Stoic Week at Hermann Wesselink College, the Netherlands

Promoting the Stoa in 2013: does that make sense?

Stoic week at Hermann Wesselink College Amstelveen

As part of their philosophy course, a group of 15 and 16 years old students of the Hermann Wesselink College participated in the International Stoic Week.  They learned about the stoic art of living, read in Epictetus Encheiridion and participated in stoic exercises such as: taking the outsider’s perspective, negative visualization and writing a diary.

To conclude the stoic week they wrote a plea for or against promoting the stoic lifestyle in 2013. Not everyone thought this was a sensible idea; this is a selection of the opinions of the students.

Bauke and Jordy asked the question what would happen to our economy if we’d all stop desiring more goods. Another reason not to embrace stoicism today is that it would be boring to limit expectations and rationalize away all feelings and emotions. A more fundamental objection is brought up by Lydia. She writes that: “Emotions are essentially human. To get rid of this in the way the Stoics prescribe would be inhumane. If we would promote this we would be creating robots!”

Other students did see convincing reasons to promote stoicism nowadays. Maya writes that it is “inspiring and calming. Stoicism is not about putting feelings away, but about contemplating and reflecting on it. For instance when you’re in a stressful situation, the stoics tell you not to freak out immediately, but to take time to deliberate on what it is that makes you feel this way.” Vinz remarks that part of the problem is that people have many misconceptions about the Stoics: “People think the stoics are austere sourpusses, who wait for the next thing to go wrong and carry on, unmoved like a statue.” He concludes his plea with: “It is a good thing to promote the Stoic art of living. It fits perfectly in the modern world with yoga and other ways people use to find tranquility and peace of mind. But the information should be presented in a clear and correct manner, to avoid misconceptions.”

The students argue for both sides, the final position I would like to present is Melle’s. He refers to wars, religious and political insecurity and natural disasters when arguing in favor of stoicism. He writes that: “People should practice accepting that things are as they are, as the Stoics do. But one should realize that this is not a short term project, it is al lifestyle.”

Floor Rombout

teacher Philosophy at Hermann Wesselink College, Amstelveen.

On Thursday, one of Floor’s students, Sam Moleman, writes at length as to why Stoicism is still important today. 

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