The big STOICON 2021 conference is coming up soon on October 9. If you don’t have your ticket for the event yet, you can click here to get it (the ticket price is any level of donation you’d like to make). We’re continuing our established tradition of publishing interviews with the Stoicon speakers, workshop providers, panelists, and organizers. That way people interested or planning to participate in Stoicon 2021 can get to know them a bit before the conference. This interview is with Aldo Dinucci, who will be speaking at the STOICON event!
To see the schedule for Stoicon, or to get your ticket for this event – donations for tickets support the continued work of Modern Stoicism, Ltd – click here and you will be taken to the Stoicon 2021 Eventbrite site.
We’re very happy to have you here. Please introduce yourself and your work to our readers.
I am Dr. Aldo Dinucci, Professor at the Federal University of Sergipe in Brazil, researcher and follower of Stoicism. I have been translating Epictetus’ works to Portuguese and publishing both academic and dissemination papers on Epictetus in particular and Stoicism in general since 2007.
What first interested you in, or attracted you to Stoicism?
Stoicism really saved my life exactly twenty years ago when I was working at a Brazilian university. I was stalked by my own colleagues because I did not think it acceptable to religiously proselytize in classroom. I found Seneca’s letters in the university library. They taught me how to face that difficult situation. Stoicism has showed me how to face various difficulties.
How does Stoicism figure into your work?
It is always in the background. It’s in everything I do. As a Stoic, I must be at the same time a humanist, a scientist, a logician, and I must have a compassionate view of humankind. These qualities make all the difference when dealing with my students and colleagues, and in trying to make things better for everyone around me. With regards to Stoicism in Brazil, I am directly involved in constructing a network of Brazilians and other Portuguese speakers who research and practice Stoicism. Through these efforts, I have founded the group Viva Vox, a group of Stoic enthusiasts and friends who meet regularly to discuss Stoic philosophy and its application to daily life.
How has Stoicism affected or improved the way you live your life?
First, as I said previously, Stoicism has taught me how to cope with the difficulties of life in a third world country. Brazil has many problems when it comes to education, poverty and violence. As my friend Donato Ferrara once said, it is particularly important to follow Stoic tenets in Brazil, where hardships are many and severe.
Secondly, Stoicism offered me a new spirituality, which can be defined as a knowledge that allows us to experience the sacred beyond established religions, promoting a pantheistic experience of the sacred. Through this spirituality I can see myself as an important part of the cosmos. It has provided me with a deepening awareness as to the urgency of environmental conservation.
Thirdly, Stoicism has taught me that I must always act in a communitarian way. One way I have done this is by forming a team of excellent students of various races and different sexual orientations that I encourage to work together for the common good. Finally, Stoicism has taught me that I am not only part of cosmos, but also part of humanity, my country, and my local community. I act with all these in mind.
If you had to pick one, what would you say is the most important aspect of Stoicism?
For me, it is the spiritual aspect. When you realize that you are part of the cosmos, your life changes completely for the better. In some respects, you are reborn because you start to see the world with new eyes: you are not a foreigner living in a strange and treacherous world anymore, but a citizen of the cosmos living in your own house, living in your own city.
As an ancient philosophy, is Stoicism still just as useful and relevant in our late modern world?
Certainly, Ancient Stoics meditated on the human condition, which follows unchanging patterns. Themes like daily life, hardships, death, happiness, love, friendship are perennial. For example, we can say that the death of a young child or of a parent is typically a painful experience today and it was also typically a painful centuries ago. The hard reality of the war is as difficult to endure as it was two thousand years ago. That’s one of the reasons why the Stoics are still read today and have helped people throughout time.
Do you have a favorite Stoic passage or quote? What is it, and why is it your favorite?
I am not a wise man, and I will not be one in order to feed your spite: so do not require me to be on a level with the best of men, but merely to be better than the worst: I am satisfied, if every day I take away something from my vices and correct my faults. (Seneca, On the Happy Life, 17.3 , Aubrey Stewart’s translation).
I know this passage off by heart and say it to myself all the time. It is the Socratic confession of ignorance, through which I fight against all vain pretension of being a sage or an intellectual and keep myself open to learning and listening to what other people have to say.
What topics do you plan or anticipate to talk about at Stoicon?
I will talk about communitarian action in James Bond Stockdale. Stoicism is frequently seen as an individualistic philosophy, but this is a poor reading of the philosophy. Actually, as I have mentioned above whilst talking about Stoic spirituality, Stoicism shows to us that we are part of something bigger and that we must act while aiming at the good of all. That’s what James Bond Stockdale demonstrated as a leader of his fellow soldiers while he was a POW in Vietnam. His commands were basically rules of togetherness, teaching each soldier how he must act in a communitarian way, aiming at the good of all his companions.
Are you excited for Stoicon 2021? Is it Stoic, or not, to be “excited”?
I am very grateful for this opportunity to disseminate my views on Stoicism, and I hope that my brief speech can shed light to others and help the audience to recognize that they are part of the cosmos and responsible agents in society, who must do their best to fight for freedom of expression and social justice for the sake of the common good.
Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?
I would like to thank John Sellars, Greg Sadler, and all others involved in the creation of Modern Stoicism. I am grateful also to Kelli Rudolph (University of Kent, UK), with whom I’ve been studying Stoicism in the last six years, and Kai Whiting, for his rewarding and constant dialogue regarding the construction of a communitarian Stoicism in the 21st century.