Move over mindfulness, the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism is making a comeback!
STOICON 2015 is an all-day conference taking place at Queen Mary, University of London on November 7 2015. The full schedule is here. It’s the third annual conference of the Stoicism Today research project, which brings together classicists, philosophers and psychotherapists to explore the relevance of Stoic philosophy to modern life. This year, STOICON speakers include BBC historian Bettany Hughes, psychotherapist and author Vincent Deary, New York skeptic Massimo Pigliucci, and many others. Members of the public can buy tickets here (contact Jules.firstname.lastname@example.org for concessions if you’re unemployed or a student). Journalists can be accredited and attend the one-day event for free.
We’re also running our annual free online week-long course on Stoicism, ‘Stoic Week’, from the 2nd to the 9th of November. Over 2000 people have already enrolled – we’re aiming to beat last year’s total of 2600 people taking part. Participants fill in psychometric questionnaires at the beginning and end of the week to allow us to assess the impact of practicing various Stoic exercises. You can enroll for the course here.
As Medium magazine noted this month, Stoicism is ‘having a cultural moment‘, as people rediscover its wisdom and therapeutic usefulness. Our project has explored how Stoicism directly inspired both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and modern resilience psychology. Its insights are increasingly influential in sports psychology – some of the success of Superbowl-winning Patriots last season has been put down to the fact that many of the team read Ryan Holiday’s guide to Stoicism, ‘The Obstacle is the Way’, while the Premiership-winning rugby team Saracens also has a regular philosophy group where players and staff discuss insights from ancient philosophy. Stoicism is also very popular with entrepreneurs – Tim Ferriss, start-up guru, says ‘for entrepreneurs, it’s a godsend’. It’s popular with celebrities, from Derren Brown to Elle Macpherson, with comedians (John Lloyd, Alexei Sayle and Adrian Edmondson are all fans) and with the military (both the Navy Seals and the SAS now teach Stoic insights to new recruits). It’s attracting the interest of the general public – Massimo Pigliucci’s New York Times article earlier this year, ‘How to be a Stoic‘, was the NYT’s most emailed story that week. And it is beginning to be taught and discussed in schools, where it fits well with the contemporary emphasis on teaching resilience and character.
Jules Evans, philosopher at Queen Mary and organizer of STOICON, says:
‘For the last few years, a group of us here in the UK have been exploring the therapeutic usefulness of Stoicism, and working for its revival in modern culture. You could say that Stoicism is the European version of mindfulness, although far fewer people in the West know about it. We’ve had some success in making Stoicism better known, and the revival is now going transatlantic, and beginning to take off in a big way in the US as well. Stoicism is incredibly accessible, wise, and it really works, particularly in difficult life situations. I’d really encourage you to come along to the event and / or to enroll in the week-long course.’
We can help journalists get quotes and interviews with other STOICON speakers, such as Professor Chris Gill, Massimo Pigliucci, or philosopher William Irvine, and there are vibrant Stoic Facebook and Reddit pages where ordinary Stoics can be contacted for quotes about how the philosophy helps them. There is also an online group, NewStoa, which can provide comment. We can also put you in touch with a prison philosophy group which explores Stoic philosophy, and with sports-teams who use it to improve their performance. You are also welcome to attend the STOICON conference for free, although it would be great if media organisations could mention Stoic Week and Stoicon before the week, to help encourage participation.
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