As 2018 comes to a close – just a little more than six years after a first workshop at the University of Exeter – I thought it would be a prime time for a post discussing the activities, plans, and prospects of what has evolved into the Modern Stoicism organization. That’s what I set out in what follows below, with helpful perspective provided by other members of the team.
Before that (and at the end), I will also ask a bit of your time and attention as I make a fundraising appeal to you. As you might already know – or may read below – the Modern Stoicism organization does a lot of great work. Originally starting as a working group, it was recently formalized as a not-for-profit, and all of its work, activities, and administration are carried out by volunteers.
If you would like to make a monthly contribution to support the ongoing work of the Modern Stoicism organization, one of the best ways to do so is through our Patreon site. To learn more, or to make a monthly contribution, you can click here.
For those who would rather make a one-time donation, Modern Stoicism also has a Paypal account. Click here to be taken to the donations page.
What We Do At Modern Stoicism
10 years ago if you had scoured the internet for practical ideas on Stoicism, you wouldn’t have found very much. And if you were looking for any evidence that Stoicism helped people, you would have found even less.Tim LeBon
During this last decade, the Modern Stoicism organization (originally Stoicism Today) and its team members have been centrally involved in the ongoing, rapid, and (to many) surprising growth of interest in adapting ancient Stoic philosophy to modern life. Here are the reflections of another team member on that development.
Who would have thought, even just a few years ago, that Stoicism – of all things – would go mainstream, appear in major international newspapers and magazine, and inspire people all over the world? A significant portion of that success and positive impact on human lives is the result of the efforts of the Modern Stoicism group, of which I am (Stoically…) proud to be a contributing member. From the Modern Stoicism blog to the annual Stoicon and Stoic Week, to two volumes of collected essays about Stoicism, this is the premiere site in the world to learn how to live like a Stoic.”Massimo Pigliucci
These are among the major contributions and activities the Modern Stoicism organization provides.
Since 2013, we have organized yearly Stoicon conferences in Britain, America, and Canada. These bring together people interested in practicing and learning more about Stoicism with a variety of experts in the field, in an intense day of talks, workshops, conversations, and networking. We also help to organize and (in some cases) smaller local in-person events and conferences, called Stoicon-Xs (by analogy to the TED and smaller, local TED-X conferences).
Each year, International Stoic Week follows right after Stoicon. We provide an online class that allows people to incorporate Stoic practices and insights into their daily life for that week. The numbers of participants enrolled in the online course, downloading the handbook, participating in the exercises, and listening to the mp3 files increases every year. It is estimated that over 20,000 people have participated in Stoic Week over the last seven years. We develop, continually improve, and provide this class for free to people worldwide.
There is also a longer (4 week), more intensive online course – developed by Donald Robertson – which we also offer for free worldwide. This is the Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training course, and it runs yearly as well.
Each week (and sometimes more frequently), we publish a wide variety of content, contributed by numerous authors, here in Stoicism Today, which has become one of the most highly read blogs on Stoicism. As Massimo notes, the previous (and founding) editor, Patrick Ussher, also edited and published two excellent volumes bringing together some of the best articles from the blog.
What Else We Do
One of the other main functions of the Modern Stoicism organization is carrying out research on the application of Stoicism in people’s lives, looking for empirical evidence whether learning and using Stoic principles and practices makes any real difference. This involves considerable work gathering, interpreting, and reporting data, coordinated by our lead researcher, Tim Lebon
Now we have . . . mounting evidence that Stoicism really does help. . . . I’m particularly involved in the work on finding an evidence base for Stoicism. We know that Stoic attitudes and behaviours are associated with well-being, that being Stoic for a week tends to increase well-being, that being Stoic for a month increases it by more and lasts for at least 3 month. We are in the process of developing a psychometrically-validated version of SABS, which tells you how Stoic are, and seeing whether the results stand for non self-selecting samples. We hope to continue show in what ways Stoicism helps and therefore contribute to its growth.Tim LeBon
Since the very first workshop – which brought together academic experts, psychologists, and psychotherapists interested in Stoicism’s prospects for helping people improve their lives – this ongoing research project has been a major dimension of our work.
Another of the founding members of the organization has this to say about the wider aims and outcomes of our efforts.
There are two distinctive features of the Modern Stoicism movement. One is the positive and sustained collaboration in the organising team between different types of people (academics, writers and public presenters of philosophy, psychotherapists), all of us learning from and helping each other. The other, which is linked with the first, is our ability to present Stoic ideas in a way that has proved genuinely helpful to a really wide range of people across the world – men and women, young and old – and to show how it can shape and change lives for the better.Christopher Gill
Another member highlights a further dimension in which modern study and application of Stoicism has significant potential.
While it can (and does) transform lives of individuals, increasing sense of security and boosting overall satisfaction from one’s life, it also encourages political virtues. Stoicism doesn’t promote withdrawal from community, quite the contrary, it provides a foundation for civility, social coherence and political responsibility. There is a great Greek and Roman tradition of Stoics’ investment in political affairs and we all learn from it in our own time, when so many of our democratic institutions falterPiotr Stankiewicz
Our Goals for the Future
We fully intend to continue all of the areas and aspects of the work we have accomplished so far over the last seven years. You can look forward to seeing yearly Stoicon conferences and Stoicon-X events, yearly Stoic Week and SMRT classes, and weekly posts here in Stoicism Today. We’re still working out precisely what the plans are for Stoicon 2019, and we will be publishing information about that as soon as it is available.
Quite a few of the team members have already made major contributions to the growing modern Stoic literature in the form of books. Among them, I should mention Christopher Gill, John Sellars, Tim LeBon, Donald Robertson, Massimo Piglicucci, and Piotr Stankiewicz (as well as emeritus team members Jules Evans and William Irvine). You can look forward to seeing additional work along these lines by our team members in the coming years, including some new works coming out next year.
Modern Stoicism also maintains and adds resources to its YouTube channel, including videorecordings of some of the Stoicon presentations (so if you missed the conference, you can still see selected talks and workshops). For my own part, I will further develop my own stock of YouTube videos on key aspects of Stoic philosophy.
The psychological research will continue and expand, coordinated ably by Tim Lebon, and we are discussing some additional research projects. (Perhaps we’ll have another blog post specifically about that in this coming year). You’ll also see the Stoic Week sets of reports annually.
Another project that I’m anticipating this year is getting work underway on a third volume of Stoicism Today. We’ll be taking a selection of the better articles from the past several years, having their authors polish them up (and in some cases expand them), and publishing another edited volume. We’ll also be looking for translators to help us get those articles into other languages as well.
Our Appeal To You
As you can well surmise from what you’ve read (and many of you readers likely already knew this), our organization, Modern Stoicism, does a lot of work important in – even essential to – the larger modern Stoic community. Nearly all of that work is done on a completely volunteer basis (there are a very few, frugal stipends for particularly time-consuming and demanding parts).
The team members put in countless hours of work, making it possible for people all over the world to enjoy and benefit from the Stoicon conferences, the Stoic Week and SMRT classes, the Stoicism Today blog (just to mention a few of these matters).
Why are we asking for money then? (you might ask). Although none of us are making money from these activities, pretty much everything does require some to be spent.
All those beautiful or striking images you see in the Stoic Week handbook, or the Stoicon schedule, or in parts of this site are the work of a graphic designer, to whom we pay just wages (justice is after all one of the cardinal virtues). Booking in a venue for Stoicon takes some significant outlay. Hosting websites has its own expenses.
If you’ve benefitted from the online classes, in-person conferences, or weekly articles Modern Stoicism has made available – if you’d like to give something back – or if you’d like to help us continue our work – then please do consider starting the new year by making a contribution!
Again, if you’d like to learn more about becoming a monthly supporter on Patreon, click here. If you’d rather make a one-time donation, click here for our Paypal page. From all of the members of the Modern Stoicism team, let me thank all of our supporters in advance!
And for everyone, just a few days in advance, from all of our team, let us wish you a happy and productive New Year!