Philosophy of Stoicism
Episode #8 of the course “Brief history of Ancient philosophy”
In the early third century BCE, the philosopher Zeno of Citium established a school of thought in Athens that came to be known as Stoicism. An approach to dealing with the realities of life, such as suffering and unexpected tragedy, Stoicism promoted an expectation that life was naturally harsh, therefore a person should prepare for the worst at all times. Zeno’s student, Seneca, became one of the most prominent scholars in the Stoic school for the remainder of its history. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was also known as a practicing stoic whose attitudes were carried to the battlefield.
Because of its straightforwardness, different aspects of Stoicism have been incorporated into other philosophies, and the stoic outlook and approach to life has become a common and popularly understood idea. Being known as “stoic” is associated with callousness, but stoicism is actually a term for remaining calm in the face of excitement. When someone is difficult to anger, the person may be called stoic, because anger is seen as the ultimate loss of reason in Stoicism.
To alleviate pain and cope with the fear of living with daily uncertainty, stoics advocated facing fears in order to come to terms with the potentials of a worst-case scenario. Stoics viewed all things with equal importance and did not promote one type of life as better than another. The great maxim of Stoicism is “live according to nature.” According to Stoicism, life should be lived according to reason, and people should make choices based on logical, pragmatic factors. People should accept the circumstances of their lives and not have high expectations. Stoics believed in practical practices like regularly sleeping on the floor and living on a restricted diet for a limited time, as a reminder of ordinary privileges that could be lost.
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