We’re always told to be mindful of the people around us. Don’t hurt other’s feelings, or offend, we’re told. Well, there’s truth to this. As members of society, we’ve been taught that people are responsible for how they act based on their feelings or how they manage those feelings. But we’re also taught to not stir up people’s feelings. We kind of have it both ways. People can choose to act or not act based on their feelings but at the same time, we shouldn’t push people’s buttons because people are only human.
That’s really not too far away from Stoicism. Stoics were radical in the belief that we could individually learn to manage our emotions far better but they were also mindful of the fact that we’re only human. It’s just not nice to try to injure someone even if they’re the best Stoic you ever crossed paths with.
So are we, for better or worse, at the mercy of our emotions? We are somewhat at their mercy but, with practice, we can lessen their hold on us and their efficacy. The Stoics realized long ago that by judging externals to be morally neutral, we can deescalate our passions such as hate, jealousy, and lust. By deliberately and mindfully discarding the moral importance of all things external, we can free up a lot of our mind from emotions reacting to external events. Also, we can refocus our mind by turning it inward, toward our virtuous character. By working on our character and perfecting it, we can be more relaxed, chill, and logical.
Society almost has it right in the way we should hold ourselves accountable for our own behavior despite having strong passions. And society definitely has it right that we really shouldn’t try to push people’s buttons, at least, if it’s not for the betterment or for some more important effort than mere pushing people’s buttons for buttons’ sake. One thing that all societies throughout time have gotten wrong though is the obsession over externals. Externals are valuable but they’re not the most important thing ever. Also, society is right to say that we should take responsibility for our emotions and not act out on them every time we become angry. But the Stoics offered a better solution to this problem, and that was to pretty much kill off any kind of negative passion. That way you’d be insured to not easily cave to whatever passion you might have. Neutering a passion really goes a long way, it gives someone a freedom they didn’t once have. They don’t have to feel like the dam holding back all that water. The Stoics said to just reduce the level of the water in the first place so that no possible instances of leaking or rupture is even possible.
Stoicism is the best philosophy ever designed by the natural world. It’s our little blue print to doing what we should be doing. Are you angry? Stoicism says, it’s ok to be initially angry as a result of a stimulus but after a few seconds of thinking about it, cut that shit out. Relax man. Turn down your angry passion. It’s silly to be that way. Same thing with fear. It’s ok to be startled, to even shake a little bit when delivering a speech in front of a crowd, but on the inside, get things right, be calm. Stoicism also throws in helpful tips on how to make that happen.
I’m kind of a hot mess. My desires are pulling me in millions of directions. My mind won’t shut up about anything. Just won’t turn off. Keeps calculating, speculating, creating, feeling, absorbing, entertaining, and laterally thinking. This is where Stoicism comes in handy. It tells me, focus on virtue. Take all the energy of these desires and focus it into a laser beam aimed at virtue. Harness all the energy in my brain to focus on one important thing in life: virtue. A brain with goals is awesome. It’s what makes humans fundamentally human. Having a goal keeps you from being pulled into every single direction by millions of desires just trying to get what they want. Having a goal is one thing though. We usually focus on one goal at a time. But virtue is the ultimate goal. Everyone should have some ultimate goal in life. And it should be a good goal. So what’s gooder than good itself? That’s what Stoicism says it is. Stoicism says virtue is the only good.
Life is often easier than we make it. I mean, life can be hard sometimes but do we really want to compound that by thinking of it as a terrible thing that it’s hard? Wouldn’t it be a better way of thinking about hardships as things to learn from and to even overcome? What’s life without learning some kind of lesson? When Darwin dreamed of his evolutionary theory, he imagined that life adapts. Isn’t that the thing that we should be doing in our own minds? Adapt! Follow evolution, try a new idea, test it, see if it works and if it survives the test of logic, go with it. That’s Stoicism. Stoicism has been shaped by a long tradition of philosophers that go back to Heraclitus, tinkering with ideas, trying to figure out the ones that survive critical thinking.
I get momentarily sad sometimes. Because I think about my mind and it’s too fast. Too fast. It’s also very impulsive and very unfocused. But then I remember the ultimate goal. The real objective goal: Live simply in agreement with Nature. Be virtuous. If I can just follow that narrow dirt path, I can get through the day. From thinking about doing what’s virtuous, I can also derive all my preferred indifferents that I need to focus on to get me there. I know I have to do physics homework because at some point I have to be a physics teacher so I can enjoy my career and make money at it so I can support my wife and daughter.
It brings peace to me when I can just forget all the desires, thoughts, and feelings that all run way too fast and think about virtue. I wouldn’t wish the tragedy of my own mind on anyone. But I can definitely learn to deal with my mind. My warped brain doesn’t totally own me, I get some say too. I got that ability to detach myself from the situation and rationally evaluate and make my own decision after I’ve stepped back and breathed a little. I have to remember, remember, remember that I can be rational. That I can think critically. I can assert my own final say about my own thoughts and ideas. I can judge things as good or bad. I can judge things as preferred or dispreferred. I can judge things and even prescribe what I should be doing. And finally, I can follow my own prescription. I can do this. I just have to do it. I have to stop, slow down, pause, reflect, think about the important things, the real important things, and just subsume all of my being to accomplishing those real important things.
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.
In this article, I specifically redefine “virtue signaling” to make a point. I give “virtue signaling” a positive meaning since most people accused of “virtue signaling” are actually doing the right thing.
Often we hear people complain about others who virtue signal. But what is virtue signaling? Virtue signaling is usually a form of argumentation and rhetoric that defends the dignity or importance of classes of people, whether they are black, women, homosexuals, trans, and non-binary. When you signal your virtues you’re calling people to the fact that you and they should care about these issues. After all, virtue isn’t just something that should be important to one person, it should be important to everyone.
Vice signaling doesn’t tend to use logic or empirical claims but rather attacks virtue signalers merely on the basis that they’re virtue signalers. In fact, vice signalers define virtue signaling as an attempt for person who virtue signals to score social points, pat themselves on the back, or do what’s in their self-interest.
Why call it “vice signaling”? It’s vice signaling because by only attacking virtue signalers but not their arguments, they’re defying principles of logic based on wisdom. Their entire strategy is illogical thus vicious. It doesn’t add to the dialogue, it subtracts from the dialogue. Vice signalers might have a point that some virtue signalers out there are just pretending to care but whether a virtue signaler pretends to care is besides the point. The vice signaler still needs to address the virtue signalers arguments rather than attack the virtue signaler him/herself.
Vice signaling isn’t just a problem because the person is being illogical and thus vicious but their attitude even has negative consequences. It derails discussion, it poisons the dialogue, it even harms women and minorities because it tries to silence them.
Musunious Rufus, Epictetus, Cato the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca were among many virtue signalers. We don’t know their true intentions perfectly. You know, maybe Epictetus really did virtue signal because he wanted to increase his social approval. But we’ll never know. We should be thinking about what we know about him, his arguments and what conclusions they were driving.
One of the saddest parts about vice signalers who are pretending to be Stoics in FB Stoic Groups is they often are angry/hateful and try to conceal this fact. But they can’t seem to conceal it as hard as they try. Vice signaler’s hatred/anger can explode in any minute but it usually releases a little pressure in the form of snide remarks, attacks on the person themselves, complaining about others not being Stoic enough, voicing their concerns about group members being Post-Modern Cultural Marxists, express disgust with political discussions relating to Stoicism, and responding to questions with questions rather than attempting to answer the initial questions in good faith.
One of the easiest ways I can spot a vice signaler is when I first post my “liberal and progressive” Stoic views on some topic and first comment is “No” without any explanation. Often a vice signaler is the first person to react to my post with an angry face emoticon. It’s not always the case but it tends to be the case.
I would like to say this about vice signalers though even though they may derail discussion with their snide remarks, it is best to try to help them see the light by discussing the issues with them without attacking their character.
I’ve never been exactly an alcoholic. But no one really is. I mean, it’s really more of a continuum than a simple categorical statement like, “I’m an alcoholic.” For me, I had a drinking problem but not enough to really interfere too much with my life. But it was still a concern so here are some things I did to figure out how to deal with this.
1. Whiskey was too much for me. So I switched to beer. You don’t have to completely quit alcohol but you should try to make it more manageable. Drink beer instead of hard liquor so that your belly fills up faster and you don’t get as inebriated. This isn’t exactly a Stoic technique but it is rational and it will save you some trouble.
2. Remember, to drink water between beers. This helps to make the effects of alcohol even less potent than otherwise. Drinking water will also fill your belly faster and keep you from drinking as much and as often. It will also keep you more hydrated and you’ll avoid feeling as much of a hangover in the morning if you have too many beers in one night.
3. Never drink on an empty stomach. Also make sure you eat something as well as drink something in between beers.
4. Now that you’ve done 1-3, you’ve definitely achieved some success; you might be drinking more than a moderate amount but you’re helping your liver a lot more and your liver is thanking you.
5. If alcohol is still a problem by this point you’re probably still drinking too many beers even though you’re taking water and food breaks in between. You should probably not be drinking 12 beers in a day, even beers that don’t seem to have much more alcoholic content than water like Budlight.
6. If you’re drinking too many beers, here’s where the Stoic advice should come in handy. You’re not drinking too much because of weakness of will, you’re drinking too much because you’re suffering from a lack of wisdom. You think alcohol is the ultimate good in your life and it can really seem that way because it feels like a shortcut to tranquility. But really, the best way to tranquility is virtue. That means you should know what’s truly in your control and not in your control. Your choices are in your control but whether those choices yield actionable results is not truly in your control. You should also know that less alcohol means you can do more good for those around you. If you let alcohol be your only good in life, you’ll forget the true good you can do for others. Instead of staying home and drinking you can go to your daughter’s soccer game. That does so much more true good for you and your daughter than sitting at home drinking alone.
7. If you’re drinking too many beers, it could be because you’re avoiding something. You have social anxiety, you have depression, you might even have generalized anxiety. If any of these are the case, seek professional help. Psychological therapy can go a long way to helping you get over your issues, especially when a psychologist is helping you. You can also practice Stoicism. All our fears tend to be magnified because of our judgment that externals are bad. Try to help yourself get rid of the judgment that things external to you are bad and you might find that some of your fears dissipate.
8. Remember, you’re never a failure if you find yourself running back to the bottle. Don’t ever hate yourself. You’re mistakenly covering up for fear or depression by pursuing something you misjudge as a good way to dissolve those fears or depression. The best way though is through some kind of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used by a sufficiently trained CBT Ph.D. Psychologist. And of course supplementing that with a life philosophy like Stoicism.
9. You are not an alcoholic. You may have a drinking problem but you are not defined by that problem. You are simply drinking beyond moderation. It’s interfering with your desire to pursue virtue. Don’t let it. Try to remember your last taste of what it was like to do good and do that thing. Do the good. Be the good. You can be a good person. But you are not an alcoholic. You just drink too much.
As feminism has gone more mainstream, and has become more popular, a counterculture of young white men has arisen expressing their concern that men’s rights are being overshadowed. Angry that they no longer feel represented they have banded together to create what is called Men’s Rights Activism. The counterculture has unfortunately tried infiltrating Stoicism, hijacking it, and pretending Stoicism is all about being a man and manning up. I like to call their form of Stoicism, “Broicism.”
Stoicism was a philosophy progressive for its time because it saw all humans the same, capable of using reason and being capable of living a virtuous life. Zeno’s Republic actually mentions women as being members of his society of virtuous Stoics. The Stoics believed women were equal to men in their ability to use reason. Broicism tends to try to undo this history or has no interest in this history of Stoicism. Broicism tends to use quotes from Stoics selectively and ignores the cosmopolitan elements of Stoicism.
Stoicism is about trying to eliminate negative passions such as anger and sorrow and replace them with positive passions of joy and compassion. Unfortunately, Broicism tries to replace this with toxic masculinity, the belief that all emotions in men should be suppressed except for violent expressions of anger/outrage.
Stoicism emphasizes Hierocles’s Concentric Circles that there is self-love and out of self-love comes love for family, then love for community, then love for humanity. Broicism emphasizes self-love only and thinks that virtue means doing what’s in one’s best self
interest. The attitude is usually, “I got my virtue now screw you!”
On Facebook, when a question is asked why there are so few women in the Stoic Group, the first people to pop up and say, “it’s because Stoicism emphasizes rationality but women aren’t very rational and are more emotional” are Broics. They tend to think of Stoicism as a men’s only club and so subconsciously de-legitimize women from also being capable of being Stoics and using reason. Real Stoics understand that women have had a history of dealing with such stereotypes and it may take a while for the culture to
change its view of women in the Stoic group and outside.
Broics tend to be alt right or “cultural libertarians”. They tend to see any kind of liberalism as feminism run amok. Liberal values such as cosmopolitanism, diversity, open dialogue, even free expression that Stoics should embrace are a threat to their worldview. Stoicism is fine with feminism. It may not agree with all feminists on all issues but it’s perfectly fine with liberalism and feminism. In fact, Stoicism tolerates conservative views as well. It’s a very tolerant philosophy, whereas Broicism is not. Broicism usually expresses its intolerance through cheap jokes, trolling, and derailing charitable discussion.
Stoicism has really grown in popularity over the years. The Facebook group Stoicism Group (Stoic Philosophy), hosted by Donald Robertson, has grown to 40k members and is still growing. Stoicism is pretty much the largest growing philosophical school on the Internet. But as Stoicism grows so does making money off of Stoicism. Also Stoicism is being branded as a lifehack that will help you succeed in the business world. I call this kind of Stoicism, “$toicism”.
Stoicism is a philosophy that helps you be resilient in tough situations. $toicism uses this feature to try to sell you success. In fact, $toicism tells you if you try living by the wisdom of the Stoa, you’ll likely be very successful in the business world and you can have the Stoic insights to build your business from the ground up into a mega corporation. Stoicism doesn’t get your hopes up like this. Stoicism tells you that it’s ok to be poor and you’re not a loser for being poor, sometimes shit happens. Stoicism just teaches you how to deal with your circumstances and make the best of them.
$toicism tends to try to sell you Stoic merchandise with notable Stoic quotes. Real Stoicism only tries to sell you wisdom with the only price being that you try. If you try at achieving the virtues, you will have a more just, wise, and benevolent character.
$toics only seem to care about the preferred indifferent wealth. The $toics think that this means greed is a good passion to have in such circumstances. But greed is just another negative passion that grows from the wrong judgment that wealth is good. Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus clearly tell us that very little is required for happiness in this life and wealth doesn’t make you good, it just makes you wealthy.
Since $toics only seem to care about Stoicism in terms of a successful life, only for themselves and nobody else, they tend to downplay the virtue justice. Stoicism emphasizes the role of justice, in fact, Marcus Aurelius believed that justice was the chief virtue among the four virtues. It’s important to cooperate with others and not merely compete with others in the greater society.
$toics can’t seem to figure out why Ayn Rand is a bad guy. They think her philosophy of Objectivism is completely compatible with the philosophy of the Stoa. But little do they realize that Objectivism is a selfish philosophy. I’ve pointed this out to supposed $toics but they’re in denial. Finally, I pointed out that Ayn Rand specifically wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness and they were still in denial. That’s not particularly a very Stoic attitude for those people to have.
One of the contentious issues, whether you’re on the left or the right politically, is whether healthcare should be a right given to citizens by their government. The Stoics believed that everyone had a preference for health. Also, with this in mind, they had the idea that everyone had the right to be treated fairly and equitably. We all have a duty to treat each other fairly and equitably.
Since health is a preferred indifferent and we should all treat each other fairly and equitably, we should be ensuring that everyone has their fair share of health preferences met. Everyone deserves a right to healthcare. The Stoics couldn’t have imagined such a national healthcare system in place in their day because they didn’t have the technology, science, and knowledge of civil engineering we now possess. But now that such a system can be run via public taxation, it makes sense that, as a course of justice, we should be supplying everyone with healthcare.
One could argue that a free market system for healthcare would be better but so far it is subpar. People spend tremendous amounts of money if they don’t have the insurance or they spend tremendous amounts of money just to meet their astronomically-sized deductible. Some people live paycheck to paycheck and can barely meet their premiums. Healthcare is just tremendously expensive and unfortunately hospitals do have to make money even if they’re non-profit. If the money funding the hospital isn’t efficiently and equitably being taxed from everyone throughout the population, whether healthy or sick, the sick are the ones who have to pay the bill in a free market system.
The only alternative from a Stoic point of view is some kind of public system that covers the poor and wealthy, the young and the old by money that is collected evenly and efficiently through taxation of both the sick and healthy alike. This is how our preference for health is met in a just and fair Stoic society.
I use the following argument to support my conclusion. It’s kind of rough right now but I’ll work to make it better later.
1.Justice has a connection to a fair distribution of preferred indifferents.
2. One of these preferred indifferents is health.
3. Therefore in the name of justice health as a preference should be met for everyone throughout the society if it can be met.
4. It can met through efficient and fair taxation.
5. Therefore a public healthcare system should be established.
The War on Drugs is the name given to the campaign by the US Federal Government of prohibiting drugs and giving military aid and intervening to disrupt the illegal drug trade. Stoicism isn’t a philosophy that sells an effort that is ultimately futile. The War on Drugs is usually criticized because it doesn’t appear to be helping people stay off drugs. Instead it might be exacerbating the situation and is costing the US taxpayers $500 million dollars per year.
In the 1980s, while arrests for all crimes rose 28% , the number of arrests for drug offenses rose astronomically at 126%. The War on Drugs has significantly led to an effect of mass incarceration of people who simply enjoy drugs and like profiting from selling them. A Stoic approach wouldn’t be for mass incarceration of drug offenders; in fact, Stoicism would be for a therapy/rehabilitation that would free the soul of drug offenders from the externals (the drugs) they wrongly mis-perceive as good.
Stoicism says we all equally lack perfect virtue. In Stoicism, no one is truly
perfectly good except for the Sage. In the US War on Drugs, people who do or sell drugs are painted as evil compared to those who don’t. Stoicism judges people with greater equanimity than the War on Drugs does.
The US War on Drugs has disproportionately locked up the poor compared to wealthy and has disproportionately locked up hispanics and blacks compared to whites. The War on Drugs has a history shrouded in institutional racism. Stoicism is cosmopolitan in nature, believing that everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or creed is deserving of dignity.
Let’s do the Stoic thing and end the War on Drugs.
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.
It’s kind of an axiom why virtue is the only good for any Stoic. There’s not a perfect proof for why virtue is the chief good. You usually bite the bullet when you commit to any particular universal ethical theory. With Epicureanism, the chief good is pleasure. In utilitarianism, it usually means maximizing the everyone’s preferences or happiness. In Kantian deontology, it means not violating the categorical imperative.
But why choose virtue as the only good? Well, there are a plethora of reasons to do so. But first let’s say why you wouldn’t choose other ethical theories. Utilitarianism and Kantian deontology imply all sorts of ethical decisions that we might not be comfortable making. Utilitarianism is often thought of as as easily calculating the best decision for the most but it’s not always practical to know what’s the best for the most or even possible to know what’s the best for the most. Could utilitarianism condone slavery if slaves are unhappy or not having their preferences met but everyone who benefits from slavery are very happy or are definitely having their preferences met? That’s just one sort of problem with utilitarianism. The problems with morality in the name of utility can’t even be summed up in a single book while some have tried.
What about Kantian deontology? Immanuel Kant actually tried to sell his Metaphysics of Morals as rational foundation of morality that would actually be inline with our common sense. But is it common sense to have to tell the truth always even if it means you can never lie even if it’s to selflessly help another soul? That doesn’t strike anyone as common sense. Also, there are many times in our life where it seems sensible to do the utilitarian thing over the dignity of one individual. How many of us would pull the lever to save 5 lives over 1 life from a murderous Trolley? Probably a significant amount.
And what about making pleasure as the chief good? This seems sensible enough at first. But most people know you should follow pleasure and avoid point within limits. Limits of what? Usually within certain moral guidelines? So then pleasure isn’t the source of the good. Pleasure is actually being limited by something people view to be a higher good than pleasure itself. But we certainly want to allow for pleasure but only within certain constraints. The Epicureans attempted this project but it’s not certain they ever really succeeded because even though they managed to practice virtue, they still did not set it up as the chief good but as a way to not feel guilty when one has erred morally. Feeling guilty caused displeasure, so it’s best not to err morally. But why feel guilty in the first place if one has erred morally or contradicted virtue if virtue isn’t the chief source of the good? It really doesn’t seem to add up.
The Stoics didn’t actually care about feeling guilty if one had erred ethically. In fact, they’d really rather have you just learn from your mistakes rather than feel guilty about them. They knew that people make mistakes all the time, whether attempting to live the good life or being mistaken about what the good life was. There’s a lot of humility in Stoicism. We all make mistakes, so let’s try to fix them and then move on. No sense living in guilt or remorse. Sure, we can feel a little remorseful at first but no sense in grieving over our prior faults.
What’s more is Stoicism makes plenty of room for pleasure. It allows for pleasure, wealth, health, education, reputation, and many other preferred qualities in life we’d like to pursue so long as they don’t contradict the pursuit of the chief good virtue. Since most of these things don’t all the time contradict virtue, then pursuing virtue as the chief good is going to make for a pretty normal life. In fact, pursuing virtue for its own sake won’t make you stand dramatically out from the crowd of people you surround yourself in your daily life. People may wonder what makes you seem a little different than them though and they may want to emulate your behavior but that’s about it.
Virtue is also a pretty morally popular idea when you get people to thinking about what it is and what it entails. Most people, when you get them to think about it, would say that the soldier who jumps on the grenade to save the lives of other soldiers did something truly remarkably good. Virtuous in fact. Most people would also say that the person who risks their life drowning to save two other kids from drowning did something truly noble. It’s because people have this moral sense in their minds that seems to confirm the importance of virtue. That’s not to say that everyone is right about everything all of the time. But when you get people to think about what’s truly important, they’ll usually think someone doing something virtuous rather than something expedient is the right course of action.
Why would people have this moral sense? Perhaps it has to do with Hierocles’s Circles. Hierocles was an ancient Stoic who presumed that all humans began their infancy in self-love. And then as they grew and matured their self-love began to point outward towards their siblings and parents. And then as they grew older they loved their friends. And then they grew to love their community, and then love their society, and then finally humanity. It’s true that not everyone matures fully or matures the same. But there seems to be a general trend in humanity to go from self-love in infancy to love of everyone or philanthropy in adulthood.
What does this development of philanthropy have to do with virtue? Well one of the main virtues of the four cardinal virtues is justice. Justice has to do with fair dealings, equitability, and compassion. The Stoics knew this. They knew virtue was just an extension of love into the realm of universal love or justice. And they knew that temperance, courage, and wisdom all assisted in this universal love.
So this is why it’s worth biting the bullet for the axiom that virtue is the only good. There’s not a lot to lose like you do in all the other plethora of life philosophies out there and there’s plenty of things to gain from one philosophy: Stoicism.