'A Simplified Modern Approach to Stoicism' by Donald Robertson

In the second article of our series on adapting Stoicism today, Donald Robertson looks at….

A Simplified Modern Approach to Stoicism

Copyright © Donald Robertson, 2013.  All rights reserved.

Stoicism and Stoic Philosophy

This article is designed to provide a very concise introduction to Stoicism as a way of life, through a simplified set of Stoic psychological practices.  The first few passages of Epictetus’ Handbook (Enchiridion) actually provide an account of some fundamental practices that can form the basis of a simplified approach to Stoicism and this account is closely based on those.  We’d recommend you treat it as an introduction to the wider Stoic literature.  However, starting with a set of basic practices can help people studying Stoic philosophy to get to grips with things before proceeding to assimilate some of the more diverse or complex aspects found in the ancient texts.  Both Seneca and Epictetus refer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, which happens to provide a good framework for developing a daily routine, bookended by morning and evening contemplative practices.

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Stoic Week 2013: Spread the Word!

N.B. To read more about Stoic Week 2013, click here for an overview, and here for the press release.

We will be working hard to publicise Stoic Week and the London Event through many different channels and networks, including wellbeing groups, philosophy clubs and schools.

But in order for Stoic Week 2013 to reach as many people as possible, we need you to help spread the word!

Let all your friends know, share the electronic flyers via Twitter and Facebook. If you know of any groups or organisations which would be interested, write to them with the flyers and press release, and ask them to get involved. Ask your friends to do the same for any groups they know too. Print out the leaflet and pin it up in your local library, local coffee shops, and university/college – wherever you can think of! Be as creative as you can in spreading the word!

Also, if you are on Facebook, please join our Facebook ‘Stoicism’ discussion group, and also join the ‘Stoic Week’ event page, and share it with your friends.

This will probably be the last Stoic Week before the team looks to offering more long-term resources, so let’s make Stoic Week 2013 go viral together! 

Feel free to make use of these resources in advertising Stoic Week 2013 and (if you are in the UK), the London Event. You can share any of these on Twitter by sharing the link to the image file.

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Adapting Stoicism Today I: 'Which Stoicism?' by John Sellars

In the first article of our new ‘adapting Stoicism today’ series, which discusses how best Stoicism can be adapted, the need for discernment, and potential difficulties, John Sellars, lecturer of philosophy at Birkbeck College London, asks ‘which Stoicism’?

Which Stoicism?

by John Sellars

Around 300 years separated Chrysippus from Epictetus (both pictured above). 

The aim of the ‘Stoicism Today’ project is to highlight ways in which ancient Stoicism might be of use to people as a general guide to life or might contribute to a therapeutic response to specific problems. Some critics might object that the version of Stoicism being offered bears little relation to the Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno and developed by Chrysippus and others (see e.g. Williams on Nussbaum (LRB 16/20 (20 Oct. 1994), 25-6) and Warren on Irvine (Polis 26/1 (2009), 176-8)). As Williams quipped, what use is Chrysippus’ logical theory in learning how to live?

The project, by contrast, has been inspired primarily by a study of Marcus Aurelius and the materials prepared for the project draw on the works of Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and Epictetus – all later Roman Stoics. This is not just because the works of these later Stoics survive and those of the earlier Stoics active in Athens do not; it also reflects the fact that these later Stoics focus their attention on what we might call ‘Stoic practice’. They offer a wide range of practical guidance designed to contribute towards the cultivation of tranquillity or what Zeno called ‘a smooth flow of life’. It is hard to know to what extent these sorts of practices figured in early Stoicism: we know that early Stoics wrote books on mental training (askêsis) and we also know that this featured prominently in Cynicism, an important influence on the early Stoics. Ultimately the evidence is just too thin for us to know for sure.

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Stoic Week 2013: Press Release

Can the ancient philosophy of Stoicism
help us to lead better and happier lives?

Philosophers from Birkbeck, University of London, and the University of Exeter, and psychotherapists are calling on people to live like a Stoic for a week, from 25 November – 1 December 2013. The week-long experiment will culminate with a public workshop on Saturday 30 November at Birkbeck, University of London exploring Stoicism for Everyday Life.

The ancient Stoic writers Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius offered a wide range of practical advice and guidance on how to live well and many of the founding figures of modern cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) acknowledged the influence of Stoic philosophy. Stoic Week will put some of this ancient advice to the test and help academics and psychotherapists to assess whether ancient Stoic philosophy can help people to lead better and happier lives.

Stoic Week participants can download a series of exercises, reflections, and meditations to complete each day, prepared by academics and psychotherapists, which draw on ideas from ancient Stoicism. They will complete well-being questionnaires before and after the week and the data from these will be used to assess the effectiveness of the Stoic ideas when they are put into practice today.

Dr John Sellars of Birkbeck’s Philosophy Department and a member of the Stoicism Today project, said: “The ancient Stoic authors offer a wide range of practical advice that many people have drawn on in their daily lives. Stoic Week is an opportunity for people to put Stoicism to the test for themselves and for us to gather data on just how effective Stoic psychotherapy is. The public event in London at the end of the week is an opportunity to explore further how Stoicism might help people in their everyday lives.”

Find out more at http://www.stoicismforlife.com/

Download this year’s handbook (release date 18th November) from: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/

Stoicism for Everyday Life

Date: 30 November 2013;

Time: 10:30-17:30

Venue: Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7JL

Booking: Free but registration required: (http://stoicismforlife.eventbrite.co.uk/)

Street Stoicism IV: 'Reflections on the Stoic Life' by Marcin Fabjanski

This is our final excerpt in the ‘Street Stoicism’ series, in which Marcin offers some short reflections on living the Stoic life in general.

1.

Autumn in Warsaw. Livid sky, wet, almost sticky rain, russet grass. The withering leaves fall off the trees at my sight, as if somebody was directing a one-man audience play called Everything has to die at some point, and by that I mean pretty soon.

I’m walking down the street with the burden of groceries in my bag and the burden of sorrow on my chest. I’ve gained weight again, the project I’d been working on for three years is falling apart and I will probably lose my job, writing the book about the Stoics does seem to be going somewhere, but it’s going the hard way and stumbling on some rocks. And worst of all – I’m turning forty soon.

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Street Stoicism III: 'Missed Opportunities' by Marcin Fabjanski

In our third except from Marcin Fabjanski’s book Street Stoicism (only published in Polish, as Stoicyzm Uliczny) we look at a Stoic response to missed opportunities…

                                            

SITUATION

All is lost. And it was so close. If only I had gone and talked to the boss instead of wondering whether it’s appropriate, I would be the project manager now. But no – I will keep sweating my guts out doing everybody else’s job, and someone else is going to get praised for it. I will never get to a higher position, and I am not getting younger every day. Who knows when this kind of opportunity might happen again. I will probably be so old and burnt out working on my position that they won’t trust me with the project anyway.

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Stoic Week 2013 Video Trailer

Brief video trailer for Stoic Week 2013.

There’s an embedded Google Drive video.

You can view a slicker MP4 video version using the link below:

Stoicism Today Video on Skydrive