Lessons in Stoicism - What ancient philosophers teach us about how to live


How much do I want to read more? 9/10

What a short book.
Love it so far. Concise, interesting, a nice summary. We're traveling in time and being told what's important in life.


Prologue

What if someone told you that much of the suffering in your life was simply due to the way you think about things?
What if it turned out that the ability to avoid all of these things was completely within your control?

Seneca is remembered for his role as tutor to the Emperor Nero, Epictetus was a slave who gained his freedom and went on to set up a philosophical school, while Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of Rome. Their lives could not have been more different, and yet they all embraced Stoicism as a guide to how to live well.

Their works, fundamentally, are about how to live – how to understand one’s place in the world, how to cope when things don’t go well, how to manage one’s emotions, how to behave towards others, how to live a good life worthy of a rational human being.
a therapy for the mind.

1 - The Philosopher as Doctor

In the Discourses, Epictetus is quite clear about what his role is as a philosopher. The philosopher, he says, is a doctor, and the philosopher’s school is a hospital – a hospital for souls.
Socrates had argued that the task of the philosopher is to take care of one’s soul, just as a physician takes care of one’s body.
we should understand it simply as mind, thoughts and beliefs. The task of the philosopher is to analyse and assess the things one thinks, examining their coherence and cogency.

the condition of our soul ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
Socrates famously chastized his fellow for paying great attention to their bodies and their possessions but very little attention to their souls. Socrates insisted that the key to a good, happy life lies in attending to the latter, not the former.
he argued that material wealth is value-neutral. A virtuous person can use money to do good things, while a not so virtuous individual might use it to generate great harm.

It shows that the real value – the source of what is good or bad – resides in the character of the person who has the money, not in the money itself.
It also tells us that paying excessive attention to our money and possessions while neglecting the state of our character is a grave mistake.

Diogenes pursued a virtuous, excellent character at the expense of everything else, advocating an austere, simple life in harmony with Nature. On seeing a child drinking water just using its hands, Diogenes is reported to have said, ‘A child has beaten me in simplicity of living,’ and then to have thrown away one of the few things he owned, his cup.