This section will challenge you to live in accord with Stoic values (virtues) and to set consistent goals in your daily life. It focuses more on your intentions and actions, i.e., your behaviour throughout the day. The ancient Stoics viewed their ethics as the very cornerstone of their philosophy. Their conception of what it means to live a good life was what distinguished the Stoics from other ancient schools of philosophy. Epictetus summed up the key doctrine to his students as follows:
Of things that are, some are good, and some are bad, and some are indifferent: the good then are virtues, and the things which participate in virtues; and bad things the opposite; and the indifferent things are wealth, health, reputation. Discourses, 2.9
The goal of life in ancient Stoicism was “living in accord with virtue”, living virtuously. Indeed, they went as far as to say that virtue was the only truly good thing in life, although other things may be of some practical value. Contemporary behavioural psychologists talk about “valued living” as the key to overcoming many common psychological problems, especially depression. We’re going to combine these ideas: the ancient and the modern. The more-recent term “valued living” probably sounds less pompous than “living virtuously”, so sometimes we’ll use that. Nevertheless, to keep the classical connection, it perhaps helps link this with what the Stoics would have called “living well”, “living in accord with virtue”, “living wisely”, etc. That’s what this week is all about…
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