Live Like A Stoic Week 2013 (Nov 25 – Dec 1)

Live Like A Stoic Week is happening for the second year. It will be taking place from November 25 to December 1. Everyone who is interested in Stoicism, or who practices it today, is encouraged to take part, get involved in an event or activity, and help spread the word.

Last year, Stoic Week attracted participants in schools, universities and philosophy clubs around the world, and generated articles in the Guardian, Independent, The Philosopher’s Magazine and the Huffington Post. We want to make this year’s Stoic Week even bigger.

How you can get involved:

We’d love it if, once again, Stoic Week events take place all over the world. This could be as simple as organizing a discussion on Stoicism in your local cafe or pub. It could mean local clubs, schools or philosophy departments organizing a debate on a Stoic question or theme, such as ‘can philosophy be a form of therapy?’ or ‘is virtue sufficient for happiness?’ If you’re a teacher or a lecturer, you might get your class to discuss Stoicism and to consider some of the Stoics’ practical techniques for changing our emotions.

We’re organizing a public event in London on Saturday November 30. Details, programme and registration is here:

It would be great if any bloggers interested in Stoicism used the week as an opportunity to share their own experience of Stoicism. Has it helped you? Do you think it has relevance in modern life? Which ideas or exercises have you found particularly helpful? Write a blog post or make a YouTube video, and be sure to mention Stoic Week and to help spread the word. Send Patrick Ussher or another project member the link, and we’ll share it with our followers.

You can also get involved in our annual study of the practical effects of Stoic techniques. Pick a technique or spiritual exercise from the Stoic Handbook, and then try it out every day, keeping note of the impact on your beliefs, emotions and actions. Then fill in the Stoic questionnaire we provide, and send it back to us. You might also want to share your experience more informally via a blog or YouTube video. We’re working on the Stoic Handbook now and will have it finished by early November.

If you’re a teacher and are interested in doing a class or workshop on Stoicism, here are some practical ideas and exercises you might find useful.

The week is organized by the Stoicism and Therapy project, which is run out of Exeter University. The project brings together classicists, philosophers, psychotherapists and journalists, who share an interest in the practical and therapeutic use of Stoicism today. Project members include Professor Christopher Gill and Patrick Ussher from Exeter University, Dr John Sellars from Birkbeck University, psychotherapists Tim LeBon and Donald Robertson, CBT psychotherapist and author Gill Garrett, and Jules Evans from Queen Mary, University of London. You can watch a video featuring the project members here.

We hope Stoic Week will increase public interest in Stoicism, and bring its therapeutic power into people’s lives.

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!”

Perspectives: 'Stoic Spiritual Exercises' by Elen Buzaré

Elen Buzaré, who has studied Stoicism for almost 20 years, has written a concise manual which modernises ancient Stoic therapeutic exercises. Reproduced here, with kind permission of the author, is an extract discussing both Stoic techniques in examining thoughts, or ‘impressions’ also the idea of ‘getting your desire right’. Elen also started this French language forum for practising Stoics.

To read the fascinating extract from Elen’s book, Stoic Spiritual Exercises (© Elen Buzaré, 2012) please click here. 

New Video: 'Stoicism Today: so far and in the future'

A discussion between Christopher Gill, Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter, and Patrick Ussher, PhD Student at the University of Exeter. Topics covered include: what we can learn from the last Stoic Week, what we hope to do for the next Stoic Week, and what the project should aim for long-term.

Please comment on the discussion and add your ideas for what Stoicism Today could do in the future!

On the Psyche: An International Conference to celebrate the work of Professor Christopher Gill

On the psyche: studies in literature, psychology and health is an international conference to celebrate the work of Professor Christopher Gill, from the Department of Classics and Ancient History, at the University of Exeter, and builds on his studies of the psyche and the self in the ancient world.

In three impressive volumes he has integrated literary approaches with ancient psychology and medicine, from Homer and Plato to the Stoics and Galen. He has additionally addressed the question whether some of these approaches may contribute to improving our own lives and wellbeing.

The conference presents papers on the development of the psyche from Homer to tragedy and Plato, on the underworld, on medical and philosophical debates on psychology ; on modern medical understanding of ancient wellbeing; on happiness, hope and truth, and freedom, and on Neoplatonic approaches to the self and the human relationship with the divine.

Professor Gill will be retiring at the end of 2013, but will keep very much alive his interests and work in ancient philosophy, and its implications for the modern day.

For more information, and to book, click here.

Stoic Week 2012: The Student View

Christopher Thompsett, first year undergraduate student of Classics at Exeter University, offers his view of the Live like a Stoic trial, 2012. This report will be published in the forthcoming journal Pegasus, published by the Classics Dept. here at Exeter.

Stoic Week: The Student View

Christopher Thompsett

 From the 26th November to the 2nd of December 2012, volunteers worldwide participated in the first ‘Stoic Week’, an endeavour which would put to the test the philosophical school of Stoicism in applying its ethical theories to contemporary life. ‘Stoic Week’ was set up as a satellite of the Classics and Ancient History Department’s recent work on Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World, which is considering what may be learned from the Ancient World’s practices in psychotherapy and diet for modern day living. The team which organised it included Professor Christopher Gill, Professor of Ancient Thought here at Exeter and Dr. John Sellars, lecturer in philosophy at Birkbeck in London. Making the work truly interdisciplinary, however, was the involvement of leading psychotherapeutic professionals, such as Dr. Donald Robertson, author of The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which examines the Stoic roots of this therapy), and Tim LeBon, author of Wise Therapy, who, among other things, provided wellbeing surveys and questionnaires for the measurement of any psychological benefits. What started as a project for students taking Roman Philosophy here ended up attracting interest from all parts of the world, with 130 officially taking part. In this report, I hope to give some personal reactions to the events of the week in which we followed Stoic principles, reactions from fellow students, and also those who shared their experiences online through the blogosphere and in the press.

Continue reading “Stoic Week 2012: The Student View”