Podcast: Adapting Stoicism Today

A discussion between John Sellars, lecturer of philosophy at Birkbeck College London, Antonia Macaro, author of Reason, Virtue and Psychotherapy,  and Julian Baggini, co-founder of The Philosopher’s Magazine,  on adapting Stoicism for the modern-day. What areas of Stoic philosophy are easily adaptable for the modern-day? And what are the ‘problem-areas’ of ancient Stoic philosophy which require a more careful, discerning approaching? Is ‘virtue as the only good’ too extreme a position? Should a modern Stoic adapt this, or should he or she see some external things as having inherent value? Is the Stoic psychological model of beliefs leading to emotions an accurate model? And do we have as much control over our attitudes as the Stoics claimed? And how much control do we have in life anyway? These and other questions are probed in this fascinating discussion.

What do you think on the challenges of adapting Stoicism to the modern-day?

Antonia Macaro and Julian Baggini, authors of the book The Shrink and The Sage, and of the FT column of the same name. Julian Baggini runs the website microphilosophy, on which the above discussion is hosted.


On a different note, there will be a two-week break for posts on Stoicism Today. Our weekly posts will resume on September 7th. 

'The Philosophical Methods of CBT' by Tim LeBon

This week, Tim LeBon, philosophical counsellor and one of the Stoicism Today team, maps  seven typical errors of thinking, as recognised within CBT, with possible philosophical remedies for each error. The following piece is extracted from Tim’s book, Wise Therapy (2001), and is reproduced with kind permission of the author. The extract is prefaced by a short introduction, written by Tim for this blog, about the overall aims of the book.

Tim Le Bon, Psychotherapist, Philosophical Counsellor and Author of ‘Wise Therapy’

In Wise Therapy (Sage,  2001) I aimed to examine some of the main practical topics in philosophy and explore their implications for psychotherapy and counselling.  The philosophy of well-being, right and wrong,  reason and the emotions and the meaning of life are all surveyed, what I hope to be acceptable conclusions reached, and then, in the final chapter, a counsellor’s philosophical toolbox is created.  Alongside a focus on philosophy,  I also examine the existing philosophically-inspired techniques from a variety of approaches, including logotherapy,  philosophical counselling, existential-phenomenological counselling, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT and REBT often quote the Stoic Epictetus’s dictum that “Men are disturbed not by things, but the views which they take of them” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5). They have taken this idea and turned it into a technique, variously called thought records, mood logs or cognitive restructuring. The idea is that you notice when you are feeling upset (sad, angry, anxious etc) and try to determine the judgement or thought that lies behind the emotions. I usually recommend clients to imagine themselves in a cartoon with a speech bubble coming out of their head. The trick is to imagine what thoughts or images are in the speech bubble. Once you’ve worked out which thoughts are disturbing you, the next step is to untwist your thinking by looking typical thinking errors that cause emotional problems.  After that, you can come up with alternative (“rational”) responses to help you feel less upset.

In the following extract from Wise Therapy  I first describe some of the existing thinking errors described by leading CBT therapists, and then refine these to include philosophical insights.

Continue reading “'The Philosophical Methods of CBT' by Tim LeBon”

New Video: Insights from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations

A 20 minute talk by Christopher Gill, professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter, on the philosophical project and aims of Marcus Aurelius.

Questions covered include: what is at the core of Marcus philosophical project in writing his meditations? And how ‘Stoic’ was Marcus Aurelius? philosophical method? Includes discussion of key passages for understanding the aims of the Meditations as a whole.


Places to Discuss Stoicism on the Web

Here are just three great places you can discuss Stoicism on the web:

1) this active ‘Stoicism’ discussion group on Facebook which has over 340 members….

2) The Reddit discussion group on Stoicism (updates from this group are also updated automatically on our sidebar).

3) And, of course, the wonderful International Stoic Forum!

Stoics are not Unemotional!

This Perspectives piece first appeared on Donald Robertson’s blog (Copyright © Donald Robertson, 2012), and draws on his forthcoming book Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013).

 Stoics are not Unemotional!

Cartoon © Christoph Neger, reproduced with artist’s kind permission.

The misconception that Stoics are unemotional like robots, or like the Vulcan “Mister Spock” in Star Trek, is so widespread that I’ve decided to put together some brief notes to summarise the opposing view, taken with modifications from my book Teach yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013).

The founder of Greek Skepticism, Pyrrho of Elis, was jokingly said to be so apathetic, or indifferent to the world, that his followers had to chase around after him to prevent him walking off cliffs or into the path of speeding horse-drawn wagons.  That joke was never made about the Stoics because, by contrast, they were well-known for their active engagement in family life and politics.  Likewise, the Epicureans made the attainment of tranquillity, or the avoidance of pain, the goal of life, and saw no intrinsic value in fellowship with other human beings.  This often led them to withdraw from politics or family life, and even to live in relative seclusion.  By contrast, the Stoics, for whom tranquillity is only good when it accompanies the virtues of wisdom and justice, believed that fellowship with the rest of mankind is natural and fundamental to the goal of life, which entails “living in agreement” with reason, the Nature of the universe, and the rest of mankind.  In fact, the founding text of Stoicism, Zeno’s Republic, centred on his “dream” of an ideal Stoic society, consisting of enlightened and benevolent friends, living in harmony together, under the patronage of Eros, the god of love.

Continue reading “Stoics are not Unemotional!”