What is the subject of the book The Lives of the Stoics?
The Lives of the Stoics (2020) is a documentary film that examines the philosophy of Stoicism through the lives of its first adherents. These notes, which are jam-packed with insights about the leaders, battles, and politics of ancient antiquity, provide a new but historically accurate look at this famous ideology.
Who has read the book The Lives of the Stoics?
- Philosophy enthusiasts are on the lookout for fresh ideas.
- Strikers are on the lookout for motivation.
- In search of a different point of view, aspiring historians
Who is Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hansel, and what is his story?
Ryan Holiday is an author and media strategist from the United States. His work has been featured in publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review and Psychology Today. He is the author of many books, including The Obstacle is the Way and Stillness is the Key.
Stephen Hanselman is an author and publisher who lives in New York City. He received his undergraduate degree from Fresno Pacific University and his master's degree from Harvard Divinity School. His earlier works include The Daily Stoic, which was published in 2011.
What exactly is in it for me? Actions speak louder than words.
We should study philosophy, according to Nietzsche, if we want to become better human beings in the long run. Stoicism is unlike any other school of philosophy in that it assists us in our desire to become better. More than two thousand years ago, this school of thought originated in Ancient Greece and stresses the significance of deeds over words – of living in the right manner rather than just saying the right thing – rather than just saying the right thing. In order to learn about Stoicism, let us delve into the lives and experiences of the Stoics themselves, and we will do just that. Travel back in time to Ancient Greece and Rome as you read the intriguing histories of the most prolific Stoic philosophers in this collection of lecture notes.
You'll learn how these historical people put the Stoic qualities of knowledge, justice, and bravery into action by looking at their lives. You'll also discover how their willingness to suffer enabled them to deal with the same worries, uncertainties, and wants that plague our lives today, and how this allowed them to survive. The reasons why Cleanthes penned his philosophy on oyster shells, how Marcus Aurelius coped with a pandemic, and how the world's most renowned Stoic ended up with blood on his hands are all covered in this set of notes.
A person's stoicism is developed via trials and tribulations.
The philosophy of Stoicism may have evolved into a powerful global force, but it had modest origins. The beginnings of this important school of thought may be traced back to a single man, a terrible shipwreck, and a little porch stoop. Our tale begins in the Mediterranean, in the fourth century BCE, with a rich businessman named Zeno. Zeno is the protagonist of our story. Zeno earned a solid income by dealing with a rare purple dye produced from sea-snail blood, which was in high demand at the time. However, one day, when a ship carrying his valuable cargo sunk into the ocean, his luxurious existence came tumbling down around him. Zeno and his family had everything taken away from them. The most important lesson here is that Stoicism was formed in the furnace of adversity.
Others might have been devastated by this terrible turn of events, but Zeno was unaffected by it. He dealt with his misfortune with tenacity and fortitude, precisely the characteristics that would come to be associated with the Stoic philosophy in the future. In order not to wallow in the misery of his situation, Zeno relocated to Athens, the throbbing center of Ancient Greece, where he remade himself as a philosophical thinker. He'd made the correct choice in terms of location. Athens in the fourth century was a bustling hub of commerce, as well as, regrettably, the slave trade. Because of the city's economic prosperity and the city's slave work force, the educated elite of the city had plenty of time to contemplate life's most difficult philosophical issues. Zeno was introduced to the fundamentals of philosophy by Crates of Thebes, who was a well-known and renowned instructor in ancient Greece.
Crates wasted no time in teaching Zeno an unusual first lesson, which he delivered in the form of a pot of lentil soup. Crates had requested that he transport this soup around the city. Zeno avoided being noticed by taking the soup through the back alleys, since he felt it was beneath him to do such a difficult job. The soup was dumped all over him by Crates, who saw him sneaking about and used it as a lesson in not worrying too much about what other people thought. Zeno rose quickly through the ranks to become a well-regarded philosopher in his own right. He established a new philosophy, known as Stoicism, and defined its four guiding principles, which are as follows: bravery, wisdom, temperance, and justice (or justice).
The Stoics, like Zeno, believed that philosophy should not be limited to the classroom but should be put into practice in everyday life, as shown by their actions. As a result, rather than yelling from a bell tower or lecturing in a magnificent lecture hall, Zeno and his disciples convened on a porch in the center of Athens known as the Stoa Poikile to debate their views. Zeno's humility is perhaps best shown by the fact that he named his philosophy after this particular porch rather than after himself.
Having a spartan lifestyle, Cleanthes thought, was its own reward.
Nowadays, society isn't very concerned with how a philosophy professor conducts his or her life. But philosophers were a source of curiosity for their fellow people throughout the time of ancient Greek culture. All of us have an opinion about our ideas and our characters, and in the case of our next Stoic, these views aren't always nice to hear. Cleanthes was born on the Aegean coast around 330 BCE, and he would go on to become one of Zeno's most dedicated pupils, according to legend. Cleanthes was born into a working-class household and has worked and labored his whole life. The cleaners, on the other hand, embraced hard work, while the majority of us did not. The most important lesson here is that Cleanthes felt that living a spartan life was a prize in and of itself.
He continued to study Stoicism during the day and worked as a water-carrier for affluent Athenians at night, despite the fact that his reputation as a philosopher was gaining ground. He could have easily gotten out of physical work if he had wanted to - there were plenty of people who were ready to compensate Cleanthes for his time and expertise. Cleanthes, on the other hand, consistently turned down such offers, even when the Macedonian monarch, Antigonus II Gonatas, asked Cleanthes to serve as his personal teacher.
As a Stoic, Cleanthes recognized that there is dignity in hard labor and that even a menial task like water-carrying may be honorable and virtuous if carried out with excellence. It didn't occur to Cleanthes that he had a conflict between his two occupations: philosopher and worker. In fact, he believed that his experience as a water-carrier aided him in his quest to become a more accomplished philosopher. When we stop and think about it, it isn't difficult to see why. Despite the fact that physical work is tiring, it enables us to let our thoughts wander and watch other individuals. It provides us with the mental space to mull over our thoughts in peace while carrying out our responsibilities.
Cleanthes, like many other genuine Stoics, was known for living an extremely frugal lifestyle. He was even said to have written his ideas on oyster shells and cow bones rather than on papyrus paper in order to save money on papyrus paper. Cleanthes exhibited the Stoic virtue of indifference to discomfort via his austere way of living. However, not everyone admired this philosophy student, who was very hardworking and very frugal with his money. He was made fun of by his fellow Athenians because he'd spent 20 years learning under Zeno, his instructor for the last 20 years. He was called a simpleton because he was like a slow lump of stone that could not be shaped into anything. Cleanthes, on the other hand, dealt with his detractors with a sense of humour. Instead of getting upset when others made fun of him, he often reacted by making fun of himself as well as others. Cleanthes, like many other Stoics, utilized humour to distract himself from moaning or focusing on his pain.
Not every Stoic lived up to the ideals they were taught.
Cicero, who was born in Ancient Rome in 106 BCE, is most known today for his work Stoic Paradoxes, which is a collection of philosophical paradoxes. Stoicism's fundamental principles are discussed in this interesting book by Cicero, who explains how they are paradoxical in their nature. For example, why do Stoics assert that virtue is all that one needs, while money and good health are also necessary for one's well-being in life? In addition, how could the Stoics think that only intelligent people were wealthy while so many philosophers were living in squalid conditions? The works of Cicero preserved many of the Stoic concepts and paradoxes that would otherwise have been lost to contemporary readers. However, despite the fact that he rendered a tremendous service to Stoicism by immortalizing its principles in ink, Cicero failed to adhere to its precepts on a number of occasions in his own life.
The most important lesson to take from this is that not every Stoic lived up to their ideals. Cicero, who was born into an unknown family in a tiny village outside of Rome, spent his early adult life ascending the corporate ladder at a dizzyingly fast speed. At some point, he was elevated to the position of consul and leader of the Roman army. Cicero earned notoriety during his rapid ascent when he successfully punished a corrupt magistrate named Verres, who had stolen large amounts of money from the people of Sicily. During this time, Cicero established a reputation for being a tough judge. Even if his acts reflected the Stoic ideals of justice and bravery, his motivations were a bit less honorable than they should have been. In reality, Cicero was primarily motivated by vanity, personal ambition, and the desire for fame and wealth - all of which were diametrically opposed to the Stoic ideals.
Cicero's blatant disdain for Stoic principles will have catastrophic repercussions for him before long. Cicero was confronted with a potentially deadly adversary in the shape of the Roman senator Catiline, not long after assuming the position of consul. When Catiline tried to organize a coup and station an army outside of Rome, Cicero responded swiftly and decisively, albeit in an unethical manner. He decided to kill Catiline's followers as a result of their revolt - without holding them to account. It is estimated that hundreds of soldiers were slain by the time Cicero was done. As a result of this disgraceful event, Cicero had allowed his rage to direct him. However, as a student of Stoicism, he should have realized that justice, rather than passion, is the most effective teacher to learn from. Cicero, in his latter years, would likewise fail the most important test of his life because he lacked the necessary bravery.
At the time, Julius Caesar and his ruthless army were on the verge of seizing control of Rome, and Cicero was asked to take part in the Republic's military counter-offensive. Cicero, on the other hand, decided to do nothing. Instead of having the bravery to stand out against tyranny, he chose to sit back and accept Caesar when he ultimately became the ruler of the city of Rome.
Cato the Younger preferred Stoicism above pragmatism as his philosophy of life.
Some individuals are born brave, while others are not. While the majority of us will choose the less difficult, more true route over the more difficult, more true one, these exceptional people will always remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of peril. In order to provide an example of a person who possesses such qualities, our next historical figure exemplified the Stoic virtue of bravery. However, as you will see, his strong sense of conviction occasionally led him to make incorrect decisions. Cato the Younger, who was born in Rome in 95 BCE, was a contemporary of Cicero's. Despite their similarities in age, these two guys couldn't have been more different in their perspective on life. Whereas Cicero was solely concerned with his personal interests, Cato was only concerned with doing what was right. Cato the Younger chose Stoicism above practicality, and this is the most important lesson to take away from this.
While still a youngster, Cato refused to speak on behalf of an unscrupulous soldier who had harmed him. As a reaction, and in an effort to coerce him into submission, the soldier dangled him by his ankles from a high balcony railing. Cato, to his credit, remained fearless, neither begging for his life nor even expressing concern about the possibility of his death. Eventually, the soldier was able to pull him back up and recognize that this four-year-old child had a greater will than himself. Cato's Stoic sense of conviction would continue to lead him throughout his adult life. Cato was a prominent politician who dedicated his life to battling Rome's chronic corruption and advocating for the rights of the plebs — Rome's lower classes – throughout his career. Although the other elites despised his principled position, Cato was only concerned with the fact that his acts were morally correct. It was this, he said, that exemplified what it meant to be a genuine philosopher and a real Stoic.
Cato's steadfast devotion to virtue, on the other hand, would ultimately result in catastrophic repercussions for the country. Cato's troubles started when Pompey, a member of the political elite, approached him about marrying his daughter, Cato. As a result of Pompey's desire to unite their two families in this manner, Cato realized that Pompey was only interested in doing so in order to form a political alliance with him. Cato believed that marriage would have been the most expedient course of action, but that the arrangement seemed unfair and shady. As a result, he declined. Cato would have understood the risk of saying no if he had set his beliefs aside for a minute and considered the issue from a more realistic standpoint.
Following Cato's rejection, Pompey instead chose to marry Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar. The marriage provided Caesar with a significant political boost, and the two men worked together to create a new and authoritarian destiny for Rome. Caesar would attack Rome and destroy the Republic before it could be stopped. There is a possibility that all of this might have been averted had Cato decided to fall from his moral high ground even somewhat in order to forge an alliance with Pompey.
There is just one female Stoic whose valorous acts have been documented in the historical record.
It's possible that you're wondering where all the ladies are as we travel across the intellectual landscape of antiquity. Female Stoics have, unfortunately, been mostly wiped out from history, just as they have been from the rest of human history. But there is no better example of Stoic fortitude than the unheralded women who suffered all of the same tyranny, wars, and trials as their male counterparts. They gave birth to the Catos, the Ciceros, and the Zenos of Ancient Rome and Greece, without the benefit of anesthesia, yet their hardships and sacrifices remained unnoticed and unrecognized by history books. The most important lesson to take from this is that there is just one female Stoic whose heroic actions have been documented. Porcia Cato was the name of the lady in question, and she was the daughter of Cato the Younger.
She remarried, this time to a man called Brutus, after losing her first husband during Rome's civil war in the first century AD. Brutus and his fellow conspirators planned to assassinate Julius Caesar, who had ascended to the position of emperor and dictator of Rome during their marriage. Porcia, aware that her husband was preparing something but uncertain of what, made the decision to go to extreme measures in order to demonstrate to Brutus that she was a worthy confidante and ally. Instead of just asking what the plot was, Porcia stabbed herself in the thigh with a knife, a move that would have been considered normal.
When Brutus came home, he saw her in a state of copious bleeding. "Take a look at the amount of agony I can withstand," Porcia remarked. She hoped to demonstrate to herself that she had a strong and Stoic character and would, as a result, be able to endure severe agony if required by inflicting this kind of harm on herself. If she was ever tortured for information, she wanted to demonstrate to him that she would not crumble under duress during questioning. When Brutus discovered this evidence of his wife's iron will, he quickly informed her of the plot's specifics. Then, while he and the other guys mercilessly stabbed Caesar to death, Porcia was at home, hoping everything went according to plan. It was unfortunate that this would not be the last time Porcia would show her Stoic bravery and indifference to suffering.
With just two years having elapsed after Caesar's death, Brutus was murdered in a civil war that had been sparked by Mark Antony, one of Caesar's staunchest allies. Despite the fact that there are contradictory versions of what occurred, one writer claims that when Porcia heard of her husband's death, she rushed to the fireplace and swallowed burning coals. Consequently, she committed suicide in order to be reunited with her husband in the hereafter, which she accomplished in a spectacular manner.
Seneca's Stoic heritage has been tarnished by bloodshed.
What do you do when adopting one Stoic virtue necessitates the rejection of another? Exactly this was the problem Seneca the Younger, the most renowned Stoic philosopher of all time, was confronted with. Seneca, like Cicero, is most known for his literary achievements, particularly for his collection of letters and essays, On Morality, which is considered to be his most important work. However, despite the fact that Seneca is revered for his remarks on the subject, he exhibited weak moral judgment throughout his time on earth. According to Stoic philosophy, we all have a moral obligation to get involved in politics in order to make a positive contribution to the general welfare. Possibly, it was this Stoic philosophy that compelled Seneca, in 50 CE, to accept an offer to teach a 12-year-old kid — a lad who would go on to become the next Emperor of Rome. Claudius had adopted the kid, whose name was Nero, and he was the Emperor's adoptive son.
The most important lesson here is that Seneca's Stoic heritage was stained by blood. Nero, on the other hand, was harsh and entitled, as well as lazy and egotistical. Seneca attempted to instill in him the Stoic ideals of knowledge, justice, and compassion, but he was unimpressed. Nero exhibited the obvious characteristics of the man and ruler he would grow up to be even as a child.Nero's mother, Agrippina, killed his father, Claudius, four years later, paving the path for the 16-year-old Nero to ascend to the throne of Rome. And it didn't take long for this new boy-emperor to demonstrate his own nefarious characteristics. Nero began by assassinating his mother, and then he proceeded to kill every single male relative who could be a potential contender for the throne.
Seneca was nowhere to be seen throughout all of this carnage. He was, regrettably, there at Nero's side as his loyal instructor at the time. Seneca stayed faithful to Nero for the following 15 years, despite the fact that the young emperor showed himself to be a dictatorial psychopath throughout that time. While Seneca attempted to persuade Nero to show compassion to his adversaries, when this failed, he lacked the bravery and self-discipline to just walk away. He instead used the chance to acquire more money than any other philosopher in history and to live a luxurious lifestyle that was unmatched in history. He may have convinced himself that by remaining so close to power, he was fulfilling his Stoic political obligation, but his wealth was built on the backs of Nero's atrocities.
After everything was said and done, Seneca lacked the moral fortitude of other Stoics, like Cleanthes and Cato. Rather than putting his theory into practice, he chose to write about it. You'll have to decide for yourself whether or not it is sufficient.
Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic leader who led the Roman empire with humility and compassion.
It is frequently stated that total power corrupts everything completely. This is certainly true. And, unfortunately, history has repeatedly shown that this is the case. Nevertheless, our final Stoic figure seems to be an exception to the norm. He demonstrated to us, via the brilliant example of his own life and leadership, what mankind is really capable of achieving. And, in many ways, it was his Stoicism that enabled him to accomplish such grandeur. Specifically, we are discussing Marcus Aurelius, who is considered to be the world's first philosopher king.
Marcus was just 17 years old when the heirless Emperor Hadrian selected him as his successor and asked him to become a member of the imperial household. He was born into a well-respected Roman family in 121 CE. While many young men would be tempted to allow such a significant shift in wealth to go to their heads, Marcus remained the nice and modest young man he'd been from the beginning. Even when he moved into the palace, he continued to go to the homes of his tutors rather than inviting them to his residence. The primary idea is that Marcus Aurelius governed the Roman empire with Stoic humility and compassion, which is the central lesson here.
Amazingly, one of his first actions was to share authority with his adopted brother, Lucius, appointing him as a co-emperor, which was unprecedented at the time. Consider how revolutionary this was in light of the fact that previous emperors, like Nero, had killed their political opponents. Marcus' generosity, on the other hand, did not end there. He immediately forgave the conspirators for their treachery after learning that one of his closest political friends, Cassius, was planning a revolt against him. He cried when Cassius was assassinated in retaliation for their actions.
Marcus, like a genuine Stoic, made certain that his choices were always driven by the interests of ordinary Romans rather than his own personal pleasure and convenience. Think about his activities during the Antonine Plague, which wreaked havoc throughout the Roman empire. Marcus could have simply increased his people's taxes in order to replenish Rome's depleting coffers, but he chose not to. Instead, he seized all of the decorations from his imperial residence and sold them to the highest bidder at the time of the auction. Marcus' writings reveal that he put out a lot of effort in order to live true to his Stoic philosophy. In his book Meditations, he expresses his sentiments of jealously, rage, and desire, among other emotions. Marcus, on the other hand, tried to control his emotions, while many of us succumbed to them. According to his writings, he found direction in Stoic knowledge and used it to build a moral foundation for his own leadership style.
Marcus Aurelius' life and works, in the end, serve as probably the most powerful proof of the power of Stoicism ever produced. That is because this philosophy is about developing our flawed human selves in order to be able to hold onto our moral principles regardless of the circumstances of our lives.
The most important lesson in these notes is that Stoicism teaches us the qualities of bravery and justice, and that it implores us to carry out our civic responsibilities for the greater benefit of everyone. Although the founding founders of Stoicism did not always live according to their own philosophy, we may learn from their lives and errors about the importance of selfless integrity as well as the perils of vanity and decadence by studying their lives and mistakes.
Written by BrookPad Team based on Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hansel