Stoic Meditations

351 EpisodesProduced by Massimo Pigliucci

Occasional reflections on the wisdom of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. More at patreon.com/FigsInWinter. Please consider supporting Stoic Meditations. (cover art by Marek Škrabák; original music by Ian Jolin-Rasmussen, www.jolinras.info). Become a supporter of this podcast:https://anchor.fm/s… read more

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351 Episodes | 2017 - 2019

A long life is like a long journey: there is bound to be rain and mud on the way

April 24th, 2019

2:44

Seneca uses a colorful analogy between life and a journey. Sure, we'd like to live longer, but when the journey is longer a number of unpleasant …

Want to be alive? Pay the taxes of life

April 23rd, 2019

2:52

Seneca uses an interesting economic analogy to remind us that the privilege of being alive comes with the tax of suffering setbacks and losses. Understanding this helps us to cope with problems and even to look forward …

Expand your circles of concern

April 22nd, 2019

3:33

Seneca says that it is natural for us to be virtuous. Modern scientists say that it is natural for us to be prosocial. Either way, it is reason that allows us to expand our instinctive circles of ethical concern.

It's far easier to change yourself than others

April 19th, 2019

2:23

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that we spend far too much time trying to change other people, which is outside of our control, and too little time …

The problem with expensive meals

April 18th, 2019

2:47

Seneca echoes the advice of Musonius Rufus when he says that we don't need to pay for extravagant meals with ingredients brought from all over the world. Every time we sit at the table to eat we have a chance to …

We should prosecute our politicians and generals

April 17th, 2019

2:29

Continuing his criticism of the state's war machine, Seneca exhorts us to prosecute our politicians and generals for the crimes they commit in our …

Seneca on war as human folly

April 16th, 2019

3:01

Seneca writes words about the foolishness of war that were surprisingly modern for his time, and unfortunately very much still pertinent to us today.

A surprisingly difficult simple precept

April 15th, 2019

2:34

Seneca tells us something that may appear to be a no-brainer, and yet is difficult to apply: never believe that you can be happy through the …

Happiness is an inside job

April 12th, 2019

3:07

Cicero reminds us that happiness - meaning our satisfaction with our own life - is guaranteed if we don't hitch it to external events, but only to our own reasoned judgments.

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The proximity of good people is good for you

April 11th, 2019

2:46

Seneca reminds us that it is important to associate with good people. Their goodness is both an inspiration and a guide to make ourselves better human beings.

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Repetition is useful

April 10th, 2019

2:50

Seneca says that we should remind ourselves of things we know, because all too often we don't pay attention to them.

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Approach your life all things considered

April 9th, 2019

3:17

Modern Stoic Larry Becker, building on Seneca, advises us to approach the problems we encounter not one at a time, but within the context of our life …

Seneca agrees with Ricky Gervais on the afterlife and the meaning of existence

April 8th, 2019

2:49

Seneca points out that it doesn't matter if there is no continuation of life after death. Just like British comedian Ricky Gervais did recently in his series, aptly entitled "After Life."

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Cut off anger at its inception

April 5th, 2019

2:53

Epictetus treats anger as an addiction: we should suppress the urge as soon as we begin to feel it, and celebrate the days we have managed to stay …

How long you live is not up to you, how you live is

April 4th, 2019

3:00

Seneca uses the dichotomy of control to get us to move away from our obsession with living longer, and toward paying attention to living better.

Marcus Regulus and the hard core of Stoicism

April 3rd, 2019

3:24

A good Stoic can be "happy" even on the rack. This phrase happened to be true in the case of the Roman general Marcus Regulus. And his story is worth …

Virtue is like the sun behind a cloud

April 2nd, 2019

3:15

Seneca says that when negative developments affect our lives, virtue is like the sun behind a cloud: it keeps shining, and eventually dissipates the clouds.

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The fanciness of your scabbard says nothing about the effectiveness of your sword

April 1st, 2019

2:51

Seneca uses the analogy of a scabbard and a sword to remind us that external goods, like wealth or health, are indeed preferable, but only in a …

What does it mean to live every day as if it were your last?

March 29th, 2019

3:08

Marcus Aurelius advises us to live by avoiding both violent emotions and torpor, and by not being a hypocrite. But also, to treat every day as if it …

The importance of sound judgment

March 28th, 2019

3:04

Seneca provides a very clear explanation of the Stoic distinction between virtue and external things, leading to the surprising conclusion that even health is not an unquestionable good.

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How to achieve serenity

March 27th, 2019

2:33

Seneca talks about a major "side effect," so to speak, of the Stoic stance: achieving tranquillity of mind through the development of an attitude of equanimity.

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Virtue is the only good, naturally

March 26th, 2019

2:54

Cicero asserts the standard, and apparently paradoxical, Stoic position that virtue is the onyl true good. Let's see why.

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Be aware of what you can and cannot change

March 25th, 2019

3:13

Seneca says that Nature does not discriminate, it hands out suffering and death to everyone, eventually. But we can still make our life better by developing equanimity toward what we cannot change while trying to change …

How to shape your character

March 22nd, 2019

2:36

Epictetus reminds us that character is a matter of habit. Willfully change your habits, and you will be on your way toward becoming a better human …

Welcoming Cicero to our line up

March 21st, 2019

3:07

This episode features our first discussion of Cicero. While not a Stoic (he considered himself an Academic Skeptic), he was sympathetic to Stoic philosophy, and frequently borrowed from it to create his own eclectic …

These are your choices

March 20th, 2019

3:14

Seneca, building on the Stoic concept of universal causation, reminds us that we don't get to say how the universe works. Our only choices are to accept it (and work within it), or take "the open door," as Epictetus …

Can we really improve ourselves?

March 19th, 2019

3:41

Seneca reminds us that although some people are naturally more virtuous than others, and that much depends on our family upbringing, we are capable …

Wisdom as a better filter to examine your life

March 18th, 2019

2:55

Seneca provides us with one of the best definitions of wisdom. Let's see what it means, and how to apply it to our daily life.

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Marcus Aurelius and the chocolate cake

March 15th, 2019

3:04

Marcus Aurelius exhorts us to not just do it, but slow down, think about it, and then see if we really want to do it.

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Stoicism and war

March 14th, 2019

3:09

Seneca says it no uncertain terms: it is not wisdom that contrives arms, or walls, or instruments useful in war; nay, her voice is for peace, and she …

The three parts of philosophy

March 13th, 2019

3:21

Seneca summarizes the reasons why to live a good life (the domain of Ethics) one has to learn how to reason well (Logic) and how to better understand the world (Physics).

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Concern yourself with careful living

March 12th, 2019

3:07

Seneca criticizes the tendency of some philosophers to spend a lot of time trying to develop more careful ways of speaking, at the expense of …

Here's your top priority in life

March 11th, 2019

2:37

Seneca says that it causes far too much discomfort to the ears of others to be recognized as a learned person. Better for us and everyone else to be recognized as a good person.

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In order to learn something new you need to forget what you think you already know

March 8th, 2019

2:43

Epictetus advises his students, and all of us, to drop our preconceptions and actually open our minds to new notions. Try to practice that the next time you engage in a "conversation" on social media.

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Seneca criticizes the institution of war

March 7th, 2019

3:08

In a rather forceful passage Seneca makes a strong political statement, referring to Roman imperialism as "sacrilege on a grand scale." …

Wealth doesn't make you a better person

March 6th, 2019

2:32

Seneca constructs another logical argument to make the point that wealth is not an intrinsic good. Rather, it is how it is used that can be good or bad. Know any virtuous billionaires, by chance?

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Chance events are not good for you

March 5th, 2019

3:02

Seneca builds a simple argument to show that random events, like winning a lottery, are actually not good for you, despite appearances to the contrary.

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Much of what we have is superfluous

March 4th, 2019

2:54

Seneca says that his life's journey taught him that much of what we possess is superfluous, and indeed positively gets in the way of living a good life. He ought to know, as we discuss in this episode.

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When to care, or not, about other people's opinions

March 1st, 2019

2:42

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that all too often we care far too much about the opinions of people we do not actually hold in high esteem. If they judge …

Make your life the best it can be given the materials you are given

February 28th, 2019

2:57

Seneca brings up a parallel between the life of virtue and the art of a sculptor like Phidias. Just like a good sculptor will make the best art that …

Everyone is a good pilot on a calm sea

February 27th, 2019

2:36

Seneca uses a sailing metaphor to remind us that hardship in life, just like a storm at sea, is what truly tests our virtue, as the storm tests the …

Treat yourself as you would a sick friend

February 26th, 2019

2:48

Seneca dispels the stereotype of Stoics as going through life with a stiff upper lip. Stoic training doesn't insulate us from sufferings. It gives us …

Moderate insanity is not a good thing

February 25th, 2019

2:55

Seneca directly takes on the Peripatetics, followers of Aristotle, and criticizes their notion that virtue always lies in the middle. Some things, …

Planning is more important than worrying about outcomes

February 22nd, 2019

2:54

Epictetus wonders why people pay attention to outcomes, which are outside of their control, and not so much to planning, which very much is under …

The orchestra of your mind

February 21st, 2019

3:12

Seneca draws a beautiful analogy between the harmonious sounds of an orchestra and the harmonious thinking of a well structured mind.

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If you want to understand things, write them down

February 20th, 2019

2:48

Seneca suggests that we should alternate between reading and writing in order to truly understand and internalize new concepts. Which, of course, is …

Read books, it's good for you

February 19th, 2019

2:57

Seneca gives this most sensical of advices: read books by others, especially if they disagree with you. Turns out, it's a good way to improve our judgments of things, a major goal of Stoic training.

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Pay attention to the past in order to tackle the future

February 18th, 2019

2:45

Seneca reminds us that -- although we live in the here and now -- we profit from reflecting on our mistakes, so long as we do not indulge emotionally …

Life is more like wrestling than dancing

February 15th, 2019

2:59

We take a look at one of the most famous metaphors in Stoicism, the notion put forth by Marcus Aurelius that life is a bit like wrestling: we need to be prepared and alert, because the next move may be unexpected.

Too much logic is not good for your health

February 14th, 2019

3:06

Seneca reminds us that logic is crucial in order to figure out how to live a good life. But logic chopping is actually deleterious to it.

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Not all indifferents are created equal

February 13th, 2019

3:16

Seneca reminds us that there is a difference among the so-called indifferents. Life, health, and education, for instance, are a bit more highly ranked than your favorite gelato flavor.

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The difference between Stoicism and stoicism

February 12th, 2019

3:00

In our 300th episode we look at how Seneca very clearly separates Stoicism (the philosophy) from stoicism (the attitude of going through life with a stiff upper lip).

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Be magnanimous toward others

February 11th, 2019

3:00

Seneca reminds us that we should interpret other people's actions and words in a generous manner, instead of conjuring the worst possible scenario. …

Do you still need somebody to wipe your nose?

February 8th, 2019

3:02

Epictetus, with his sarcastic sense of humor, reminds a student that he doesn't need to pray to deal with a bad situation. He already has all the …

Virtue is its own reward

February 7th, 2019

3:17

If the Pope or the Dalai Lama say that being good is its own reward, usually people take it at face value. But if a Stoic says it, they demand logical proof. Let's discuss this.

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How much are you worth?

February 6th, 2019

2:52

Seneca gets to the bottom line of Stoic philosophy: If you wish to set a value on yourself, put away your money, your estates, your honors, and look into your own character.

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Get rid of fear of death and poverty

February 5th, 2019

3:23

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: fear of death and poverty is crippling, and we need to work toward overcoming it. 

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Three simple steps to live a good life

February 4th, 2019

3:16

Seneca reminds us that the tools for becoming a better person are simple and inexpensive. In this episode we discuss the three basic tools of the …

Why we need to focus on our own improvement

February 1st, 2019

2:47

A quote from Marcus Aurelius sounds a lot like what Ayn Rand would say. But it couldn't be further from it.

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Fortuna is your sparring partner

January 31st, 2019

2:49

Seneca reminds us that it may be just as difficult to deal with good fortune as with the bad variety. Regardless, everything life throws at us is an …

Practical exercises in self-deprivation

January 30th, 2019

3:16

Seneca says that doing without things for a while renews our appreciation for them. In this episode we examine five exercises in mild self-deprivation guaranteed to reset your hedonic treadmill.

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Are you sick? You can be brave about it

January 29th, 2019

2:59

Seneca reminds us that courage is not just for the battlefield, but for the everyday difficulties of life, like being sick.

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Pay attention to the good parts of your life

January 28th, 2019

2:41

A contemporary theory of consciousness, proposed by philosopher Jesse Prinz, recalls Seneca's treatment of the emotions, and teaches us how to avert …

Your "happiness" is up to you, really

January 25th, 2019

2:24

Epictetus reminds us that the only things that are truly good or bad for us are our judgments, which are under our control. It follows that …

What's a good reason to endure hardship?

January 24th, 2019

2:16

Seneca reminds us that athletes willingly subject themselves to harsh regimes in order to succeed. But when it comes to becoming a better person most …

Turn regrets into learning opportunities

January 23rd, 2019

2:15

Seneca reminds us that to indulge in regret is irrational, as the past is outside of our control. That doesn't mean we can't learn from it, though.

Everything depends on opinion

January 22nd, 2019

2:22

Seneca tells us that our happiness, or lack thereof, is a matter of our own opinion. No, he's not making a relativist or post-modernist argument on the nature of knowledge.

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40 years or 10,000, makes little difference

January 21st, 2019

2:24

Marcus says that once we have observed human affairs for 40 years, it's the same as having observed them for 10,000 years. Surely he is wrong? Not necessarily...

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On the importance of friendship

January 18th, 2019

1:57

The Stoics, the Epicureans, and Aristotle all agreed on one thing: friends are important. In this episode we talk about why, and how the Stoics …

Life's a play, act well

January 17th, 2019

2:09

Seneca uses a metaphor that later became famous with Shakespeare: life is like a play, so what counts is not its length, but how well we act our parts.

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The asymmetry of being dead

January 16th, 2019

2:03

Seneca points out that people regret not being alive a thousand years from now, and yet are not bothered by the thought of not having been alive for the past thousand years.

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Distribute your wealth like after a banquet

January 15th, 2019

2:13

Seneca recalls an ancient Roman custom according to which the host of a banquet would distribute gifts to his friends at the end. Consider doing the …

A little philosophy is a dangerous thing

January 14th, 2019

2:48

Epictetus warn us that a little knowledge of philosophy, without proper guidance, can actually turn us onto even more stubborn fools than we were …

Every good life is complete

January 11th, 2019

1:48

Seneca argues that life is not like a journey. Whenever it is interrupted it is a whole life, if we have been living it virtuously.

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A prepared mind tackles adversity better

January 10th, 2019

2:11

Today's quote from Seneca is the root of the modern Stoic technique of premeditatio malorum, a meditation in which we try to get mentally prepared to tackle adversity.

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The real stature of people

January 9th, 2019

2:08

Seneca uses a beautiful analogy to argue that some people may look impressive while they aren't, and other people truly are impressive and yet remain …

Navigating between good and bad fortune

January 8th, 2019

2:04

Seneca tells us that virtue is useful not just in order to handle bad fortune, but also, counter intuitively, to deal with good fortune.

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We are all going to die, but until then?

January 7th, 2019

2:25

Marcus Aurelius takes for granted that death is a natural and unavoidable end. The real question is what you are going to do between now and then.

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Would you buy a car based on its color?

January 4th, 2019

2:39

Seneca explains that there are certain attributes of things and people that are important, and others that are irrelevant. Somehow, we keep focusing on the irrelevant ones.

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Why virtue is the only good

January 3rd, 2019

2:44

In this episode we explore a quote from Seneca presenting the Stoic argument for why virtue is the only true good. And if it is, then shouldn't you …

Virtue will not fall upon you by chance

January 2nd, 2019

2:13

Seneca already understood two millennia ago that there is no such thing as a self-made man, because luck is needed for externals. But not in order to be virtuous.

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Bad judgment is a disease, Stoic practice is the cure

January 1st, 2019

2:02

Seneca says that people arrive at wrong judgments about what is valuable or desirable, and a major goal of Stoic training is, accordingly, to make us less unwise about values and desires.

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Change your mind, if reason prompts you

December 31st, 2018

2:37

Epictetus chastises one of his students for wanting to stick with a decision just because he said he would. Which leads us to a discussion of the …

Practice, practice, practice

December 28th, 2018

3:02

Stoicism is a practical philosophy, but how does that work, exactly? Not very differently from the practice of religions like Christianity and Buddhism. Find out in this episode!

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Here and now

December 27th, 2018

2:06

Seneca reminds us that the past is not under our control, and neither is the future. Our only locus of action is the present, and that's where our …

How to behave during a storm at sea

December 26th, 2018

2:11

Seneca reminds us that those who study philosophy are human beings, subject to the physiological responses and emotions of the case. The difference …

Retreat into your Inner Citadel

December 24th, 2018

2:32

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that, when we need to regain serenity, we may retreat into ourselves and recharge our batteries. In this episode, learn …

Virtue, virtue, everywhere!

December 21st, 2018

2:22

Seneca tells us that virtue can be present at all levels, from nations to individuals, and in all circumstances, from wealth to poverty. Let's find out what, precisely, the Stoics meant by virtue and why it's so …

The length of a virtuous life does not matter

December 20th, 2018

2:08

Seneca reminds us that a life can be virtuous regardless of its length. And since we have no idea how long we are going to live, the question is: what are you going to do between now and then?

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Love reason!

December 19th, 2018

2:40

Seneca warmly invites us to love reason, which will arm us against the greatest hardships. These days, though, reason doesn't have a great …

Don't be proud of things you didn't accomplish

December 18th, 2018

2:32

Seneca gives a splendidly clear and cogent description of the Stoic concept of preferred "indifferents," external things that are not under our …

And off they go, alleging slander!

December 17th, 2018

2:35

Epictetus notes that nobody tells a doctor that they are rude if the doctor says they are sick and need medicine. But if the philosopher does that with one's moral health...

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What are you going to do with your luck?

December 14th, 2018

2:22

Seneca conjures a vivid image of the goddess Fortuna showering mortals with gifts, which are ruined by the eager crowd, or badly used, and that at any rate do not produce happiness. That's because people lack wisdom, …

Try inward happiness

December 13th, 2018

2:15

Seneca explains that if our happiness depends on externals, like fame or money, we are in the hands of Fortuna, who could take those things away at …

Don't judge a pilot by the size of her ship

December 12th, 2018

2:04

Seneca states very clearly that wealth is an indifferent, in Stoic terms. It can be pursued if it allows us to do good, but it should be avoided if …

It is either extinction or change

December 11th, 2018

2:11

Marcus Aurelius contemplates whether death is a resolution of atoms or a final annihilation. He doesn't seem bothered by either possibility.

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Ambition is not a Stoic value

December 7th, 2018

2:03

Seneca warns us against ambition, understood not as the will to accomplish things, but as the pursuit of fame, money, and power. Modern politicians …

Avoid busyness

December 6th, 2018

2:19

Seneca advises us to be careful how we spend our time, and especially how we respond to other people's demands for it. Life is short, surely you …

Don't be like a dog waiting for another morsel of meat

December 5th, 2018

2:22

Seneca says that people are like dogs who eagerly await the next tasty morsel from Fortuna, swallow it quickly, then eagerly await the next one. Don't be like a dog, that way lies perennial dissatisfaction with life.

Of sickness and wisdom

December 4th, 2018

2:39

Seneca says that lacking wisdom is like being sick. Although we can imagine what it would be like to be perfectly healthy, in reality we can be happy …

Theory is easy, practice requires effort

December 3rd, 2018

2:36

Epictetus reminds us that one does not become a good carpenter, or pilot, by simply studying the theory of carpentry or piloting. Mindful, repeated …

Philosophy is a lifelong commitment

November 30th, 2018

2:29

Seneca makes the startling claim that philosophy is a lifelong commitment that cannot be indulged only in our spare time. He doesn't mean academic …

Instead of conquering the world, conquer yourself

November 29th, 2018

2:31

Seneca says that he hasn't conquered any enemy but his own greed, ambition, and fear of death. If more people, especially the leaders of the world, …

In order to make progress you have to desire progress

November 28th, 2018

2:18

The goal of Stoic training is to become a better person, not a perfect one. But the first step, as always in life, is to want to make progress. If you wish to better yourself, the game is afoot, you need to start now.

In a few words: virtue is the only good

November 27th, 2018

2:03

Seneca provides us with a very short and to the point summary of Stoic philosophy: virtue is the only good, it depends on our ability to reason correctly, and it leads to good judgment.

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Be grateful for what you have, but don't get too attached to it

November 26th, 2018

2:53

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself to be grateful for the things he has, which he would long for if he didn't have them. At the same time, everything is …

Sagehood is rare, but progress is up to us

November 23rd, 2018

2:07

Seneca tells Lucilius that he himself is far from being a wise person, which is as rare as the mythical phoenix. Nevertheless, we can all be …

Stoicism is not a "manly" philosophy

November 21st, 2018

1:58

We hear a lot of nonsense about Stoicism being tough and therefore only for men. But Seneca clearly explains that virtue doesn't make us invulnerable …

Dining with a tyrant, are you?

November 20th, 2018

2:42

Seneca gives us another Stoic "paradox": it may be better to be tortured than to sit at the dinner table. Well, not normally, but surely if you are being tortured to protect innocent lives, or sit at dinner with a …

No need to be anxious even in front of a king

November 19th, 2018

2:21

Epictetus explains why king Antigonus was anxious to meet Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, and not vice versa. The king had not yet internalized the …

Take the view from above

November 16th, 2018

2:32

A quote from Seneca leads us into a discussion of the difference between Stoicism and modern philosophies of despair. For the Stoic, knowledge of the vastness of time and space is no excuse for nihilism, but simply a …

Not just endurance, but tranquillity of mind

November 15th, 2018

2:15

Seneca tells Lucilius how Cato, after losing an election, went out to play; and how, before taking his own life, he retired to his room to read a book. Stoicism isn't just about enduring things, it's about achieving …

Philosophy is serious business

November 14th, 2018

2:09

Seneca invites his friend Lucilius to consider that philosophy is too serious a business to be left only to professional philosophers, especially those who engage in clever wordplay and logic chopping just to show how …

Decide on the big picture, the details come later

November 13th, 2018

1:40

Seneca makes an argument for why we should adopt a philosophy of life (be it Stoicism or something else). It provides us a framework to make …

Seneca on suicide

November 12th, 2018

2:48

Seneca elaborates on how the Stoics see suicide: nature gave us one entrance into life, but many exits. And it is the existence of these exits that guarantees our freedom.

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The Stoic argument for the right to suicide

November 9th, 2018

2:00

Seneca continues his discussion of suicide with his friend Lucilius, arguing that maintaining agency and exercising our judgments are fundamental …

Life: it isn't about length, it's about quality

November 8th, 2018

2:14

Seneca makes a point that is still controversial two millennia later. The important thing about life is not its length, but its quality. And it is up to the individual to judge the quality of her own life.

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How to avoid temptation and practice virtue

November 7th, 2018

3:18

Seneca gives some very commonsensical advice, backed up by modern psychological research, on how to best avoid temptation. Which leads us to a …

We are all sick, but we can help each other

November 6th, 2018

2:27

Seneca says to his friend Lucilius that he is no wise man or doctor, but rather an unwise and sick person. Which brings us to a discussion of Stoic humility and how it is that we can all make progress toward wisdom.

The difference between tranquillity and flat calm

November 5th, 2018

2:02

Seneca argues that tranquillity of mind is the result of an active, but realistic, engagement with the problems posed by life. By contrast, refusing …

Racism and Stoic compassion

November 2nd, 2018

2:35

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that people do and say things not because they are evil, but because they are mistaken. The proper response, then, is education and pity, not hatred.

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Gelato and the Cynic wing of Stoicism

November 1st, 2018

2:36

Musonius Rufus advises us to follow a minimalist life style, closer to the so-called "Cynic" wing of the Stoic movement. Why is that? Because …

The most important mental trick of your life

October 31st, 2018

2:42

Epictetus says that a lyre player plays beautifully when he practices on his own. But gets very nervous in front of an audience. That's because he …

The unity of virtue thesis

October 30th, 2018

2:04

Seneca argues that the four cardinal virtues are a tightly coordinated council, which makes the best possible decisions for us. In this episode we explore the Stoic concept of the unity of virtue, and make sense of it …

Tackle illness with virtue

October 29th, 2018

2:08

Illness is not something to look forward to, as Stoics are not mad. But it is a fact of life, and so it becomes a question of how we deal with it: by kicking and screming, or as a test of our virtue of temperance?

Be prepared to endure prosperity

October 26th, 2018

1:58

Seneca argues that, strange as it may seem, prosperity is to be endured, just as bad times are. It's yet another Stoic "paradox," of which we make sense in this episode.

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Epictetus gets punched on the nose

October 25th, 2018

2:05

Epictetus tells the story of when he first started preaching, instead of teaching, philosophy. It did not go well, and he got punched on the nose. He quickly learned the difference between preaching and teaching.

Become …

The last day of Epicurus

October 24th, 2018

2:15

Seneca recounts the last, painful day, of the life of the rival philosopher Epicurus, who claimed that even that day he was happy. Which leads us …

All good people are equally worthy

October 23rd, 2018

2:29

Seneca states the fundamental Stoic principle that the measure of a person has nothing to do with externals like wealth, health or good looks. It depends on one thing and one thing only: goodness of character.

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Virtue is nothing but right reason

October 22nd, 2018

2:10

Seneca gives a straightforward, simple, yet rich definition of virtue to his friend Lucilius. It has huge consequences for every one of us, every day.

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Be charitable toward others

October 17th, 2018

2:43

Marcus Aurelius says that other people do wrong out of lack of wisdom, and so do we, which means we should be forgiving toward others. Besides, life …

Do like Socrates, have a dialogue instead of a dispute

October 16th, 2018

1:56

Epictetus reminds us that Socrates made an effort to talk to people while avoiding rudeness and invectives. Imagine if we did the same today, instead …

Love requires virtue, not externals

October 15th, 2018

2:13

Seneca says that one shouldn't love a person because they are rich, or strong, but because they are virtuous. Which gets us into a discussion of the …

Rich vs poor

October 12th, 2018

2:00

Seneca says that being rich does not make you a good person, nor does being poor make you a bad one. We then use this quote to explore the relationship between externals and virtue.

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Joy vs pain

October 11th, 2018

1:58

Seneca says that it is natural to seek joy and avoid pain. But the virtue involved in both cases is the same. In the quote we examine today, then, …

What is virtue, anyway?

October 10th, 2018

2:27

Seneca tells us that virtue lies in how you handle things, both good and bad. If you are sick, be gentle with those who are taking care of you. If …

Talk to people like Socrates would

October 9th, 2018

2:35

Epictetus reminds us that it is senseless to talk to others just in order to score points. That way we don't learn, understand, or persuade; we just puff ourselves up and waste opportunities.

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All virtues are related

October 8th, 2018

2:29

Seneca states the classic Stoic view that all virtues are aspects of a single underlying one: wisdom. In this episode we explore what that means in practice, every day.

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What matters is how you handle things

October 5th, 2018

2:16

Seneca tells us of one of the well known Stoic paradoxes (i.e., uncommon opinions): it is equally good to be joyful or to endure torture. How can we …

Death is change and not to be feared

October 4th, 2018

2:22

Seneca is at peace with the notion of death, and in this episode we talk about why the Stoic attitude toward this natural process of cosmic recycling makes a lot of sense.

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Let us celebrate those truly worth celebrating

October 3rd, 2018

2:14

Seneca suggests that we should remember and honor the people that have made positive contributions to humanity, and I add that perhaps, conversely, …

I want something on which I may test my endurance

October 2nd, 2018

2:24

Seneca is asking for trouble. Well, not exactly. But he reminds us that Stoicism is about constant practice, so we shouldn't just be prepared to meet …

Whatever can happen at any time can happen today

October 1st, 2018

2:35

Seneca says that we have no idea when Fortuna will take friends and loved ones away from us, so the sensible way to live our lives is to take full …

Make friends, oppose Fortuna

September 28th, 2018

1:51

Seneca says that making friends is one way to counter the doings of Fortuna, because having friends is one of the great consolations in life, no …

Nothing good comes out of a static universe

September 27th, 2018

2:10

Marcus Aurelius reflects on the famous concept the Stoics inherited from the pre-Socratic Heraclitus: panta rhei, everything changes. What would …

Don't make fun of others, be helpful

September 26th, 2018

2:00

Epictetus says that if we encounter someone who is lost we don't make fun of him, but give him directions. Why, then, do we engage in sarcasm against people who disagree with us?

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Practice self control to become more virtuous

September 25th, 2018

1:56

Musonius Rufus reminds us that self control is a crucial component of the cardinal virtue of temperance. This doesn't mean we cannot enjoy pleasures, …

Enjoy your friends and loved ones, now

September 24th, 2018

2:04

Seneca says that we should greedily enjoy our loved ones, right now. Because we have no idea how long we will enjoy the privilege of their company …

The Stoic approach to grief

September 21st, 2018

2:15

Stoicism is often accused of counseling to suppress emotions. This quote from Seneca clearly shows it doesn't. Then again, we don't want to wallow in grief and let it paralyze us, because we have duties toward the …

Converse with the best minds, read a book

September 20th, 2018

2:18

Seneca reminds us that one of the simplest and cheapest of pleasures is to engage in a continuous conversation with the best minds humanity has ever produced. By reading a (good) book.

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Are you really that busy?

September 19th, 2018

2:29

Seneca suggests that we should change our attitude toward being busy: don't surrender yourself to your affairs, but loan yourself to them and you …

Greed leads to unhappiness

September 18th, 2018

2:31

Seneca says that for many people the furnishings of their lives are more than enough, but they keep wanting more, thus dooming themselves to unhappiness and turmoil.

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How to think about life and death

September 17th, 2018

2:29

Seneca clarifies one of the famous Stoic paradoxes: no, you shouldn't live every day as if it were your last. But you should live every day to the …

Are you dead before the time, by your own choice?

September 14th, 2018

1:48

Seneca reminds Lucilius that a full human life is about being useful, and particularly about helping others. Sure, you can withdraw from the world …

No matter what, keep your emerald color

September 13th, 2018

1:50

Marcus tells us that, regardless of how people around us behave, we should keep following our moral compass, just like an emerald keeps its color …

Epictetus asks a student a trick question...

September 12th, 2018

2:02

Epictetus engages in a short dialogue with one of his students, asking him a trick question. How would you answer the question of whether pleasure is …

The right thing to do is often painful

September 11th, 2018

1:44

Musonius Rufus articulates the Stoic equivalent of "no pain, no gain," in part as a rebuke to the Epicureans. Engaging in social and political life …

On exotic food consumption

September 10th, 2018

2:09

Seneca is critical of the fact that many ships are required to convey the requisites for a single meal, bringing them from no single sea. Still today …

That which Fortuna has not given, she cannot take away

September 7th, 2018

2:34

Let's talk about the ancient Roman goddess Fortuna, or what the Greeks called Tyche, to whom Seneca often refers in his letters to Lucilius. Why does …

We all want lasting joy

September 6th, 2018

2:35

Seneca argues that we want joy in life, and we want it to last. And yet, we insist in seeking it in all the wrong places, from ephemeral pleasures to the fickle praise of others.

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Beware of flattery, it gets in the way of genuine progress

September 5th, 2018

2:28

Seneca claims that flattery is a subtle enemy of our work toward becoming better persons. Too readily we agree with those who tell us that we are …

Practicing philosophy is like going to spiritual gym

September 4th, 2018

1:55

Seneca reminds Lucilius that we can't relegate our quest for becoming better persons to intervals between indulgences. It's like going to the gym: …

Adversity is just a gym to exercise your virtue

September 3rd, 2018

2:02

Seneca says that the wise person (and, by extension, the practitioner of Stoicism) will deal with poverty, sorrow, disgrace or pain, because she is alert and fortified, ready to treat adversity as a way to improve her …

Old age, frail and not

August 31st, 2018

2:31

Seneca tells Lucilius that old age is natural and to be welcomed. So long as it maintains our mind in working order. If that's not the case, then the …

Take care of your body, with temperance

August 30th, 2018

1:48

Seneca reminds us that we have some power to make our body last longer, by exercising temperance in our pleasures. Enjoy your next meal, just don't over do it. And remember, Stoics drink wine, but they don't get drunk.

How to excel at being human

August 29th, 2018

2:05

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that there is no difference between acting according to nature and according to reason. What did he mean?

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Where philosophy begins

August 28th, 2018

2:09

According to Epictetus philosophy gets started when we are genuinely interested in why people disagree about things. Not in terms of factual matters, which empirical evidence can settle, but about values and how we …

We should study broadly in order to increase understanding

August 27th, 2018

2:03

Seneca tells Lucilius that he welcomes knowledge from all fields, not just philosophy. That's why he wrote books on natural questions, including on the nature of comets, earthquakes, thunderstorms, and the causes of the …

Choose your entertainment virtuously

August 24th, 2018

2:04

Seneca tells Lucilius that we need rest and relaxation, but we can exercise virtue even in our choice of how we relax and entertain ourselves. Consider how you refresh your mind, the next time you pick a movie or …

Everything flows, so don't get attached

August 23rd, 2018

2:52

Seneca quotes the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus to the effect that everything changes all the time, panta rhei. It follows that it is futile to …

Always do what is in harmony with the common interest

August 22nd, 2018

2:11

Marcus Aurelius talks about being helpful to society. And yet he was an emperor who waged war and presided over slavery. How do we reconcile his …

Do you think you know the difference between good and bad?

August 21st, 2018

3:24

A splendid example of Epictetus' sarcasm by way of a bit of dialogue with one of his students. In the course of which we learn about the virtue of practical wisdom, the discipline of desire, and the dichotomy of …

The difference between proto-emotions and fully formed ones

August 20th, 2018

2:31

Seneca nicely explains what a proto-emotion is, and we discuss how proto-emotions can then develop into fully formed healthy or unhealthy emotions. …

How to get a good night's sleep

August 17th, 2018

2:07

Seneca reminds us that real tranquillity comes from a relaxed mind with a clear conscience. Which is why Stoics engage in an evening meditation on the major events of the day, learning from their mistakes, and filing …

Self-sufficiency comes from inside, not from externals

August 16th, 2018

1:47

Seneca challenges the common assumption that someone is self-sufficient if he has enough money, a nice place to live, and so forth. True self-sufficiency requires serenity, which comes from inner strength, not from …

Death is like pre-birth: there is nothing to be feared

August 15th, 2018

1:46

Seneca agrees with Epicurus: death is a state of non-existence, therefore we do not feel anything, and there is nothing to be afraid of. Moreover, it is no different from the aeons before we were born, and we don't …

Practice philosophy constantly, life doesn't stop

August 14th, 2018

2:14

Seneca tells us that philosophy, understood as a way of life, cannot be relegated to spare moments. Just like someone can't be a Christian only on Sunday mornings, so a Stoic applies her principles at every opportunity, …

Learn from teachers who do, not just talk

August 13th, 2018

1:39

Seneca advices his friend Lucilius to pay attention to people who act right, not just talk right. When we pick a role model to improve our character, …

Compel Fortuna to play on equal terms

August 10th, 2018

2:03

Seneca argues that we can force Fortuna, the goddess of luck, to deal with us on equal terms, by not being slaves to external things we cannot …

Pay attention to what others say, inhabit their minds

August 9th, 2018

1:49

Marcus Aurelius gives some commonsensical advice on how to interact with other people, which leads us to a brief discussion of what counts as "Stoic" advice in the first place.

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Revenge is not justice

August 8th, 2018

1:55

Epictetus reminds his students that engaging in a wrong act, even one done in response to an injustice, stains our own character, and therefore hurts us first and foremost. Stoics don't favor retributive justice …

What's the problem with the passions?

August 7th, 2018

2:05

Seneca reminds us of the distinction between unhealthy and healthy emotions: being overwhelmed by the first ones tears us apart internally, while …

No pain no gain, says Musonius

August 6th, 2018

2:16

Musonius Rufus, in an implicit rebuttal to the Epicureans, reminds us of all the things that is worth experiencing pain to achieve, most importantly being a good, just, and temperate person.

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You should live neither in a place of torture nor in a cafe

August 3rd, 2018

2:11

Seneca gives rare advice on one's abode. It should be a place that does not get in the way of practicing virtue, which means neither too …

Philosophy may be painful or a pleasure, but it's worth it

August 2nd, 2018

2:44

Seneca disagrees with Epictetus: the first says that philosophy is a pleasant medicine, the second that it is a painful one. And yet they agree that …

Is the problem with the place, or with you?

August 1st, 2018

1:57

Seneca says that more often than we realize we blame our problems on the time and place we live in, without understanding that the fault may be with …

You want to change the world? Begin by changing yourself

July 31st, 2018

2:12

Seneca argues that we are born with the ability to reason and to improve our reasoning. We are also naturally social, and prefer virtue over vice. Hard to believe, right? And yet, he's got a point.

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A good life depends not on length, but on our use of it

July 30th, 2018

2:18

Seneca argues that it is the quality, not the duration, of one's life that is important, and that we often live long when measured in years, and yet too little in terms of what we accomplish.

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What's really important in your life?

July 27th, 2018

2:22

A straightforward quote by Epictetus allows us to reflect on what a philosophy of life is, and why everyone needs one.

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On the difference between philosophy and logic chopping

July 26th, 2018

1:38

Seneca says that he'd prefer to be told how to help people, rather than how many different meanings of the word "people" there may be.

Become a …

Things themselves have no power to form our judgments

July 25th, 2018

2:22

Life is hard as it is, says Marcus Aurelius, there is no need to make ourselves more miserable by adding unnecessary opinions that increase our suffering.

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Reflect on the roles you play, and play them well

July 24th, 2018

3:27

Epictetus introduced a major innovation in Stoic ethics with his theory of roles. We are first and foremost members of the human cosmopolis. But also …

Won't you be my neighbor?

July 23rd, 2018

2:10

Seneca reminds us that we can't live happily if we transform everything into a question of our own utility. We must live for your neighbour in order to live for ourselves.

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What do you think is truly good for you?

July 20th, 2018

1:40

Marcus provides us three options for what sort of thing is truly good for you, and argues that a person of understanding will go for the third one. …

On family matters, take the high moral ground

July 19th, 2018

1:45

Epictetus advises us to forgo issues of material resources and remember that family relationships in great part define who we are. After all, if we can't practice virtue with our brothers, sisters, and parents, with …

Everyone who craves externals is a slave to them

July 18th, 2018

1:41

Seneca says that if we are going after the satisfaction of lust, greed, ambition, and so forth, we make ourselves slaves to fortune. Not so if we regard what we have as loans from the universe, which the universe can …

Calibrate your desires, achieve serenity

July 17th, 2018

2:04

Musonius Rufus reminds us that it is far easier to curb our desire for our neighbor's wife than to pursue it Not to mention that it is the right thing to do.

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Don't buy a horse on the basis of its saddle

July 13th, 2018

2:13

Seneca reminds us that all too often we judge people on the basis of what they wear, or of their social rank, mistakenly assuming that those are good indicators of their character.

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“They are slaves,” nay, rather they are people

July 12th, 2018

2:28

Seneca reminds his contemporaries that slaves are human beings like everyone else. In this episode, we talk about slavery in the ancient world, what …

Beware of the difference between friendship and flattery

July 11th, 2018

2:14

Seneca warns us to be careful with people who pretend to be our friends, or simply feed our narcissism. Like, you know, most of the "friends" you …

Philosophy did not find Plato a nobleman, it made him one

July 10th, 2018

2:12

Seneca reminds us that philosophy is open to all, no matter what our background and means. Engage the philosophical life and you will get to converse …

What does your inner daimon say?

July 9th, 2018

1:51

Seneca observes our tendency to boast of the good things we do and to keep quiet about the not-so-good ones. As if our own judgment, the judgment of our conscience, didn't matter.

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How on earth did I get here?

July 6th, 2018

1:37

Seneca says that Stoic mindfulness is about paying attention to what is happening to us. We need to keep charting and re-charting our way forward, as …

Fortune has no jurisdiction over character

July 5th, 2018

2:09

Seneca says that Fortune may take just as much, and as suddenly, as she can give. But we can work on improving our character so that we can accept with equanimity both the good and the bad stuff in life.

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Observe the goodness of those around you

July 4th, 2018

1:57

Marcus Aurelius suggests some simple therapy for our troubled souls: pause and observe some good things done by people around you. Appreciate what …

Whenever you yield to externals, you become their slave

July 3rd, 2018

1:47

Epictetus warns us that if we let an external take precedence over the integrity of our character we are doomed to become slaves for life. And who wants to be a slave, right?

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Our predecessors are our guides, not our masters

July 2nd, 2018

2:28

Seneca reminds us that Stoicism is a live philosophy, which must evolve over time in order to incorporate new truths and, if needed, reject old ideas …

Be forgiving of liars and unjust people

June 29th, 2018

1:42

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that Stoicism is both self forgiving and forgiving of others, and that while we should take the path of truth and justice, …

But I couldn't do otherwise! Yes, you could...

June 28th, 2018

2:16

Epictetus tells us that nobody can force us to agree to a judgment we think is incorrect. Surprisingly, this has countless applications to everyday life.

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Make yourself happy through your own efforts

June 27th, 2018

2:23

Seneca reminds us that, regardless of external circumstances, the only life worth living is one of virtue, and the only life to avoid is one dominated by vice.

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Above all, we are citizens of the world

June 26th, 2018

2:28

Marcus Aurelius recognizes that, as Antoninus, he is a citizen of Rome. But more fundamentally, he is a citizen of the human cosmopolis. Some pretty …

Only the truly educated person is free

June 25th, 2018

2:12

Epictetus reminds us that education, which involves the ability to shape our moral values, is the only ticket to achieving freedom. Something to …

Would the Stoics approve of assisted suicide?

June 22nd, 2018

2:07

In this episode we discuss a quote from Seneca which, together with several other passages in other authors, clearly points to the conclusion that the Stoics were in favor of suicide in the case of disease and frailty …

Being bad requires a lot of work

June 21st, 2018

2:01

Musonius Rufus rather sarcastically reminds us that being bad requires just as much work as being good, so why not choose the latter instead?

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Teach them then, and show them without being angry

June 20th, 2018

2:12

Marcus Aurelius says that people make mistakes because they don't know better. So there is no point in getting self-rigtheous and angry about it, instead we need to teach them where they go wrong.

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Go hug a philosopher, will you?

June 19th, 2018

2:33

Epictetus defends the apparently strange notion that philosophy, like mathematics (or science, or lots of other things) is a profession, requiring expertise. He is not being elitist, he's just being reasonable.

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We belong to the world, not to a particular corner of it

June 18th, 2018

1:50

Seneca reminds us that even though we belong to different social groups, religions, ethnicities and so forth, we are, most fundamentally, members of …

It's either gods or atoms...

June 15th, 2018

2:32

Marcus Aurelius reflects on what happens to us when we die: either we are absorbed in the seminal principle of the universe, or we become atoms scattered in the void. Either way, we still need to behave decently toward …

Ethics is a practice, so do it

June 14th, 2018

2:05

Epictetus asks us a simple question: if we didn’t learn these things in order to demonstrate them in practice, what did we learn them for?

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Moving will not help you, if your trouble is internal

June 13th, 2018

2:22

Seneca tells Lucilius that moving to the other end of the world will not be helpful if his troubles are generated by his own attitudes, because he …

The truth does you no harm, but error does

June 12th, 2018

2:09

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself of something that modern politicians need to pay attention to: if someone shows you that you are in error, the right …

How Epictetus lost his lamp and the thief became a brute

June 11th, 2018

2:07

Epictetus tells the story of a thief stealing his lamp at night, and reflects on what each of them lost in the process. He concludes that he came ahead of the thief.

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Sound minds are hard to find, or buy

June 8th, 2018

2:15

Seneca, with rather uncharacteristic sense of humor, says that one can't buy a sound mind, and even if that were possible, there would be no market …

Annoyed by people? It's an opportunity to practice virtue

June 7th, 2018

1:39

Marcus Aurelius suggests we think of others as partners at the gym: don't hate or hold grudges against them, think of them as opportunities to …

Good judgments improve your character

June 6th, 2018

1:54

Epictetus says that the way we improve our character is by paying attention and making good judgments, while if we keep making bad ones we make our …

I may become poor, then I shall be among many

June 5th, 2018

2:35

Seneca lists the worst things that could happen to him, and that we all fear, and reminds himself that the only truly terrible thing is being a bad …

Always examine your assumptions

June 4th, 2018

1:40

Musonius Rufus reminds us that we often act out of simple habit, without paying attention to what we are doing and why. Not the best way to proceed in life.

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Why do you care for the opinion of posterity?

June 1st, 2018

1:40

Marcus Aurelius observes that some people are obsessed with what posterity will think of them, even though they have no idea what sort of individuals will make that judgment. Meanwhile, how about taking care of those we …

Good and evil are entirely up to you

May 31st, 2018

1:39

Epictetus says that externals (health, wealth, education, good looks) are the means by which we do good or evil in the world. So it is entirely up to us, really.

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The glass is neither half full nor half empty, it just is

May 30th, 2018

1:53

Seneca reminds Lucilius that we ought to hope for justice, but brace ourselves for injustice. This is just the way the world works, which doesn't …

Do not seek fame, seek to be useful to others

May 29th, 2018

2:09

Marcus Aurelius reflects on what is worth doing, and decides that it's not seeking fame, but rather being helpful to fellow human beings.

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Nobody wants to believe falsehoods, and yet...

May 28th, 2018

2:24

Epictetus says that people cannot assent to what they think is false. We always want to be right, but we are often not, which is why we rationalize things. That's why we need to improve our ability to arrive at correct …

Think about bad stuff happening, get comfortable with it

May 25th, 2018

2:37

Seneca introduces a classic Stoic exercise, the premeditatio malorum, thinking about bad things happening, playing them in your head, so you get comfortable with accepting whatever may come.

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After every disturbance, re-center yourself

May 24th, 2018

2:07

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that all sorts of things will disturb our rational soul, and that we therefore need to practice re-centering it in order …

Can you tell the difference between the baths and the mill?

May 23rd, 2018

1:53

Epictetus has a little bit of fun with the Skeptics, who denied the possibility of human knowledge. If that's the case, he says, how is it that you reliably go to the thermal baths when you want to relax, and to the …

Some people get to the end without having lived at all

May 22nd, 2018

1:28

Seneca observes that some people begin to really live their life only near the end. And some never begin at all. So what's sort of life you want to live, and have you started already?

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Take care of your body, it helps your virtue

May 21st, 2018

1:58

Our body is a preferred indifferent, but Musonius Rufus tells us to take whatever care we can of it, as it is also an instrument of virtue. In other words, go to the gym...

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No matter what, do your duty as a human being

May 18th, 2018

2:03

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that whether we are cold or warm, ill-spoken of or praised, and dead or "doing something else," we still have a duty to …

Where are you going to hide from death?

May 17th, 2018

3:01

Epictetus uses his dark sense of humor to remind us that death is inevitable. At the same time, though, fear of it is not. Moreover, awareness of death is what, in a sense, gives meaning to our life.

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Are you on the right path, or do you need a correction?

May 16th, 2018

2:13

Seneca says that the right path in life consists in a good conscience, honourable purposes, right actions, contempt of luck, and an attitude of equanimity toward whatever the universe throws our way.

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Think and act the right way, happiness will flow

May 15th, 2018

2:20

Marcus Aurelius maintains that if we think and act the right way our life will be an equable flow of happiness. This is because we will do our best, but look at outcomes with equanimity.

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What is philosophy, anyway?

May 14th, 2018

2:00

Epictetus says that philosophy begins with awareness of one's mental fitness. So let's work on that, shall we?

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What about pleasure?

May 11th, 2018

2:04

Seneca says the problem with pleasure is that if one is too much into it, it rushes us into the abyss of sorrow. So it's time to discuss what pleasure means for a practitioner of Stoicism.

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If this were you last day, what would you be proud of?

May 10th, 2018

1:50

Marcus writes near the end of his life about the sort of things he did that he values, from discounting honors and other externals to having been kind even toward people who were not kind to him.

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Respond to insults as if you were a rock

May 9th, 2018

2:42

Epictetus counsels us to react to insults as if we were a rock, that is, by ignoring them. An insult is only effective if you let it be, and that …

Above all, learn how to feel joy

May 8th, 2018

2:52

Rather unusual advise from Seneca to his friend Lucilius: learn how to feel joy. Which doesn't sound Stoic only if one buys into the incorrect stereotype of Stoicism as a practice to suppress emotions. Let's learn how …

The duty of a social animal capable of reason

May 7th, 2018

2:08

Marcus says that we have a duty to do what a social animal capable of reason ought to do. And that's to practice virtue for the betterment of humankind.

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Epictetus and the open door policy: Stoicism and suicide

May 4th, 2018

3:00

Tough topic for this episode: what is known as Epictetus' open door policy, that is, the Stoic idea that suicide is permissible, under certain …

Take truth wherever you find it, it's public property

May 3rd, 2018

1:33

Seneca explains that one doesn't have to be an Epicurean in order to find value in the words of Epicurus. It's like in the Senate: you vote for the parts of a motion you approve of, and reject the rest.

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How to calibrate your moral compass

May 2nd, 2018

2:22

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that justice is a crucial virtue in Stoicism, and we need to constantly keep it at the forefront. He also says that we need to evaluate our impressions of things, before acting. Don't just do …

The universe is your trainer, get ready for the Olympics

May 1st, 2018

1:57

Epictetus uses a nice metaphor in which the universe is our trainer, sending us tough stuff to deal with so that we get used to breaking a sweat and prepare for the Olympics of life.

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Changing your life doesn't happen by magic

April 30th, 2018

1:54

Musonius Rufus tells us that it isn't enough to know that we should be virtuous, we need to constantly practice virtue. Stoicism is not a magic wand, …

Practice poverty as an exercise in endurance and gratitude

April 27th, 2018

2:00

Seneca tells Lucilius that it is crucial, from time to time, to engage in exercises of self deprivation, so to prepare ourselves for whenever luck …

Praise or blame do not make a thing better or worse

April 26th, 2018

2:22

On the day of Marcus Aurelius' birthday, April 26, let's reflect on a simple Stoic precept: good or bad lie in actions, thoughts, and words, not in the praise or blame that those things get from others.

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Focus on what is up to you, the rest may or may not come

April 25th, 2018

3:04

Epictetus clearly states one of the fundamental principles of Stoicism: the dichotomy of control. Once we realize that some things are up to us and …

Are you practicing, or just talking?

April 24th, 2018

2:08

Seneca says that talk is easy, but the real measure of whether we are making progress lies in our practice. Have our desires for the wrong things …

15 minutes of fame? Why would you want that?

April 23rd, 2018

2:28

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that fame is ephemeral and intrinsically meaningless. What we do for others and to improve ourselves here and now is what really counts.

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We all agree to do good, but disagree on what good is

April 20th, 2018

1:52

Epictetus notes that people want to be good, regardless of their ethnicity, citizenship, or religion. But then they get lost in arguments over whether it is acceptable or not to eat pork.

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No cell phones at dinner, just friends

April 19th, 2018

2:02

Seneca tells Lucilius that one can learn a thing or two even from Epicurus, particularly that it is the company we keep that is the most important …

Death is coming, what are you doing in the meantime?

April 18th, 2018

1:40

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself that his life is finite and brief. How to live it, then? As a good person would, which is in his power to do.

Become …

Whose praise are you so desperately seeking?

April 17th, 2018

2:04

Epictetus tells his students that they are fools if they think that being praised is important, particularly by people who they themselves do not …

Anger is temporary madness

April 16th, 2018

2:15

Seneca tells us that anger is a form of temporary madness, not to be indulged by the person who cultivates reason.

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Do you have reason? Why don't you use it, then?

April 13th, 2018

1:37

Marcus Aurelius asks himself the rethorical question of whether he has reason, and then the less obvious one of why he is not making good use of it. What about you?

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Is your mind in the dark, or are you just blind?

April 12th, 2018

1:48

Epictetus explains why being blind is far less of a problem than having your mind in the dark.

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Practice poverty to remind you of the important things

April 11th, 2018

2:24

Seneca explains the Stoic practice of eating poor and scant food, and going outside dressed with old clothes, in order to remind ourselves that we …

Change your mind, if others have better reasons

April 10th, 2018

1:57

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself to use his faculty of judgment at its best, which includes changing his mind, should others have better reasons than …

A crown of roses looks better than one of gold

April 9th, 2018

1:59

Epictetus mocks a student who is bent on pursuing power and wealth. Those things are neither good nor bad for the Stoics, it's a matter of how we use them.

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How to handle the holidays, Stoically speaking

April 6th, 2018

1:54

Seneca tells Lucilius about two levels of engagement with drunken crodws during the holidays. Good to remember for your next Thanksgiving, …

Harm comes from opinion, take away the opinion, then

April 5th, 2018

2:18

Marcus Aurelius says that there is a difference between objective facts and our opinions of them. And much of our misery comes from the opinions, not the facts.

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Practical philosophy is called practical for a reason

April 4th, 2018

2:14

Musonius Rufus tells us that theory is important, and needs to precede practice. But it is the latter that makes the whole thing worth it.

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People do bad things because they are fools

April 3rd, 2018

2:02

Epictetus reminds us of the Stoic doctrine that people don't do bad things on purpose, but rather because they are mistaken about the nature of good and evil.

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Fate, God, or Chance, it doesn't really matter

April 2nd, 2018

2:17

Seneca says that whether the universe is controlled by universal laws, by a god, or by chance, we still have to do the right thing. And philosophy is …

What are you going to do today to improve the human polis?

March 30th, 2018

2:00

Marcus Aurelius articulates a series of if...then statements that argue that we are all members of a community of reasoners, and that reason dictates …

Got a headache? Excellent opportunity to practice endurance!

March 29th, 2018

2:19

Epictetus advises us to start practicing with small things. The next time you are sick, try not to curse or complain. You'll discover in you the power of endurance, and you'll be far less annoying to other people...

Practical philosophy is not an oxymoron

March 28th, 2018

2:37

Seneca tells Lucilius that philosophy is not just a way to amuse the mind, but an exercise to guide our actions and mould our souls.

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The universe is transformation, life is opinion

March 27th, 2018

2:02

Marcus Aurelius here sounds like a Sophist, or a post-modern relativist. But he is a Stoic, so his message is a little more subtle than that.

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Ultimately, it is always your decision

March 26th, 2018

2:10

Even when threatened with your life, says Epictetus, you are the one in charge, you make the decision to yield or not to yield.

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Take care of the body, but don't treat it as a temple

March 23rd, 2018

2:29

Seneca says that it is incumbent on us to take care of our body, but that we should even be willing to destroy it, if virtue demands it.

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Fame is fickle, and irrelevant

March 22nd, 2018

2:01

Marcus reminds us that the number of Facebook likes we get is irrelevant to our happiness.

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Study logic, reason well about life

March 21st, 2018

1:51

Epictetus reminds his students that without logic there is no serious talking about how to live the life worth living.

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Be afraid of the right things

March 20th, 2018

2:12

Seneca says that we often spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the wrong sorts of things.

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How the Stoics saw women's education

March 19th, 2018

2:41

Musonius Rufus says in no uncertain terms that men and women are capable, and indeed deserve, the same education, including in philosophy.

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Nobody does wrong voluntarily

March 16th, 2018

2:18

Marcus Aurelius reminds us of one of the most difficult, and yet most profound, doctrines of Stoicism: nobody commits wrongs on purpose, but only …

Reason is the name of the game

March 15th, 2018

2:04

Epictetus argues that the only way to criticize reason is by way of applying reason. There are no alternative facts for the Stoics.

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The truth belongs to everyone

March 14th, 2018

1:57

Seneca explains to his friend Lucilius why on earth he approvingly quotes one of the Stoics' main rivals, Epicurus.

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The inner citadel of peace

March 13th, 2018

1:57

Marcus Aurelius reminds himself that he can always retreat into what Pierre Hadot famously referred to as the Inner Citadel, our own mind, where we …

It takes time for a fig to ripe, or a character to mature

March 12th, 2018

2:21

Epictetus cautions us to be patient while working on improving our character. Nothing important comes into being overnight.

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The advantages of old age

March 9th, 2018

2:05

Seneca tells Lucilius to pay attention to the joys of old age, and to be grateful for every day we live.

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Fame is fleeting, focus on the here and now

March 8th, 2018

2:35

Marcus Aurelius engages in a view from above meditation, reminding himself that the quest for fame is just plain irrational.

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Make sure you work on your faculty of judgment

March 7th, 2018

2:34

Epictetus reminds us that when we face an impression about an external thing we should consider carefully whether to assent to it, withhold assent, …

Pick a role model

March 6th, 2018

2:08

Seneca advises Lucilius to choose a good role model to improve his character, for we cannot straighten what is crooked unless we use a ruler.

Become …

Philosophy as medicine for the mind

March 5th, 2018

2:23

Musonius Rufus says that philosophy is like medicine: if it does not make you a healthier person, it is not useful.

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With great power comes great responsibility

March 2nd, 2018

1:58

Epictetus reminds people with power that they should remember whom they have power over: fellow human beings, made of the same stuff, wanting the …

Keep a sound and upright soul, despise Fortune

March 1st, 2018

2:03

The wise person, according to Seneca, needs others to live her life, but not to live a life worth living. For that, all she needs is to keep her …

Work for the public good

March 1st, 2018

1:53

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that we need to work for the public good, not pursue power, fame, or pleasure.

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Judgments, Not Externals

March 1st, 2018

2:21

Epictetus reminds us that we are in charge of our judgments about things, and talks about Socrates, who chose to be in prison

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It's All About Character

March 1st, 2018

2:07

Seneca says that it makes no difference whether your house has a roof of gold, what matters is the character of the person who lives there.

Become a …

Do The Right Thing, Now

March 1st, 2018

1:34

Marcus Aurelius says that we need to stand erect of our own accord, not wait to be propped up by others.

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Opinions Cause Suffering

March 1st, 2018

2:16

Epictetus on the fact that it isn't exile, pain or death that determine our actions, but our opinions of those things.

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Beware Of The Company You Keep

March 1st, 2018

2:06

Seneca warns us that the path to virtue is easily disrupted by exposing ourselves to temptation and unsavory company.

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We Are All Brothers & Sisters

March 1st, 2018

2:52

Hierocles instructs us on a simple mental exercise to practice the Stoic concept of cosmopolitanism.

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Philosophy As A Way Of Life

March 1st, 2018

1:52

Musonius Rufus reminds us why we study philosophy, a different pursuit from what goes on in the modern academy.

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Living According To Nature

March 1st, 2018

1:51

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that to care for all people is according to (human) nature.

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Against Nationalism

March 1st, 2018

1:56

Epictetus tells us that Socrates never replied to the question "where are you from?" with "I am from Athens," but always with "I am a citizen of the world."

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Courage Requires Justice

March 1st, 2018

1:44

Seneca makes the surprising (to some) statement that Stoicism is all about community and sharing.

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Use Your Thoughts Well

March 1st, 2018

1:46

Marcus Aurelius tells us to ignore the opinion that others have of us, and to focus our energy instead on positive projects.

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Character Is Crucial

March 1st, 2018

2:11

Epictetus says that the measure of a person is the goodness of her character. Let's work on it, then!

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The point of philosophy is...

March 1st, 2018

1:43

Seneca makes a surprising statement about the primary aim of philosophy. Surprising, that is, if you confuse Stoicism and stoicism...

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What happens after death?

March 1st, 2018

2:03

Marcus Aurelius sounds agnostic about the after life. He also seems to think it doesn't matter.

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Beware of superficial judgment

March 1st, 2018

2:07

Epictetus observes that even if Plato were handsome and strong, that doesn’t mean those are the traits that made him a great philosopher...

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Wealth not a measure of worth

March 1st, 2018

1:35

Seneca has a problem with people who measure their worth by fashion or wealth.

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Don’t be an imbecile!

March 1st, 2018

1:51

Hierocles reminds us that it is useless to blame things that have no fault. Rather, look at how clumsy or stupid we are sometimes when we use them.

Radical idea: women equality

March 1st, 2018

1:49

Musonius Rufus says women have the same reasoning abilities as man, the same faculty of distinguishing good from bad.

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Remember, everything passes

March 1st, 2018

1:49

Marcus Aurelius lists a number of important people who are no more, as a reminder of the impermanence of things, and to help us keep what happens to us in perspective.

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What good did you do today?

March 1st, 2018

2:02

Epictetus says that not doing awful things isn’t enough, it’s too lazy. The point is to positively do good things.

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Beware of relying on luck

March 1st, 2018

1:48

Seneca uses a beautiful analogy to explain why the Stoic practitioner should not rely on luck, and indeed should be positively weary of it.

Become a …

Keep your inner demon clean

March 1st, 2018

1:53

Marcus Aurelius talks about how we should keep our “daimon,” i.e., our deliberating faculty, or our conscience.

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Follow the counsel of reason

March 1st, 2018

1:52

Epictetus reminds us that sometimes the reasonable thing to do is to suspend judgment. And always to face reality rather than engage in wishful …

What counts as a good life?

March 1st, 2018

1:51

Seneca says that the important thing is not how long a life you live, but what you do with it.

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What matters is the here & now

March 1st, 2018

1:43

Marcus Aurelius thinks that it’s good to keep things in perspective, and that we only control the here and now.

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Doing beats complaining

March 1st, 2018

1:46

Epictetus reminds his student that certain things are an inevitable feature of the universe, and that it is better to work on them than just wish them away.

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On death & the value of life

March 1st, 2018

1:48

Seneca uses Epicurus’ argument for why we should not be afraid of death, focusing instead on how to best live our life.

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What makes your life worth it?

March 1st, 2018

2:15

Marcus Aurelius introduces us to the apparently paradoxical notion that life, death, honor, dishonor, pleasure and pain are neither good nor bad.

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Caring about your soul

March 1st, 2018

1:51

Epictetus makes an interesting contrast between taking too much care of our bodies and too little care of our minds.

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True friendship is rare

March 1st, 2018

1:57

Seneca advises us on how to behave with true friends, and reminds us of how important they are in our life.

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We are all brothers & sisters

March 1st, 2018

1:40

Hierocles reminds us that we are fundamentally social animals, and that we are here to help each other.

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Practice, practice, practice!

March 1st, 2018

1:46

Musonius Rufus says that nobody is born a writer, musician, or athlete. People get there by studying and practicing. The same goes for virtue.

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Clean up your own thinking

March 1st, 2018

1:23

Marcus tells us that it’s too easy and unnecessary to worry about other people’s thoughts. It is far more difficult, but useful, to worry about our …

Don’t argue with stones

March 1st, 2018

1:49

Epictetus says that some people hardens their opinions into stones. It’s their problem, don’t waste your time arguing with them.

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On wealth and virtue

March 1st, 2018

2:03

Seneca tells Lucilius that wealth should be limited, something that exposed him to charges of hypocrisy. Regardless, what is the relationship between …

Use your time well...

March 1st, 2018

1:34

Marcus reminds us that our life is short, and that we don’t really know what day will be our last. So why not use our time in the best possible way?

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Virtue is a matter of practice

March 1st, 2018

1:52

Epictetus says that we become virtuous in the same way as athletes and musicians become more proficient at what they do: by constant practice.

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Find wisdom wherever it is

March 1st, 2018

1:35

Seneca wanders into Epicurean territory, as a scout, not a traitor.

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Opinions cannot hurt you

March 1st, 2018

2:41

Marcus is summarizing here some of the most important concepts of Stoicism, especially why we should pity, and not get upset with, people when they …

On dealing with nasty people

March 1st, 2018

1:38

Hierocles reminds us how to best respond to another human being who has ill feelings toward us.

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Philosophy is about doing

March 1st, 2018

1:45

Musonius Rufus says that philosophers should speak clearly, and most of all should live the way they talk.

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Don’t sell your soul cheap!

March 1st, 2018

2:33

Epictetus asks us at what price we are willing to sell our soul, and advises us to aim for the highest one possible.

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Read well, not a lot

March 1st, 2018

2:08

Seneca reminds us that reading is serious business, and that time is limited. Choose well the authors in whose company you wish to spend time.

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The duties of friendship

March 1st, 2018

2:04

Marcus reminds us that we have duties toward the people we live with, and how to be positive about our friends.

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How to act toward others

March 1st, 2018

1:48

The second century Stoic Hierocles sounds very Christian, and for good reasons.

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Seneca on not wasting time

March 1st, 2018

1:42

This could be the last day of your life. Are you going to waste it by binging on a mediocre television show?

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Is the wise person self sufficient?

February 28th, 2018

2:09

Seneca puts forth a paradox: the wise person is self-sufficient, and yet she desires friends and neighbors. How is this possible?

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Take care of your mind, it's precious

February 28th, 2018

1:59

Epictetus notes that we can do a lot more with our mind than with our body. And yet we obsess over the latter and care little for the former.

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Don't do anything that requires a wall or a curtain

February 28th, 2018

2:09

The emperor-philosopher tells us that there is no profit for our character in doing things that require lying, being hypocritical, or otherwise damage our integrity.

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Time to die or to go lunch?

December 30th, 2017

1:53

Epictetus tells us that we have to tend to whatever is happening right now. If we are about to die, let’s deal with it. But if not...

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Don’t postpone, life speeds by

December 29th, 2017

1:53

Seneca tells us that time is a precious commodity, and one that, once loaned, can never be paid back.

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Useful vs pedantic knowledge

December 27th, 2017

1:52

Musonius Rufus reminds us of the difference between useful philosophy and dull mind games.

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Focus on what is in your power

December 26th, 2017

2:18

Epictetus reminds us of the wisdom of understanding what is and is not under our control.

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Marcus on not getting offended

December 24th, 2017

2:05

Marcus Aurelius reminds us that it is a strange thing to get offended by what people say or do.

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Epictetus on what is good

December 22nd, 2017

1:56

Epictetus teaches us what is truly good in life.

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Marcus is thankful

December 21st, 2017

1:52

Marcus Aurelius is thankful to his grandfather and his mother.

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