What is the philosophy of stoicism?
“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school. It is to solve some of the problems of life not only theoretically, but practically.” (Thoreau)
Stoicism is a branch of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the third century BC, though it was made popular by practitioners such as Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca. The philosophy primarily espouses that virtue (wisdom) alone leads to happiness, and that we don’t have the power control all external circumstances though we can control our responses.
The central tenets of stoicism are that the world is full of unpredictable circumstances that are beyond our realm of control or influence. It teaches us the fragility of life and how quickly situations can change. Stoicism isn’t about being devoid of emotions. It is about being steady, strong, and controlled in the face of circumstances that aren’t in our control.
Contrary to popular perception that stoicism is about being emotionless, it simply asks a person to not let their emotions enslave them. Stoic philosophy is about not letting your emotions ride rational thought. It is about controlling passionate reactions in the face of adversity. According to stoicism, the fundamental cause of our discontentment is our impulsive reliance on reflexive reactions than logic. When we let emotional or passionate reactions rule out rational thinking, we pave the way for greater adversity.
Unlike other more complicated and theoretical philosophies and modern “feel good” pop psychology approaches, stoicism guides us in overcoming damaging emotions. As opposed to popular beliefs about stoic philosophy, it is an actionable philosophy that can be effortlessly applied in everyday living.
That is what this book is all about.