As the popularity of Stoicism has grown it’s begun to reveal its truths slowly to the public. Unfortunately, misconceptions of Stoicism since the time of its founding to now are beginning to grow as well. Some people have this misconception that Stoicism is about being tough and having a stiff upper lip (this is now being rightly characterized as “stoicism-lowercase-s” among experts in the Stoic community). I thought I’d write why Stoicism is better than stoicism-lower-case-s.
1. Stoicism is a robust philosophy that emphasizes getting to know one’s passions and learning to heal the negative passions that can cause us to be irrational. Lowercase stoicism is not a philosophy but just an attitude people express when they’re doing unhealthy things like repressing their emotions.
2. Stoicism involves having courage, which means doing the right thing despite having fear. Lowercase stoicism involves an unhealthy form of courage, usually bravado, which involves denying that one has fear.
3. Stoicism involves developing compassion and conquering one’s anger/hatred. Lowercase stoicism involves a stunted development of compassion and concealing one’s anger/hatred.
4. Stoicism is about being your brother’s keeper and loving everyone and seeing everyone regardless of race, creed, and gender as a brother and a sister. Lowercase stoics usually complain about people being too compassionate and how they should just be indifferent to the daily injustices in the world.
5. Stoicism is about achieving eudiamonia through virtue which means a state of apatheia, which means freedom from negative passion. Lowercase stoicism misunderstands this point and thinks that individuals should be apathetic to the concerns of others and remain unengaged in society and politics.
The correct answer is neither is more “Stoic” than the other. For one thing, they do not follow the philosophy of Zeno of Citium. However, they both live approximately in agreement with nature. Also, living in agreement with nature for a cat is very different than living in agreement with nature for a dog.
The question is how much does your individual cat or dog live in agreement with nature? For a human to live in agreement with nature, they have to mature emotionally and rationally to their full potential. Essentially, no one really completes their full potentiality because if they did, they’d be a Sage. So the same probably goes for cats and dogs. Does a cat or a dog ever really mature fully into their full potential? Maybe a few but they’d be rarer than a phoenix.
What does it mean for a cat to live up to its full potential as a cat? Well, perhaps it would have to be very good apex predator. It would need to be able to catch mice really well. It would need to take plenty of catnaps. It would need eat the right amount and clean its coat sufficiently. It might need to produce the requisite amount of hairballs. Perhaps if you saw that cat, you’d be like, “well, that’s definitely a cat!”
What does it mean for a dog to live up to its full potential as a dog? Well, perhaps it would need to be appropriately loyal to its human. If it was a feral dog, maybe it would need to be part of a pack and maybe even do the appropriate things as a pack animal. Perhaps it would be really good at following the lead dog or if it was a lead dog of the pack it would be really good at leading. Maybe if a human called it “a good boy” it would take that as an initiative to be a good boy. A “good” dog certainly would be very trainable.
So that’s the definitive answer. Cats and dogs are not really any better than the other with regard to Stoicism. Cats will be cats and dogs will be dogs. Some dogs are better at being dogs than others. Just like some cats are better than other cats at being cats. Can anything ever really live in agreement with nature? Not when taken apart. But when looking at the whole nature definitely lives in agreement with itself.
Fox News has a conservative bias. Stoicism doesn’t have a conservative bias. Fox News specifically runs news stories and commentaries designed to promote laissez-faire capitalism, anti-immigration policy, the military industrial complex, and a whole host of conservative issues. Stoicism just tells you to try to observe the world without morally judging it. As Shakespeare said, “nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Fox News has only been around since 1996 AD/CE. Stoicism has been around since 300 BC/BCE. Stoicism has really proven it can stand the test of time. Sure, it merged with Christianity during the Dark Ages but it came back on its own during the Renaissance. It has influenced many great thinkers during the ancient Roman times, Medieval times, Renaissance times, Age of Enlightenment, and current.
Fox News along with many other news networks drummed up a lot of jingoistic passion in the United States to go to war in Iraq in March of 2003. Stoicism doesn’t drum up negative passion e.g. jingoism. In fact, it tries to calm down your negative passions and increase your compassion. If Stoicism was more largely practiced in the US, we’d never rush into war. In fact, we’d try to be much more diplomatic than we are now.
Fox News has Sean Hannity. Great Stoic thinkers, ancient and modern, do not include Sean Hannity.
Finally, Fox News commentary is all about pointing out negative attributes of Democrat politicians and pointing out positive attributes of Republican politicians (unless they’re not conservative enough). Stoicism ignores partisan divide and tries help you realistically assess people’s character. So a Stoic is only going to judge politicos based on what they know of their virtues, particularly their justice and wisdom.
The autumn is the best season. The days are growing shorter and the intensely hot days draw to an end. All the wasps and spiders go away and the trees look magnificent with their bright yellow, red, orange colors shining as the beta carotene shines through the decayed chlorophyll of their leaves. Here are 5 reasons Stoicism is better than that.
Fall unfortunately is just one season and so it’s not always in season. Stoicism is always in season. In fact if you bought Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic, you’ll find that there’s a quote by a notable Stoic to help you through the day for 365 days of the year.
The Fall reminds us that all things must come to an end. The leaves of the deciduous trees begin to die, the insects begin to die, as the air cools outside activities begin to cease, and gardening comes to an end. Stoicism reminds us throughout the year that all things must come to an end. Everything is born, sustains, and then dies. Fall only reminds us of the ending of things for 3 months. Stoicism reminds us not to take anything for granted 365 days of the year.
In the late Fall, the air grows uncomfortably cold, especially in late November. Stoicism teaches you to bear the cold. It teach you all year round how to learn to bear uncomfortable truths, hardships, anything and everything dire. When you practice Stoicism after a while, you begin to quote Queen Elsa of Frozen, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”
The Fall is a great season for pyromaniacs. It’s that time of the year when you have bonfires and you get to stack your wood in the fireplace/hearth and let it burn. The ancient Stoics believed in a divine fire that existed in each of us that burned throughout the year. Surely Stoicism is the true answer to all fire lovers everywhere.
In the Autumn many throughout the Western world participate what is called Halloween. Halloween is a great holiday that celebrates the pivotal point in the year of harvest. While it’s a fun holiday where people dress up like witches and warlocks, it doesn’t compare to Stoicism which creates joy throughout the year for those who practice virtue.
There is some indication that at least a few of the ancient Stoics might’ve had polytheistic beliefs, invoked divination, and prayed to the gods. Despite this, Stoicism as a philosophical system does not hold any beliefs in the power of prayer or wishful thinking. Here are 5 reasons Stoicism is better than prayer and wishful thinking.
1. Stoicism uses reason to try to understand the world realistically and adapt to the world practically. Prayer and wishful thinking don’t look at the world from an honest perspective. Prayer and wishful thinking generally is in denial that fortune can just manifest positively or negatively at random times. Prayer and wishful thinking fundamentally believe that things can be changed for the better when there’s really no actual evidence that this can be the case. Stoicism is just more honest.
2. People waste a lot of time praying and thinking wishfully. When instead they can use Stoicism, which helps them deal with hardship and loss. Why waste so much time wanting things to be a certain way when you can just use Stoicism to adapt your mind to the way things are?
3. People trick themselves into believing in the power of prayer through confirmation bias. They remember all the times when prayer seemed to work and forget all the times when it didn’t work. Stoicism doesn’t rely on confirmation bias. What you put into Stoicism, you get out. So if you’re trying to be more virtuous and work at it, you’ll become more virtuous. You just have to try. In fact, people will begin to notice how you’ve changed and maybe want to emulate you.
4. Stoicism helps you use your reason and senses to help you anticipate future events. For instance, if you get to know people realistically rather than what you wish they were, you can judge their characters easier if you’re close to them. You can tell who might be trying to scam you or exploit you and you can easily adapt to that. But if you’re using wishful thinking, you wish a person was a certain way, and so you don’t get to know them the way they really are. So then those people just use you and abuse you.
5. Finally, Stoicism helps you learn from the past and prepare for the future by living in the present. Wishful thinking and prayer just makes you live in the future or the past but never lets you learn from the present. You’re always thinking of how you wish things used to be but you’re not learning how to make things great now for yourself. Or you’re praying for a nice sports car but you’re not thinking about how nice your car is now.
Toxic waste in science fiction or fantasy can do a lot of amazing things when, for one example, turtles or a rat are exposed to it like in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It basically gives anyone super powers; well, when it’s the right toxic waste, usually it glows green. Stoicism though says the only thing truly in our power is our judgment, opinions, goals, aversions, and desires. In fact, since they’re really the only thing in anyone’s power, Stoics have become much greater masters of their rational faculties and thus have the real superpowers.
In real life, toxic waste can make you really sick. Stoicism doesn’t seem to do that. Stoicism might make you practice some discomfort but generally doesn’t require you to go overboard and certainly wouldn’t make you expose yourself to toxic waste by eating it or swimming in it.
Toxic waste, when not stored properly, can really harm the environment. Though ancient Stoics did not discuss the environment (that I know of), in the modern age Stoics, using their reason, would find it important to preserve or conserve natural environments and resources.
Toxic waste usually contains elements like arsenic or mercury or molecules like cyanide or PCBs. These elements and molecules can harm you if ingested or harm the environment. But if you ingest Stoicism through your mind, it tends to heal your mind and provide benefit. Also if you release Stoicism into the environment, for example, you tell a tree or a river about Epictetus, the tree doesn’t get harmed nor does the river’s aquatic wildlife.
Toxic waste doesn’t feel very good. If you get it on your skin, you’ll likely feel yucky but you could also feel like your skin is on fire as the chemicals eat away your epidermis. Stoicism never seems to feel yucky or eat your skin. You can’t even really bathe in it or drink it. But you can definitely consume it. Using negative visualization wrong can have ill effects. But if you use it right, you will find a lot of benefit.
I was recently in the hospital because somewhere inside of my gastrointestinal tract I had a bleed. So I’d like to share why Stoicism is so much better than a bleed in your long ass digestive snake organ.
1. You can die from a gastrointestinal bleed. You can also die from practicing Stoicism. But dying for Stoicism will make you a badass martyr.
2. Gastrointestinal bleeds can be very difficult to locate and fix. You can easily find Stoicism with a quick google search and if you find Stoicism’s metaphysics to be broken you can easily replace the metaphysics with modern scientific materialism. Its ethics adapts well to a variety of possible metaphysics.
3. GI bleeds are sometimes painful. Stoicism can sometimes mean enduring discomfort. But man is the eudaimonia worth it!
4. GI bleeds often means staying in the hospital which can be quite expensive. Stoicism is only somewhat expensive if you buy all that ridiculous memento mori merchandise and spend money covering your body with Seneca quotes.
5. GI bleeds often happen unexpectedly. Stoicism is all about expecting the unexpected. It usually means preparing for the worst. In fact, GI bleeds aren’t even the worst. There are so many worse things you can imagine happening to yourself while you imagine yourself simultaneously unperturbed.
Philosophers have long puzzled over the role of humor. The best explanation I’ve heard so far is that we laugh at something that doesn’t make sense or the sense of it changes so rapidly our mind laughs trying to make sense of it. So humor is just our complex way of figuring things out or just putting our hands up puzzled.
Let us remember how humor is an important part of our rational faculty dealing with the absurdity of the world at times. Sometimes the best sense of humor is had by the person who laughs at himself. I leave you with this account of Chrysippus dying from laughter:
One ancient account of the death of Chrysippus, the 3rd-century BC Greek Stoic philosopher, tells that he died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs; he told a slave to give the donkey neat wine with which to wash them down, and then, “…having laughed too much, he died (courtesy Wikipedia)”
When Communism has been tried, it’s killed between 85 to 100 million people. When Stoicism has been tried, it’s killed less than 85 million people.
Communism believes in the utopian vision that one day we can have a classless society of everyone contributing their fair share and receiving their fair share and there would be no more exploitation of the working class by anyone for profit. Stoicism has never made such promises. Zeno’s Republic was an idealized vision that Stoics could live in communal harmony but there’s no evidence that it made any promises that all societies would or could live in communal harmony.
Communism believes in a power struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie. Stoicism puts the power in your hands by declaring that the only thing in your power is your judgment, opinion, goal, and desire.
While some people have claimed that Communism has yet to be tried successfully, Stoicism has been tried successfully for thousands of years.
Communism, like capitalism, is about your freedom to work. It’s a philosophy that emphasizes your freedom to work. Capitalism and Communism of course have major differences in how to go about this but they care ultimately about human beings as working animals. Stoicism is much cooler than this. Stoicism believes you should have the freedom to philosophize. You are a rational animal and a social being so the emphasis is on your freedom to live an analytical life, a life worth living.