This is the text of a Lightning Talk given by Rudy Bonfini prior to Stoicon 2023.
My name is Rudy Bonfini, and today I would like to talk to you all about why creating platforms and content to appeal to a new audience is so important for Stoicism. I am a software developer from Pennsylvania, I am currently in my second year of studying Computer Science at Penn State University, and I have been independently studying Stoicism for over a year now.
Now I understand some of you may be thinking who is this person, and what does he have to do with Stoicism, and to answer that I first want to share how I came to find Stoicism. For me it wasn’t through books or school or lectures, it was through an app on my phone during one of my walks to class. Through the Spotify app I was introduced to the Practical Stoicism podcast, where I listened to episode which consisted of divided readthroughs and breakdowns of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
One of the first ideas in Stoicism that I remember learning was the importance of contributing to your community, or as the host Tanner Campbell put it “your duty to the Cosmopolis”. After hearing this every day I decided that I wanted to do my duty to the Cosmopolis through one of the things I was best at, which is developing mobile apps. I reached out to Tanner and asked him to partner with me to publish a mobile Stoicism IOS app, with the sole purpose of giving users easily comprehensible content, from a great teacher, so that more people could come to pursue this philosophy just as I did.
About a year has passed, and now we are just a few months away from publishing the “Actual Stoicism” IOS app with the content being created by Dr. Kai Whiting, and audio lessons being recorded by Tanner Campbell.
Now the part of my story I want to highlight is how just a small and simple piece of content from my phone one day, was all it took to set someone like me down on the lifelong pursuit of Stoicism. I believe this raises the question “Could it be this simple for others who are not in our community?” I think the answer to that question could be yes, depending on the content that is created for this type of audience.
First, I believe this specific content needs to appeal to what I call the “unphilosophically-minded person”. I may represent a perspective that is different from the people speaking at Stoicon this year. I’m not a writer, researcher, or lecturer, and I’d go as far as to say that I was an unphilosophically-minded person not too long ago. I understand what the ivory tower of philosophy can look like if you are not at all accustomed to it, but if Stoicism is presented by our most gifted philosophers in a way that is easy to comprehend and digest, then it becomes exponentially easier to encourage outsiders to join the pursuit of Stoicism and eudaimonia.
The next point I want to bring up is where this specific form of content is coming from, to be presented to our unphilosophically-minded audience. I’d say chances are we most likely won’t reach this specific audience if the only means of distribution is through traditional means, such as books or lectures at universities to specific students who are already looking to learn about philosophy. To reach this emerging audience who may not be interested in philosophy yet, it is important to show them what we have to offer, where they are most accustomed to. This is why I have spent over a thousand hours creating an app to distribute Stoic content. The App Store is very accessible to the unphilosophically-minded audience and the younger generation. It can also present the complex ideas and teachings of someone like Dr. Kai Whiting in a way that is easy, and digestible to anybody who may come across it. This means that, interested in philosophy or not, pretty much anybody could reap the benefits of Stoicism through platforms like these.
Now why is broadening our reach of Stoicism to this audience and new generation so important? First, of course, there’s accessibility. Never before in the history of Stoicism has reaching an audience of millions been so attainable. If one of our goals as a community is to maximize our reach and the number of people pursuing a virtuous character, the work of creating forms of content distribution like apps, social media platforms, and podcasts is vital. There is plenty of opportunity to make virtue ethics more mainstream to the public through these mediums, and for someone like me, while I may not create Stoicism content myself, I know that part of my Stoic journey is using my skills to create these mediums for people.
The second reason is general relevance. It almost seems like other philosophies from the Hellenistic age are now unknown to the general public, but not Stoicism. To keep Stoicism relevant for the general public in future generations, our community must remain adaptable and open to evolving our methods of teaching and sharing content.
The last reason I want to bring up is engagement. Platforms like Stoicon are incredible because they help us all connect and share ideas with our worldwide community. Continuing to engage through platforms like this, while also pursuing other mediums and new ways of content distribution, is how reaching a new generation of people will be possible for us. That is all I have to say for now! Continue to be adaptable, and always keep in mind how you can include the unphilosophically-minded person, because it could change their life.
If you are interested in learning more about the Actual Stoicism iOS app, please visit: https://actualstoicism.com/rudy
Rudy Bonfini is a software developer from Pennsylvania and co-creator of the forthcoming “Actual Stoicism” iOS app, a platform dedicated to delivering daily virtue-ethics based content.