No school has more goodness and gentleness; none has more love for human beings, nor more attention to the common good. The goal which it assigns to us is to be useful, to help others, and to take care, not only of ourselves, but of everyone in general and of each one in particular.
Seneca, On Clemency 3.3
What is Stoicism?
Stoicism is a practical philosophy that aims to help us live well. As Stoics, we learn to focus on what is in our power. We ask ourselves, "What can we do to create a good life, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in? What is required of us as human beings and what prevents us from living up to our full potential?" Consistent stoic practice increases our resilience, contentment, joy, and gives us the boldness necessary to tackle the tasks presented to us in life.
Stoics believe we all have the ability to live artfully, and that life requires effort.
Stoicism says we should, "live according to nature." I'm not fond of the phrase, because it requires way too much unpacking. To Stoics, our nature is not 'whatever feels right' or 'whatever comes easy.' To us, living naturally means taking actions that allow us to flourish. We're looking for a way to be our best possible selves. Stoicism claims that humans are rational, social beings. Therefore, our nature is to use our rational mind for the benefit of ourselves and our society.
Stoics believe a virtuous life is fully sufficient for happiness.
Stoics believe that if you are thinking clearly and acting properly, you can be joyful despite outer circumstances. One person can be content while being deathly ill, whereas another is miserable while in peak health; it's how we choose to see the world that matters. Stoics work to see the world differently. We concentrate our efforts on our own judgments and actions, the things we control, so that we know we did our best despite what fortune brings us.
Stoic Virtues and Disciplines
The Stoic virtues are Justice, Wisdom, Temperance, and Courage. Now, if we got technical we'd see that virtue is really a single concept, but the categories help us keep our thoughts straight. Our claim is, if you always act in accordance with these four categories, you'll be taking the best possible path through life.
Along with the Virtues, we have three Disciplines; Assent, Desire, and Action. The Discipline of Assent requires us to be mindful of our judgments at all times. The Discipline of Desire asks us to accept our present circumstances. We do not do this to be passive, but we apply our agency towards things we can truly control, without wasting effort on anything else. The Discipline of Action has to do with our love of humanity and the world. Recognizing that we are social beings, Stoicism requires us to act for the common good.
So where does this get practical?
That's what this blog is about, the practical application of ancient wisdom. You can always check out the Resources Page for suggested reading and links to online articles. Articles about the nitty gritty details of Stoic practice are collected in a neat package via the Category links below. And feel free to leave comments on the articles, or talk to me through the Immoderate Stoic Facebook Page, or Twitter. I'm interested in your journey.