How to Bring Stoicism to your City

“How do I get started bringing people interested in Stoicism together in the place where I live?” People ask me this question so often that I’ve decided to write a very simple guide. There are three basic steps you can follow:

1. Create an Online Community

Generally these are on Facebook, which seems to work well, although it might not be everyone’s choice. Join an existing Facebook Stoicism group for your country or city. If there isn’t one, try creating one. For example, I recently helped create Stoicism Netherlands and there are Facebook groups for Stoics in London, Toronto, and other major cities.

These groups can take time to grow but eventually they will take on a life of their own, especially if you keep sharing appropriate content. It’s important to have ground rules, though, and not to allow personal abuse or off-topic (spammy) posts – too much of those will cause people to leave and prevent your group from flourishing. Share appropriate content and ask questions to stimulate discussion. Once you have a large enough online community, it will be easier to organize other events.

A great resource for your group to start work on would be a list of books on Stoicism in your language. Goodreads Listopia allows you to do it really easily and it’s very helpful to new members.

2. Organize Face-to-Face Meetups

Most people use Meetup to do this. For example, the Toronto Stoics, where I live, have about 1,400 people, making it the largest Stoicism meetup group in the world. See if the Stoic Fellowship already have meetups in your area. They can also give you information on people interested in starting one, or ideas for how to run the meetings.

Organizing face-to-face meetups probably requires more patience and skill than just setting up a Facebook discussion group. However, eventually these groups also begin to take on a life of their own. You can base each meeting around a chapter from a book on Stoicism, making it a little bit like running a book club. It’s important to have several people who can help so that if you’re unavailable or can’t continue to attend, someone else can take over in your stead.

3. Organize a Stoicon-x Event

Every year since 2012, Modern Stoicism has organized a Stoicon conference, which moves to a different city each year. We also organize and encourage others to organize smaller “Stoicon-x” events, mini-conferences, in different cities around the world. Often once the main Stoicon conference has visited a city it’s easier to organize a Stoicon-x conference the following year because many of the same people will attend.

In a large city like New York or Toronto, even these smaller conferences might attract 100-150 people, fairly easily. Organizing a conference can be quite a responsibility, though. Modern Stoicism can offer advice. Choosing experienced speakers can help. It’s good to start small with perhaps a half-day event. Authors tend to be obliged to promote their books so they have an incentive to respond to requests to speak at events like these. However, in some parts of the world it can be easier than others to find appropriate speakers. (People tend to be more likely to buy tickets if they recognize the names of some of the speakers.)

We’ve found that “lightning talks” work well where individuals are invited to speak for five minutes one after another on different topics. This is a good way of attracting and testing out new speakers. It also means that even if you’re organizing a half-day event your audience will get to hear a lot of talks, and experience a variety of speakers.

Stoic Week 2019 Coming Up! The Course and Call for Events

Right after the big Stoicon conference – taking place in Athens this year – International Stoic Week will run from Monday, October 7 to Sunday, October 13. We hope you can join us and thousands of other people around the world by participating in the week, the free online course, and perhaps even local Stoic Week events this year!

Here is the press release for Stoic Week.

Enroll in the Stoic Week Course!

As many readers of Stoicism Today know – and many others will be pleasantly surprised to learn – every year, the Modern Stoicism organization provides a FREE online Stoic Week course. Thousands of people around the world take the opportunity to “live like a Stoic” (the original title of Stoic Week, when it was first organized)!

Here is the link to enroll in Stoic Week 2019. You will likely want to enroll before the class starts so you can start exploring the site.

The online course includes the Stoic Week Handbook (revised again this year – we’re always making some improvements and tweaks), which gives a great overview of Stoic philosophy and practice, and for each day of the week provides daily exercises, passages to read and think about, and some helpful insights written by the Modern Stoicism team. You’ll also find other cool features within the class, including guided Stoic meditation mp3s (featuring Donald Robertson).

You can go through the course entirely on your own, but Stoicism teaches us that our human nature is a social one, and one of the great aspects of Stoic Week is the opportunity to interact with, compare notes with, and get to know other people interested in Stoic philosophy.

While the Stoic Week class is very much designed to be useful for complete beginners, it also provides a great opportunity for those who have been studying and practicing Stoicism for some time. On a personal note, this will be my sixth year of participating in the class. I look at it as a great chance to do a “Stoic tune-up”!

Call For Stoic Week Events

Stoic Week gets even better yet! Not only is there the online Stoic Week course itself. All around the world, Stoic Week also gets celebrated with special local in-person events. Some of these are smaller versions of the big Stoicon – what we call “Stoicon-X” events.

This year, those are being hosted in a variety of major cities and regions worldwide – London, Toronto, New York, Brisbane, Moscow, San Francisco, New England, and Milwaukee (a few of these have already taken place). Three of these Stoicon-X events – the London, Moscow, and Milwaukee events – are scheduled to take place during Stoic Week itself.

Every year, dozens of local Stoic groups and fellowships, academic institutions, and other organizations plan and hold their own Stoic Week events. We put them all into a list and publicize them here in Stoicism Today, in order to promote as much engagement as possible with Stoicism during Stoic Week. So, this is the place to check, if you’re looking for local Stoic Week events!

If you have a Stoic Week event planned – of any sort, no matter how big or small – make sure to write me (the editor of Stoicism Today) with the information sooner than later (ideally, as soon as possible). Once we have it, we’ll get your information added to our listing of worldwide Stoic Week events. We’ll be putting out the first listing next week!

New Stoicism Netherlands Discussion Group

We’re pleased to announce the creation of a new Facebook discussion group for people interested in Stoicism who are based in the Netherlands, or Flanders, or speak Dutch.

Join the Stoicism Netherlands Facebook Group

Donald Robertson will also be hosting a free “coffee and Stoicism” meeting on Friday 27th September at 1pm in the Vascobelo coffee shop, inside the Scheltema book store, in Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome…

Facebook Event Listing: Coffee and Stoicism in Amsterdam

Meditation for Stoics by Caleb Ontiveros

Over the past few years, mindfulness meditation has grown and grown in popularity. Though connections between Stoicism and mindfulness have been made, mindfulness meditation as a practice has yet to find a consistent home in Stoic practice.

There’s a historical reason for this: the historical Stoic philosophers didn’t advocate for mindfulness meditations. Though they recognized the value of mindfulness, using mindfulness meditation as tool isn’t something any of the key figures spoke of. This, of course, does not mean that it cannot fit within a contemporary Stoic life. Today, we’re lucky to take advantage of cognitive innovations that the historical figures didn’t have access to. Moreover, as we’ll see the main idea behind mindfulness meditation meshes well with Stoic thought.

In this piece, I’ll show what adding mindfulness meditation to the Stoic toolkit could look like. I’ll start by explaining what it is. I’ll then explain how mindfulness meditation serves as a gym for the core Stoic disciplines.

First, what is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is fundamentally about cultivating nonjudgmental awareness. There are two parts then, nonjudgement and awareness. Awareness concerns our ability to perceive what is here, right now. Whether what is here is a thought or a sensation, we can perceive it. Nonjudgement refers to the ability to experience the sensation or thought without making unnecessary value judgements and seeing the world through those value judgements. Noticing and correcting mistaken value judgements is familiar to Stoics. Many thoughts we have are simply distort reality and are false. In the language of cognitive behavioral therapy, they are cognitive distortions.

A more subtle way we wield unnecessary value judgements is by projecting them into world. In the language of acceptance and commitment therapy, we become cognitively “cognitively fused” with the thought. A thought is cognitively fused when the content of the thought and it’s emotion fuse together such that both no longer feel like a mental construct, but instead appear to be an objective fact. Thoughts are fused when we forget that they are thoughts and instead see them as part of the world. A classic example of this is being caught up in passionate anger. When we are passionately angry, at say, another person, we see the world through the logic of the anger. It seems obvious to us that the other person acted unjustly and that they deserve blame — anyone who thinks otherwise is thinking incorrectly. When we are angry, these appear to be objective facts about the world.

Nonjudgemental awareness is about stepping back from such thoughts and seeing them as they are, thoughts that may or may not be true. It is about cultivating the ability to defuse from thoughts and sensations and just be aware of them. Put another way, meditation is just about being aware of whatever is going on and being able to be calm. With meditation we’re able to experience the reality that we are not our thoughts, we are not our sensations.

The connection to Stoicism is clear. Consider Seneca’s well known line on anxiety:

we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

Or Marcus Aurelius:

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.

Marcus Aurelius is describing the process of cognitive defusion. He notes that at one time he was cognitively fused with anxious thoughts, but realized that the thoughts were not apart of the objective world. They were merely thoughts.

Through mindfulness meditation one can get better at this skill. In this way, mindfulness meditation is as a gym for practicing the core Stoic disciplines.

Ok, so what does the typical mindfulness meditation session look like? Here’s a simple set of instructions:

  • Find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes. Consider setting a timer for 5-20 minutes.
  • Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes.
  • Bring to mind why you are meditating. What is the purpose of meditating now?
  • Bring to mind what you expect to happen. What do you think will happen while meditating?
  • Bring to mind any potential distractions. Note that they’re there and remind yourself to return to meditating when you get caught up in them.
  • Commit to following through. You have a reason for meditating, give it your full attention for the next few moments.
  • When you’re ready, bring your attention to the breath. Notice where it feels the strongest.
  • Just watch the breath if you can.
  • If you get distracted, notice that you became distracted, and return your attention to the breath. Becoming distracted is part of the process.
  • Continue watching the breath and returning to it whenever you become distracted.
  • When the time is up, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.

You can try this on your own or with guidance. There are many courses or apps you can use, you can try the app I’ve created, Stoa, a meditation and journal app built around Stoic teachings, though there are other good options as well (I’m a fan of John Yates’ work and Sam Harris’ program). A short five to ten minute meditation may fit nicely within many morning and evening routines.

How does meditation fit within a Stoic thought more broadly?

Stoic exercises, and other therapeutic exercises generally, can be divided into the cognitive and non-cognitive. A cognitive exercise involves thinking verbally and conceptually. For example, the Stoic practice of praemeditatio malorum is a contemplative meditation. In this practice, one may imagine ways that one’s day could go wrong and devise plans to ensure that one is psychologically and practically prepared. Another cognitive Stoic practices involves simulating a role model or sage. One can imagine how the role model would act in our place or what advice the role model would give us. Both of these contemplative exercises involve explicit and verbal thought.

Another kind of exercise is non-conceptual, non-verbal. This kind of exercise can be useful for reprogramming our automatic reactions to the world. Mindfulness in meditation falls in this bucket. In mindfulness meditation, one cultivates nonjudgemental awareness. The ability to focus on one’s thoughts or sensations in a tranquil way. In this practice, the focus is not on an activity like planning or conversation, but instead is on simply watching one’s mind.

Both of these kinds of exercises are valuable. Consider Victor Frankl’s well known line:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Both of these exercises can take advantage of that space. Whether it’s an explicit reminder to live in accord with one’s values or mindfully moving your attention to what matters.

Let’s make the connection between the Stoic disciplines more explicit. Following Pierre Hadot, I think of the three disciplines of Stoicism as desire, judgment, and action. The discipline of desire concerns relegating your desire to what is under your control. The discipline of judgement concerns seeing the world accurately without making unnecessary value judgements. Finally, the discipline of action concerns acting virtuously.

One can think of mindfulness meditation as a gym for practicing each of these disciplines in a non-cognitive way. Here’s an example for each discipline.

Consider the discipline of desire. This discipline concerns mastering desire and aversion. Through meditation, we can better realize how many of our initial impressions are not under our control. And we can notice how our initial impressions trigger aversions or desires — and then reprogram these triggers. For example, as we focus on the breath, we will inevitably find our attention wandering. No matter how hard one tries to focus on the breath, eventually your attention will wander! That this will happen is out of our control. Although it may be natural to respond with disappointment or frustration upon noticing that we’ve become distracted, we can instead deliberately return our attention to the breath. In this way we can practice not being averse to our what is out of our control (distraction) and taking advantage of what is under our control (moving our attention to the breath). Instead of spiraling into further disappointment or frustration, we can simply notice that we became distracted and return to the breath.

This is a familiar pattern in our life. We react to an event negatively and let that event serve as a trigger to further negative thoughts and interactions. For example, we may respond to something a friend or partner said with frustration and we may respond in kind. We all know how these interactions go. Instead of doing this, we can note the frustration (which occurred automatically) and freely return our attention to the task at hand.

The discipline of judgement is all about seeing the world accurately. We add so many stories to the world, many of which are inaccurate or cause us suffering. For example, consider pain. While meditating, one will often experience pain. Meditation doesn’t cause pain, but the fact is that sitting straight for 10 or so minutes can become uncomfortable. When this happens it often feels like the pain will last forever. Consider the words of Epicurus (as quoted by Marcus Aurelius):

Pain is never unbearable or unending, so you can remember these limits and not add to them in your imagination.

The thought that the pain will last forever is an illusion. It’s cognitive fusion at it’s worse. The experience of pain sometimes seems to be what the world is all about. But this simply isn’t accurate. When we meditate we can notice that there is pain and practice distancing ourselves from it. Simply viewing the pain as it is, a temporary experience, nothing more.

Finally, consider the discipline of action. Some meditation traditions implicitly overlook this step. Because it is important to act with purpose, it’s important to meditate with purpose.

That’s why it’s so important to set a purpose before meditating, as one does above. And it’s important to commit to following through, even when it becomes uncomfortable. Meditation is often a joyous thing, but one can also experience mental and physical discomforts while meditating. When you persevere when this happens, you’re reinforcing your identity of being a reflective person who acts with purpose and who follows through. This crucial ingredient for the Stoic virtues.

There are many other explicit connections one can make between a meditation practice and the Stoic disciplines, but to my mind the above are some of the most important.

I’m not arguing that mindfulness meditation should be adopted by every Stoic. No practice is suitable for all people. But I would advocate that many experiment with it. It’s an excellent practice that has benefited millions of people. And, importantly, it’s an excellent way to practice the core Stoic disciplines. It’s useful for seeing the world clearly, calmly, and acting with purpose.

Caleb Ontiveros is the founder of Stoa. He received his MA in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and has worked at several startups. You can find him on Twitter or at his website.

Press Release: Stoic Week 2019

This year Stoic Week is taking place from the 7th to the 13th October 2019.

Stoic Week is a global online experiment trying to see if people can benefit from following the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Since its inception in 2012, over 20,000 people have signed up and so far the results have been consistently positive – people do benefit from ‘living like a Stoic’. This is your opportunity to experience some of those benefits too.

The course is free and online, attracting participants from all over the world. There is a series of questionnaires to complete in advance, guided advice for each day of the week, and a second set of questionnaires at the end.

For some background information and reports from previous years in the media, visit:

You can sign up for Stoic Week via the link below or find more information about the project on the Modern Stoicism website.

Each year the organizers of Stoic Week also put on public events to coincide with the week. In 2019 the main event, Stoicon, will take place in Athens, on the 5th October. A series of smaller Stoicon-x events will take place at locations all over the world. Further information about all these events can be found on the Modern Stoicism website.

Stoic Week and Stoicon events are run by Modern Stoicism, a not-for-profit organization set up by a group of academics and psychotherapists.

So, what is Stoicism? Here are some key Stoic ideas:

  • Acknowledge that you can’t control much of what goes on in your life.
  • See that your emotions are the product of how you think about the world.
  • Accept that bad things are bound to happen to you from time to time, just as they do to everyone else.
  • See yourself as part of a larger whole, not an isolated individual; part of the human race, part of Nature.
  • Think of everything you have as not your own, but simply on loan, that one day will be taken back.

Ethical Development in Stoicism and Confucianism by Brittany Polat

How do we make progress as Stoics? After we accept the theoretical tenets of Stoic philosophy, how do we put them into practice, day in and day out? I think these are all pressing questions for anyone who identifies as a Stoic and truly wishes to live in accordance with nature. And yet, not only is it difficult to follow the Stoic path, sometimes it’s even difficult to know what that path is. We’ve lost both the ancient institutions of philosophy (in which the school’s philosophical way of life was transmitted directly from master to student) and most of the original literature, as well. I’m guessing not many of us have ever seen another person living a Stoic life—we are pretty much winging it as we go along. We do the best we can with what we have. But I keep wondering what the process of ethical development really looks like, both on a day-to-day basis and over a lifetime. 

That’s why I’ve been looking into Confucianism. Like Stoicism, Confucianism is an ancient wisdom tradition with a focus on virtue, ethical development, humanitarian care for others, attention to the present moment, and the ideal of the sage. Like Stoicism, many key Confucian ideas are based on a theory of human nature and have a practical or therapeutic intent. But unlike Stoicism, Confucianism has been a revered and living tradition in Asia for 2,500 years, where it still continues to influence millions (billions?) of lives today. A wealth of Confucian thought has been passed down over the generations, and it has responded to and been informed by competing philosophies such as Daoism and Buddhism. In some important ways, therefore, Confucianism stands in for something we modern Stoics can only dream of: an ancient system of virtue ethics that has flourished at the heart of a remarkably rich culture for thousands of years. 

I’m just beginning my study of Confucianism, but it’s not hard to see its similarities to Stoicism. I believe we can round out our understanding of Stoic ethical development by learning how Confucians see things. Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that any Confucian and Stoic concepts are identical, or that Confucius’ conception of virtue is necessarily related to Zeno’s or Epictetus’ understanding of virtue. The two philosophies are completely independent of one another, and there are significant differences between the two that we need to keep in mind. (For example, their conceptions of virtue have different historical bases and different emphases.) Nevertheless, I’ve found that as a modern person who is trying to reconstruct habits of virtue in my own life, learning about another virtue-centered tradition has helped me better understand the process of ethical development. Greek philosophy does not have a monopoly on virtue, so why shouldn’t we learn as much as we can from other traditions?

Obviously, in this brief essay I will not have space to do justice to the richness of Confucianism, or to really offer a proper comparison between Confucian and Stoic concepts. I will just barely scratch the surface by focusing on two areas that have enhanced my thinking on ethical development: the sprouts of virtue and the unity of knowledge and action.  

The Sprouts of Virtue

The first idea comes from Mengzi (391-308 B.C.E.), a philosopher who lived soon after Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and fleshed out several principles that Confucius had alluded to but not clearly explained. For one thing, Confucius taught virtue and wisdom but did not clarify his views on human nature: why doesn’t everyone become virtuous? Is human nature inherently good or inherently bad? Different philosophers in the Confucian tradition put forward various and opposing answers to these questions over the next two thousand years. 

Mengzi, who is often considered the second sage of Confucianism, believed that human nature is inherently good, and that everyone has the “sprouts of virtue” within them. People do not always realize their potential for virtue if the sprouts are not properly tended. Factors such as a bad environment could cause the sprouts of virtue to wither, but more often it is “pernicious doctrines” and “lack of individual effort” that cause people not to reach their full moral potential.

For this reason, Mengzi insisted that we engage in active reflection about our behavior and our ethical context. It is through this reflection that we learn to extend our innate capacity for virtue outward into our lives. Modern Confucian scholar Bryan Van Norden describes the process like this:

“All of us will have righteous or benevolent reactions to certain paradigmatic situations. We feel love for our parents, which is a manifestation of benevolence…However, there are other situations in which we do not have these reactions, even though they are in the same ‘category.’ For example, a person who would find it shameful to have an illicit affair might think nothing of lying to his ruler to achieve some political benefit. ‘Reflection’ is a process by which we identify the relevant similarities between those cases in which we already have the appropriate reactions and those cases in which we do not yet react appropriately. This guides our emotions so that we come to feel similarly about the cases.”

There is a famous story about how Mengzi guided the ethical development of a king by helping him to cultivate the sprouts of virtue in his nature. The king once took pity on an ox that was being led to slaughter because the animal was frightened and bellowing; the king ordered the ox to be spared. Mengzi used this opportunity to point out the king’s budding sense of benevolence, and how he could cultivate and extend this same sense of benevolence to his human subjects. In the same way, we can all reflect on those times we have acted virtuously, and our sense of joy and pride in our actions will spur us on to more virtuous action. As Mengzi said, “If one delights in them then they grow. If they grow then how can they be stopped?”

Anyone familiar with Stoic philosophy will notice the parallels between Mengzi’s sprouts of virtue and the seeds of virtue discussed by Stoics like Seneca and Musonius Rufus. Musonius, like Mengzi, also had a quite optimistic view of human nature; he tells us, “There is an inborn capacity in the human being’s soul for proper living and the seed of virtue exists in each one of us.” 

But what I really like about Mengzi’s thought is his idea of extending our nascent virtue to a wider and wider range of contexts. Rather than trying to conquer a part of ourselves that is in conflict with virtue, we simply concentrate on what is already virtuous within us and apply it more and more broadly. This approach also seems to complement the idea of outwardly expanding concentric circles that we find in Hierocles’ description of oikeiosis: we expand what is already within us. We do so (it seems to me) through a cyclical process of enjoying and taking pride in our past virtuous actions, reflecting on how we can apply those same positive behaviors to new contexts, and then taking pride in our new virtuous actions. 

I really like Mengzi’s progressive, reflective, and encouraging approach to ethical development. It’s one that I think can help beginners as they get started on the path to virtue and can help all of us as we try for a deeper application of virtue in our lives.

The Unity of Knowledge and Action

Another Confucian idea that has influenced my understanding of ethical development is Wang Yangming’s theory of the unity of knowledge and action. Wang Yangming (1472-1529 C.E.) lived considerably later than Mengzi and was part of a revival movement known as Neoconfucianism. In the two thousand years that separated Wang from Mengzi and Confucius, Confucianism in China had faced serious competition from Buddhism and Daoism. Neoconfucians, therefore, were influenced by and forced to respond to Buddhist and Daoist ideas. Instead of focusing on the slow cultivation of virtue, as Mengzi had, many Neoconfucians sought to reach an enlightened state by eliminating selfish desires from their minds. They emphasized constant vigilance over one’s mind as a way to root out selfish thoughts and recover our original, pristine mental condition. Here is Wang’s description of the vigilance required to purify our minds:

“This effort must be carried out continuously. Like eradicating robbers and thieves, one must resolve to wipe them out completely…One must resolve to pluck out and cast away the root of the sickness, so that it can never arise again. Only then may one begin to feel at ease. One must, at all times, be like a cat catching mice—with eyes intently watching and ears intently listening. As soon as a single [selfish] thought begins to stir, one must conquer it and cast it out. Act as if you were cutting a nail in two or slicing through iron. Do not indulge or accommodate it in any way. Do not harbor it, and do not allow it to escape.”

This approach is intriguingly similar to the Stoic conception of prosoche, particularly as taught by Epictetus. And like Epictetus, Wang Yangming was a very inspiring teacher and moral therapist; in fact, he explicitly compared his instruction to medicine, declaring that he cured each student’s specific spiritual malady. 

Where Wang has helped me move forward in my own ethical understanding, however, is through his proposal that “knowledge is the beginning of action and action the completion of knowledge.” He believed that knowledge and action are simply on different ends of a single continuum. But not just any kind of knowledge will work; it must be real knowledge. Real knowledge is distinct from ordinary knowledge because is based on personal experience and touches all levels of the mind, including cognition and emotions. People may fail to act appropriately if they have merely ordinary knowledge about a situation. In contrast, once someone has real knowledge, they will always act appropriately:

“Real knowledge embraces both proper cognitive and affective aspects. In cases requiring moral action, one not only knows what to do but finds oneself properly motivated to do so. In genuine cases of real knowledge, an agent simply spontaneously moves toward the proper end. Those who possess such knowledge cannot help but act in accordance with it; this is what separates them from most of us, who possess only ordinary knowledge.”

I think this offers a satisfactory explanation of why people often act against their better judgment, and it makes wonderful sense in light of Stoic moral theory–with some modifications. Given the Stoic conception of impressions and assent, we could say that our judgments hold the power Wang Yangming ascribes to real knowledge. Judgment is so powerful that our actions will automatically follow from our judgments. When we have an impression, either we assent to something or we don’t. If we assent—that is, if we really, actually believe this is what we should do—we will automatically do it. It’s not possible to truly assent to a proposition and then fail to act on that assent. If that happens, then we haven’t fully assented in the first place.

The unity of judgment and action helped me realize that if my thoughts and actions do not align with my espoused principles, there can only be one thing to blame: my judgments. If we get our judgments right, we will get everything else right, too. Once you understand this, you understand why we must take such great care with our judgments. Everything else falls into place when we have and apply real knowledge of what is good, bad, and indifferent.

I hope you’ll agree with me that the Confucius, Mengzi, and Wang Yangming offer some delicious food for thought for Stoics. In Confucianism we find a long, rich, living tradition of ethical cultivation that emphasizes internal attention, appropriate actions, caring for other people, living in the present moment, and finding contentment in everyday life. Obviously, I’ve barely scratched the surface here, and there are many other points of convergence between Confucian and Stoic theories, as well as some significant areas of divergence. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that studying Confucianism will tell us anything about how the ancient Stoics practiced their philosophy, but rather that it can inform our conception of a philosophical way of life moving forward into the 21st century. As we all make a sincere effort toward virtue, we should welcome guidance from the sages of another accomplished, ancient, and influential tradition.

Further Reading

For this essay I have leaned extensively on two excellent books, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the Confucian tradition:

  • Bryan Van Norden, Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2011).
  • Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation (Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2000), 2nd ed.

Also check out Eric Scott’s short but insightful blog post comparing Stoic and Confucian ethics.

Brittany Polat is the author of the recent book Tranquility Parenting: A Guide to Staying Calm, Mindful, and Engaged. You can follow her blog at Apparent Stoic or on Twitter @brittanypolat.

New Facebook Group for Research on Stoicism and Psychology

A new Facebook group has been created by Alex MacLellan for discussion of research on Stoicism and related topics in psychology. We hope this will provide a way for researchers involved in this field to network and share resources. Everyone is welcome to join, as long as you have an interest in research on Stoicism.

Modern Stoicism collects research data from Stoic Week and SMRT using the SABS scale and publishes the findings each year in a free report online.