Report on Exeter University “Stoic week” 2014
The participants who took part in Stoic Week 2014 exhibited on average
– Significant improvements in well-being as evaluated by changes in well-being using three validated scales used. A week’s participation in Stoic Week resulted in a 16% average increase in satisfaction with life, a 10% increase in flourishing, an 11% increase in positive emotions and a 16% reduction in negative emotions.
– Significant increases in the presence of Stoic attitudes (12%) and behaviours (15%) as measured by the Stoic Attitudes and Behaviours Scale (SABS).
– A significant positive relationship between Stoic attitudes and behaviours and each of the measures of well-being.
The above three findings taken together give us reason for cautious confidence for positing the existence of a causal link between adopting Stoic attitudes and behaviours (“being more Stoic”) and improvements in well-being, although further research is required to confirm this.
– In addition the analysis of Stoic attitudes and beliefs (SABS) enables us to discover which elements of Stoicism are most associated with well-being. The items with the highest associations with well-being were:-
– When an upsetting thought enters my mind the first thing I do is remind myself it’s just an impression in my mind and not the thing it claims to represent. (SABS item 19 “Upsetting thought just impression”)
– I make an effort to pay continual attention to the nature of my judgments and actions. (SABS Item 17 “Stoic Mindfulness”)
– I consider myself to be a part of the human race, in the same way that a limb is a part of the human body. It is my duty to contribute to its welfare. (SABS Item 11 “Humanity connected”)
– It doesn’t really matter what other people think about me as long as I do the right thing item (SABS item 2 “Doing right rather than pleasing people”)
– I try to contemplate what the ideal wise and good person would do when faced with various misfortunes in life. (SABS Item 16 “Ideal Stoic Adviser”)
SABS Item 19 (“Upsetting thought just impression”) is most associated with positive emotion and satisfaction with life whereas SABS item 17 (“Stoic Mindfulness”) is the element of Stoicism most associated with flourishing.
– There was almost double the percentage of people who completed Stoic week compared to last year (29% compared to 15% retention in 2013)
To read the report in full, click here
Congratulations to the organizers! Excellent event!
From the report we have the statement: “However there are a number of limitations in these studies, as has been observed in previous reports on Stoic Week. These include the lack of a control group, self-selection of the participants and lack of follow-up. These should be addressed in future studies.”
The main limitation is the ‘bias’ of the overall approach to Stoicism. For example the report also says: “There is also a case for refining the Stoic Week workbook so it includes more emphasis on the apparent ‘active ingredients’ and less on the ‘inactive ingredients’. In particular, there is a case for putting even more emphasis on Stoic Mindfulness and less on the View from Above.”
It is a constant part of Stoic teaching that Stoicism is a philosophy of the sphere – that it would cease to be Stoicism, and so cease to be an effective teaching, if any key part of the philosophy were to be removed – yet, like many others, the ‘Team’ seem determined to extract a limited number of practices and yet still wish to describe what they are left with as ‘Stoicism’. To the point of suggesting that the Team, ‘Facilitate higher take-up of Stoic interventions and exercises by NHS etc e.g.’
What is obvious from the report and the recent videos of the Stoic gathering is that the real limitation is in the overall approach to Stoicism by the team – the heavy bias towards interpreting what is before them through the CBT and ‘therapy’ school of thought, a general approach to seeing much of the Stoic world view as irrelevant and an apologetic or disbelieving attitude regards the Stoic ‘God’ view and its relevance to the whole of the Stoic teaching.
This ‘academic’ bias makes the results of Stoic Week unscientific for the participants are being inadvertently ‘led’ by what are the preconceived ideas of the organisers of the event regards what is important within the Stoic teachings – the ‘teaching’ by the team is bound to produce the results they are getting.
Seneca advised that someone studying Stoicism ought not to get hung up on individual words but ought to look at the whole picture. And the whole picture is not simply the ‘practices’ used to help a person habitualise Stoicism. The whole picture includes a framework that includes an understanding of our place within the Cosmos and the intelligent ‘Nature’ that we are guided to harmonise with.
Please stop trying to build without foundations. You are effectively looking at a scaffold, and then removing all but a few poles and hoping that it will still be safe to climb on.
To call anything ‘Stoicism’ one needs the whole framework.
Having to date studied the links between Stoicism and psychotherapy I am now trying to expand my knowledge on the approach of the ancient Stoics to the self and emotions. I guess I’m attempting to see the whole picture. Would anyone be able to clarify if there is an empirical Stoic position on homosexuality? I am referring to “living in accordance with nature” and how an ancient stoic (such as Epictetus) would have viewed this very important aspect of human nature.
Thank you as always.
If I’m not mistaken homosexuality was fairly common in Ancient Greece.
Given the fact that “living according to nature” later was expanded to “live according to your own nature” (Chrysippus?), I don’t think Stoics would object to homosexuality in principle.
The Stoic position on love in general is another discussion.
Hi Ali, The Stoic approach would be, first of all, to look at and really understand the nature of homosexuality (ignoring any PC bias) and to see its place within the larger picture of understanding of the species as a whole.
The Stoic would then be encouraged to inwardly harmonise with their sexual nature, but the advice of old as given to the ‘would be’ philosopher would hold equally for the homosexual – live according to one’s nature but in public try not to act or dress in a way that suggests that one is different from the general populous . And finally the homosexual Stoic, being a Stoic, would try to ensure that their every action is virtuous, just like every other Stoic.
There is a whole discussion to be had on this subject, but I doubt that this is the place for such. If you want to take the discussion further I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you stoicsteve and Nigel. Your replies are most helpful and much appreciated.
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