Category Archives: Stoicism

The General Condition of Man

“It is not sufficiently considered how much [a person] assumes who dares to claim the privilege of complaining…. why does he imagine that exemptions should be granted him from the general condition of man?”—Samuel Johnson, Rambler, No. 50 At the … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Epictetus for Lent

Reading the pagan Stoics during this traditional Christian penitential season might seem unusual except that Stoic writings, especially those of the Greek Epictetus, have long been admired by even the most austere orders of monks. Later Christian philosophers, like Justus … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Stoicism

Seneca’s World-Weary Wisdom

“There is only one liberal study that deserves the name—because it makes a person free—and that is the pursuit of wisdom.”—Seneca, Letter LXXXVIII The epistles of the Roman Stoic Lucius Annaeus Seneca are full of jaded charm and acidulous wit. … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Can We Be Stoics?

In discussing the sources of philosophy Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) quotes the Stoic Epictetus: “Philosophy arises when we become aware of our own weakness and helplessness.” But later Jaspers points to what he considers Stoicism’s shortcomings: The advice of the Stoic, … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Samuel Johnson, Stoicism

The Examined Life

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”—Socrates In a passage of The Discourses, the Stoic Epictetus recommends a regular examination of conscience: Let not sleep descend upon your weary eyes before having reviewed every action of the day. Where did … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

The Purpose and Practice of Living

Philosophical systems can tell us either the “why” or the “how” of life. Some writers only touch on the metaphysical wonders of the cosmos without explaining if this knowledge affects us existentially. On the other hand, there is the purely … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Portions of the Divine

“Why are you ignorant, then, of your high birth? Why is it that you don’t know where you came from? – Epictetus I will begin the New Year with an old favorite, The Discourses of Epictetus, the Greek Stoic who … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism

Stoic Piety

Our word “piety” comes the Latin term pietas which refers to devotion to one’s parents as well as to a sense of religious obligation. Epictetus, one of the three great Stoic thinkers of Greco-Roman civilization (the others being Seneca and … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Stoicism

A Meditation on Novelty

I’ve resumed commentary after a long hiatus, imposed not only by the preceding Lent but even more so by an exhausting work schedule. At the end of each day I spent so much time in front of a computer that … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Samuel Johnson, Stoicism

Philosophy, Friendship and Humanity

In his famous epistles, the Roman writer and statesman of the first century, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, often comes across as more Epicurean than Stoic. His life was that of a well-to-do patrician and minister of the infamous Emperor Nero. Not … Continue reading

Posted in Philosophy, Stoicism