your misinterpretation actually caused you to deviate from your path for virtue/excellence, though this can easily be reconciled with the Stoic approach to the past.

Knowing what Virtue is and being able to live life seeking it would bring clarity to so many of life’s decisions. No more being tossed about with not knowing what to do in troublesome situations, less stress, becoming a stronger and more reliable character for those around you and having a focus in life. Having the assurance that you are are doing the right thing and on the right path – it must feel natural as it is meant to be a life lived ‘in accordance with nature’ (does it therefor get easier?)

Pro would be living in harmony and less stressful existence.
Con could be lack of consistency to how others apply virtue could mean discord

There is, of course, the issue of how one defines situations that are within one’s “control” and
the situations that are not.
This is the proverbial grey area – and a big fat one too!
Example:
You are in a car and in an accident the car runs off the road into a deep river. You try
to get out but the doors cannot open and the windows are stuck also. Water gets into the car
and is rising fast.
Do you say:-
1. This situation is now outside my “control” and so I accept what will be the inevitable with
a calm mind; or
2. I fight for my life against a seemingly hopeless situation. I kick the windows, find whatever
hard object I have to break the windows. I hurt myself trying while there’s breadth in me. I
do what seems totally out of character only minutes ago to save myself. I do not give up
and try without stopping.
Not all situations we face are this desperate. But how one defines “control” defines the effort
we put into the situations we face. And the willingness to change situations that at first appear
to be beyond ‘control” to situations that we can control.
So, the passive minded sees more events beyond control. Others see life as changing “beyond
control” situations to those that can be controlled?

The control that you have in that situation is the decision whether it is worth continuing to struggle. I would argue that anyone with wisdom and courage, two of the aspects of virtue, would struggle to get out. Stoic teaching, in my experience so far, doesn’t tell us to be passive in our reactions, but wise.

I heard someone say on a video not too long ago that if you adopt a Stoic attitude, you might dismiss chest pains and die of a heart attack that could have been prevented by calling an ambulance. Is it wise to not call an ambulance when experiencing chest pains? No it isn’t. That’s not Stoicism, it’s stupidity.

Pros: the main Advantage of the stoic virtues is that by practicing this you will be more aware of your emotions and be able to control them rather simply dwell on them.
cons: a 100 percent correspondence between stoic virtues and behavior is difficult to attain in modern times . (you are forever a Student of stoicism, a prokoptôn).

This is my end of week one response to the two questions:
What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?
Doing good, living more sanely and “making lemonade when Life gives me lemons,” are some of the benefits of having a Stoic frame of mind. As a mere human, one of seven billion and not exceptional, despite being an American, the Stoic perspective keeps me focused on making things in my life better one step at a time. My mother claimed to be a Stoic and we laughed, but in her way she took what life gave her and made the best of it and kept going. Her non-attachment to us at times seemed cruel, but maybe she knew more than we credited. If a challenge presented itself to her or one of us we were encouraged to make a good effort and do our best and to achieve strength of character or virtue. I have not always practiced Stoicism well, sometimes losing this perspective. But once I become indifferent to outcomes and pay attention to my own efforts to do good, my equanitmity returns.

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?
Stoicism is not as bound to time and place as other frameworks for human values. It is broad yet specific, general yet clear. I think modern humans can learn much from seeing our part in Nature and the need to strive to do the good in all things and refrain from damage to others. I would rather adapt the so called “modern world-view” to Stoicism. What is modernism? Is it technical solutions to our errors of pollution and over-consumption? That is folly. What is modernism, more profit by mass production and theft of resources from the poor? That is a shame. Perhaps raising up Stoicism as we are doing here is a good beginning on asking the whole world, “What is in our control and what is not?”

A pro to living as though excellence of character is the only intrinsic good is that this approach can be applied to any situation by the user. What exactly excellence of character is and what virtue calls for, has to be defined by the individual and for each circumstance.

A con would be the related issue of perhaps not enough guidance as to the particulars. The adaptable nature of a focus on excellence of character could leave one wondering about specific actions called for.

As a person new to Stoicism, I like that there is a framework of how to look at things, and that the con I mentioned isn’t a deal breaker. It requires me to lead an examined life, which is what I was after in the first place.

the pros are that virtue and what is in your control makes happiness or a fulfilling life in your control always, if your applying the principles. the principles also easily integrate with other viewpoints
the con is, i think like everything, it should be used or integrated with other ideas like modern science, psychology other principles in philosophy. standing alone it won’t do it. also i think allot of life is being creative and following your sense of right which can’t be gotten from someone else’s idea.
however, if used rationally and sensibly i don’t think it has a con.

The pros of trying to live a life of excellence or virtue is that you are less likely to experience regret, and to be troubled by thoughts of what you’ve done wrong. It’s also just what is morally right and beneficial to those around you. Lack of virtue in an individual, or in the people around them, makes people ill. It leads to all manner of social, psychological, and behavioural problems such as addiction. It is an enormous drain on the economy and individual happiness, and it keeps therapists busy.

The big drawback to living a live of virtue, is that if we all did it, a lot of therapists would find themselves out of work.

With regards to our modern world view, stoicism should guide us to remember that everyone is a person, and should be treated as such. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness, no matter who they are or where they live.

When you’re secure in the notion that it’s your character that’s most important, you can cease to worry about other extraneous things and concentrate just on this. You don’t have to worry about being bogged down by concerns over money, or reputation, or appearances. You act with integrity and people will judge you for your integrity. In our current Western society, there is a lot of self-absorption with petty matters, such as money, luxury, and indulgence which is precedent over character, so much so that no one can even agree on what makes excellence of character but everyone can agree on having more money and extravagance. Stoicism goes against the concerns of our modern culture and is likely to be met with suspicion, especially because it is difficult.

I’m struggling a bit with the concept of virtue. Are there any circumstances when a person is stoic and non attached and still do thing we consider to be bad. (Still pondering on this one). The pros of a stoic attitude is less drama and a clearer sense of direction. The con is that people may consider you to be a little bit unfeeling or uncaring. I think that stoicism is a great contribution to the modern world. There are so many problems polution, hunger, war, greed, disease and a lot of them could be solved if people were less attached to wealth, status and power.

“Virtue” is a bad translation of aretê but we’re stuck with it. What the Stoics actually meant was a kind of strength of character that’s possessed by people when they really flourish at the core of their being. Humans are human because they think and use language. So for the Stoics we have a duty to do that to the best of our ability: and the perfection of thinking (reason) is wisdom, which is the root of the cardinal Greek virtues. We have a duty to perfect our essential nature, in other words. That’s why aretê is sometimes now translated as “excellence” (of character). Are there circumstances, therefore, where a person excels in their essential nature as a rational being and yet does things we (the “majority”) consider “bad”? The Stoics would probably be comfortable agreeing with that, in a sense, because they assume the majority are very confused about right and wrong. However, they also believe that all humans have the “seeds” of virtue within them because we all have reason, we just haven’t perfected its practical application. We all have similar moral preconceptions, at a very general level. (There’s some debate about that, but frankly it’s surprising that we do agree so much on abstract values – we just clash much more it comes to putting them into practice.) The idea that Stoicism is unfeeling seems to me to be common but to run counter to what the philosophy actually teaches. We’re cosmopolitans, who view all rational beings as our brothers and sisters, and the Stoics argued (against the Epicureans, who denied this) that all humans (with some exceptions) have an instinctive natural affection for their offspring. They believed this is rationally extended to include all of mankind, to some extent, and so the wise man is a philanthropist, literally, he “loves mankind”. In that respect, Stoicism was obviously the most important precursor of certain aspects of Christian ethics (which, interestingly, nobody would ever call “unfeeling”). It’s true that the Stoics say externals are indifferent, but they also say that the majority of people (virtually all of us) don’t really understand this. So we should seek to help others, with compassion, even though their distress is often ultimately self-inflicted.

This is helpful, thanks. Really getting a handle on what Stoics mean by “virtue” continues to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me, I think.

Pros
1. Provides a meaning to life. (To live with accordance to nature)
2. An internal motivation to improve oneself constantly and to do noble deeds.

Cons
1. I can’t help but feel that people would take my strength of character for granted and use me as a tool.

“I can’t help but feel that people would take my strength of character for granted and use me as a tool.”

I think this a really good point that I have even often thought about. One such example would be a cheating spouse. Through stoicism you detach yourself from the expectation that your wife not cheat, so the conclusion is that your not that mad by it and may let it slide. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG. If implemented correctly, Stoicism should have the exact opposite result, especially when you consider that your attachments to your wife based on sex, social status, etc; mean far less than the virtue of character hit that she has taken. Now that your wife has shown to be of less virtue than you desire, it is an easier decision to make.

Sorry wanted to clear something up… It is correct that you would not be that mad by it, but it isn’t correct to say that because you aren’t that mad you will forgive dishonest and wicked behavior.

Notes for the week

Pausing and stepping back to watch my own reactions was difficult. Often, I would only remember that I had lost control only after the moment passed. At other times I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I gave in anyway; it just felt easier.

Questions for the week

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

Pros: Living a life in which I take virtue as the only good would probably give me less stress, more appreciation, greater awareness.

Cons: Living a life in which I take virtue as the only good would probably require a lifestyle change, and change is always difficult.

How do you think Stoicism might be adapted to suit our modern world-view and way of life?

I think it wouldn't take too much to adapt Stoicism to suit our modern world-view. But it would probably take a lot of convincing for people to accept and adopt Stoicism. It is so easy to just be led around, to be pushed and pulled by Life, and then to blame others when things don't happen our way.

I appreciate your comment, especially “At other times I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I gave in anyway; it just felt easier.” This happens for me too, although I’m hoping it will be less and less often. I feel like the groove of how I have always acted is very easy to slip into, and it takes an effort, at first, to choose a different way.

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?

What do you think would be the pros and cons of living a life in which you take excellence of character (Stoic “virtue”) to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good?”

Well… there would be a lot of external goods that I would have to let go of the importance of, in order to have a more fulfilling peace that comes from maintaining my MORAL PURPOSE.

By pursuing Stoic virtue / excellence of character in my life I am able to lead a more fulfilling and productive life because I am not seeking the approval of others nor do I let the words and actions of others “get to me.” I focus on being present, living today to it’s fullest, and dealing calmly and appropriately with whatever fate throws at me.

I believe Stoicism is well suited for use in modern times as it is. There are modern translations of the ancient texts that make them very accessible.

Mike

I definitely agree. I’ve come to realize that humans are always trying to please something in their actions; whether it’s god, virtue, self interest, pleasure, other people, etc. In accepting that your own pursuit of virtue is the ultimate goal, I think naturally you would be less inclined to please others or passions or emotions. By setting virtue as the spirit of your pursuit, other pursuits become less important.

Pros: more relaxed mindset, freed from the unimportant but weary distractions of the everyday life. Better relation with other people as their (and mine) mistakes affects me less stressful.

Cons: possible bad impact on career and personal relations, because this mindset change the person.

I think Stoicism is against the modern consumer/dream-pursuer way of life, but it is an advantage because it is helps to choose an archivable, realistic goals.

Years ago I attended a philosophy school in London for eight years, and left only due to an upheaval in my life at the time. The teachings and goals were very similar to those of Stoicism as taught here. After two years we learnt to meditate, but an early exercise was very similar to the one taught here: become still, become aware of the weight of your body on the chair, the feel of clothes… and then open out one’s awareness to what’s around, out to far distant sounds…and then gradually bring the attention back. This was “pausing”; it was good to do in between activities during the day, to quieten and re-centre oneself. For a while I taught in a school and I used to do this with pupils before starting a class. It was good to find that exercise presented here, and to practise it again.

Pros: A perception of the world being full of conflict, judgement and fear would become a place of certainty and acceptance.
Cons: As with all ‘ways’ could this lead to a selfishness and fanaticism that does harm to those around you?

Adapting stoicism to modern world-view: There seems to be little that truly needs to change, only perhaps finding language that resonates better to a modern ear when we discuss the main goal of virtue. I still struggle with this word. 🙂

Each day I see more and pros living like a stoic , itsn’t easy because we are in a society who lives in a particular kind of hedonism when the most value and important things are reputation, money and health , things that we know aren’t under our control. if you have the wisdom and PRACTICE every day the stoic fundamentals ideas particulary I dont see any cons living like a stoic.

Throughout the history of mankind problems and adversities have existed, I don’t think there are currently more or less problems than before, I keep that stoicism is a good way of life

This is one area of which I have difficulty grasping the stoic mentality. Is it not true that I have influence on things like my reputation? To say that just because I don’t have 100% control, is no reason to dismiss the influence your actions and behaviors have over your reputation. In this sense you can still value someones reputation, because you know a certain amount of it is self made. Just because it is of value doesn’t mean it’s absolute or that it should be something that you must have. You accept that fact that you can only control your own actions and thoughts and that while your reputation is not fully determined by these, that it gives you the best opportunity to get what you want. But, just because you prefer the certain reputation and don’t achieve it, doesn’t mean that you give up, it just means you keep focusing on what you can control and keep pressing on.

In a world where you can only judge someone on their actions; the reputation, money and health are all external things that hint towards potential virtues of thought and character.

Following virtue will bring peace of mind and focus to our actions for we know we do our best for the world we live in. at the same time, it will put you at odd with convention and with most peoples who center theirs lives around modern hedonism.

The pros of living a life in which excellence of character is seen as the only intrinsic good include, for me:
* keeping focussed on excellence
* paying less attention to things that aren’t important (indifferents?)
* having a model to use for decision making
The con for me is:
* the difficulty, at times, of trying to live with excellence of character

I’m a bit behind on commenting; work has been taxing and my house doesn’t clean itself. But I have been doing my exercises.

Pros of fully adopting the Stoic philosophy: developing better coping skills; being a better mother, wife, friend, and worker; feeling better about myself and my capacity and competency.

Cons: I’ve only found one. My partner says he is missing the energy I give off when I’m on a positive emotional roller coaster. Like when I get fired up over politics or the latest episode of Game of Thrones. I told him that that is a part of me that I really don’t like about myself. It stems from something inside of me that I don’t think is healthy. I hope he learns to embrace the new way I want to be. But, if he can’t, that’s nothing to me. Or is it?

I think stoisism will help me in pitting my energy to where it makes sense vs to where it makes no sense. It will help me in in guiding my decisions but it might affect my relation with people who are less stoic. They might feel i’m disconnected. However ultimately they should benefit from my stoisism since it has helps the interaction towards that what makes sense/what we can control.

I think living with a more “philosophical” attitude will certainly contribute in reducing stress in more difficult situations and therefore help me deal with these situations more calmly and efficiently.
The challenge, I believe, in this way of life, is engaging in action while taking a step back… Things happen so quickly, sometimes you just have to react. Reacting calmly, vituously, can be a feat.

100% agree. I am just conflicted in coming at this program from a therapeutic approach. I mean ultimately if I didn’t think there was good outcomes then i wouldn’t be doing this program, but maybe we should look at the therapeutic results as more of an icing on the cake, while the benefits in personal character will be the cake.

If excellence of character is the only true good in one´s life you have to consider money, reputation and wellfare of your spouse, relatives and friends as “indifferents”. Allthough relation to other people would be “preferable indifferents”. Status in society and money are important at least to those who have some and it is very difficult to rid oneself of these “goods”. Living a life in which excellence of character is the main virtue would be easier to you and your neighbours, at least in the long run.

Pros: Reducing stress, which, as someone with high blood pressure, would be fantastic

Cons: Wondering if I’ll start coming off as emotionally distant to my partner

Pros- to live a life where I am in integrityty with my values and beliefs would be a freedom in its self it could potentially release energy that usually gets used up in the conflicts in my mind and the anxiety that come with not always being true to ones self.

Cons- the main con that I can think of is there could potentially be some people that are less keen to spend time with me as a lot of relations ships are based on collusion whether that’s gossip or strong shared points of view and obviously for some drinking drug taking etc.
For me it may be with in conversation, people wanting to pull me into gossip which I would want to get involved in.

I think this is really hard work with the promise of autonomous orientation in life .
I hope that this course helps me to train my judgement in order to recognize things I can or I cannot change.
In modern life the stoic attitude could promote tolerance .

Pros: Awareness of Thought Processes, Less Mental Distraction, Recognition of Personal Volition, More Productive Introspection.

Cons: Social Aversion by certain Personalities.

In living a life of striving for excellence of character I can see the pros being more aware of your flaws and overcoming them. In addition to overcoming these character flaws and practicing virtues a person may come to be at peace with themselves.

On the other end of the spectrum I can see the pursuit of virtue being overwhelming and consume the pursuer with the mindset of fighting against the endless tide.

I think becoming less self-pitying and more focused on virtuous action will help me procrastinate less and get more worthwhile things done in the world.
Since discovering mindfulness several years ago, sitting zen for around three years, and practicing stoicism for the past year, I’ve noticed massive improvements in my own sense of wellbeing and ability to focus on the common good.
I’ve found I’m less likely to feel overwhelmed and am more able to focus.

Pros: Beter control over mental activity and emotions, less suffering, less useless atatchment.
Cons: Becoming all virtuous can be difficult when lines between grey areas between what is virtuous and what is not, there are times when you may have to do things that are necessarly virtuous but promote you in the long run.

Pros: that I am able to focus on the task at hand, not at the effect it may have on me emotinally.
Cons: that life Looses some of the spontaneity, that I highly value as well
– which Again may be a pro, since mindfullness allows me to enjoy more fully every and any incident in life.
IN times of terrorism and voilence a stoic approach in life allows for actions, based on thoughtfulness and reasoning rather than stirred up emotions and anxiety. Providing the World with wise leaders and peoples, hopefully securing a better World for all, and at least a calmer response from me 😉

I think applying the principles of Stoicism(pros) will allow me to cut off the things that are not important to my life. Like less time spent on social media, less time watching TV or youtube videos, allowing more time for exercise, books, planning my day, and accomplishing goals. It also will allow me to feel my emotions(and not ignore them like most people think of Stoicism), but instead not act on emotions that are unhealthy, and not being a slave to useless emotions. The cons could possibly be missing out on certain things that modern day people enjoy, such as drinking to excess, sex to excess, and other hedonistic things that a Stoic maintains his stance away from typically. So, partial isolation from normalcy in some respects. But a wise Stoic should be able to enjoy life and be the life of the party, just maybe not in the sense we typically think of.
I apologize if that was long.

Accepting responsibility for one’s emotions is definitely a pro, and believing this to be the only thing that’s intrinsically good should alleviate much of the pain gained from other people’s actions.

With the fast paced always-connected social environment we’re quickly all being drawn into, I think Stoicism and it’s practices may not only be suited, but may actually be essential to health in this modern age. Children need to be taught how to distinguish the real value of things (the new iphone… etc..) and how not to concern themselves with things outside their control.

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