Stoicism Today Blog

Interview with STOICON 2020 Speakers – Donald Robertson

We continue our series of interviews with the speakers for the upcoming virtual STOICON, which will be taking place virtually this year on October 17. Here is the link where you can register and view the schedule of events. Our next interview is with Donald Robertson.

How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I’m a cognitive-behavioural therapist and I write books about philosophy and psychotherapy.  I’m hosting the Stoicon virtual conference this year.  I began studying Stoicism, and then writing articles about it and giving talks, etc., about 20-25 years ago.  I wrote a book about Stoicism and CBT in 2010 and then became involved with the Modern Stoicism organization in 2012 when Christopher Gill put together the first group of people responsible for running Stoic Week.  At the moment, I’m in the middle of writing a graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.

How do you currently make use of Stoicism in your work?

I’ve used Stoicism for many years now as part of my coaching, CBT, and training work.  CBT was originally inspired by Stoicism and every therapist knows the famous quote from Epictetus: “It’s not things that upset us but our opinions about them.”  That encapsulates what came to be known as the cognitive theory of emotion.  So I draw on the parallels between Stoicism and CBT not only in therapy but also in (preventative) emotional resilience training.  Although, at the moment most of my time is spent writing books and articles on Stoicism, and giving talks, or rather, due to the pandemic, online webinars.

When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

After leaving college, I studied philosophy at Aberdeen university in Scotland, way back in 1992.  I studied Plato and Aristotle, history of Indian philosophy, and was particularly interested in the concept of ancient philosophy as a way of life.  However, Stoicism wasn’t part of the undergraduate curriculum.  So it was only after graduating, when I began my postgraduate studies in philosophy and psychotherapy at Sheffield University that I began reading Pierre Hadot’s excellent books on philosophy as a way of life and realized that the Stoics were pre-eminent in this tradition.  I quickly also realized that Stoicism encapsulated an ancient model of psychotherapy.  At the time, some academics were strongly opposed to this idea: that ancient philosophy entailed a form of psychotherapy.  However, to me that showed a profound ignorance of the historical evidence — and it’s anachronistic insofar as it stems from their tendency to view ancient philosophy as if it were comparable to modern academic philosophy, i.e., something more bookish rather than a whole way of life.  The medical (or therapeutic) metaphor for ancient philosophy was extremely common, particularly in the Socratic dialogues of Plato, and in Stoic writings.  Philosophy is repeatedly described as resembling a medicine for the mind and doctors as physicians of the soul.  Epictetus says the philosopher’s school is like a doctor’s clinic and Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoa, wrote a famous, but now lost, book On Therapeutics, which we know described Stoic “therapy of the passions”, or psychotherapy, in detail.  So it seemed obvious to me that Stoicism was relevant to my research, and clinical work, in the field of psychotherapy.

What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?  

Stoic virtue ethics.  That’s the cornerstone of ancient Stoic philosophy.  It’s also the basis of Stoic psychotherapy.  The Stoics have the advantage of being able to go somewhere that modern psychotherapy dares not tread: into the realm of moral values.  However, it also seemed intuitively obvious to me that if irrational and unhealthy ways of thinking underlie most of our emotional problems that these beliefs, in turn, are rooted in toxic values.  For instance, placing too much rigid importance on what other people think of you obviously plays a role in social anxiety disorder, and some forms of depression. Those are the sort of toxic and incoherent values the Stoics sought to question, through their use of philosophy and the Socratic Method.  The Stoics believed that “virtue (or moral wisdom) is the only true good” — someone (the Sage) who firmly grasps that, on the basis of rational argument, and lives consistently in accord with those radical values is, I think, going to be profoundly emotionally resilient as a consequence.  

In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

Resilience is the Holy Grail of mental health research.  By “resilience”, psychologists today mean the ability to endure stressful life events, such as bereavement, divorce, job loss, sickness — or a pandemic! – without suffering lasting psychological damage as a result.  Resilience literally means the ability to “bounce back” from misfortunes, or setbacks, and perhaps even grow stronger as a result.  Cognitive-behavioural therapy, like all psychotherapy, as the name implies, is “remedial” – it treats emotional damage that’s already happened.  Resilience training is “preventative” (prophylactic).  As everyone already knows: prevention is better than cure.  Stoicism offers a way of expanding CBT into a framework of psychological skills, and a broader philosophy of life, that’s preventative of long-term emotional distress or psychopathology.  Stoicism, in short, offers us this Holy Grail of a method of training in in lasting, or even lifelong, emotional resilience.

How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

My full-time job for several years now has basically involved talking and writing about Stoicism.  Stoicism has also helped me work with clients, and train groups, in a broader range of philosophical concepts and psychological methods for achieving resilience.  It’s also helped me profoundly.  I’m a much happier and more resilient person today, I think, than I ever was in the past, and that’s certainly due to my love of Stoic philosophy.

What’s one of your favourite Stoic quotations and why?

Ha! I like the passage in book 1 of The Meditations where Marcus explicitly states that his Stoic mentor Junius Rusticus introduced him to the need for undergoing philosophical psychotherapy or, as he calls it, “therapeia”.  (At least, that’s helped me make the case for everything I mentioned above.)  My favourite quote really is Marcus’ description of the Stoic ideal, as exemplified by another tutor, Sextus of Chaeronea, as being “free from passion and yet full of love (philostorgia)”, by which he means free from irrational/unhealthy passions and full of rational/healthy ones. 

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

Read the ancient sources, starting with Plato’s Apology, and including Xenophon’s Memorabilia and other Socratic dialogues, and Cicero, as well as the famous three Stoics: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.  Follow Modern Stoicism on social media, read the Stoicism Today blog, attend the virtual conference, and participate in Stoic Week.

Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

Yes, I think that we need Stoicism now, in particular, because the Sophists have taken over the world.  By that I mean politicians, the news media, and social media, are dominated by political propaganda and sensationalism, designed to create fear, provoke anger, and cloud people’s judgement.  We live in the Information Age.  The Sophists have evolved from men talking to groups of students in the agora, or the Athenian gymnasia, and saying whatever evoked the biggest round of applause.  They’ve been superseded by sophisticated algorithms that reward content that gets the most likes, or provokes the most comments.  We have a moral duty to ourselves, and to society in general, to arm ourselves with philosophical reasoning and challenge misinformation, and sophistical rhetoric, that harms the interests our loved ones, our nations, and the common welfare of mankind.  I think the key to this is the Stoic philosophy of anger.  We need to learn to wise up and see through the many ways we’re being manipulated today, especially the ways in which we’re baited by the media into responding to their propaganda with anger and hatred, e.g., by scapegoating particular groups of people.  Socrates and the Stoics took the philosophy of revenge very seriously because they clearly understood its toxicity.  The Stoics excel at what I call “counter-rhetoric”, learning to step out of the vicious cycle of emotive rhetoric by gaining “cognitive distance”, i.e., separating value judgements from objective facts.  That’s the essence of Stoic wisdom

Podcast #12: Anya Leonard, Classical Wisdom, and what the classics can teach us as Stoics!

In this episode, I talk to Anya Leonard about reading the classics, and what Stoics can learn from them.

Anya is a founder and director of Classical Wisdom – a site dedicated to bringing ancient wisdom to modern minds.

Check out Classical Wisdom at:
Website: https://classicalwisdom.com/
Twitter: @classicalwisdom
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClassicalWisdomWeekly/

And check out Classical Wisdom Speaks, the official podcast of ClassicalWisdom.com!
Podcast: https://classicalwisdom.com/podcast-classical-wisdom-speaks/

Classical wisdom will also be hosting their first online symposium, October 24-25 – check out ClassicalWisdom.com for more details!

Leave a comment for us below about the podcast you’ve heard today!

Interview with STOICON 2020 Speakers – William Irvine

About William B. Irvine

We continue our series of interviews with the speakers for the upcoming virtual STOICON 2020, with a mid-week post (we’ve got a lot of speakers, so we’ll be publishing these on Saturdays and Wednesdays for a bit!), this one with another author that will be familiar to many, William Irvine.

How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I see myself primarily as a teacher. Some of my teaching activities take place in a college classroom, teaching philosophy at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, USA. The rest of my teaching is in the form of an outreach effort. As a philosophy professor, I have the freedom to explore subjects that interest me and then report my findings to a larger, non-academic audience. This outreach teaching takes place in the books I write.

How do you currently make use of Stoicism in your work?

As a writer, I encounter lots of setbacks. The computer I write on might get
cantankerous, and the articles and chapters I am writing might not “jell” properly. Subsequently, there are the setbacks that arise in trying to get a work published. Practicing Stoicism has provided me with a wonderful tool for dealing with these setbacks, and for keeping my cool as I do.

When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

I first encountered Stoicism in college. The encounter took place in a logic class, when the Stoics were identified as the “discoverers” of the inference rule modus ponens: Given that P and “If P, then Q” are true, Q follows. I encountered and became interested in the Stoic philosophy of life, in the early 2000s, while writing my book, On Desire: Why We Want What We Want (Oxford University Press, 2006).

What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?

Stoic psychological insights are, for me, the philosophy’s most important aspect. They were the preeminent psychologists of their day. Furthermore, it is only in the last half century that modern psychologists have rediscovered many of their insights.

In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

Because human psychology has not changed in the last two millennia, Stoic psychological techniques remain as effective as they were in the ancient world.

How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

Thanks to my practice of Stoicism, I have become much more appreciative of the world in which I live, and much more aware of and open to the many small delights it has to offer.

What’s one of your favourite Stoic quotations and why?

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” Although none of the ancient Stoics actually said this, they could and should have. It is great advice, no matter what predicament you find yourself in. If I were going to get a tattoo, this is what it would say. (The quote can be found in Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography. He attributes the quote to Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia. Widener, a shadowy figure, was likely a born Stoic.)

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

You are living during the Great Stoic Renaissance—lucky you!—meaning that there are lots of books that can get you started, including my Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

Nope

Do you want to speak at Stoicon?

Stoicon, the international Modern Stoicism conference, is now in its eighth year. This time, due to the pandemic, Stoicon will be a completely virtual conference, taking place online. Full details are available on the EventBrite listing.

If you are interested in speaking at the event, you may want to try your hand at doing one of our five-minute lightning talks. Peter Limberg of Toronto Stoics is this year’s host for the Lightning Talk session, during which twelve speakers will have the opportunity to talk for five minutes each.

Format

You can talk about any subject, as long as it’s clearly relevant to Stoicism. You must, though, adhere to a strict five-minute time limit. Because of the rapid nature of these mini-talks you will be stopped when it’s time for the next speaker to take their turn. You must also have a suitable Internet connection and be able to use Zoom. You must also have a suitable microphone. We recommend using a headset microphone. Please note that there a limited number of spaces for lightning talk speakers and speakers will be chosen based on their proposal and other qualities, and the discretion of the organizer.

Contact

Contact Modern Stoicism for more information or to volunteer to take part and we’ll forward your request to Peter Limberg, the host for this part of the event.

Interview with STOICON 2020 Speakers – Massimo Pigliucci

We continue our series of interviews with the speakers for the upcoming virtual STOICON, which will be taking place virtually this year on October 17. Here is the link where you can register and view the schedule of events. Our next interview is with Massimo Pigliucci.

How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I am a biologist and philosopher, teaching at the City College of New York. I was born in Monrovia, Liberia, grew up in Rome, Italy, and moved to the United States three decades ago. I live in Brooklyn, New York, with my wife Jennifer, also a Stoic practitioner. In fact, we met at Stoic Camp-New York two years ago!

How do you currently make use of Stoicism in your work?

My work consists chiefly of writing, teaching, and public speaking. All of these are activities were I most certainly do not control the outcomes. It is not up to me whether my agent or publisher will like my next book, and even less so whether the book will do well or not once it is published. It is not up to me whether my students will respond well to my efforts and learn what I’d like them to learn. And the reaction of the audience at a public talk is also most certainly not up to me.

What is up to me? My own considerate judgments, endorsed values, and decisions to act or not to act. So in all the above cases I apply Epictetus’ dichotomy of control and make a concerted effort to internalize my goals, shifting my focus from outcomes to intentions and efforts. So long as I am satisfied with my work, I need to be prepared to accept whatever result with equanimity.

When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

I can tell you the exact date: September 5th, 2014! I had been going through a bit of mid-life crisis, some personal issues (divorce, my father’s death), as well as a transition to a new job and a move to a new city. While not unusual, that sort of things, especially when combined, can take a toll.

So I was looking for a new framework to replace my secular humanism, which I had adopted since I was a teenager and had left the Catholic Church, but which just didn’t seem to offer me any practical guidance on how to navigate what life was throwing at me. After briefly considering Buddhism, it occurred to me that the answer would likely lie in virtue ethics. So I began to study Aristotle, and then Epicurus. Neither of whom clicked, for different reasons (Aristotle is too aristocratic, Epicurus counsels against socio-political involvement).

Then, on that day back in 2014, I saw on my Twitter feed Modern Stoicism’s call to celebrate Stoic Week. And I thought, what the hell is Stoic Week, and why would anyone celebrate the Stoics? But I remembered that Stoicism too was a type of virtue ethics, and that I did enjoy reading Marcus Aurelius in college, and translating Seneca from Latin in high school. So I signed up. And here we are.

What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?  

The fact that it is a coherent and eminently practical philosophy of life. Internal coherence appeals to my analytical side, as both a scientist and a philosopher. And practicality is what I came here for.

Of course, Stoicism itself began as a syncretic philosophy, a hodgepodge of teachings that Zeno of Citium picked up from the several philosophers whose schools he had attended in late 4th century BCE Athens. Then Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoa, came in and cleaned up things a bit, delivering much of what today we know as the Stoic system. Even so, Stoics disagreed among themselves on certain matters, and their ideas evolved throughout antiquity. They still evolve today. But always with a keen eye toward coherence and practicality.

In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

It is one of a highly viable philosophies of life on offer, like Buddhism, or Christianity (I consider religions to be a type of life philosophies). I am tempted to say that Stoicism is particularly tailored for our times, characterized as they are by major political upheavals and threats to human welfare on a global scale. But in reality Stoicism has always been useful to people, because it has been the case throughout history that many things are not under our control, and setbacks — even at a very personal level — have been a stable feature of human existence. So the teachings of Stoicism have always been relevant, and will remain so.

How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

It has changed it dramatically, from the onset. After weeks from beginning my practice my own friends and relatives noticed in me a more calm demeanor and a different perspective on things. And those effects have only been amplified by years of daily practice.

It has also drastically changed my work, actually. While I still write about philosophy of science, more and more of my academic and public output is about Stoicism, which I would never have guessed just a few years ago. And unlike my previous writings, which were fun and hopefully interesting, but not really practical, what I write and say about Stoicism positively touches many people’s lives. It is a great feeling, and one that has provided additional meaning to my life.

What’s one of your favorite Stoic quotations and why?

One of the very first things I’ve read from Epictetus:

I have to die. If it is now, well then I die now; if later, then now I will take my lunch, since the hour for lunch has arrived – and dying I will tend to later.

Discourses I, 1.32

I thought: wow, this is both funny and eminently practical. Who is this guy? And why have I never heard of him, despite getting a PhD in philosophy and taking courses in ancient thought?? I was hooked immediately, and why I have my own disagreements with Epictetus, which I detail in my new book, A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living (Basic Books, 2020), we have been inseparable ever since.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

Four things. First, join a local Stoa or an online forum, where you can get guidance from more advanced practitioners.

Second, don’t just read the ancient sources, but also don’t limit yourself to the new offerings. Examine and study both. Stoicism has a long intellectual tradition, so it pays to see what Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and the others were writing. But by the same token, it is a living philosophy for the 21st century, so it is good to get acquainted with the writings of modern Stoics, including Larry Becker, Don Robertson, John Sellars, Bill Irvine, and others.

Third, practice, practice, practice. As Epictetus says: “If you didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did you learn them for?” (Discourses I, 29.35)

Lastly, don’t fall for the sort of corruption of Stoicism that I refer to as $toicism and Bro’icism. They are at odds with the actual philosophy, and they will not lead you to a eudaimonic life.

Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

There is much more to be said, but I guess I’ll see you at Stoicon!

Podcast #11: Contest winners, announcements, and a short break!

This week is just a short episode to announce the contest winners, and announce a few other pieces of news before we take a mid-season break.

Our contest winners for last week’s episode 10 are:
– Lizette
– Shaun
– Nicole

I want to thank everyone who wrote us a comment on the blog post for Episode 10! It was very much appreciated, and it’s really wonderful to know that our podcast is adding value to those of you listening!

See you again, on September 18th!

Interview with STOICON 2020 Speakers – John Sellars

This is the first of a set of interviews with the experts lined up to be speakers at this year’s online STOICON, which will be taking place virtually this year on October 17. Here is the link where you can register and view the schedule of events. Our first interview is with our first speaker, John Sellars. To those who have been following research and contemporary literature about Stoicism, or the modern Stoic movement, John practically needs no introduction. But we’re going to give him one anyways – or rather, allow him to introduce himself!

How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I’m an academic based in the UK. I currently teach philosophy at Royal Holloway, part of the University of London. I first became interested in Stoicism as a philosophy student in the 1990s. I wrote my PhD on Stoicism, finishing it in 2001. Since then I’ve written a number of books on Stoicism. Among these I’ll mention Lessons in Stoicism, a very short primer for people completely new to the subject, that came out last year (and about to come out in paperback, and about to be published in the US as The Pocket Stoic). This year I also finished a book on Marcus Aurelius that came out in July. I’m one of the founder members of the Modern Stoicism group and I organized our first public event in London in 2013, as well as Stoicon 2018, also in London.

How do you currently make use of Stoicism in your work?

In all sorts of ways! I teach Stoicism: I’ll be doing so this year as part of a course on Hellenistic philosophy at Royal Holloway. I continue to write on ancient Stoicism: at the moment I’m completing a couple of pieces on Epictetus, for an edited book and a conference. I’m also editing books on Marcus Aurelius and on Musonius Rufus at the moment. I’ve also always been interested in the ‘afterlife’ of Stoicism – the ways in which it has influenced others since antiquity – and I’m currently working on discussions of Stoic approaches to the emotions in the fourteenth century.

When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

I think my first encounter was probably reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations in the early 1990s while a philosophy student. It wasn’t part of a course, just a book I stumbled across. Although it was obviously very different from the more technical philosophy that I was studying in my degree, I had a sense that there was something more substantial standing behind Marcus’s notebook reflections, and I became curious to find out what that was. The book on Marcus I finished this year is – finally! – my attempt to set out what I see as going on just below the surface of the Meditations

At the same time I was reading Marcus as a student, I was studying the philosophy of Spinoza and really connected with his ideas – that we are small parts of a unified Nature, that we ought to be guided by reason rather than emotions – and then came across articles connecting him with Stoicism. The same happened with other philosophers I found congenial. Before long Stoicism seemed like the common thread or original source of a wide range of things that I found interesting. That’s one of the reasons I’ve worked on the later influence of Stoicism, because my way into it was in large part via traces of Stoicism in the subsequent history of philosophy.

What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?

I think it is probably the directness with which the Roman Stoics write and the way in which they can still speak to us today, despite how many things have changed since the time they were writing. Jules Evans, who was a key contributor to Modern Stoicism at the beginning and indeed coined the title ‘Stoicon’, once said that the reason why people should read the Roman Stoics rather than modern self-help or psychotherapy books is that they are not merely sources of interesting ideas but also great works of literature. They are also so varied. Seneca’s carefully crafted essays, Epictetus’s punchy direct dialogues, and Marcus’s thoughtful reflections are all quite different in tone but each stands on its own terms as an inspiring read. It’s that literary ability to connect that makes their work so powerful.

In terms of ideas, I think the one thing that has always connected with me most is the thought – especially strong in Marcus Aurelius – that we are ultimately tiny insignificant specks within the vastness of time and space. We are but parts of Nature and will be swept along with its changes whether we like it or not. That strikes me and both true and a healthy antidote to the self-absorption and egotism that is often so prevalent in contemporary culture.

In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

It matters today because people can still benefit from it today, and they do. Part of the idea behind Stoic Week was to see if people can still benefit from Stoic ideas, and the evidence that we have gathered suggests that they do. Indeed, over the years we’ve been running Modern Stoicism I’ve encountered numerous people who have reported that Stoic ideas have literally changed their lives (for the better!).

That’s what it’s really all about. If people just said ‘Hmm, that’s interesting’ and then just continued on as before, there’s no reason why Stoicism would be any more interesting than any other long-dead school of thought in the history of philosophy. But instead for some people it has the power to transform how they see themselves and their place in the world. Of course, not everyone will connect with it, but for those who do, the impact can be considerable.

How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

I suspect it probably has in various subtle ways; I’ve been reading this stuff for quite a long time now! But – and I may have mentioned this in previous interviews – there’s always a question over how much it has actually changed my attitudes and how much it resonates with attitudes I already had. On some issues I was probably ‘a Stoic without realizing it’, a phrase I’ve heard many people use. I suppose what it has done the most is make connections between different views I already had and showed how they could all be connected into a single coherent world view, as well giving arguments for why those views make sense to hold.

What’s one of your favorite Stoic quotations and why?

It’s so hard to pick just one. There are dozens in Marcus’s Meditations alone. There are so many striking turns of phrase in Seneca too. But here’s one I re-read just the other day that may or may not have something to say to current politics in multiple countries: “If you take on a role that is beyond your capacity, you both disgrace yourself in it and leave undone a role that you could have fulfilled” (Epictetus, Handbook 37). But putting politics to one side, at a personal level this offers some important advice. We each need to work out what our own capacities are, what we are good at and most suited for, and make our choices with this self-knowledge in mind. We are often presented with a ‘one size fits all’ model of success, and some people might feel pressured to try to conform to that generic image of what being successful is supposed to look like. But here Epictetus (and he’s following similar advice from earlier Stoics such as Panaetius, reported by Cicero) is saying that would be a mistake. First, we need to work out who we are before we can decide what we ought to be doing and what a successful, happy life might look like for us as individuals.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

Do Stoic Week! It is designed as an introduction to some of the practices mentioned by the Roman Stoics and hopefully it is way in to learning more about the underlying philosophy too. It also helps us with our research into the effectiveness of these practices. The popular literature on Stoicism is ever expanding and there are plenty of modern guides out there. But the works of the Roman Stoics, as a noted earlier, are all highly readable and engaging on their own right, and they speak to people directly nowadays just as well as they no doubt did when they were first written.

Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

Modern Stoicism is run by a group of volunteers who for the most part are not paid, doing this in their spare time on top of other commitments. We’ve been doing this for some eight years now, simply out of the conviction that the ancient Stoics have something to say that might benefit people, and we think people ought to hear about it, in case it can help them. We have always made all of our courses and materials free and open to all. We have no regular funding but what we do is not without costs, so if you’d like to support us in our work, please do consider donating to Modern Stoicism.

The Modern Stoicism Podcast Hits Episode 10!

Earlier this year, Modern Stoicism launched something new – at least for this organization – a podcast, in which the host and editor, Adam Piercey, interviews guests who have made contributions to modern practices and interpretations of that ancient philosophy. Listenership has been growing steadily, and the Modern Stoicism Podcast provides an excellent supplement to other media in which Stoicism gets discussed.

Today, we are happy to report that the podcast has hit an important milestone. We’re publishing the tenth episode here in Stoicism Today (as well as on all of the many platforms where the podcast can be found) in this very post. The title of this one is “Adam the Host Answers Questions about Podcasting and Practice!”

As editor of Stoicism Today and as a team member of Modern Stoicism, Ltd., I was one of the people interviewed in the first ten episodes, and I would like to not only congratulate Adam for bringing the podcast to this point, but also to sing his praises a bit. Podcasts are somewhat deceptive, as they sound almost effortless to the casual listener. Intros slide right into to thoughtful discussions of topics, going just the right amount of time before they finish up with an outro. That’s all due to hours and hours of recording and then laborious editing work. Schedules have to be aligned between host and guest, and that’s just a bit of the preparatory work that goes into each episode. So Adam has been generously devoting significant time, thought, and effort to this project, and for that the entire Modern Stoicism Team thanks him (and maybe you readers and listeners might want to do that as well).

Previous Episodes

If you missed them when they came out, or you’d like to listen to them again (or download them for later), here are the nine earlier episodes.

Episode 9: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/5085545-tara-klippert-health-nutrition-and-stoicism

Episode 8: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4991060-kasey-pierce-comics-life-and-stoicism

Episode 7: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4891130-brittany-polat-oikeiosis-and-human-nature

Episode 6: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4788716-greg-sadler-modern-stoicism-stoicism-today-and-grassroots-movements

Episode 5: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4743602-chuck-chakrapani-and-musonius-rufus

Episode 4: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4613609-david-mcfadzean-and-the-manager-sage

Episode 3: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4512026-massimo-pigliucci-and-the-premeditation-of-adversity

Episode 2: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4422053-donald-robertson-marcus-aurelius-and-alexander-the-great

Episode 1: https://modernstoicismpodcast.buzzsprout.com/882808/4296158-our-podcast-an-introduction

A Special Give-Away To Commemorate the Occasion

We’re giving away 3 signed copies of books by Donald Robertson! We have 2 signed copies of The Meditations, and 1 signed copy of The Philosophy of CBT.

To enter into the giveaway, simply add a comment to this blog post with some feedback on what you think about the podcast so far (good or bad!) And we will randomly select 3 lucky winners! Details for the winners will be collected once they have been announced.

Another Interview With Adam

Even after talking with Adam before we recorded our episode, and during that interview, there are a lot of things I’d like to ask him about. I sent off a set of questions to him earlier this week, and here are his responses to those. I think you’ll find them interesting!

Why do you think it’s important for Modern Stoicism to have a podcast?

As an organization, Modern Stoicism already has so many avenues to connect with people, but after following the Stoicism Today blog I noticed that there were many contributors that were new to readers, and who shared some very interesting views on this practice. I think it’s interesting to people to try and dive into some of these topics further, in a different medium, where we can here directly from the authors – and a podcast can do that in a very unique way.

How did you get into Stoicism? Would you describe yourself as a Stoic? Why or why not?

Growing up there were always books on classical literature, philosophy, and history in my house, so I was aware of names like Socrates, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius at a pretty young age. The stories of classical mythology and classical warfare rounded out my interests, and I even spent some time at Queen’s University studying Classical History. Alongside this, I had always struggled with finding a direction for myself which I could use to harness my mind and my emotions. Even before beginning my practice of Stoicism, I believed that the mind could be honed to act as a tool, or reinforced to act as a citadel for ourselves, so when I took the step to really investigate and research Stoicism, I found that it resonated with me in both my thoughts on the subject, and with new concepts that it brought to my attention.

What made you want to put in all the work, thought, and planning that goes into a podcast? And why this podcast in particular?

I believe that which you practice most regularly is that which you will embody. Couple that with my interest in the Zen practice called Beginner’s Mind, and it’s safe to say that I wanted to put my efforts into this podcast because I wanted to surround myself with like-minded individuals, and learn as much as I possibly could on the subject. I was also hoping that a podcast within the Modern Stoicism community might lend itself to generating some good discussion, and perhaps give an avenue for some new, and different views.

Podcast editing seems like it could be a never-ending task. There’s always something that could be tweaked or improved. How do you keep yourself on-point and get the episodes out on time? Any tips?

Tip #1: Choose to do a podcast on a topic that you love and enjoy being immersed in. It doesn’t matter if there are 1000 podcasts about Baseball, if you love it then it will show in your willingness to put in the effort, and your enthusiasm for the subject, when you record the podcast.

Tip #2: Pre-record as much as you possibly can. Many of the segments that go into the final edit of the podcast are pre-recorded and re-used for every episode. It saves time, saves effort, and if you’re stuck on an edit late at night one day, it’s great when you can just drop a bit of audio in and call it a day.

How have you found the process of doing the podcast so far? Any unexpected challenges that arose? Did Stoicism help with dealing with those?

The process of creating the podcast has been good so far, though I will say that I have had to learn quite a bit. But the guests have been very encouraging and willing to participate, and the feedback that we have gotten has been overwhelmingly positive.

In terms of unexpected challenges, I would say that I never thought it took as long as it does to edit and publish a single episode of the podcast. So, as the time drags on and I run through the audi files, clip the segments, and merge them together, I just keep on remembering that this is just how it is. It wouldn’t really help if I yelled at the computer, or got angry about the editing time – it is what it is, and that’s that.

What was your favorite moment or discussion from the podcast so far?

I think that my favorite discussion so far has been the episode with Brittany Polat on the subject of oikeiosis – or Stoic development. Brittany is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject, and brought a real honesty to the conversation about both her research and her feelings. In previous episodes, I had been quite hesitant in getting involved with the converdation too much, so this is the first episode where I really felt like I jumped in and added my own points. It was nerve-wracking, but I think that the outcome was a verry good podcast with some really interesting dialogue.

You’ve made it through ten episodes, which is quite an accomplishment. Looking back, what have you learned in that process?

First thing I have learned, is that I knew nothing about creating a podcast before I put together the first, introductory episode. Roman Mars, Helen Zaltzmann, and Avery Trufffleman make it sound so easy, but there is a lot of work that goes into each episode.

Second thing, is that you should try and fgure out what your voice in the podcast is going to be. I have bounced around a bit in some of the episodes, going from the voice of a novice to the voice of a veteran, from merely asking questions to generating discussion. If you can find the voice that you think best suits you, it makes it much easier to set the tone for your episodes as you record them.

From the people who haven’t yet come on to the podcast, who would you really like to get on it, and why that person or persons?

My first thought is Donna Zuckerberg, because although I haven’t read her book yet, “Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age”, it sounds intriguing and is a discussion I would love to give some traction to. Stoicism touches people from so many different walks of life, and I want to try and showcase that for us. It’s not simply one kind of person that can find a home here, we all can.

Stoicon-X Events For This Fall

International STOIC WEEK and the main STOICON conferences are coming up in just two months. Modern Stoicism as an organization puts on both of those for people interested in Stoic philosophy and practice worldwide. For the last several years, there have also been a number of smaller local events all over the world, organized by local Stoic groups and meetups. These have been called “Stoicon-X” events, by analogy to the larger TED and smaller, local TED-X conferences.

In past years Stoicon-X events have been put on in a variety of locations, including London, New York, San Leandro, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Newton, Toronto, Moscow, Madrid, Athens, Brisbane, and Bogota. Generally they have taken place in the weeks before and after the main Stoicon conference.

This year, Modern Stoicism and the Stoic Fellowship have devoted a lot of thought and planning to how best to promote and coordinate Stoicon-X events.

There are clear guidelines and helpful advice  for how to organize and put on a “Stoicon-X” event. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it would clearly go against the Stoic virtue of prudence to plan and hold events in-person for the Fall. So the expectation is that all Stoicon-X events, like the main Stoicon, will be online, virtual events this year.

This year, Modern Stoicism will also be expecting local Stoic communities who wish to host a Stoicon-X event to sign an agreement with Modern Stoicism. This will ensure that those events will be done for the public interest rather than for profit, and that certain standards will be met. We’re finalizing that agreement, and will be posting a link to it here once it is fully ready.

The Stoicon-X committee of the Stoic Fellowship has also put together an online spreadsheet with dates for planning events, so that they won’t be overlapping with each other. You can view that spreadsheet here. For more information about scheduling, you can contact Pete Fagella (chair of the Stoicon-X committee).

In order to provide readers and potential organizers some inspiration and encouragement, I’ve solicited some short contributions from people who successfully organized Stoicon-X events last year. Here they are:

Pete Fagella and Marc Deshaies – Stoicon-X New England

Our regional Stoa was still pretty new in 2018 when we decided to take the plunge and host our first Stoicon-X event. We had ten participants that first year. It was exciting hosting an event that was a little more formal than the regular monthly meetings we had been having. We charged $10 per person to cover the costs of renting a church basement and light refreshments. The 4 hour program included four speeches, lightning talks, discussion sessions and role-playing.

In 2019 our Stoicon-X event gained momentum: 23 people attended. We charged $15 in advance or $17 after a cutoff date. The main event lasted five hours. The program included five presentations, two sets of small group exercises, a book table where people shared brief reviews for others to  peruse, and we gave away four new books as door prizes. After a group shout outdoors to officially end the event, we shared a delicious informal potluck dinner. We look forward to an online event this Fall for 2020, and are happy to share more detailed planning tips with others if asked. 

Sharline Mohan – Stoicon-X Brisbane

I had the pleasure of organising the Stoicon-X event for the Brisbane Stoics in 2019. It ran for a full day at a local library event space and was kicked off with a pre-recorded talk by Greg Sadler followed by a live Q & A session. The rest of the day was filled with member talks and a workshop which was then concluded by a pre-recorded interview with Donald Robertson. Being an all day event it was important to include short coffee breaks and a longer lunch which allowed guests to absorb the information throughout the day but also connect with others in our stoa and socialise.

My advice from my experience is that the Stoic community at large is very giving and eager to contribute regardless of your place in it, adhering to your own schedule is important, and finally, I found that talks that require participation should be held at the beginning of the day and then end the day with more passive content. We had just under 30 people attend and whilst it was a big undertaking for a single person it was a truly enjoyable experience and great way to give back to my Stoa.

This year I have organised a committee to help organise an Australia-wide Stoicon-X held solely online and will run over 6th/ 7th/ 8th November. Within the month I should have the schedule for the Australian Stoicon-X outlining guests and topics.

Stanislav Naranovich – Stoicon-X Moscow

It was my first experience of organizing such an event, so it was quite disturbing. I sent requests to several major scholars, and as a result after lengthy correspondence the philosopher, Kirill Martynov and the historian of Stoicism, Polina Gadjikurbanova agreed to participate. The space was kindly provided by the bookstore Falanster.

The speakers made exciting presentations (one about modern Stoicism, the other about ancient), after which ensued lively debates with the audience. More than 50 people came — it was extremely unexpected to see such a large public! Mostly young people who are very interested in Stoic theory and practice and asked a lot of smart questions. It was a great pleasure to share experience with them, the sense of community is essential. The event lasted almost three hours, after which a group of participants went to the nearest pub. Here some photos.

Massimo Pigliucci – Stoicon-X New York

I organized Stoicon-X New York in 2019, and have a second edition planned for this year. Last year I was lucky enough to have both Don Robertson and Bill Irvine coming to town, so the three of us provided an evening featuring three talks and q&a with a live audience.  (You can check them out here:  https://youtu.be/LBMbv2SM4w8 // https://youtu.be/H9v1pCEQznM // https://youtu.be/x5ndjzaddsY).

This year Don will be back, and we will feature Brian Johnson, the author of The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life. But the event will, of course, be online. I plan on hosting it on the Zoom platform and recording the sessions for later publishing on Vimeo, here.

This is a highly rewarding experience, which does not need to be thought of as a major conference, with all the logistical nightmares that that implies. Even if you get a few people together for a couple of hours to talk about Stoicism you have accomplished something worthwhile. As Marcus Aurelius says, don’t wait for Plato’s Republic, do what little you can right now, because it matters. – Massimo

Andi Sciacca – Stoicon-X Milwaukee

Working to co-organize and co-facilitate the Stoicon-X MKE event held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2019 was simple, rewarding, and efficient.  I am happy to share some of the things we did to keep the preparation process organized – and enjoyable.  First, since space (and cost of space rental) can pose an issue for any event host, we opted to work with our central library branch to utilize one of their conference rooms.  Not only was the large-capacity room we reserved free of charge, it was also located in a place of learning, easily accessible by public transportation, and well suited for a conference of our kind.  Next, thanks to the generous support of a donor from within the Modern Stoic community, we were able to offer coffee, breakfast items, and lunch to our guests. 

In order to make that happen, we partnered with two organizations that truly support community values and are excellent examples of working for the common good.  For the coffee, we worked with one of our favorite local roasters and coffee shops (Stone Creek Coffee) and reserved two Cambros of coffee.  The shop provided cups, creamer, sweetener, and napkins with the order – as most shops (including the national chains) will.  We added a few trays of mini-muffins and danishes from a big box store, along with a couple of flats of water, and breakfast was served.  For lunch, we partnered with a local restaurant (The Tandem) that is well-known for doing incredible things within the community (they even served as a World Central Kitchen site during the pandemic) – and we ordered some easy lunch items – wraps (vegan, veg, and meat-based), along with some large tray salads, and chips. 

We offered tickets to the Stoicon-X for free and used Eventbrite to manage reservations.  We also posted to MeetUp (with the Eventbrite link), shared posts across social media, and sent press releases to our local news outlets and other community organizations about one month in advance.  The event was completely sold out roughly two weeks prior to the date we selected.  In addition, we were able to create some pretty great event posters and flyers via Canva (if you’d like to reference our template, feel free) – and had those printed at a local printing press. 

We offered small honoraria to our speakers – and we were able to cover travel expenses for one speaker who came from two states away, and provide all of that content for the $1200 donation we received from that generous donor.  We checked people in on the morning of the event during the event using the Eventbrite roster, provided nametags (sticker-style) – and felt that everything went seamlessly – even with a fire alarm that went off right before lunch!  We recorded the sessions on our GoPro camera, and shared them to YouTube.  We emailed attendees with a follow-up survey – and got some excellent feedback for next time.  All in all, it was reasonably simple and well worth the time we spent on organization and set-up.  We look forward to the next event – whether virtual in 2020 or (hopefully) in person in 2021.

Podcast #8: Tara Klippert, Health, Nutrition, and Stoicism

In this episode, I talk to Tara Klippert about how stoicism can be applied to health and nutrition.

Tara is a digital marketing specialist, and a registered health and nutrition Counselor, and is the owner of Foods And Feels Wellness.

Check out Tara Klippert at:
website: www.foodsandfeels.com
Instagram: @foodsnfeels
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/foodsandfeels
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/FoodsAndFeelsWellness
YouTube: Tara Klippert – Foods and feels wellness (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmtFheow-Ho2u9BbAUuAWLQ)

Stay tuned in this episode for a special announcement!

Leave a comment for us below about the podcast you’ve heard today!