What Is Stoicism?

Created: July 18, 2021 2:15 PM Property: Pending URL: https://dailystoic.com/what-is-stoicism-a-definition-3-stoic-exercises-to-get-you-started/#premeditatio-malorum Updated: July 18, 2021 2:17 PM

“Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. ” — Seneca

The private diaries of one of Rome’s greatest emperors, the personal letters of one of Rome’s best playwrights and wisest power brokers, the lectures of a former slave and exile, turned influential teacher. Against all odds, some two millennia later, these incredible documents urvive. They contain some of the greatest wisdom in the history of the world and together, they constitute the bedrock of what is known as Stoicism—an ancient philosophy that was once one of the most popular civic disciplines in the West, practiced by the rich and the impoverished, the powerful and the struggling alike in the pursuit of the Good Life.Except to the most avid seekers of wisdom, Stoicism is either unknown or misunderstood. To the average person, this vibrant, action-oriented, and paradigm-shifting way of living has become shorthand for “emotionlessness.” Given the fact that the mere mention of philosophy makes most nervous or bored, “Stoic philosophy” on the surface sounds like the last thing anyone would want to learn about, let alone urgently need in the course of daily life.

It would be hard to find a word that dealt a greater injustice at the hands of the English language than “Stoic.” In its rightful place, Stoicism is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom: something one uses to live a great life, rather than some esoteric field of academic inquiry. Certainly, many of history’s great minds not only understood Stoicism for what it truly is, they sought it out: George Washington, Walt Whitman, Frederick the Great, Eugène Delacroix, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Matthew Arnold, Ambrose Bierce, Theodore Roosevelt, William Alexander Percy, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Each read, studied, quoted, or admired the Stoics. The ancient Stoics themselves were no slouches. The names you encounter on this site in our daily email meditations—Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca—belonged to, respectively, a Roman emperor, a former slave who triumphed to become an influential lecturer and friend of the emperor Hadrian, and a famous playwright and political adviser.

What have all these and countless other great men and women found within Stoicism that others missed? A great deal. Primarily, that it provides much needed strength, wisdom, and stamina for all of life’s challenges.